Making the most out of my Dreamforce 2015 experience

By Toya Gatewood 1 Comment

I am a certified Salesforce.com administrator and 2015 marked my 3rd time attending Dreamforce. As always, it was packed with tons of keynotes, breakout sessions, hands on training, parties and networking events – all of that in addition to the various zones scattered throughout the Dreamforce campus where one could learn about product features, customer success stories, tools for administrators and developers, etc. A few of my personal highlights are below:

Salesforce Women’s Network & Girly Geeks Panel & Networking Session Women in Leadership: Inspiring Change

This pre-Dreamforce event on Monday night kicked off my experience ; I was greatly looking forward to it after attending for the first time in 2013. This year’s panel was moderated by Neeracha Taychakhoonavudh (SVP, Partner Programs & Marketing – Salesforce) and the panelists were:

Leah McGowan-Hare – Master Technical Instructor, Salesforce

Catherine Courage – SVP, Customer Experience, Docusign

Mary Moloney – CEO, Coder Dojo

Diana Bell – Board Chair, Girl Scouts of Northern California

Tracey Gardiner – Americas Marketing, Chevron Lubricants

I’m sure the nuggets of wisdom being passed on resonated with everyone present:

  • Creating a vision for yourself (lest others create it for you)
  • Being authentic
  • Letting your light shine (my father would call it wagging your own tail)
  • Making Dreamforce actionable – don’t just attend, but make something change based on lessons learned while attending

During the networking session after the panel, I also had the opportunity to meet the creator of the SaaSyForce.com blog, Lauren Jordan, who started a weekly Girly Geek of the Week feature this year. Lauren was kind enough to feature me and I was ecstatic to meet her as well as the other Girly Geeks who’d been honored! What a pleasure to be amongst such a dynamic, intelligent group of Women Who Salesforce. I should also add that Girly Geeks is now being rebranded as Women in Tech – look for a local chapter on the Success Community and if one doesn’t exist, start one! There is also a virtual chapter available for those who telecommute.

Blacks in Tech: DevZone Welcome Meetup

I was so excited to find out about this meetup! Salesforce reported that upwards of 150,000 attendees were in attendance at this year’s Dreamforce – an overwhelming amount of people! But of that mass of people, very few are Black. I work for a venture capital firm, so as a Black woman working in both the tech & startup spaces, I’m used to being the “only” in my professional life – if not the only woman, then usually the only Black woman (and sometimes the only Black person) in the room. There is a large measure of comfort in stepping into a room in a professional capacity where the majority of the people there look like you. My hat is off to Ayori Selassie, Senior Solution Engineer at Salesforce.com and President of BoldForce along with Blacks in Technology, for putting this event together. It is a much needed and appreciated resource for Black Salesforce.com professionals!

Women’s Innovation Panel with Susan Wojcicki, Jessica Alba & Gayle King

This year Salesforce placed special emphasis on gender diversity in tech, with an entire day devoted to keynotes and panels from female leaders in business and technology. There was a wide range of topics covered: how Salesforce is working on the issue of diversity in tech, building the STEM pipeline, and how being a female CEO plays a role in leadership just to name three. The day culminated in the above-named panel on Thursday afternoon. Moderated by Gayle King, she discussed with Susan Wojcicki (CEO of YouTube) and Jessica Alba (founder of The Honest Company) their paths to success in the tech industry.

During the pre-keynote, I had the honor of receiving one of the four inaugural #AwesomeAdmin awards from Salesforce. This was a truly humbling experience and that award has pride of place on my desk at work as I type!

Admin Keynote

Regretfully I was unable to attend this keynote in person due to receiving the aforementioned award, but it was definitely one of the things I was most excited about (and thanks to Salesforce for recording this along with the majority of the sessions so that I could watch it later). As a Salesforce.com administrator, it was beyond thrilling to have not only an official keynote, but an entire day devoted to admins! Parker Harris addressed the 5,000 admins in attendance and presented the ever so spectacular Steve Molis with his lightning bolt (perfect match to SteveMo’s Dreamcoat, by the way); Shawna Wolverton talked about the new Lightning Experience accompanied by LeeAnn Templeton doing a live demo; Sarah Franklin highlighted great stories of admins including my new friend Krystal Carter and Selina Suarez, who I’d love to get to know; and Mike Gerholdt spent some time outlining how to do Salesforce Administration by Walking Around (SABWA). 

This short list is by no means all-inclusive. However, it would take a much longer blog post to touch on all of the other things I loved about Dreamforce 2015: the Admin Lodge & Developer Zone – hello, #Trailhead!, the Campfire sessions, Code Consultations, the informal networking, and meeting & getting to know better people I’ve been speaking with on the Success Community and Twitter. 

Summary

I can unequivocally say that Dreamforce 2015 was the most rewarding one for me. The reason for this is because after Dreamforce 2014, I made a conscious decision to become an active and involved member in the Success Community and on Twitter. That involvement allowed me to interact with so many more people who use Salesforce in different ways than I do, which has enabled my own growth. I discovered even more Salesforce-related blogs. Most importantly, really immersing myself in the community for the first time helped me truly realize that the Salesforce community is just that – a place to interact with like-minded professionals who are just as interested in Salesforce and its possibilities as I am. Not only that, this community consists of people who are really interested in you and your own quest for knowledge and growth. If you have a question, a problem you can’t solve or just want to bounce some ideas off of other people (especially important for those of us who are solo administrators), it’s all right at your fingertips.

I’m already looking forward to Dreamforce 2016 and the development that will take place for me between now and then. One thing that I would love to see is Salesforce emphasize racial diversity in the STEM pipeline, within its own ranks and in the tech industry as a whole – in the same manner that they emphasized gender diversity this year. In personal terms, I’ve already made commitments to become even more involved in the community and to doing things to advance my own career (including learning to code!). I have accountability partners. I’m maintaining contact with the people I met and reaching out to new ones all the time. As Black tech professionals, we also have to step out of our comfort zones and become more visible. We should be presenting at conferences like Dreamforce on a wide variety of topics from point and click administration to development. We have a responsibility to show those coming after us that we do exist and to start and keep the tech conversation going within our own communities. I challenge you (and myself) to think about how we can give back and get involved in programs that are showing Black children and young people to consider tech careers. Black Girls Code, Yes We Code, Hack the Hood, and CODE2040 are just a few groups that exist to do just that. I would urge each of us who is a Salesforce.com professional to attend Dreamforce – then take some of what you’ve learned back to the community. To paraphrase Amy Yin, co-founder of Harvard Women in Computer Science – if our young people can see it, then they know that they can be it. Let’s make sure that they see it.

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    About the Author

    Toya Gatewood

    Toya Gatewood is a certified Salesforce.com administrator at a venture capital firm in Cincinnati, OH. She currently serves as the co-leader for both the Salesforce Women in Tech - Cincinnati and Women in Technology - Diversity user groups and is also the Engagement Evangelist for the overall Women in Tech Success Community group.