Why you don't need to be a Salesforce Expert to be an Active User Group Participant (and Presenter!!)

  I was introduced to Salesforce a mere 5 months ago. I immediately became an active Salesforce user group participant and last week, I even presented to our local group!! How is this possible? Simple: you don’t need to be an expert to make a contribution to your local user group!

Late one Thursday afternoon, my boss, one of our user group leaders, mentioned we did not have anyone to present on the following Tuesday. He casually noted if we couldn’t find anyone, I was going to need to step up. Wow! I started using Salesforce only months ago and had attended 3 user group meetings in total and now…. I was supposed to present?!? “Sure” I said; Sure was nervous.

Newbie-bloggerWhat I learned was that my inexperience and limited knowledge was embraced by the group and I was able to teach the group a few new tricks. Here are my top 3 reasons you don’t need to be an expert to actively participate in your local user group:

User Groups are a Open Format. In my experience, the user group is set up to be an open format with an exchange of ideas. Yes, one person is often the “presenter,” however, I have experienced all members of the group chiming in during the presentation to add content and ask questions. The use of peer exchanges provide participants with the opportunity to examine and evaluate their own use and understanding of their Salesforce instance through a collaborative group of peers. The user group may be made up of beginner, novice, and expert level users, however, all persons are encouraged to exchange vision, ideas, and best practices to benefit the group.

The group is completely objective and non-judgmental. Do you have an overly simplified question? Ask the group. Are you stuck trying to create a report? Ask the group. I have never felt persecuted or made to feel inferior if I asked a simple question. The group knows I am a new user and is excited to help me on my way to becoming a more advanced administrator.

Energy is created by the exchange of ideas. Although every answer or example provided may not be the best or exactly the correct answer, it will be considered. The group will take the time to examine the possibility or your suggested solution. As a new user, my methodology may be simpler but not necessarily incorrect.

Everyone Attends a User Group to Learn. I attended my first user group meeting 8 days after I started working in Salesforce. I was hungry—hungry for knowledge, hungry for more know-how, hungry to see what others were doing. Did I say anything at that first meeting? Not a chance! I observed and absorbed. The most impressive thing I observed was that everyone was there to learn.

When we work in our own system each day our actions become routine. We know what needs to get done and we know how to do it. Humans are creatures of habit, and habits help us through our day. When we are doing something that is routine, we are not as engaged in the task as when we are doing something that is not habitual. How often do we stop and consider if our method is the best practice or most efficient method?

Attending a user group allows you the opportunity to break your habits and create new ones. You may learn a shortcut. Another user may learn how to better organize the most pertinent information for them to get their job done. The bottom line is everyone has the opportunity to learn something through attendance at a user group meeting.

Attendees at a User Group want to Share. In my experience, participants at a user group want to share. They drank the Kool-aid® and want to impart their Salesforce knowledge to others and take in new information. Once the initial trepidation wore off, I, too, was excited to share and present to our group.

Sharing, or teaching, is the best way to learn. In preparation for a presentation, you need to organize the material you hope to share. During the process, you try to clarify the information to yourself, and fill in any holes or misunderstandings. Finally, while sharing with the group, you are speaking and repeating the information, which solidifies it.

Attendees not only want to share knowledge or processes they are certain of, they also want to share new and creative ideas they are working on. We all want validation to be sure our processes will meet the needs of our users and clients. A user group is a safe place to share amongst a group of peers and watch ideas grow and flourish.

I recently embarked on my journey to become a certified administrator. I am certainly not an expert and I’m at the beginning my Salesforce journey. Attendance at and presenting to our local user group has helped me to update and solidify my procedures, gain confidence in the knowledge I hold, and field my insecurities in a safe and welcoming environment. No matter what your experience is, try attending your local user group, you just might like it!

Renee Storm


Renee Storm is an executive assistant at Now IT Matters and has been working on the Salesforce platform for 5 months. She lives in Bozeman, Montana, with her 2 furbabies Annie and William.

The life you can save

saving-the-world imageIn high school, I considered being an existentialist. I devoured my summer reading list of Beckett, Dostoyovsky, and Kafka during breakfast, and I liberally sprinkled in Kierkegaard:

"What I really need is to get clear about what I must do, not what I must know, except insofar as knowledge must precede every act. What matters is to find a purpose, to see what it really is that God wills that I shall do; the crucial thing is to find a truth which is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die."

I could get behind the way Kierkegaard earnestly and fervently sought his truth, and the existentialist philosophies that the value of our life was created by us, by living our value, by doing, and not by talking about it or philosophizing it. I needed an idea “for which I am willing to live and die.” And I found that idea early on, in nonprofit work. The idea was simple: I can make a difference in the world.  And I passionately and whole-heartedly set out make that difference – I acted and I pushed forward and I built fancy towers out of my truth and sold my truth to my peers and my colleagues and my acquaintances. You can make a difference, and here’s how! I said.

In college, I was introduced to Peter Singer, an Australian philosopher who wrote a book called The Life You Can Save. In his book, Singer has 4 basic premises, which Wikipedia was kind enough to boil down for me:

  1. First Premise: Suffering and death from lack of food, shelter and medical care are bad.
  2. Second Premise: If it is in your power to prevent something bad from happening, without sacrificing anything nearly as important, it is wrong not to do so.
  3. Third premise: By donating to aid agencies, you can prevent suffering and death from lack of food, shelter and medical care, without sacrificing anything nearly as important.
  4. Conclusion: Therefore, if you do not donate to aid agencies, you are doing something wrong.

Aha. I had stumbled upon the black and white answer, and I agreed with him. But, in typical Joni-style, I focused in on the 2nd premise: “If it is in [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="yes" overflow="visible"][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="no" center_content="no" min_height="none"][my] power to prevent something bad from happening, without sacrificing anything nearly as important, it is wrong not to do so.” Except I read this mandate as “If it IS in my power to prevent something bad from happening, without sacrificing anything nearly as important, it is wrong not to [so I must] do so.” And I set about with renewed vigor to save the world, but there was so much to do!

I could see bad happening all around me. While it might be in my power to prevent this one bad thing from happening down my street, or this other bad thing from happening in India, I couldn't, in actuality, prevent both bad things from happening simultaneously, even if I know about them both… and we’re back to Kierkegaard – “What I really need is to get clear about what I must do, not what I must know, except insofar as knowledge must precede every act."

superheroI thought I could save the world, and I was wrong.

I thought I could save the world, and I was right.

Because I've come to realize that saving the world looks like saving one life at a time. And sometimes, that one life is my own.

Somewhere in my lofty idealism, I believe in my own life I should have it all together. In my own life, I should not (still) struggle with feelings of unworthiness and insecurity, or feelings that my efforts are futile. My life should never be the life I can save: by all accounts, I look like a success. Unless you look too closely and see – gasp! – that I’m not perfect. And this is where my fancy towers crumble just a little more: I allow myself some feelings of victory when I succeed. But I define myself by my failures: Couldn’t make a kid’s school event because of a work meeting? Fail. Didn’t close that sale? Fail. Didn’t meet my fundraising goal for my nonprofit? Fail. Haven’t posted on my blog in months? Fail. Snapped at my partner when she was just trying to help? Fail. Didn’t say quite what I meant on that meeting with clients? Fail. Get nervous when I speak publicly? Fail. Couldn't figure out the idea that would solve a problem at work? Fail. Didn't meet my goals at work? Fail. Lost 7 twitter followers? Fail. Kids fight with each other and the youngest has a serious temper? Fail. Didn't phrase my argument quite as well as I would have liked? Fail.

On most days, I can keep my perspective and remember my purpose. But on some days, the work of nonprofits seems so daunting I am tempted to just hide my head in the sand, forget the rest of the world, define my purpose in some other way. And yet I keep coming back to my truth: I can make a difference. Even when I feel like I am falling short of changing the world. Even when I don’t have my shit together and I need to work harder to get there. Even when the problems around me seem to be more than I can make a dent in. Even when I hit the wall, and despair at yet another huge obstacle in my path. That’s ok. Because I’m human.

My truth is, I can make a difference. I can save a life. But I can’t save every life. Nonetheless, I must save the life I can save. I must SEE the life I can save. I must know what steps can be taken to save that life. For me, that means living my life authentically, recognizing that sometimes I can’t get clarity about what I must do without learning what the problem is: It means that I must admit I don’t know, I must ask questions, I must look at the things that frighten me, I must push myself beyond my comfort zone. It means I must own that I’m not perfect, and sometimes I’m going to fail, and my best efforts won’t be enough to save a life. And I must admit that sometimes the only life I can save is my own, and that’s ok.

But it also means despite (or perhaps because of) my humanity and my imperfection, I am making a difference in my world. I am helping to change it for the better. Can I do it perfectly? No. But perfection is just not all it's cracked up to be.


An Authentic Life in Tech - Ashima Saigal on @CloudTNT

Ashima Saigal joins the Cloud TNT bunch for a discussion about authenticity, business ownership, women in leadership, mindfulness, and data in nonprofits!! This episode can't be missed.  

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