Yesterday was the first Salesforce community conference with a permanent home outside of London. Over 110 people took a train or drove to meet us at Murray Edwards College, which is the women’s college at the University of Cambridge with some incredibly notable alumnae. Chris and I were asked some time ago to help our friends Sarah and Charlotte, who run the Cambridge user group, with the organisation of this conference – which we named InspireEast. Today, tired and hungover, but happy, we’re still so glad we joined the team. And I’m still singing two songs in my head over and over again!!!
Kicking Off The Day
Well, who wouldn’t want to kick off a full day’s conference without a little bit of song? Earlier in the week, my friend Amnon Kruvi blew up the internet when he surprised everyone with a presentation on invocable methods – delivered mostly through the medium of song. When I was over at Sarah’s house the day before the conference, we were so excited that we just HAD to invite him to come and sing at InspireEast. We were even happier when he agreed. So he was our opening act and it set a fantastic tone for the day – which I am so pleased to be able to share with you here:
A huge welcome to everyone attending @inspire_east in Buckingham House today. This looks like it will be a really fun yet informative day with exhibitions, workshops & presentations. Have a great day! #EventProfs #Cambridge #MeetCamb #CambridgeNetwork #UniqueVenues #InspireEast18 pic.twitter.com/GQcHA8MTs4
— MurrayEdwardsEvents (@MurrayEdsEvents) October 19, 2018
Morning Breakout Sessions
The first session of the day was the Dreamforce Global Gathering, which I presented with my husband, Chris. We told the attendees about our mad week in San Francisco, the prizes we could win, the sessions we attended and the people we met. We talked about the cigar party on the Friday evening and how it was essentially a Twitter reunion – only in person!
Chris shared his personal highlights – meeting the community members we’d been talking to online, all the fun things we did whilst out there. My highlights included meeting Ladies Be Architects co-leaders and supporters, CTAs and finally, the opportunity to chill out with so many people on the Friday.
I’d like to share something I hadn’t thought to do in the Dreamforce Global Gathering session – that is Jewel singing. She was incredible.
I was thrilled to see my colleagues from Bluewolf arrive together for the conference, having managed to be released for the day to come to InspireEast and learn something new. Engaging with the wider Salesforce community is something I think we can all be better at, to enhance our jobs. Also, I just missed them. I’d been away for a few weeks.
A short break, then off I went to prepare for my first solo talk, which was entitled “Hard Times Reveal True Friends”. A sentimental theme that focused on the effect that connectedness gives us when we’re going through tough times. I decided not to stand up for this one; it was a small room and the intimacy of it felt that sitting at the front and talking as a fellow human was the right thing to do.
— Amanda Beard-Neilson (@Amandabn1) October 19, 2018
Meanwhile, some of our speakers were enjoying their first experience presenting in public! I wanted to extend congratulations to Thomas Joy and Christine Marshall for taking the plunge. I can’t wait to see what Christine talked about in her interview with Salesforce, either!
— Leanne Botwright (@L_Botwright) October 19, 2018
After I’d been wandering around a little to see if I could maybe get to go to a session, I found my friend Matthew Morris was getting ready to speak, so a few of us ran into the room to watch his session: “Your Salesforce Genesis”. It absolutely blew me away. On one front – because I hadn’t realised he was old enough to have been a fan of the band, Genesis (the man looks deceptively young!). On the other front, Matt stepped out of his comfort zone and did a talk about his own journey with Salesforce. It clearly wasn’t easy for Matt to prepare that, especially as he’s had a bit of a rough time. His amazing wife Jess was sitting in the front row, giving him encouragement – and we were all there with him as we learnt how he got into the Salesforce community and started the London Admin User Group we all know and love so well.
He shared difficult times in his personal life, where preserving mental health became a priority, how meeting Jess helped him get on the right track, then finally, the role that the user group played in helping him to bounce back a stronger person. We were all crying – it was such a powerful story. I think we were also just so proud of Matt and Jess for sharing it because going over old stuff in our lives can be really difficult to face and even harder to share. Matt reminded us all of the importance of acknowledging our humanity in what we do – maybe we reminded him of something too as we watched his presentation – that we’re all in it together and in this ecosystem, you’re never left behind.
I wish I’d had time to go to more in the morning – but, as an organiser – you don’t really get that chance! But I’ll share some more photos here:
Lunch and Demo Jam
Just before we had a buffet lunch – which was GORGEOUS by the way – hats off to the catering staff – we all filed into the keynote room for the customary Demo Jam. Sponsors New Voice Media, DocuSign, Resco Mobile, Gearset and Validity EMEA had three minutes to present their applications to us and then we voted for a winner and runner-up. Chris compered and was so funny; I was really proud to see him run the demo jam in such a fun and entertaining way.
Whilst all of the demos were of spectacular quality – Gearset knocked it out of the park with a tidy, engaging, fast and interesting demo of their DevOps tool and were the clear winners. It was so nice to find out afterwards that they are actually based in Cambridge, too!
Second prize went to Resco Mobile for a quick and entertaining demo of their offline mobile capability for Salesforce. We joked that the loud shirt set the static off when the screen needed setting up – to this day I don’t think I’ll forget this very Cambridge shirt-and-chinos ensemble!
I really enjoyed the demo jam and I am really excited about NewVoiceMedia’s voice analytics capability and DemandTools was the first thing I ever used – right at the very beginning. So when Hydey showed us how Validity can be used to verify email addresses, with DemandTools then helping with a mass cleanup of data, I felt really encouraged.
“Bella Mamma, Bella Mamma Yeahhhh”
And then began one of the most fun, inspiring and motivating activities of the day – some exercises facilitated by Andrea from InspireMe. Sarah and Charlotte had been to one of their events already; from what they’d told me it was going to be a LOT of fun. It was designed to pep everyone up after lunch – and it certainly did that! It reminded me of Tony Robbins’ Dreamforce 16 keynote, where he got us all up and meeting other people as if we weren’t interested, then repeated the exercise as if we were long-lost friends. We saw how a little energy injection makes a lot of difference – and getting us up and moving about got us out of the post-lunch slump.
@andinspireme had the entire @inspire_east on their feet, singing, talking to each other, feeling good! Thanks for coming and helping to Inspire us all to be more positive and energetic! #InspireEast18 #TrailblazerCommunity #positivity #inspire pic.twitter.com/mxTbd8hpgp
— Chris (@chriscwharris) October 20, 2018
Then Andrea split us into three groups and we learnt a very simple but enjoyable song, which I can’t get out of my head. We turned it into a round.
So yesterday you saw what happens if you ask someone to greet a person as if they’re a long lost friend. Well, what if you ask a room full of stuck up Brits to sing? pic.twitter.com/DMRjOp7AXM
— InspireEast (@inspire_east) October 22, 2018
That was connectedness in all its glory – a shared experience that people outside that room couldn’t take part in. I absolutely loved it.
Then came the time to go for a couple of campfire sessions, which was really rewarding. I’d never been to a campfire session before; we decided to do things a little differently by creating one big circle. I even loaded up the fireplace video from YouTube and put it in the middle of the ring! It did get distracting after a while though, so I turned it off.
We talked about being connected by the common interest we have in Salesforce; we also talked about the term “soft skills” and how it’s used to describe skills that were seen as less important in business several decades ago. These skills – emotional intelligence, diplomacy, setting expectations, time management – they’re all just as important as hard skills and connectedness are for our success.
Then I ran down to the lecture theatre to run my career panel session. I assembled a panel consisting of an end user Admin – Claire Jones from Laing O’Rourke, a customer-facing developer – Rhiannon McCorkindale from sponsor Cloud Galacticos, an ISV developer – Freddie Wright from Cambridge-based Arcus Global, a Technical Architect contractor – Matt Morris – and a recruiter – Zak Harvey from Lawrence Harvey. We asked them questions about their roles, the differences between contracting and permanent jobs, the state of the marketplace, the challenges you have as a solo admin and the satisfaction gained from building an application that many people will use. It was really interesting to hear the different perspectives.
Keynote – Happy and Valued Workplaces
Mark Orsborn from Salesforce kicked off our keynote session and talked about how Salesforce engages its employees to inspire them. How remote employees can still remain engaged with “Ohana at Home” and some of the organisations he volunteers for in his native South Yorkshire (which is where my husband is also from). Coming out of that session, it was hard NOT to want to work for Salesforce. He also talked in detail about the V2MOM process they use to achieve alignment at Salesforce – it was great to hear later from my team that they want to use the same framework for their own lives.
The second and final part of the keynote was given by Henry Stewart, Chief Happiness Officer of Happy Ltd. He talked about getting that perfect mixture of autonomy, being challenged and being trusted will increase workplace happiness.
He also spoke of the top traits shown by great managers: being a good coach, empowering instead of micro-managing and expressing interest. As a new manager, I found the content particularly helpful in guiding me down a good path to supporting my team.
— ?????__? ????? (@gemziebeth) October 19, 2018
It didn’t feel like your average Salesforce conference; it was small enough to be intimate. Knowing speakers personally, and as a speaker, knowing people in your audience meant we didn’t have to be too formal, so it was personal. It felt like a family of people coming together – that Ohana thing we talk about. Everyone had something to say that was interesting and relatable. Everyone leant in, took part in the group activities, supported each other and had fun together. It was incredible and I can’t wait to do it again next year!