When Gemma Went to Dreamforce 2018 – Highlights Part I

After heading off to sleep pretty late on Friday 21st September, we got up early on Saturday morning to make our way to Heathrow for the long flight to San Francisco. I completely over-packed; I wasn’t sure what dresses and shoes I would wear, but also, as everyone knows, Dreamforce means SWAG – and lots of it. This time I also had 100 notebooks to take along too, so I packed an extra suitcase on the understanding that we’d have no problem filling it with dirty laundry by the end of the week!

I joked that the flight was the sunshine coach to Dreamforce…and I wasn’t really wrong! It didn’t take long for us to spot people who were travelling there, including a few friends of ours. There was an exciting atmosphere in the air and before long we were sharing a few drinks with a few people who worked for both the Mothership and various partners at the mini-party that took place at the back of the plane…that is before we got moved on so that people could sleep. Which is totally fair enough.

Our flight landed at around 3pm and we shared an Uber with Lucy, a really lovely lady who works for MapAnything. Chris and I were determined to stay awake until at least midnight in order to “give jetlag the middle finger”. Thankfully, we had been invited to meet our Salesforce architect friends (and my Ladies Be Architects co-leader Charly!!) at SPiN, a ping-pong bar on Folsom Street, so we checked into our hotel, freshened up a little and headed over there.

 

Meeting Charly, Debra and Suzanne

These three women have been a HUGE part of the last year for me; Debra sought me out when she discovered I had started Ladies Be Architects last November – she advised me to move it from the Partner community to the Customer success community and became a firm ally from the off. We’ve stayed in touch ever since and she has been a big part of our growth – she spread the word.

Having texted Charly our location, I was seeking her out for pretty much the first 45 mins. Then, there she was. Meeting regularly across the internet and texting regularly means we’ve got to know each other fairly well, so the thing that struck me was how amazing and exciting it was to meet her in person – but also how comfortable we already were once we were there and chatting. We had a lot of hugs.

It wasn’t long before Debra and Suzanne arrived and there were even more hugs! They were working hard on the Certified Technical Architect summit that they were holding on Monday, so they gave us a sneak peek of the new badges, T-shirts and stickers they had made for the CTAs. I was really excited for them – for the first time, they were going to get some sort of visual recognition for their achievement. I told Debra to save me a badge for next year ;0)

Me, Debra, Charly and Suzanne

It wasn’t just Charly, Debra and Suzanne we met on Saturday though; we had the pleasure of meeting a few of our Twitter buddies in real life, culminating in a few games of ping pong doubles and a lot of laughter. Charly was intrigued by the nets used by the staff to collect the ping pong balls and borrowed one for a while – I loved that.

 

Architect Bootcamp and Salesforce West

The next morning we went to our usual San Francisco breakfast venue, Lori’s Diner, then I went to Salesforce West to drop into the architect boot camp. Suzanne came to meet me. As we got out of the lift and walked into the lobby, I felt myself tear up as I looked around. It was all beautifully decorated with the trees, wooden tables, mascots that are now so familiar; there was even birdsong and music being played and a screen that showed a fireplace. Amy Regan Morehouse, amongst others, was sat in an armchair having a meeting and it was cosy and homely. It was everything I love about Salesforce there in one moment. I was so moved to be there; after several difficult months, I just couldn’t believe I was. You see, over the summer, even though I was recovering, Salesforce and Ladies Be Architects gave me an incredibly welcome distraction from everything and it kept me from sinking into a black hole of mental anguish. I really don’t do illness very well.

Suzanne showed me into the architect boot camp where CTA and adopted trainer Greg Cook was delivering the content. I’ve used Greg’s Pluralsight course on Identity to help me get to grips with it, so seeing him was awesome for me. I also noticed the number of women in the boot camp. There were at least ten, if not more – THAT was pretty cool. I was introduced to the group then stood at the front and rambled on a bit (nerves!) but I was so incredibly proud to be able to say hi and thank everyone for the support they’ve given us since LBA started.

 

WiT Monday

This was the day I met the most influential women I have been in touch with throughout the last year. Every single one has a fantastic and unique story to tell and it was so wonderful to be able to say I’d met every single one of them; Twitter can be a profile picture and a name when you’re browsing during a train journey or lunch break, but in meeting someone you get a sense of their whole physical self. For me the thing I noticed the most was height!! I realised how tall I was compared to some of my friends.

At WITDevs

There are two of these amazing women, besides Charly and those I have already mentioned, who have had a particularly powerful impact on my life in the past year. One is Susannah St-Germain, whom I had asked to join us as a Ladies Be Architects co-leader recently. Susannah caught on to what we were doing and the massive inequality amongst the CTA community back in February at TrailheadDX; I was keen to get her on board because of her belief in what we were trying to do and her determination to succeed in spite of this. The other was Rachel Park. Rachel and I share something very profound together in that we are survivors of breast cancer and some pretty horrible treatment for it – yet we are also allies of those who are facing health difficulties and working in high-pressure jobs such as Salesforce consulting. Meeting her was particularly emotional for me.

 

Ladies Be Architects Sessions

The first of our sessions was held on Monday – an overview of the #JourneyToCTA and telling our stories. Susannah submitted the talk and asked Charly and I to come along, so we joined her in the matching sunflower dresses we’d all bought over the internet a few weeks earlier. We had quite a busy session; over 400 people had bookmarked it (!), but after several rehearsals, we had it down in the end! It was a great first Dreamforce session for the three of us and I was so happy to have got there – I could finally say I’d spoken at Dreamforce. What a goal to achieve, and such fantastic women to achieve it with.

Us with Tag, our Salesforce “handler”

What made it all the more special was to see my Bluewolf and IBM UK family sat there in the front row, supporting us! There aren’t enough thank yous I can give to them for showing up and just rooting for us in our first ever Dreamforce talk!

Vera, Leah, Faye and Faiyaz

Our next talk was “The Ultimate Hiking Guide to Mt. CTA”, where we were lucky enough to have six very kind CTAs volunteer to join our panel. In this session, we covered the lay of the land, the tools you’d need and the things that stand in our way as we approach the review board exam. Primarily that you have to hike to even get to the mountain, then the importance of experience (pre-sales, as Keir suggested) and resilience (Gustavo’s key point – that you can’t always pass the first time). It was great to hear such a variety of different perspectives and to meet our CTA heroes at the same time. I drew a few parallels to what I’ve been told to date, so it was particularly helpful for my own journey too.

The LBA girls with our CTA heroes (back): Ryan, Morgan, Keir, Karishma, Doina and Gustavo. 6 CTAs, 5 very different companies they work for. One single, important message told in a variety of ways.

Our final group session was the solution design workshop we wanted to try. The room wasn’t quite laid out how we wanted, we had a few missing items and we had to turn some people away, but we did the best we could and it worked fairly well! We gave everyone a high-level scenario, split them into groups and asked each group to solve a specific area, for example, sharing. We had 2 CTAs come along to help out, which was fantastic, and everyone seemed to be really engaged and had a lot of fun.

 

Women’s Innovation Network Breakfast

This started off uncomfortable for me; I’m not a morning person at all – and by day 3 the conference had already been quite intense. So when the lift doors opened and suddenly the room was a hive of activity, I did the standard thing and just jumped into the queue in search of tea and food. It took me a while, but I finally woke up when Molly Ford started speaking. She had a lot of great things to say about being an ally to under-represented groups and was a very engaging speaker.

Next up was Rebe de la Paz, co-founder of PepUpTech. She said a few things that really resonated with me as they were concerned with times of difficulty.

Then finally, after I’d woken up a little, my breakfast finished with a leisurely walk back to Moscone with Tony Prophet. I got the opportunity to thank him for the kindness he and his team had shown me over the summer whilst I was recovering from surgery; we even had a chance to grab a quick selfie before I ran off to the Trailhead zone to win some prizes.

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