In this episode of Serious Insights for Salesforce Admin, host and Salesforce extraordinaire Kristi Campbell welcomes Ali Ervan Klinger to the show.
Hello and welcome back! This edition of Serious Insights features Kristi Campbell’s chat with Ali Klinger, where they discuss “building your tribe” – a look into how to stay plugged into the Salesforce Admin community and create your own experiences. This topic is particularly personal for the duo, as they quite literally met at a Salesforce community gathering.
For both Ali and Kristi, the two began their Salesforce journey as solo admins. Like a pair of castaways, they started their careers from their own little islands, isolated from professionals like each other (no word if they at least had a volleyball friend). Without a community to bounce ideas off of, collaborate with, and learn with, the two struggled to confidently grow in their roles.
We imagine that many of our fellow admins can relate to the feeling of being lost on their own little islands.
Now years beyond those isolated times, our duo has become champions of the Salesforce community, with a network of mentors, friends, and collaborators across the world. In line with this episode of Serious Insights, this article will explore three key ways to connect with the Salesforce community and grow as an admin: in-person gatherings, digital communities, and shared resources.
Without further ado, let’s make like Tom Hanks and get off this island!
For both Ali and Kristi, attending Salesforce community gatherings was key to finding their tribe. Popular for over a decade, in-person gatherings have popped up all over the United States and in nearly every major city. Typically put on by volunteers, and not sponsored directly by Salesforce, these meet-ups are designed to bring together admins of all levels, experiences, and backgrounds.
Much like how industry conferences bring together like-minded people, these public events are designed to connect admins with one another. Unlike large expos, however, these gatherings typically are low-key and informal, often meeting at coffee shops. This casual environment is by design: while everyone attends the gathering because of their Salesforce experience, the focus of these meetings is to drive community and friendship first.
While every meeting is different, gatherings will always provide a safe and judge-free environment to ask questions, share workflows, and receive feedback. Depending on the group, some may be big on presentations, while others are big on conversation. Others may prioritize collaboration or focus on educating one another. Regardless of its setup, however, community remains the number one priority.
It was actually at a community event that our host and her guest met each other. Seeking community in the midst of bustling Los Angeles, Ali and Kristi connected at a Salesforce Saturday event. As you can see by the episode, they hit it off.
Beyond a long friendship and a collection of experiences, the two note that meeting had one more major perk: accountability towards education, certification, and growth. Let’s face it, Salesforce, even on its best days, is not always exciting to use, let alone learn about. Friendships with other admins can provide the accountability and encouragement to get the experience and knowledge you need to take yourself to the next step – it worked for Kristi and Ali.
Above all else, engaging with the Salesforce community helps find your tribe. It may take some trial and error, and a few cups of coffee, but the value in finding your group is undeniable. From the opportunity to learn from others, to receiving honest feedback, to developing friendships, meeting other admins is a key way to grow your Salesforce knowledge and network.
While we don’t want to age our host and her guest, Kristi and Ali’s Salesforce journey started before the growth of online communities (sorry pals). Even as well-established veterans in the Salesforce community, the two agree that digital groups have helped them continue to grow into even better admins.
Available on platforms like Slack and Discord, admins can find community right from the comfort of their home. While in existence prior to 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a major boom in online community membership. With participants everywhere around the globe, these remote communities provide the same opportunities for friendship, networking, collaboration, and feedback that in-person meetings do.
Because of their large reach and easy accessibility, admins can also join communities more closely related to their personal needs and interests. Want to learn about Salesforce for nonprofits? There’s a group for that. Want a community that focuses on tips for beginners? There’s a group for that. Want a community that analyzes the best type of coffee to drink while creating Salesforce workflows in your PJs on a Sunday morning? Well there isn’t a group for that… yet.
Regardless of your niche or focus, online communities offer an opportunity to find the group best for you; unlike in-person gatherings, which are limited to the attendees. Whether you’re looking for a mentor, a friend, or just an environment to listen and learn, joining the online community is a fantastic way to grow.
For those new to the online Salesforce community, it can be overwhelming to find the right fit in a sea of options. Kristi and Ali recommend the following to join as a start:
Not to sound like an old man, but back in the day you had to read books in order to learn more as a Salesforce admin. As you can imagine, or even remember, having your knowledge restricted to conference handouts and old manuals made it awfully difficult to create your optimum CRM.
Thankfully we are quite a ways away from those days.
Today, every Salesforce admin has Trailhead at their fingertips. With thousands of directions to travel, new admins can learn how to code their platform through an expertly curated experience. What was a blessing in 2014 has turned into a key part of the Salesforce journey. It literally has revolutionized the way admins work.
Still, admins who stop at Trailhead are selling themselves short.
Salesforce admins love to share their experiences and help others grow. As a result, professionals from around the world are adding new articles and blogs daily, sharing everything they know. Depending where you look, you can find five minute tutorials, new solutions to workflows, and more. With admins writing about so many different topics, you are bound to learn something new!
While often thought of as a platform to tweet your shower thoughts and daily lunch, Twitter has become a place that is abundant with Salesforce knowledge. Because of its social nature, Twitter offers a way for Salesforce users to connect and communicate directly. Blog writers, for example, all have accounts and regularly respond to questions. The #AskForce tag also has hundreds of questions listed, which fellow tweeters respond to and offer advice. Admins of all backgrounds can follow one another and share what they learned.
A simple and easy site to use, Admins can use Twitter to stay up-to-date on all things Salesforce, ask their questions, and grow their knowledge.
The industry that we thrive in as Salesforce Admins is a unique one. Like most other fields, you can easily confine yourself to your island, learning by your own means. There is nothing wrong with that. Frankly, plenty of professionals thrive in their Salesforce career by stranding themselves.
Unlike other fields, a thriving community filled with knowledge is readily available for all Salesforce Admins that pursue it.
With digital communities and in-person gatherings, Salesforce admins of all levels of experiences can connect in a friendly, casual environment. Differing in focus and style, these groups can offer opportunities to ask questions, receive feedback, seek accountability, and gain knowledge. Above all else, these groups are about helping grow community and friendship.
Parallel to the online community, Admins have started publicly sharing what they know through blogs, podcasts, and video series like Serious Insights. Twitter has even become a hotspot for Salesforce news. With users able to connect more easily than ever, just about any question you have can be answered.
Kristi and Ali both agree there is no “correct way” to find your tribe. We all have different approaches, needs, and interests, afterall. Instead of the perfect recipe, they simply recommend being intentional. The Salesforce community is built on engaged people who love what they do and love helping others. By wanting to genuinely connect and participate, you can’t go wrong.
While there is no one perfect approach, one thing is for certain: with so many opportunities available, no Admin ever needs to stay stuck on their island again.
At the conclusion of each episode, our host Kristi asks her guests to share interesting articles or resources that they have stumbled upon recently.
Like all great admins, Ali recommends Salesforce Ben for everyone. Specifically, she highlighted its recent article, “Learn Salesforce Roles and Profiles In 5 Minutes”. An easy read, the blog post is an easy refresher on how to interact with roles and profiles on Salesforce. Like most of Saleforce Ben’s daily readers, Ali finds tricks and tidbits in every article she reads.
Kristi has been reading about Apex Rollups lately and the Unofficial SF, a blog that shares what he has built lately, including flow orchestrator and other automation tools. With flow potentially being the future, Unofficial SF is a can’t miss!
“User groups are all about the people in the community. The point of them is that we come together. While remote groups do work, I personally find that face-to-face meetings can be more meaningful for individuals. Their presence at each gathering helps to forge the group together; it can be easier for people to talk with one another about certain subject areas.”
(The following transcript has been edited for clarity and readability.)
Kristi Campbell: Welcome to Serious Insights. I'm your host, Kristi Campbell, and I'm joined today by Ali Irvin. Hi, Ali.
Ali Irvin: Kristi.
Kristi Campbell: Ali is the principal consultant at Cloud for Good and is also here in Charlotte, and I asked her to join me today to talk about her journey in the Salesforce community. So I think she really exemplifies building your tribe, finding your Salesforce friendships, or really networking, building that network to help build your own experiences. So I met you and you moved here, but tell me a little bit about how you got started working in Salesforce and getting into the community.
Ali Irvin: Yeah, so I went to college for information systems, so it's sort of right in line with what I think I should be doing in life, and so I was at an organization prior to Cloud for Good, where they were looking to get a new database, or really just assess what they were using at the time, and so we went through the process of looking at the options out there, and we ended up landing on Salesforce. So I didn't know what Salesforce was at the time, and luckily we landed on it, and I started sort of that...
Ali Irvin: I was there for seven years, and it was sort of a seven-year journey as a solo admin learning Salesforce, and this was sort of pre-community, pre-Trailhead, so there was a lot of learning. Figuring things out on my own as things picked up in the community, and while we were there, we used Cloud for Good to do a number of conversions on Salesforce, and that's how I landed at Cloud for Good.
At the time, I was in Los Angeles, and so even while I was there, I sort of tried to get into the community there as well, because I was like, "I need help. I need support," because I was on my own at my organization, and so that was sort of my start into the Salesforce community, and I really just joined all of the groups I could join. So the nonprofit user group, the admin user group, and went to all of the things, and that was just my way to sort of figure things out and meet as many people as possible so I could learn and participate.
Kristi Campbell: That's a really great point, too, about a solo admin. There are not as many ways to just bounce ideas off people and to have confidence that you're doing things the right way. I do think back then there was the start of blogs, and some people who had done certain things, and certainly fewer things you could do at the time, but I think it's really a great way to meet other people that think similarly and that you can have an idea and kind of have some reference to someone who may, "Can I just ask you about this?", or hear an idea at a meeting, or see something someone's done and see then how that could benefit your organization itself.
Ali Irvin: Yeah, absolutely, and I would say, even though I was taking a day off, essentially in Los Angeles, you have to drive very far to get to anything, it was well worth the time because it ultimately benefited the organization I was working for because I always came out with something new that I could apply to the organization I was working at and make it better. Always. Every single meeting.
Kristi Campbell: When I was in Boston when I started using Salesforce, I remember going to a user group meeting, and they asked people to present things. "Does anyone have anything to talk about?" I remember I had built this object, and it was nothing amazing, but I got up to show people, which... For me, I could talk to a chair for half an hour, so I'm introverted more than you'd think, so I get that not everyone's going to volunteer to go up and share necessarily, but just the support of... Like I say, it was an object to track my role.
So I would get these requests that were similar but had slight variations so that I could actually prioritize them and report on what I had done, which is, again, just a little dashboard. It was not even something my boss asked me to do, that I was doing for my own self, but just the support and the... I don't know. As I say, that moment of presenting and getting good feedback from people just was a really great moment I remember. So when I relocated to Charlotte, I also sought out that kind of opportunity, and of course, again, I'm a social kind of person, but I think even being there to listen and to network, even passively. I'm trying not to make it seem like we're both social people. So we're the only ones who go to user group.
Ali Irvin: Oh, but that's part of... So I grew up in Los Angeles and spent my entire life in Los Angeles, outside of going to college, and so when I moved to a brand new city and knew absolutely nobody, I was like, "Okay, how do I meet people?" Well, the one thing I know is Salesforce, so let me do this. I know that there are user groups, and I know that we have something in common, and I know the community is super accepting, and so I am just going to join all of the groups to at least have something to do because I work from home. So I was working from home already, and so I wasn't getting out anyway. So I was like, "Okay, well at least I can meet people and see somebody once a month," and so I'm pretty sure, Kristi, you were the first person I met because I went to Salesforce Saturday.
Kristi Campbell: Salesforce Saturday is an interesting one too, as an idea. People are looking to maybe get more involved, or maybe they can't get out during the workday, and I think there's an interesting element to Salesforce Saturday as well in terms of self-improvement. So not that we don't talk about work stuff, and ours specifically here in Charlotte is at a coffee shop with your laptop kind of conversation, we don't really do presentations and topics like some groups do, but I think it's also about the investment in your own learning and your own advancement, and talking about certifications, and even... We set a goal together to go get certified. Just that final push of, just schedule it and go do it. It was really helpful, which is more years ago than I might care to admit.
Kristi Campbell: Salesforce Saturday isn't an official Salesforce user group. So everyone pays for their own coffee. It's not a Salesforce-sponsored thing, but I think it's a really interesting thing that you kind of have to seek out a little bit more.
Ali Irvin: You do.
Kristi Campbell: In your own area, but could also be an interesting thing to start.
Ali Irvin: I think it's a really nice way... So I think the user groups are a much more formal setting, and obviously, Salesforce Saturday in every city is very different, how often it happens, when it happens and where it happens. I think there's probably some range. I think in most places, it's a little less formal, and so I think it's a really good way to just get in. You can really ask people questions and have really good one on one time. I think that's the benefit of Salesforce Saturday, is you get one on one time with people, ask questions, learn things, talk about literally whatever, like you said. Talk about getting certified or talk about a problem you're having at work that maybe someone who's there has a little more experience in and that can literally look at what you're doing and help you. So I think that's a huge benefit of Salesforce Saturday, or you're just around people and being social.
Kristi Campbell: Sometimes it is about, like you said, talking to each other and getting opinions on one on one, but it also could just be accountability time to sit next to each other and do the things that you say you're going to do during the week that you don't necessarily maybe get the time to do, whether that's Trailhead, whether that's catching up on all the blogs that you follow, and then, of course, sharing that experience. So talking about the blog topics of things that you found and introduce other people to those things.
Ali Irvin: Yeah, absolutely.
Kristi Campbell: Then, of course, you also joined the nonprofit user group.
Ali Irvin: We did.
Kristi Campbell: How do you think that presenting in those user groups has made a difference for you?
Ali Irvin: For me, when I first started my journey, I was really on... I'm still on a learning journey, but I was on a much, much more rigorous learning journey, and so I'm sort of on the other side now, whereas I feel like I can give back, which is really exciting for me, and so it's a really good way, first of all, to make sure that I'm still learning, so I have things to teach people, and so I try to volunteer as much as possible to present so that way I make sure that I'm continuing to learn and I'm up on everything that is going on and that's new, considering Salesforce always changes. So it keeps me excited about what Salesforce is doing and changing. So I love to present, and it doesn't feel, at least for my experience in Charlotte, it doesn't feel overwhelming, because everybody is really accepting, and even if it's a really simple little thing, everybody loves it, and everybody is really supportive, and so I'm able to present and get really good feedback, and people seem to get good things out of it, so I love that.
Kristi Campbell: I think it's a really good reminder that if there's this much to learn, even if you're here, there's someone that's still here, there's someone that can learn from you, as well as there's this much to learn. So I remember at one job, I was really into territory management, because that was my thing, and then at another job, I was really into communities, experiences, cloud. So getting people exposure to different things that are a part of what you do, and sharing that knowledge, I think, isn't just for the advanced people.
Ali Irvin: No, not at all.
Kristi Campbell: If that's something that interests you, then I think that that can be a great way with a local user group to start there. I can tell you, they're always looking for content, I'm pretty sure.
If there's something that you're interested in presenting and/or presenting with. We've presented together, which takes a little bit of the scaries out of it and gives you some accountability, friends.
How has meeting people in Salesforce kind of extended into the rest of your life?
Ali Irvin: I feel like you're in... I've met a lot of really amazing people that have become good friends. Kristi, you've become my good friend, not just someone I've met in Salesforce, and I've also met other folks, specifically one other person that now works. Actually, two folks that now work at Cloud for Good that I met through the Salesforce community, one of which has become my very close friend. So it sort of has given me my social life, which is great, and good friends, but also keeps me going from a work perspective, and from a growing and learning perspective. So coming to a new city, I needed that very badly, and luckily I landed in a city that has a really great Salesforce community, and it has worked out and kept me here.
Kristi Campbell: That's awesome. I think, too, we've talked about meeting in person. I definitely think there are online options as well. I think the key is really being intentional about trying to grow your network.
Ali Irvin: Absolutely.
Kristi Campbell: It's a unique industry, in that you can just stay home or kind of stay in your silo and learn things and work, and that's fine, but I think just putting yourself out there, for me, has given so many opportunities of meeting people in other countries, especially now with a lot of online user group meetings, meeting people in other areas, getting more active on Twitter, and following the people who write the blogs and just... Like #AskForce. Seeing the questions that people are asking and being helpful to people and learning the resources that you have... I don't know... Are you in many online communities, Slack channel kind of community stuff outside of...
Ali Irvin: I'm in the success community [aka Trailblazer Community], so I do use that as a resource and do post there. So I would recommend that, definitely. First of all, you can learn a lot there, and second of all, that is an amazing place to get help. Even if you think it's the silliest thing, you will have multiple responses within potentially minutes, and if you're not using that as a resource, you should be. It's free help and free really good help.
Someone was telling me recently that they needed some bit of code. They were asking an apex question, and someone wrote the code for them and sent it to them. Simple things like that. There was no cost to it. Someone, just out of the goodness of our heart, did it for them. So using the community, using Twitter... Twitter, I think is actually one of the best places. I look at Twitter every day just to sort of see what's happening and see what is new out there. I learn all of my Salesforce news from Twitter. I do! So I think even if don’t actively post on Twitter, it's a really good place to sort of learn what's happening, see what's happening with folks in the Salesforce community, and just get quick little tidbits as well.
Kristi Campbell: Yeah, and I think it's a great way, too, to have awareness, like you said, of others in the community that then translates to attending events.
Ali Irvin: Yes.
Kristi Campbell: And at Dreamforce or any adjacent event, you get to meet the man behind the tweets, these people in person that you've been following and learning from, and again, getting that kind of cross-pollination. I've got developers that I follow. I've got nonprofit. I've never worked at a nonprofit, so some of the things aren't as relevant to me, but we all use formulas, there are certain things that definitely translate. So I think following the people that you're interested in following is great. I personally have curated Twitter, really, for my Salesforce bent. I don't follow any of the Kardashians or anything. Within different programs, there are always new and different people that you can learn from.
For people who are just getting started, I think another strength that you can have is from finding a group that's kind of in the same area as you, whether it's through a formal kind of training program... I know Cloud for Good is starting kind of cohorts of training students. So whether it's something formal like that through PepUp Tech or through... What's the other one.
Ali Irvin: There's another one that I heard of, Talent Stacker, which is one.
Kristi Campbell: Yeah. If it's something formal like that, or it's just seeing other people that just got certified, and kind of building yourself a group to grow with, I think could also be a really interesting approach... I know I've got a smaller group of about six, that's my go-to for high-level questions, but I'm also in the Salesforce Discord, for a little bit larger of a group, or a Slack channel for the Good Day Sir podcast, which is, again, more developer-focused and not super active all the time, but it's a way to stay involved and have people to ask those questions to.
Ali Irvin: Yeah. You probably pick up little bits here and there when people are posting things that are just good information, even though you're not a developer. It’s good information that will help you somewhere down the road when you're doing something.
Kristi Campbell: Definitely. So again, for you and I, I think meeting in person is a large part of it, and on Zoom works too for the past while, although I'm excited to get back to seeing people in person and having that kind of just more casual... Intentional to get there, but not as directed conversations, but I think if you are shyer if you are... Really, whatever direction you want to approach it from, there's a user group... Whether you're attending in person, you're attending online, there are people out there who want to be in a community with you.
Ali Irvin: Yeah, absolutely.
Kristi Campbell: It's a matter of...
Ali Irvin: There's a level of intentionality that you have to have. You just have to want it and do it. I don't know that it necessarily even takes that much effort, but if you start in the community, I think that's a really good place to start, to start meeting people and creating your own little community, and I highly recommend it.
I think something about being a part of the community has made me ultimately, overall, a better Salesforce admin and a better consultant, and that's ultimately what I'm trying to be in my life and career, and so doing all of that is, I think, so important, and I always wonder why there are so many people that don't do any of that, and I'm always so confused by it because I just think I'm so much better having been a part of all of these things in the community.
Kristi Campbell: Clearly I'm biased, but I agree. So thank you so much for being with me. Another thing that... Since we love the puns here at Serious Insight, with our serious insights... When you do take a minute for yourself to keep learning, is there something you've seen or read, or listened to recently that you want to recommend?
Ali Irvin: Yeah. So I subscribe to Salesforce Ben, his blog, and actually, one article that I read recently, he posts every single day, but one that I read recently that was really good is, "Learning Salesforce Roles and Profiles in Five Minutes", so it's a really good refresher of how you use profiles and roles, and it's an easy read. So I always get little tidbits every day. I read something from him and learn something new.
Kristi Campbell: That's interesting, too, because it's one of those things where you think you know, but there's always one little thing to learn, or one scenario that's new. They're muting, restricting something... What you've learned in the past. So I think I know it, but do I? It only takes five minutes.
Ali Irvin: Five minutes. Yeah.
Kristi Campbell: For me, I have been reading about Apex Rollups.
Ali Irvin: Ooh.
Kristi Campbell: So James Simone has a post on UnofficialSF that is talking about what he's built. So a great example of something that... As an admin, I'm facing a challenge. A developer has built a thing that I can use to really extend what I'm doing in my work. So we'll link to that, but UnofficialSF is a great follow for people who have just, again, built great things around flow and the new flow orchestrator, other automation tools to help people be more successful with Salesforce.
Ali Irvin: Yeah, UnofficialSF is awesome, and it is a great way to enhance flow, and since flow is the future...
Kristi Campbell: There's our predictions for 2022.
Ali Irvin: It's a great site to get some really cool components to add to flow.
Kristi Campbell: Then go to a user group and present about what you learned.
Ali Irvin: Yeah, absolutely.
Kristi Campbell: I love it. Thank you so much for joining me, Ali.
Ali Irvin: Thanks for having me.