The Salesforce Trailblazer Community is remarkable, and a force to be reckoned with. This community of Salesforce stakeholders, be that customers, employees, or partners, is one of the major differentiators between Salesforce and other technology platforms out there.
The active community exists to help each other out along the way, and not solely limited to the Salesforce technology – the Ohana discusses, advises, and actions a broad scope of topics, such as diversity, career progression, and giving back through philanthropic efforts.
How did I, a university drop out, secure my ideal job, move countries, find work without any problems, and a set of friends to love dearly? I’m talking about the power of the Salesforce community which I’ve come to love since joining the ecosystem in 2011.
Stick with me for this ride, as I cover the options available for you to participate. We’ll cover the pros and cons of each, plus my tips I’ve picked up over the years. As a bonus, I will be sharing a few sneak peeks about upcoming developments – so keep your eyes peeled!
- Trailblazer Community Groups
- Salesforce Saturdays
- Community Conferences
- Trailblazer Community: more details
- Collaboration Groups & Online Forums
- Ohana Slack
- Blogs & Podcasts
You may have come across this article new to the Salesforce ecosystem – in which case, uncovering all of the opportunities the Salesforce Trailblazer Community offer may seem overwhelming. On the other hand, you may have already been involved in the industry for some time, but are looking to expand your reach – this article is for you, too!
Trailblazer Community Groups
Every day, thousands of passionate Salesforce Admins, Developers, Marketers, Nonprofit, Women in Tech (and more) get together to discuss all Salesforce matters at customer-led groups.
These tend to be 2 to 3 hour meetings including presentations, workshops or roundtables – plus, plenty of time for food, socialising and fun!
Note: in 2020, lots of groups have slightly shorter meetings online, which gives greater flexibility, and can mean that you get to hear from, and discuss topics with, exceptional presenters who aren’t normally travelling to your neck of the woods.
This is my passion. This is where the real business is, for water-cooler, tea-and-coffee moments, and sparking new and interesting random thought processes – chance conversations that spark real insight and innovation.
All these groups are led by volunteers (not Salesforce employees) and are local, reflecting your town, city, or region (there are a surprising amount of regional differences). The times vary: some groups meet during lunch (avoiding traffic problems), some during the afternoons (often nonprofits) and others meet during the evenings.
Here you will meet your peers, you can network but with a Salesforce twist, and you can see real life case studies of what other people are up to in their Salesforce.
It’s worth noting that people attend for various reasons (eg. upskilling, to answer a specific problem, or even looking for a new social activity). Some come back repeatedly, and some just pop in once, with others coming from time to time as personal circumstances allow. Everyone is welcome and encouraged, as we’re all different and it is what helps keep the meetings fresh, with lots of varied perspectives.
- PRO: First-hand experience.
- CON: Not always convenient for you, location or timing wise. To sign up to groups, you need to use a different login (not linked to your normal Trailblazer/Salesforce account), as I will explain below.
How to find out when your next Trailblazer Community meetup is happening:
New to Salesforce? SalesforceSaturdays might be the best place to start (well, after Trailhead obviously)!
Here it’s a smaller, more intimate environment with typically 2-10 people all gathering to learn on Trailhead and study sessions together in cafes, hotel lobbies and libraries worldwide.
— Amsterdam Salesforce Saturday (@AmsTrailheadSat) January 11, 2020
The advantage of this is that you can ask questions, get immediate hands-on feedback, and see the results all in one go. Also, it can be more interesting than working on a computer by yourself, especially if there’s #certifycake.
Your local group will meet at least once a month, if not more often. Inevitably some groups now are temporarily meeting online instead; many of these are also listed in the virtual events Quip.
- PRO: Meeting some of the most enthusiastic and dedicated people in the whole ecosystem.
- CON: The time commitment!
Salesforce and Community Conferences
While Salesforce puts on the 4-day Dreamforce mega-conference in San Francisco that attracts 180K+ people every year, there are many regional 1-2 day events (World Tours, Dreamforce to You, Bootcamps). Plus, you’ll hear about plenty of Community-led events throughout the year – well known ones are the Dreamin’ Events, Dream Ole, and London’s Calling.
The official list is here, but I had written this post last year, it would not have been so sparse.
In the meantime Virtual Dreamin and DataDreamin have been and gone showing the world how virtual conferences can be a success, and I am sure we will have more to look forward to!
The advantage of these whole day events? More content, simultaneous tracks (so you can pick and choose), dedicated time and space away from your work environment, even more effort put into producing high quality presentations… all leading to more people. Which means conversations you wouldn’t have otherwise had. It’s worth noting that these events are subsidised by generous sponsors. Try getting that benefit from your typical paid training course, and approval from your nearest and dearest budget holder!
- PRO: Everything, all in one day!
- CON: Most of us can only attend one a year, at best.
Top tip: as and when you can, choose a conference and extend it to enjoy a weekend break. Perhaps go to see a huge indoor train track, although I understand that other people’s choices of activity may be different…
All Paths Lead to Trailhead
We’re all Trailblazers, we all want to improve ourselves and if that’s not blazing a trail, I don’t know what is.
Feel free to skip this section if you know this!
Simply visit trailblazers.salesforce.com or trailhead.com and click “Sign Up” in the top right hand corner to unlock a chunk of the power of the Salesforce universe for you. The next sections relate to Trailhead, so make sure you get set up!
Sneak peak: With much on the Trailblazer Community, the experience on a mobile technically works but leaves a lot to be desired. A radically overhauled version is currently in the beta stage. No ETA of when it’s going to be ready for production however so please don’t ask!
Ever typed a question into Google or pasted an error message while trying to troubleshoot Salesforce? It’s highly likely that you were directed to https://trailblazers.salesforce.com/answers.
You were looking at the Answers forum.
Fact: 98% of all questions get answered.
All levels of complexity are covered by fellow Trailblazer Community members. What’s a headache for you is a gift for someone else, in the same way that certain people just love doing crosswords when you would rather be watching sport.
If Googling isn’t working, simply visit the Answer forum and type where it says “What would you like to know”. Some suggested solutions will pop up, but if those aren’t suitable, then you can go ahead and post your question.
As you progress, think about giving back and answering a few questions yourself! You’ll be surprised how much you can learn looking up new things and trying to build things yourself.
- PRO: Breadth of experts.
- CON: Some problems are better expressed as a dynamic conversation.
Collaboration Groups & Online Forums
Online forums sometimes serve to help you answer specific queries (like the Answers forum I talked about above), and sometimes they extend into other areas such as best practice, career and other forms of knowledge sharing.
Within the Trailblazer Community there’s Collaboration Groups – after years of growth, too many to count. Put in “Flow”, “Blogs”, “The Netherlands”, or “Who owes me a beer” in the search bar at the top and you’ll find a wealth of knowledge and people happy to help you out. Being honest, once you’ve done your search, scroll down to “Groups” and then select “View More” to see all the options as only the first three are shown.
For Salesforce.org customers (primarily nonprofits & those in the education space), a very similar facility to “Answers” is available on the Power of Us Hub, with an even higher answer rate!
- PRO: Easily accessible.
- CON: These web-based forums, and email digests, feel very old skool.
Sneak peak: If only Salesforce were aware of the clunkiness factor, and were working – right now – on the next iteration… How likely is that though? 😉
Beep, beep, is this on? I mean Twitter is so 2010s, right? Not in the Salesforce world!
Twitter really aligns well with Salesforce’s values of trust and transparency. No wonder Marc Benioff was keen on buying it in 2016.
In theory, if you post a question on Twitter and tag it with #AskForce, you’ll get many answers in a short period of time, before everyone’s attention moves on elsewhere. Looking at the results, this might be a small myth.
I’d recommend also tagging in a couple of likely friends who may be able to answer you, or hopefully otherwise retweet you to reach a wider audience. Sometimes it works beautifully though…
Just looking for yals opinions. Should Jr #SalesforceAdmins (6-12mos no tech background) truly know how to use #Flows? Is this more an advanced Admin thing? They should know about it, but build/design? Curious? #askforce pic.twitter.com/tlhEHfXnew
— Guillermo Pedroni (@GuillermoPedron) July 10, 2020
- PRO: Speed.
- CON: Lack of depth in conversation/knowledge sharing.
On Ohana Slack, there are 3200 members operating within this more modern interface, with hints of both text messaging and forums, but with a better app to manage it whether it be by mobile, computer app or web-based. Channels include #technical-debt #trailhead and #whyadminsdrink.
Blogs & Podcasts
If you’re reading this, you’re already aware of at least one Salesforce blog out there! Here’s a list of the top 20 admin and developer ones.
Don’t forget podcasts – check out the most active podcasts from the community.
Summary – Take the speedy, high quality route
So there’s a lot out there. You don’t have to use everything in one go – choose the right tool at the right time, and what works for you.
Which resources help you thrive within the Salesforce ecosystem? Post in the comments below to share all.
Here’s the finale. This article was originally published at the start of 2016, and featured the same map image that plots the global community groups – amazing to see how groups have spread to now cover most of the world: