Thu, 9 March 2023
Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Rakesh Gupta Senior Solution Solution Architect at IBM, a six-time Salesforce MVP, evangelist, Salesforce coach, and the creator of Automation Champion.
Join us as we talk about how to fit blogging into a busy schedule and what to think about when you’re writing about a solution.
You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Rakesh Gupta.
The birth of Automation Champion
We’re big fans of Rakesh’s blog, Automation Champion, so we brought him on the pod to find out more about the man, the myth, the legend. When he first got started, he would answer questions from the community to see if he could find solutions with automations that didn’t require code.
Rakesh started saving these answers in a gigantic Google Doc which he would share over and over again, but he started thinking that maybe there was a better way. The same questions would come up, time after time, and it would be really handy to put all the answers in one place. That’s when he took his first steps into the blogosphere.
Why you should start blogging
Mike is doing a little blogging of his own about, well…blogging and why admins should start doing it. So we wanted to get some tips from Rakesh about how he fits writing into his busy schedule.
The first thing Rakesh does is block out a couple of hours each weekend to plan his content schedule and research new topics. “I try to write [a post] four or five times before I publish it,” he says, “if I understand it well then anyone can, too.” He goes to the Trailblazer Community to look for new questions and, believe it or not, he still has material he has gotten to in that Google Doc.
It’s important to have confidence in the fact that your perspective matters. No matter where you are on your Salesforce journey, you’re going to have a unique perspective and a unique way of solving problems. As Rakesh says, you need to realize that there’s an audience out there that will resonate with the way you, specifically, explain things.
How Rakesh writes a new post
When Rakesh is writing a new blog post, the first thing he does is jump into his Developer Sandbox to see if he can get a solution working. He especially wants to make sure that he’s testing with enough records to tell if it will be useable at scale.
Most importantly, Rakesh tries to frame his solutions in terms of tangible business problems that anyone can understand. He’s always thinking about the perspective of someone who is new to Salesforce: will they be able to understand and implement this solution? If not, he’ll go back and make some edits.
Finally, Rakesh does a regular session on Saturdays called Salesforce Flow Office Hours. “Trying to build a Flow is the last step,” he says, “the first step is to spend time thinking it through, you have to create a Process Flow Diagram or write something down on paper so you understand how it works in real life.” If you want help with your Flows, hop in a session on Saturdays at 10 am (US Central Time).
Mike: Welcome to the Salesforce Admins Podcast, where we talk about product community and career to help you become an awesome admin.
Rakesh Gupta: Thank you for inviting me, Mike.
Mike: It's been a long time coming. I feel like I've read a lot of your stuff. But for those people, the less than 1%, I would say, of the community that may not know everything that you do, can you just give us a brief history of how you got into the Salesforce ecosystem?
Rakesh Gupta: Sure. My name is Rakesh and I'm a Senior Solution Architect working at IBM. I started my career as soon as I got out of college in India as a [inaudible] developer. Then I was fortunate enough to join couple of Salesforce community events that happened around that time, lead by Kalender Patel and other Salesforce evangelist in India, and I learned about Salesforce. Right after that, I found the recruiting application work and I started learning Salesforce and working on Salesforce platform and I involved in community. That's how I learn and get most of the knowledge and use cases that I put on my blog on automationchampion.com and how then later I started user group in Navi Mumbai, which called as Navi Mumbai Developer User Group. And in 2016, I started Automation Hour with Jennifer Lee and David Litton to help community to learn Salesforce automation process builder/Salesforce flow by using Salesforce use case that everyone implement in their org.
Mike: So you do a few things. I feel like you hit on some really good parts. According to your site, you're six times Salesforce MVP. Holy cow. That's nothing to shake a stick at.
Rakesh Gupta:I started this blog post when I was in India and I was posting page three Bollywood parties' picture initially. It was started as [inaudible] and then as soon I just started my Salesforce career, I come to know about, there are lots of community people, they are looking for solutions like for example, initially we have success.com, success.salesforce.com or developer.salesforce.com and I hunt those website to find use case, help people to solve their problem using automations without writing code. Some of them, you can able to do the code, but there are lots of possibilities and Salesforce introduce workload. Then ability to launch a flow from workflow and then later process builder. Now Salesforce flows. So there are possibilities that the solution and use cases one has can we solve without writing code. So what I initially did is I started writing those into a Word document 10 or 20 pages what document step by steps and posting into the Trailblazer community.
Mike: No, it's cool. I love it. And some of these are rhetorical, but I would love to know some of the questions that I get asked. Because I feel like as a fellow blogger, these are things that we know but you talked about you also did automation hour with Jennifer Lee and Jennifer Lee's on our admin relations team. And she writes a ton of automation stuff too. What was the unique value that you were like, you know what, I got to put this out in the world even though there's other people doing stuff like it?
Rakesh Gupta:Well that's a very hard question.
Mike: I know.
Rakesh Gupta:So initially, see I'm from the background that coming from, I don't have lots of technical background in my family. My father is a retired teacher and my mom is housewife. So I see that people is struggling to getting into ecosystems and getting the use case that they are trying to solve by going through some articles. Because one thing that I believe is there is a user for every use cases, there are person that require the same intensity that you solve a challenge. For example, there are products, there are laptop, there are different kind of laptops and there are audience for each of them, there are movies then audience for each of them, those categories. So likewise, that's what I believe. If there are different people, how I can make myself unique in that front is when I get a requirement or use case from the community.
Mike: I think you nailed it. There's so many use cases out there and there's so many reasons to share what you do that I'm surprised your Google Drive last as long as it did before you started the blog.
Rakesh Gupta:I still have lots of scenarios in my Google Drive that I have in my Twitter list to put into the blog post in a blog post format and there are lots of community people who is helping me to put this into the block right now.
Mike: Well so let's talk about that because I think one of the things that if you're creating content for the community and running, you go to automation champion, you look at it and you're like, man, that must take him millions of hours a week to do. What does that look like? How do you categorize that time in your life to get that content out the door? Because you're busy, you're doing stuff, you're flying around the world, you've got a day job.
Rakesh Gupta:I spend my weekends to plan for at least next two weekends so that I am ahead in the content planning. So usually on every Sunday, four to five or four to six central, I spend two hours just to going through my content knowledge base that I have in my to-do list. So what else I can take this week or next week and try to implement for the community. And there are lots of other things like I write the blog post on Salesforce Flow, Salesforce religious and mainly part of related things. So I categorize them and there are some architect things as well. I started writing, so I categorize them and see what is most valuable thing that one can learn from me and my experience and I take one and start researching it, breaking it down, writing it, and trying to read four or five times before I publish so that if I understand then anyone can understand this,
Mike: That's real similar to what I used to do too. I remember I used to do it on Saturday mornings because Sunday evenings usually my brain is mush. So I took advantage of that Saturday morning wake up brain, let's plan some content stuff. That was always fun.
Rakesh Gupta:Saturday morning I run Salesforce office hours for community 10 to 10:30. So I spend.
Mike: So you just do more because you're not busy enough?
Rakesh Gupta:So every Saturday, 10 to 10:30 central, I spend 30 minutes to people if they have any questions come and try to solve online at the same time. And sometime I teach them how to think through this scenarios use case and how they can utilize their knowledge and they can learn something new. Some of the people when I talk to them, the problem, the major challenges that I see is they don't understand the data model and then there is something that I help them to learn. You can go to the Salesforce is schema builder that you can use to understand how the objects are connected, how this wheels are connected so that when you go and do the query it is very easy for anyone.
Mike: You know this as well as I do for every problem or every challenge that you're trying to solve for in a business, there's probably three or 400 different ways to solve it in Salesforce. Are you ever concerned that you're not putting out a piece of content that's right?
Rakesh Gupta:Yes. If I agree, yes. Sometime when I saw some scenario that Jen or David or someone else put on this website, I feel like, this is good. And I think that is the opportunity for everyone to learn because no one is perfect. So that's where I see community and my friends like, this is the other way that you can think to solve some problem that I never think and this is good for me to learn and think about. There are different approaches as well that can solve and maybe that is more efficient way. And it did happen many times. So I make a note of it and next time I try to see if I can do solution differently or this is the best solution.
Mike: I found myself at least, and there's different years depending on the iteration of the Salesforce release where depending on what the product or feature is that you're writing about, it could really change and it could really dramatically impact the solution that you wrote about maybe two years ago or even a year ago. And I think you're probably running into that a lot with flow and orchestrator and especially with some process builder. What part of working in automation do you find the part that you really want to write about the most?
Rakesh Gupta:You nailed it and you said very right. So Salesforce now move into the process builder to Salesforce flows. And last year Francis and Monira, we wrote at least 150 blocks, convert 150 blocks a process builder to Salesforce flows. And nowadays, I try to update all those blocks whenever you see there are new UI here and there in Salesforce, new variables. So I try to update those every day.
Mike: Not because anything's changing or different, I say that tongue in cheek.
Rakesh Gupta:It is part lots of people following it and I feel like if I provide an hour a day to update those so it'll help for at least one people that would be I think sufficient.
Mike: Absolutely. I noticed you mentioned your bio, you've been working on the Salesforce platform for over 10 years. In looking back, so let's see, it's 2023 that put you back to 2013, can you remember a point in time where maybe it was a feature or something that you learned that really felt like it was a turning point for you where you looked at that and was like, wow, this is a thing and it just changed my career?
Rakesh Gupta:It is. In 2013 when I was initial involved in community and I found lots of use cases that can automate, but again everyone providing the solutions using APEX code and that time I started learning about Salesforce Visual flow is what's calling us cloud flow designer/visual flow. So I started investing my time and you cannot imagine, some time I spend eight to nine hour a day or maybe whole night just to thinking about the solution that how one can solve because there was very less blocks and information available in the market and that was one of the game changing point for me in my career that helped me to think through what can be possible without writing code and that give me lots of knowledge, even information about the platform, knowledge about the platforms and help me to grow in my career. And that's how I started writing my blocks as well as books in Salesforce Process Builder and Salesforce flows.
Mike: So you mentioned you used to write and probably still do maybe, I don't know, we'll find out a lot of what would turn into blogs on Google Docs. What is your process for creating content from the moment that Rakesh has the idea to the moment that Mike sees it as a post on automation champion?
Rakesh Gupta:So the first thing is I have lots of ideas. So I write it down and if the idea is I feel like could it be a business use case? And this is a very business use case. So I started first implementing in my Dev Sandbox where I can just try to see if it can be possible and test with at least 10 or 100 record to see if that is working and if that is working, that is again the success for a blog. If not, and it happened many times. So then that's the first thing that I do. And then next step is to start writing a blog post, which is basically now I have a format to think about how I can put in a format, like what business scenario that I convert this use case to, and then create a process flow diagram and think through and person who just joined Salesforce how he can see this use case and if I write in this week and he able to read this and try to implement.
Mike: Quite extensive. You mentioned Salesforce flow office hours, so on top of just everything that you're doing and you're super busy writing content, you decided to take, is it 30 minutes? 30 minutes?
Rakesh Gupta:30 minutes.
Mike: On Saturday and do that. What are some of the things that you're accomplishing in office hours?
Rakesh Gupta:One, the couple of things that I accomplished is helping people and there are so many people that reach out, they were not able to build. There was one person from South Africa, he is working for a nonprofit and he just joined Salesforce a week ago and he was trying to build the flows and I built that flow for him on live-
Rakesh Gupta:... In the same sessions. And he was very happy because he said that it's going to help for his nonprofit tremendously. And then I helped couple of people, lots of people on the call to help them to understand and I feel I got happy when I see that people understand how to implement a flow, it's not writing, just go and try to build the flow. That is the last step. The first step is you have to spend timing in thinking it, you have to create a process flow diagram or you have to write down your thinking into a piece of paper so that you understand how this actually implement in real life and then implementing is the last step.
Mike: I think sometimes people jump ahead, I'm sure you see that, right? They want to jump into a solution already and you need to back up and think about everything that you're trying to do. Especially now with some of the capabilities of flow, the amount of what you can achieve in a single flow compared to what Process Builder was and even backing up into the days of Workflow builder is just in incredible.
Rakesh Gupta:Yes. For one example a couple of months ago, you cannot able to query the get element by saying that, "Hey, can you give me all opportunity where account ID in the list?" Now Salesforce has that feature in flows where you can say, give me all opportunity where ID in the list. So these are the lots of things that one has to understand and think that this can be also possible with the flows like sorting and there are few other new features. So one has to keep up to date and think how they can implement this while thinking or designing a solution yielding flows.
Mike: I think back to the days of when I was excited just to build a workflow and somehow Daisy chain all of them together with a checkbox and now that's very simple flow. So as we wrap things up, we talked about your blog, you're super busy. And I'm being selfish here because I'm also writing this Build to blog series that I'll plug again, for somebody thinking about starting a blog and not necessarily on automation, maybe they're going to write something on page design. There's so many features, there's so many topics to write on. If you were to give them piece of advice, what would that be?
Rakesh Gupta:First, remember there is a audience for each content, even though that content has written 200 times or 2000 times does not matter. There is a audience for everything and there is a person who match with your frequency. It is possible that if I explain to you something you can able to understand, but not every people, maybe it is possible that the way that you explain he can or she can able to understand. So that is very first thing one has to understand before writing content. And then second is write the genuine content. Don't copy paste from here and there.
Mike: Nailed it. I have nothing more to say. There is a piece of content for everybody and I could not agree more. I think that's great. Rakesh, we love reading your site and I'm so appreciative that you have the passion behind doing what you do on the site and hosting office hours and writing books and creating trainings like it. It's really fun to find that level of passion in what you do and then be able to translate that into fun bit of work to do outside of your day job, which I know probably doesn't feel like work. So thank you so much for coming on the pod, sharing your information. I appreciate that and I will be sure to link to your site in the show notes.
Rakesh Gupta:No, thank you so much Mike. Thanks for inviting me. This is my dream comes true. I listen your podcast from when you started as a button click admin. And from that day, I am a big fan of you, so thank you so much for inviting me and it is a pleasure.
Mike: That was a fun conversation with Rakesh. It was good to catch up with him. Awfully busy person running a blog and doing office hours and I even saw an sight the written a few books, so holy cow, that's a lot of contributions. But if you'd like to learn more about all things Salesforce admin, go to admin.salesforce.com to find more resources, including all the links, which I will include the special link to that build a blog series that I've got going, which I will definitely pull some snippets for this. And that goes all summer long that we mentioned. Be in the show notes. And of course there's also a full transcript for you to read in case you missed part of it. You can stay up to date with us on social. We are at Salesforce. Admins, no I on Twitter, my co-host Gillian is on Twitter. She is at Gillian K Bruce and I am at Mike Gert. So with that, stay safe, stay awesome, and stay tuned for the next episode. We'll see you in the cloud.