Thu, 22 September 2022
Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, Mike and Gillian are on to celebrate Admin Day at Dreamforce with a story about the origins of the Awesome Admin movement.
Join us as we talk about the teamup of the century, how “good stuff no fluff” and “for admins by admins” became mottos the Admin Relations Team lives by to this day, and why the community has been key from day 1.
You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Mike and Gillian.
Getting the team together
Our story begins with a certain handsome, intrepid Salesforce MVP—our hero, Mike Gerholdt didn’t know it, but he had a date with destiny. The year is 2013 and Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” is number one on the charts. Meanwhile, our other hero, Gillian Bruce, is working Technical Communications and taking meetings with people at Salesforce trying to figure out which direction to take her career. There are rumblings of doing something for “declarative developers” and Gillian is thinking to herself that the term sounds a lot like what the admins she communicates with do.
You see, our mild-mannered admin had an alter-ego. By day, a Salesforce MVP, but by night, he was known as the ButtonClick Admin, with a podcast and blog devoted to all the amazing things you could do in Salesforce without code. Back at Salesforce, Gillian was in a fateful meeting where an idea was floated: “What if we hire the ButtonClick Admin?”
The Admin team’s first Dreamforce
The team’s first Dreamforce together was an important part of the Awesome Admin mythos. With no overarching theme, they decided to go with superheroes for the admin area. There was Super De-Duper, the Mobile Avenger, and Doc Developer. And they had so much help from the community staffing the very first Admin area. They were a small-but-mighty team of three, so they really relied on the community to live up to the phrase, “for admins, by admins.”
They even had to do their own advertising for the first Admin Keynote, which wasn’t even supposed to be an official keynote. LeeAnne Rimel was at that time a standout member of the community who created all the demos for this DIY keynote. Today, she’s running the Admin Keynote at Dreamforce ‘22.
Listen to whole episode for behind-the-scenes stories on the demo that rocked the world, why they started working more closely with product teams, and why they always show setup. And whether you’re at Dreamforce or tuning in from home, happy Admin Day!
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Full show transcript
Gillian Bruce: Welcome to the Salesforce Admins Podcast, where we talk about product, community, and careers to help you be an awesome admin. I'm Gillian Bruce and I am joined today by Mike Gerholdt. Hi, Mike.
Mike Gerholdt: Hey.
Gillian Bruce: And Mike, I have you on the podcast today because I wanted to do something a little bit fun given that today is the official Admin Day at Dreamforce. And so if you're at Dreamforce and you're listening to this, wow, nice multitasking. I'm impressed. If you are not physically at Dreamforce, my-oh-my. There's a lot for you to join in with us digitally. And I wanted to use this as a fun excuse to take a little trip down memory lane and tell the real story about the advent of the awesome admin movement, so to speak. So Mike, you really were the inspiration for a lot of this. And so I wanted to go way back. That's the way back machine and take us all the way back to actually 2013, which is when the kernel of this all began at Salesforce. Now, Mike, you were an MVP, not working at Salesforce. And how long had you been an MVP at that point?
Mike Gerholdt: I think I got awarded in the winter release. It was the Dreamforce that happened, I want to say in between Thanksgiving and Christmas one year. So, it was a super late Dreamforce.
Gillian Bruce: Yeah. That's right. Sometimes, they're in November.
Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. Because MVPs used to be awarded on releases. And so, I think it was the winter release that year. So, 2011 something. Yeah.
Gillian Bruce: Okay. Well, 2011. Okay.
Mike Gerholdt: Sometime.
Gillian Bruce: So 2011. So, you'd been an MVP for a couple of years. 2013 for me, I was doing a little internal career exploration at Salesforce, doing coffees to meet people, understand what their jobs were. And I happened to be connected to this woman named Sarah Franklin at the time who had just left Salesforce and come back to Salesforce. And I remember her talking to me and being excited about doing something for the declarative developers, the way that we do for traditional developers. And I was like, "Those sound like Salesforce admins to me because those are the people I communicate with all the time about technology changes in my role as a tech comms person. When we're notifying everyone about a release or a performance issue, those are the people I email all the time." And from there it was like, "Okay. Here we go. I know how to talk to admins. You want to do something for admins?" And in a few months, Mike, I remember Sarah telling me, "Yeah, I was in a conversation with Alexander Dayon," who at the time I think was I forget what exactly. He was a C-level-
Mike Gerholdt: He ran Service Cloud. Didn't he?
Gillian Bruce: That's right. Yeah. Service Cloud. And I think in a meeting, Sarah said that Mr. Alexander Dayon was like, "Let's hire the Button Click Admin." And that was you Mike because you, at that time, you would what? You had the blog, you had the podcast.
Mike Gerholdt: So, I started all of that. It was a kernel of an idea in 2009 where I started writing something called the Monday... I really meant it to be the Monday Morning Admin, like the Monday Morning Quarterback because of blog titles and Technorati and Google, that I ended up calling it the Monday AM Admin. And I started that on my personal blog and it got a little bit of traction. And then I was talking with a friend and he's like, "I think there's something bigger here. There's a bigger brand I should build."
Gillian Bruce: Well, and clearly you were right. Other people were doing the same thing because it took off.
Mike Gerholdt: Yep. So, I grew that for a while and then started a podcast because I dabbled in video, but YouTube wasn't YouTube yet. And I realized the biggest thing was going to Dreamforce and hearing stories and hearing people talk about their stories and listening to them and hearing their passion. And I thought, "Oh. Well, that's what a podcast could do," because when you distill it down into black and white, into written words, the blog post just wasn't getting it across as much. And so 2012, with Jared Miller who was also a fellow Salesforce MVP, I launched what was called the Button Click Admin Podcast. And that was every Thursday because I didn't want to take traction away from my Monday morning posts. So, twice a week. And then that gets you through 2013-ish.
Gillian Bruce: Yeah. So then Alexander Dayon says, "Let's hire the Button Click Admin, Sarah." And then you got a call, I believe Mike.
Mike Gerholdt: Yeah.
Gillian Bruce: At some point.
Mike Gerholdt: So, as part of this was a unique time just in branding and in, I would call it the internet. Because at that time, and I'll preference that time as 2006 to 2015, you could 100% make a brand for yourself. You could have a blog, you could have a podcast, you could monetize those and you could do a lot of public speaking. And so, that's the evolution of where I took the blog to. It was essential hub for me to advertise my knowledge, do the podcast, distribute information and then also sell advertisements and then get speaking gigs. And that was a big thing in that, I would say nine years on the internet.
Gillian Bruce: You're about to get punked.
Mike Gerholdt: I was literally about to get punked, yes. And so, it was super loud in the blogger lounge. I answer the call and it was in a broom closet across the hallway from the blogger lounge because there's no place to [inaudible]. And it was Sarah Franklin. She introduced herself and I 100% thought she was playing a joke on me because she told me she was starting this admin marketing team and was really interested in talking with me, but didn't know if I was looking for a job and I hung up on her.
Gillian Bruce: That's the best.
Mike Gerholdt: Yep.
Gillian Bruce: So, you hung up on Sarah?
Mike Gerholdt: That's the first crazy career thing I have done. She called back. Fast-forward to today. Thank God, I didn't hang up the second time.
Gillian Bruce: Yeah. Thank God you didn't hang up the second time because then you officially became part of the team and I think you were... What, it was Sarah and myself? And I think you were the next person to join because I don't think Leanne was-
Mike Gerholdt: Was, I was three.
Gillian Bruce: Developer of evangelism.
Mike Gerholdt: We were just a scrappy little team for, I mean, all the way through Dreamforce 2014.
Gillian Bruce: Yeah. Well, and I remember too, it was one of those funny... We did. We felt like a little scrappy startup because I remember Sarah being like, "Hey. Gillian, we should start a newsletter." I'm like, "Yeah, cool. So maybe we could just email the same list that I used to email about tech comms. Let me see if I can make that happen." I was like, "Thank goodness. I got a good relationship with the email team because they're going to let us send a newsletter out." And I remember it was originally going to be the Admin Roundup and we had a whole cowboy motif, I think-
Mike Gerholdt: Because why not?
Gillian Bruce: Yeah. Well, thank goodness that didn't really hash out. But yeah. It was like, "Oh. Well, let's feature some community posts." And I think what was really special about that and was special about having you really help us create this is, it's always been by admins for admins. It's never been us creating that new content that we're trying to push out to the admin community. What we really started was, "Hey. We recognize that there's an admin community out there. We recognize that there are people doing this work. And as a company at Salesforce, we need to let them know that we see them and that we want to highlight the work that they're doing and elevate it, so the rest of the community can get something from it too." And that's something that I always just feel so fortunate to be a part of because it's really unique when you think about enablement or just marketing in general because it is really good stuff, no fluff. And that's the heart of what we do in the admin relations team, which I think is really special.
Mike Gerholdt: Well, I think it also aligns to really the culture of Salesforce admins. We find ways to scale. So, if you're at an organization... And I was at an organization, I was a solo admin for, I don't know how many users. It was in the hundreds, a lot. The way you scale is online, on social, in the trailblazer community, which was called something else at that time. And you asked questions. And so, it was very natural for our team to just follow that mantra. We couldn't scale. There was three of us and there was how many million admins. Obviously, we can't write enough content.
Gillian Bruce: No. But we rebranded Button Click Admin and it became admin.salesforce.com. So we had all your content.
Mike Gerholdt: Wisely so.
Gillian Bruce: And we relaunched the podcast and you invited me to be a co-host, which was terrifying, but it was so fun. And I can't believe it was that many years ago, Mike.
Mike Gerholdt: It was a long time ago. I remember that first podcast. Because there was the discussion of, "Okay. So I come over, obviously my cohost isn't a Salesforce employee. Do we do that? Is that a thing? Is that weird?" And then I remember Sarah was like, "Well, have you talked to Gillian about being co-host?" I was like, "No, does she want to co-host?" "I don't know." And I remember, "Well, so what do you do?" "Well, I don't know. You just talk when I don't talk."
Gillian Bruce: Yeah. I remember feeling totally out of my element, but totally down and excited to try it. And I remember those first few episodes of recording and hearing my... I was terrified every episode. And you can tell when you hear them because you can hear me going...
Mike Gerholdt: Right. Well, I think, not to go down the podcast path. The hardest thing is people don't know how to necessarily carry a conversation. And the one thing that I learned starting the podcast is interesting podcasts are ones where the host has an idea of where things are going, but isn't committed to the outcome and is happy to let the guest guide the journey. And I remember reading about Larry King and CNN and The Art Of The Interview and the art of the interview is that it's not about you, the host. But it's about you asking the questions and being present in the moment to continue that conversation, to bring out the best in what your guest is talking about. I mean, those early episodes of the podcast, we probably didn't talk enough and then you talk too much, but you find that intermedium.
Gillian Bruce: Yeah. And one of the things I've also always heard about podcasts or really about anything, it's all about the reps. It's about the practice and doing it. The more you do it, the better you get. And I mean, we've been doing this for a long time now, Mike. So, hopefully people still think it's good.
Mike Gerholdt: I know. You would think. But let's talk about the first Dreamforce because that was fun because we threw everything at the wall.
Gillian Bruce: And from the wall and hanging from the wall.
Mike Gerholdt: Yep.
Gillian Bruce: Yeah. This was pre-Trailhead. So Trailhead was just a glimmer-
Mike Gerholdt: Trailhead actually launched at that Dreamforce, I think.
Gillian Bruce: Yeah. And I think there was one-
Mike Gerholdt: Two.
Gillian Bruce: Three trails or something. It was-
Mike Gerholdt: I mean, it was huge. Massive back then.
Gillian Bruce: So, we had no overarching special Trailhead theme. So we decided, "Hey. Admins are superheroes. Let's make our whole area all about the different types of admin superheroes." Oh, man. We had so much fun coming up with all of those different superheroes, like Super D Duper, because that was the year that they finally introduced the de-duping feature from the IdeaExchange-
Mike Gerholdt: Duplicate management, yep.
Gillian Bruce: I just always call it de-duper.
Mike Gerholdt: I know because it's fun.
Gillian Bruce: And we had what? The Mobile Avenger and Doc Developer and-
Mike Gerholdt: Just all kinds.
Gillian Bruce: And we had them printed on huge banners and we hung them in the little atrium area on the second floor of Mosconea's as you come up the escalators and it was amazing. It was just-
Mike Gerholdt: It was so cool.
Gillian Bruce: Oh. It was so cool.
Mike Gerholdt: We also quickly learned why that atrium area was available for us to use.
Gillian Bruce: It was so hot.
Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. On the first day at 2:00, we're all standing there. "You're hot." "But this is really... I need to go." And you would just walk 10 feet out of that area. And it would be 20 degrees cooler.
Gillian Bruce: It was a whole greenhouse effect going on there.
Mike Gerholdt: It was.
Gillian Bruce: Yeah. Well, especially, when I was moving hundreds of boxes of T-shirts and swag around because that's what we did.
Mike Gerholdt: That's what we had budget for.
Gillian Bruce: And we had the first ever admin theater and we had our first ever admin zone. And again for admin by admin-
Mike Gerholdt: We had a little podcast booth. Don't forget we had that little podcast booth.
Gillian Bruce: We sure did. And that looked amazing, the whole on-air sign. Which you have in your house, I believe.
Mike Gerholdt: No. That's the following year. The big on air sign. I have some of those letters, yes. But thank God I don't have that whole booth because that would be massive.
Gillian Bruce: Yeah. But again, back to for admins by admins, the only way that we were able to have an admin zone and provide that first ever home for admins at Dreamforce, is because the three of us could not staff at all. We had the entire community staffing those booths and it was all this ask the expert format. Which is now the heart of what we do and how we do any experience that we have. Whether it's at World Tour or at Dreamforce or a TDox. I mean, that is literally at the heart of how we treat all of these demo stations and experiences is that we have experts actually talking about how you can solve your problems and helping you troubleshoot.
Mike Gerholdt: Yeah, and people showed up. I think that's the biggest thing. We were all looking at each other like, "People are going to show up, right? And they're going to be excited for this?" And that in addition to the community stepping in, is really what drove success because everybody else at Salesforce looked at this team of three, four people, I think Leanne probably pitched in that year.
Gillian Bruce: I think Leanne was our first ever, "keynote."
Mike Gerholdt: She helped with the keynote. Oh, we should talk about that. But people showed up and when they showed up, they appreciated what we had and was willing to contribute more. And other areas caught wind of that vibe and they're like, "We need to package this stuff up." You're like, "Nope, it's ours."
Gillian Bruce: Yep. Well, we had superhero capes. We had bright blue awesome admin-pow T-shirts. I mean, it was pretty magical. And I remember we had to do a lot of advertising to get everyone to come to what we were calling a keynote, but wasn't officially recognized as a keynote with the first ever admin keynote. It was the basement of the Marriott.
Mike Gerholdt: Hilton Union Square.
Gillian Bruce: It was the Hilton, that's right.
Mike Gerholdt: Hilton Union Square.
Gillian Bruce: Yeah. So that keynote is actually really amazing because talk about Leanne. Leanne was instrumental in creating all the demos for that keynote. And she's running the admin keynote today at Dreamforce '22 today as well. So that's an incredible journey, but yeah, we showed... I remember, that keynote was so fun. Sarah had just had a baby and Amelia was brand new and Sarah's like, "Yeah, no, I'm going to get on stage and we're going to rock this keynote."
Mike Gerholdt: Uh-huh. Like, two weeks rehearsal she had and just nothing. Just rocked it.
Gillian Bruce: And we'd never created a keynote like this before. This was all new to all of us. And then we featured a bunch of customers who we were going to recognize as awesome admins and give them capes. So I remember it was... Oh, god, Nick Lindberg and Dale Zigler-
Mike Gerholdt: Cheryl Feldman.
Gillian Bruce: Cheryl Feldman. Oh, gosh. There were a handful of them. They were amazing. And Cheryl Feldman won the first ever Awesome Admin Award that was presented to her by her VP at her current job. And it was our way of like, "Hey. This is a recognition of the amazing impact that an admin can have on the organization. And Salesforce is giving you the platform and trying to elevate that." And for those of you who don't know, that eventually evolved into what is now the Golden Hoodie.
Mike Gerholdt: And Gillian, I think one part that's always fun to talk about with that keynote is the mistake that actually changed the way a lot of teams demo Salesforce. And so, Dreamforce 2014 Process Builders, the brand new shiny thing. It's built on the Flow engine, but it makes sense. And everything you could do was totally declarative when you build a flow. Except, there was one random checkbox buried in set up that you had to check. And we rehearsed this to the nth degree. Off stage, was going to be one person sitting that would check the box so that everything just worked seamlessly in our demo. And then that didn't happen.
Gillian Bruce: Yes. That we weren't showing stuff that was built fake. We wanted show the real deal. This is something you can do today.
Mike Gerholdt: So we went off-script. We showed setup and thunderous applause. There were executives in the back of the room that were like, "Oh, man. What are they doing?" And everybody reacted. And from there on, our mantra was we show set up. We show you the real-real. We'll show you how to set this thing up because there should be no mystery to how you configure some of this stuff. And that moment in time, had that not happened, that was a huge cultural moment for our team. And I think for the whole admin community.
Gillian Bruce: 100%, I mean, that sets the tone. It's the good stuff, no fluff. We're really going to show you how you can do this. Not just the theory of, "Look at what's possible." It's like, "Cool. We know what's possible. We're going to show you how you can actually make that happen." And that moment was amazing. That did, that really set the tone for a lot of how we presented technical content until today. So, hopefully we keep true to that.
Mike Gerholdt: We do.
Gillian Bruce: We do. And then from there, Mike, I mean, we were launched, I mean, Awesome Admin became a thing. Trailhead started developing... The first Trailhead content was developer and admin. We were in the core DNA of what Trailhead ended up becoming. And it went from just recognizing admins to then really celebrating and elevating what admins are and what they do. And as a team, we got to dig a little deeper into really getting in with the product teams and being advocates for admin and connecting product with the admin community. And true to the core has been a really important element of the admin community from the start. And that messaging continues to go through everything that we have done as well. IdeaExchange, really making sure that the product is thinking about the admin use case. And honestly, if you look today at Dreamforce, a lot of the new product innovations, they're mostly adminy.
Mike Gerholdt: Well, it's that, and I think that the really unique thing that this team and admins in the community and everyone listening gets to do is, you get to participate in the growth of this identity within the technology ecosystem. So, a developer in the early '70s, you could argue when Apple came out, is really what started to define that. It was probably, you could argue even earlier, but the stereotype and the persona for the most part had been molded throughout the '80s. And for sure, the '90s, by the time that the internet and technology computers and classrooms happened. This is our 1960s, 1970s moment. You go back in time through that 2012 period, we're defining this identity now as in real-time. So it's more than just us showcasing it at Dreamforce. I mean, Gillian, we fast-forward to 2022 now, we're actually saying, "Okay, as part of this identity, here are the core skills that you need to have."
Gillian Bruce: Yep. I mean, it's gone way beyond just focusing on the product, but we've learned a lot. We've gotten feedback from the community and the ecosystem at large about, "Hey. It takes more than just being able to know how to do the technology piece of it. It's that magic of... The admin is at the core of the business, connecting the technology and the business and the processes. And so, how do you do that? You can learn a lot of tech. We have Trailhead to help you learn all that, but there's more to it. And that's where the admin skills kit came out of the research that we were doing, and really honing in on, "What are those skills that help you be a super successful admin?" When you pair those with the technology skills, man, the sky's the limit.
Mike Gerholdt: I agree.
Gillian Bruce: Yeah. What I love about rehashing the story and going back is understanding how core these values of good stuff, no fluff, for admins by admins, are to everything that we do today. Things that were important at the outset, we show set up. We use and tap into the knowledge of the community to help each other. I mean, that really has actually affected the rest of Salesforce too. If you start thinking about how things have shifted between Trailhead and focusing more on the individual trailblazers, a lot of what we've done as a team and what the community has done is now being really reflected in a huge way. And so, admins keep being awesome because you're what makes Salesforce special and it's really an honor to be a part of this community.
Mike Gerholdt: Absolutely.
Gillian Bruce: So then Mike, what's next? What are we going to do more for admins? What's the future look like?
Mike Gerholdt: Well, they should watch the Salesforce Admins Keynote at Dreamforce and find out.
Gillian Bruce: It's a great tip.
Mike Gerholdt: Which is also available on Salesforce Plus in case you weren't there in-person.
Gillian Bruce: Absolutely. And there will be lots available on Salesforce Plus, including our Release Readiness Live session. So if actually you're listening to this in the morning of Thursday, you can actually tune in live to the Release Readiness Live, the admin preview later today, which we are doing at Dreamforce with product managers. So, we're going to have an in-person experience and the regular virtual experience for Release Readiness live. And there's going to be some really amazing Admin sessions that are going to be available on Salesforce Plus on demand after Dreamforce.