Salesforce Admins Podcast

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast we have Dave Nava, Transitioning Military Officer, 3x Trailhead Ranger, and Salesforce Admin at FourBlock, for a special New Year's motivational episode.

Join us as we talk about how Dave makes time to do all of the things, how he’s getting hands-on training with Salesforce, and what makes a great training session.

You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Dave Nava.

How Dave’s project management skills landed him in tech.

Dave is fourth-generation Navy, starting with his great-grandfather, and he’s served as a Naval Flight Officer for the past 20 years. He’s been working on his military transition for the past five years, “I knew that I’d be retiring about this time and that I’d be trying to something a little different,” Dave says. He looked at what he’d done over the course of his career and realized it amounted to project management, but when he talked to recruiters he realized that he needed to get more specific in terms of industry.

“I’d only been in the Navy, so I had no frame of reference for what was out there,” Dave says, but as he was searching he was lucky enough to run across Vetforce. “I love free stuff, so I took a look at it, did a couple badges and fell in love,” he says. Over the next five months, he did about 300 badges and has really felt like he’s found his niche as a Salesforce admin.

Making time for Salesforce.

So how has Dave made so much progress in Trailhead in so little time? “I get up at four every morning, and that’s my personal time to do Salesforce,” he says. Sometimes that’s taking a course for the next certification exam, sometimes that’s doing stuff in the org he works with to improve it, and sometimes that’s time for badges.

“I jumped into Trailhead and found that having a certification is nice,” Dave says, “but from a newbie perspective that wasn’t enough to guarantee me a job—what I really needed was experience.” Some quick research showed that many people were getting experience by volunteering for nonprofits. After reaching out to the community, he found a veteran-focused organization called FourBlock and has helped them add Chatter and go through their Lightning transition.

Training from making training sessions.

“I was the only one on the team that had Lightning experience because they were in classic,” Dave says, and that was mainly from Trailhead experience because it’s mostly in Lightning. “I was able to set up weekly training sessions which, to be honest with you, trained me as much as it trained them,” he says. His boss would give him a topic and in putting together the presentation he would broaden his knowledge.

For the most effective training presentations, Dave has found that it’s useful to focus on video of him actually doing the thing. Mixing up the visual style between that, images, and slides helps keep his audience engaged. Finally, it’s important to make sure that you leave time for questions at the end. If he doesn’t know the answer to something, that represents a great learning opportunity.

Throughout all of it, a big highlight has been the power of the Trailblazer community to help answer questions and learn together. They use a lot of third-party applications in his org to populate forms and do other key things, and he was able to get an answer to a problem in under 10 minutes (at 9 pm at night) from the Answers community.



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Full Show Transcript


Gillian Bruce:               Welcome to the Salesforce Admins Podcast. It's 2019. Let's kick off this year talking about product, community, and careers to help you become a more awesome Salesforce Admin. I'm Gillian Bruce and today we've got a really fun New Year's motivational episode coming your way. We are talking to Dave Nava. Now Dave is ... I don't know how he does all the things. And that's part of the reason I wanted him to be on this first episode of 2019 to kick off the year with a bang. He is a transitioning military officer. He's a three-times Trailhead Ranger. He's got over 347 badges I believe. He's a certified Salesforce Admin, found Salesforce through Vetforce. He is also a Salesforce Admin at FourBlock, currently getting his skills under his belt so that he can be employed full-time come July when he is fully retired from the military.

Gillian Bruce:               Dave has a great story, great energy. He is absolutely taking this idea of being a Salesforce Admin head-on and diving deep in and prioritizing it and doing all the things. I wanted to share a little bit of his inspirational message with you listeners to help you get some motivation to kick off 2019 on the right foot. So without further ado, let's get Dave on the podcast. Dave, welcome to the podcast.

Dave Nava:                   Thanks so much for having me. It's my pleasure to be here. Super excited.

Gillian Bruce:               Well, I have heard so many great things about you and I've enjoyed getting to know you a little bit. I wanted to introduce you to our audience, and the question that I like to use to introduce new guests to the audience is asking you the time-old question of, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Dave Nava:                   I never really had any doubt about what I wanted to be. I'm fourth generation Navy. My great-grandfather on down was Navy, so I always knew that I wanted to be in the Navy. When I was five I decided that I wanted to be a Navy SEAL. It didn't end up working out that way. I did join the Navy, but not as a Navy SEAL, as a naval flight officer, and have spent the past 20 years doing that.

Gillian Bruce:               That's amazing. Having that family legacy, I could imagine that makes it very appealing to want to do that as a kid especially. And becoming a naval flight officer, that's still a very elite thing to become. So how did you go from being a naval flight officer to now working in the Salesforce Ecosystem? Tell me a little bit about how you found Salesforce.

Dave Nava:                   I've been kind of working on what I call my military transition for the past five years or so. I knew that I'd be retiring here about this time and that I would be trying to do something a little bit different. I've loved the Navy, but I really want to seek out new challenges. So basically I looked at what I had done the past 20 years and it kind of amounted to project management, and so I decided that I wanted to be a project manager. But as I went through and I got my MBA and I got my project management certification, I started talking to recruiters, I kept hitting the same wall. They're like, "Well, that's great, but what industry do you want to be a project manager for?" And I was like, "I don't know. Just, you know, the project management industry." Because I'd only done the Navy, I really had no frame of reference for what was out there.

Dave Nava:                   And so the more I dug into it, the more I realized that tech was probably a pretty good field to be in, but I was just kind of out there searching for the longest time until I discovered Vetforce. It was by chance. I was on LinkedIn and someone had mentioned the program and that it was free, which is a key word that I usually focus on. I love free stuff. So I took a look at it, I did a couple badges, fell in love, and basically just kind of dove in. Over the next five months did about 300 badges and really figured out that I'd found my niche. And what I like about it so much is that I still have that project management mindset, but Salesforce lets me use all the skillsets that I would as a project manager, so organizing data, presenting information in new and dynamic ways, improving processes ... all that I get to do as a Salesforce Administrator. It's awesome.

Gillian Bruce:               So hold on a second. You said you got over 300 badges in a period of five months?

Dave Nava:                   Yes. I'm at 347 now. So it's-

Gillian Bruce:               That's incredible.

Dave Nava:                   I really enjoy Trailhead.

Gillian Bruce:               Yeah. Clearly. That's amazing. I mean, how do you make time for all of that Trailhead? That's a commitment.

Dave Nava:                   It is. What I do every morning is I get up at 4:00 in the morning and I sit for a couple hours and that's kind of my personal time before I go to work to do Salesforce. Sometimes it's doing a course online to study for my next certification exam. Sometimes it's actually working for the nonprofit and doing stuff in our org to improve it. But a lot of times, it's Trailhead. And so I'll just sit down and I'll do two or three badges and I do that every day, even weekends. It's allowed me to really learn a lot about the ecosystem, and not just from a functional and a technical standpoint, but really to learn about Salesforce culture, which is phenomenal, as you know.

Gillian Bruce:               Well, I am partial, this is true, so it's nice to hear that you like it, too. All right. So you dove straight in after finding Vetforce and went all in on Trailhead and really getting in there. What are you doing now? You mentioned this has kind of been, what, a five-year journey for you, but once you found Vetforce and kind of dug in, what happened next? Where are you at now? What are you doing?

Dave Nava:                   I jumped into Trailhead and I quickly found out that having a certification is nice and so I did go ahead and get certified as an Administrator. But that from a newbie perspective wasn't necessarily enough to guarantee me a job. What I really needed was experience. The more I researched it and looked into it, I found that a lot of folks were going and getting experience from nonprofit organizations on a pro bono basis as their Administrator.

Dave Nava:                   And so I had reached out to the LinkedIn community at large, and lo and behold, one of the veteran-focused nonprofits that I had actually participated in their program was looking for an Administrator. So I asked to be their Administrator. They knew me because I'd gone through their program and we had a good relationship. And so I've been their Administrator since August and took them through a Lightning transition and getting Chatter on board because they hadn't adopted that yet. It's been an awesome experience. Initially ... not just helping me pass the exam, but I've also noticed that recruiter interest has picked up because I actually have practical experience in a real-world production org.

Gillian Bruce:               Absolutely. And what's interesting about that is that you actually helped out the nonprofit that you were a part of is, you had knowledge of how that organization worked. So you could kind of take that business knowledge and then apply these newfound Salesforce skills, which is kind of what we call the Admin magic, right?

Dave Nava:                   Absolutely. And it was interesting because coming in, I could fix all of the things that coming through as a student I had noticed maybe weren't optimal, and provide solutions for that using Salesforce to improve business processes. That's just been immensely rewarding to be able to do that and then watch the changes take place and improve the user experience for future students.

Gillian Bruce:               Well, that's amazing. Thank you for giving back in that way. Let's talk about maybe some of the challenges or lessons learned that you've encountered along the way, in your kind of rapid learning of Salesforce and getting fully absorbed into the Salesforce Ecosystem. I imagine that there are probably some things that were either kind of hard to learn or surprising to learn. Tell me about some of those challenges you've experienced.

Dave Nava:                   I came into the job as their Admin basically with experience in Trailhead and that was really it, so it was starting from square one. Oftentimes when a user would ask me a question of how does this work or how do I do that? I would have to figure it out first. It was a phenomenal learning opportunity to be able to do that.

Dave Nava:                   Some of the biggest things, I guess, were process improvement and how to actually make the changes that I wanted to make, or effect the changes that I wanted to effect, in the business processes through Salesforce and learning how to do that from a practical perspective was difficult. But one of the ways that ... What helped was I was the only one on the team that had Lightning experience because they were in Classic.

Dave Nava:                   Right when I joined they'd gone through a Lightning transition and so I was able to leverage my Trailhead experience, which is mostly Lightning, to be able to kind of carry them through that process, develop a rollout strategy, and get everyone trained up. Then I set up weekly training sessions, which, to be honest with you, trained me as much as it trained them. So for instance, my boss would say, "Hey, listen. We'd really like to learn about Lightning email templates. Can you put together a course for that?" And so I'd go back, I'd look it up and figure out how to do that, put together a PowerPoint presentation, and then give a two-hour training presentation virtually on the phone and through web, answering questions as I went, writing down what I didn't know.

Dave Nava:                   One of the key things is just to have a curious mindset. For me as a problem solver, I do. I want to make everything better for people. And just also to have a customer service mindset, because really that's the business that we're in is customer service. Our users are our customers and we want to do whatever we can to make the Salesforce experience for them easy and pain free.

Gillian Bruce:               Absolutely. I love this idea of you ... You had the Lightning experience, which made you more appealing, more knowledgeable than maybe some other folks, and I think we've heard that as a theme on the podcast with Admins who have actually dug into Lightning and learned how to use Lightning. Whether or not their org is currently on it or not, being able to use Trailhead as a way to understand that experience is hugely valuable in the market, especially now. I mean, Lightning's been out since August of 2015, I like to remind people, so it's not new. But there's still plenty of organizations that have not yet transitioned, so having that skillset is a huge advantage.

Gillian Bruce:               The other thing that I thought was really interesting that you said is the idea of kind of not knowing all the answers and being okay with that, but teaching as a way to also educate yourself. So when you say, "Oh, let's learn about Lightning templates." And so you go look it up and put together a training and of course that helps you learn because you have to teach other people how to do it.

Dave Nava:                   Yeah. And the other thing that I learned was the awesome power of the Trailblazer community and leveraging the community, whether it's looking up help and training articles or it's going into one of the Trailblazer groups and asking a question, or even leveraging the answers to ask specific questions, it's been a phenomenal experience to have so many people be so willing to help you out at a moment's notice.

Dave Nava:                   I remember I was ... We use a third-party application to create forms and we use those forms, the data from those forms is then imported into Salesforce and it populates our objects. So in addition to learning how to use Salesforce, I have to learn how to use all these third-party applications, which I had no experience with and I had to know how to use them like right now. So I had put an answer in ... It was like 9:00 o'clock at night and I was just doing some Salesforce work before I went to bed, and no kidding, one of the top answer people responded like 10 minutes later, solved the problem within the span of 15 minutes. I was blown away that I'd be able to get such tailored help that late at night from complete stranger. It was just awesome.

Gillian Bruce:               Yeah. There is no underestimating the power of the Salesforce Ohana and the Trailblazer community. We hear it constantly on the podcast. I see it in action at events. You mentioned that not too long ago you went to the first ever Northeast Dreamin community event. Things like that really put the power of the community in focus.

Gillian Bruce:               One of the things that you said, Dave, was the idea that you do kind of a fair amount of training and you said focusing on user experience because it's about making your customers or your users happy ... What are some tips that you have maybe for folks about some training best practices or things that you've learned in trying to help other people-

Dave Nava:                   So PowerPoint is kind of the medium that I've used, just because in the military that's what we typically use. Some of the best practices I've learned are, you don't necessarily want to bore people with a million PowerPoint slides. So typically what I'll do for training is we'll link up in a Webchat, I'll share my screen and put the brief up, but what I've started incorporating is obviously pictures to kind of break up the text, so I use a lot of Salesforce mascots. There's funny ones of Codey eating ice cream or Astro in Lightning costumes. I'll pull from Salesforce images and kind of mix it up, but I also like to use videos and video content, so I'll record myself performing operations in Salesforce and kind of narrating it as I go so that I can imbed that video in the PowerPoint, then it's much more interesting for the user to watch a video than really to listen to me kind of drone on for a couple hours. And so that's been helpful.

Dave Nava:                   Also, what I do typically at the end of my training sessions is I'll have some content that we've planned for me to cover, but then I'll also leave it open to whatever they want to ask. It's kind of a question potpourri. Because we just transitioned to Lightning, for the past several weeks it's mostly been Lightning questions. "Hey, Dave. How do I do this? How do I do that?" Like I mentioned before, I don't always know the answers, but what I tell people is, if I don't know the answer I will find out and I'll get back to you later today. Usually it's within the hour, because if I don't know something, that's a key to me that it's time to learn, and so I want to make sure that I pass that on to my agents as well.

Gillian Bruce:               I love that ... question potpourri. That's a very good visual. I'm imaging like question-marked shaped potpourri petals or something. To create that ... some Salesforce question potpourri.

Gillian Bruce:               You've got a lot going on, Dave, and I am so thankful that you've shared a little bit about your journey and what you've learned. What ... especially from being ... all of your experience in the military, project management, and now coming into the Salesforce Ecosystem and becoming an Awesome Admin ... I'd love to know, what are some of the qualities that you think makes up being an Awesome Admin?

Dave Nava:                   As you know, Salesforce is big on innovation and one of the things that I'm trying to do is to leverage some of the new innovations that have come out within the Salesforce Ecosystem, Einstein in particular, to always be able to provide new capabilities to my users to be able to improve their processes, provide them with additional information, relieve pain points. So in line with that, one of the best qualities that you can have, really for any job, is a passion for learning. You've got to continue ... You're never going to know it all. There's always something to learn, always something that you can improve upon.

Dave Nava:                   So that's why I get up at 4:00 in the morning every day, because I know how little I know about the platform and how much there is to know and I just want to continually get better and better and better. That translates into an improved experience for my users because I'm always hungry for how I can make the org better, how I can make processes quicker or faster, more efficient. And so the qualities of innovation and just being hungry for knowledge and passionate about learning I think are the most important.

Dave Nava:                   Being humble, too, is also important and so is understanding that, like I mentioned before, you're there in a customer service role to help people out. Keeping that in the forefront of your mind helps you be humble and have the right attitude, even when it's stressful and you've got tons of user requests coming in, you have to prioritize. Just realizing that you're there to help your users through this journey really ties it all together and provides perspective for me.

Gillian Bruce:               Well, yeah, and it makes you feel like you're having an impact and you're improving the experience of your users or your customers.

Gillian Bruce:               All right, well, before I let you go, Dave, I cannot let you go without doing a Lightning Round. So it's one quick question, no right or wrong answer, the first thing to come to mind. All right. You mentioned a little something about how you like to use these earlier in the podcast ... I would love to know, Dave, what is your favorite Salesforce mascot?

Dave Nava:                   That's a tough one. I would have to go with Codey, to be honest with you. I'm not a developer; I hope to be one someday. It's one of the skillsets that I hope to add to my tool bag, but I guess it's just ... He's the cutest Salesforce character, I think, by far. If you look at some of the presentations that I provide to my users, they're kind of riddled with Codey pictures, which is kind of funny.

Gillian Bruce:               Well, who can resist a cuddly bear who knows how to code? So I understand completely.

Dave Nava:                   I'm hoping he will be at the New York City World Tour coming up here in a couple weeks. I'd like to meet him.

Gillian Bruce:               Can you barely wait?

Dave Nava:                   I can barely wait.

Gillian Bruce:               All right. With that, I think it's time that I wrap up the podcast before I have more horrible puns. Dave, thank you so much for joining us, thank you so much for sharing your journey. I am inspired by what you've done and some of the tips and advice that you shared.

Dave Nava:                   Thanks so much for having me. Really my pleasure and my honor to be part of the podcast. Big fan.

Gillian Bruce:               Well, what a great way to kick off the new year with such an inspirational and motivational story and interview from Dave Nava. Now, Dave makes time to do all of the things, and I absolutely love how he explained how he makes time for that by getting up early. That's his Trailhead or Salesforce time, is early, early hours in the morning. I applaud him for getting up that early. It's a great way to get something done. It does take a little bit of training to get in that mindset, but there's ways to make this happen.

Gillian Bruce:               On top of his already full-time job until he transitions out of his military service in July, he is really taking on the opportunity to get hands-on with Salesforce by working with a nonprofit as a Salesforce Admin. I like how he points out that learning on Trailhead is fantastic, but he wants that hands-on experience to really get an idea of what it is to be an Admin. So by volunteering with a nonprofit and being able to really implement Lightning, being the person who knows about Lightning there, gave him the opportunity to be the one to roll it out, learning all about process improvements and how to do training. He had some great pointers on how to do successful training using some video content, making your slides and your content fun by using Trailhead characters, which we have plenty of, and making it engaging.

Gillian Bruce:               I also really like how he said he likes to have time for questions at the end where he really invites the questions. It's okay if he gets asked a question that he does not know the answer to, because you know what? He can figure out the answer. Don't be afraid to lean on the community. You've heard this over and over again on the podcast, but Dave also reminded us that you can ask a question at any time and any hour and you will be surprised, you will get some quick answers from some really amazing Salesforce experts. The community is just that generous.

Gillian Bruce:               Also, don't be afraid to reach out to try and get experience. Dave really went out there and said, "Hey, I want to do some Salesforce. I want to find an opportunity to use these skills and put them to work," and he found that. So if we think back to the last few episodes from Megan and Emma and Luke, these are all about taking a hold of your career and really trying to amplify your efforts in terms of getting what you want and taking it in a direction that's going to help you be satisfied and help you really become a truly Awesome Admin or Developer, if you want to go that way.

Gillian Bruce:               It was also great that Dave pointed out some of his key attributes he thinks make an Awesome Admin ... having a passion for learning, being humble, remembering it's a customer service job when it comes down to it, and maintaining that curiosity, wanting to learn more. Really common attributes that make a truly Awesome Admin.

Gillian Bruce:               I hope you enjoyed our conversation. These Vetforce stories, they continue to inspire. We've got quite a collection now. In fact, we've got a whole playlist of Vetforce stories that I've included in the show notes, so make sure you check that out. If you want to learn more about Vetforce, I've got resources for that, too. We've got a Trailhead Trail called Strengthen and Diversify your Workforce with Military Veterans. Maybe as you're doing some new year planning, planning to grow your company, or grow your Salesforce instance, looking maybe to hire some new talent, check out some Vetforce grads. They are powerhouses and incredibly smart and talented. Make sure you kind of think about that as you're planning. And if you yourself are looking to make a career transition, or maybe you're in the military or have friends who are in the military, check out the Vetforce program. It's been very successful and I've been so excited to hear about the success that so many of the participants have found in the Salesforce Ecosystem.

Gillian Bruce:               All right. With that, I want to remind you, subscribe to the Salesforce Admins Podcast to make sure you get the latest and greatest episodes delivered to your platform or device of choice the moment they are released. Share with your friends. Great way to kick off the new year is by getting dialed into the Salesforce community. As always, you can find blogs, events, webinars, and even more podcasts at You can find us on Twitter @SalesforceAdmns, no I. Our guest today, Dave, is on Twitter @AwesomeAdminDN. There is an I in that. DN stands for Dave Nava, so there you go. You can find myself @gilliankbruce. Thank you so much for listening to this episode. Let's have a great 2019 and I'll catch you next time in the cloud.

Direct download: New_Years_Motivation_with_Dave_Nava.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:12am PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast we’re talking to Luke Kanter, Senior Developer at Bluewolf, to both find out about the cool work he’s doing with Watson and AI, but also to hear his remarkable career journey.

Join us as we talk about the power of sharing your intention and letting people know what you want to do with your career.

You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Luke Kanter.

Sharing your intention and taking control of your career.

Luke first encountered Salesforce while working at his first job out of college, which was for a “big four” consulting firm. He didn’t, however, have a degree in tech. “I majored in international studies, and had a minor in financial economics,” Luke says, “before I graduated and started working at that consulting firm, I had only seen code once in my life.” He came in as a business technology analyst, creating Powerpoints from Salesforce reports and doing data entry for their org.

“When I arrive, I thought I was very behind, technically,” Luke says, “and I definitely wanted to move in a more technical direction because I didn’t enjoy making Powerpoints. So, everyone I ran into at work, I let them know that I was interested in being technical.” He took a few classes, and just repeated to anyone that would listen that he wanted to learn to code. Eventually, he was pointed towards the Senior Manager in the Salesforce practice, and that started him off on the path to becoming a developer.

Rising to the occasion and showing your work.

Luke was placed on a small project where he could learn to code as he worked. “Technology consulting is a great opportunity for people because you can get paid while you learn a tech skill that will make you more valuable later on,” he says. Not that he didn’t spend 2 hours each night after work on Trailhead working through the Developer Trails. There were only three members on the team, but when the manager who could code went away for a long weekend and they got a request, Luke had to step in and apply his skills.

When the manager came back, he saw the trigger that Luke had written and realized it was actually fairly difficult for a newbie coder. That lead to him getting even more coding projects and sharpening his skills. “I would say that the one skill any developer needs to pick up is the ability to Google,” he says, “because then you can really do anything and it’s just a matter of applying yourself.”

The powerful combination of Watson and Salesforce.

Recently at Bluewolf and IBM, Luke has been working on building Watson applications within Salesforce. Watson was originally created in 2010 to win Jeopardy, but these days it’s more useful as a collection of APIs and web services that allow businesses to do things with machine learning, natural language processing, and more. Luke has been working more on the natural language processing side of things, doing things like keyword extraction from large chunks of texts or analyzing text for the tone.

For Salesforce, Luke has been working on Next Best Action With Watson and Lead Generation With Watson. Next Best Action is meant to help Service Cloud agents be more productive by classifying cases by intent using natural language processing. It then pulls out things like name or date of birth that are relevant to what the agent does. Finally, it even goes so far as to draft an email in the Chatter publisher so when they open up the case they can just click send.

Lead Generation With Watson is a global action that is meant to help sellers get a new source of leads from Watson Discovery News. Basically, Watson constantly reads articles and enriches them with metadata. You can search that database with natural language queries and Watson will automatically add them as lead to your org. Both of these applications were presented at Dreamforce this past year.



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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 become a more awesome Salesforce admin. I'm Gillian Bruce, and before we get into today's episode, it is the end of the year, it is holiday time. I want to wish everyone an extremely happy holiday season, no matter what you celebrate or where you celebrate it or how you celebrate it. This is the end of the year, and it's one of my favorite times to kind of reflect and think about the year coming ahead, think about all the amazing things that happened in the year past. I hope that you've been appreciating this little series I've been doing kind of about taking control of your career and thinking about different ways to help transform your position and your role. We talked to Megan about the power of language. We talked to Emma B-F about the idea of specific things that you can do every day to kind of really own your role.

Gillian Bruce:               And today, I've got another guest who really shows you the power of intention and sharing your intentions. We're talking with Luke Kanter. Now, Luke Kanter is a developer. Yes, we're having a developer on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, but that's okay, because Luke has got a great story. Luke is senior developer at Bluewolf, an IBM company. He's doing some really amazing thing with Watson and AI and Salesforce. He's going to tell you a little bit about some of the cool things he's building now. But I want you to really listen to his career story, about how he started without very much experience and then really made it clear what he wanted to do, which unlocked opportunities and doors for him. So without further ado, let's get Luke on the podcast.

Gillian Bruce:               Luke, welcome to the podcast.

Luke Kanter:                 Excited to be here.

Gillian Bruce:               Well, I'm excited to have you on. You have a great conversation that I'm excited to get into. Before we do that, I wanted to help introduce you a little bit to the audience. Luke, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Luke Kanter:                 When I was five years old, I wanted to be a math magician. I actually meant mathematician, I just couldn't say it properly, because I was five. That's a story that my mom likes to tell.

Gillian Bruce:               I love that. But there's some magic to math, so that's not entirely inappropriate. What was it about being a math magician that made you want to kind of look at that as what you wanted to be when you were a kid?

Luke Kanter:                 I really don't know. I hardly remember it. I was probably good in math, and my parents said, "You're good at math. You could be a mathematician." And I was like, "Oh, a math magician?"

Gillian Bruce:               I love it. That's great. Okay, from being good at math and wanting to be a math magician, you are now working in the Salesforce ecosystem. Tell me a little bit about that journey. How did you first encounter Salesforce?

Luke Kanter:                 I first encountered Salesforce in my first job after college. I started at one of the big four professional services firms in their federal consulting practice. They used it there.

Gillian Bruce:               And how did you get to one of those big four consulting firms? I mean, you went to college. Did you study math in college?

Luke Kanter:                 No, actually I studied international studies, and I had a minor in financial economics. Before I graduated and went to start working at that big four consulting firm, I had actually only seen code once in my life. I was at a private equity internship in Beijing, and I was building a WordPress site for them, so I think I had seen some CSS working in the back end of that. That was literally my only experience with code.

Gillian Bruce:               Okay, so now you've got this job at a big four consulting company. You hadn't really had a whole lot of exposure to code. What was your role at this consulting company right out of college?

Luke Kanter:                 I came in as what they called a business technology analyst. They start you off giving you ad hoc items, and I was making a lot of PowerPoints. I was taking emails that I received from the banks that we were working with on that project and inputting those emails into Salesforce as an end user and running a report at the end of the week and turning that into a PowerPoint as well. So a lot of work in PowerPoint.

Gillian Bruce:               Oh, we all love PowerPoint. I have a love-hate relationship with it myself. You were inputting a lot of things into Salesforce. You were an end user. What happened next for you, because you were kind of inputting this data into Salesforce, using it, and what was next for you? How did you kind of take that next step in your career?

Luke Kanter:                 When I arrived I thought I was very behind technically, because like I said, I had had almost no technical experience, and now I was here in a technology consulting role. I was spending a little bit of time at home on Codecademy. I learned a little bit of Python, you know, the basics of coding, variables and that sort of thing. After I'd been there about nine months, I took a part-time IOS course at General Assembly for six weeks. I learned a little bit about the fundamentals of programming that way, and I definitely wanted to move in a more technical direction, because I wasn't enjoying making PowerPoints.

Luke Kanter:                 Everyone I ran into at work, I basically would just let them know that I'm interested in being technical, and after my first project was over, I was what they call on the bench, meaning between projects. I was again reaching out to people, looking for a new project, and I would always say, "I want to be technical. I want to learn to code." I was lucky, because I was pointed in the direction of a senior manager in the Salesforce practice, and I got a meeting with him. He did a little interview with me, and he asked things like, "So, do you want to do more of the ..." I wouldn't have known the word "configuration" at this point, so he said, "Do you want to be doing more of point and click and building applications that way, or do you want to learn to code?" And I said, "I want to learn to code."

Luke Kanter:                 At the end of that conversation, he said, "Well, you said the magic words, I want to learn to code," and he put me on a very small project, working at a health agency in the area. That was my first Salesforce project, and I just started right away doing configuration and learning as I went.

Gillian Bruce:               You said he said the magic words of "I want to learn how to code," and that kind of opened up this opportunity. I think the idea of going around and really kind of stating your goal around to everyone, as you said, I mean, that's an amazing way to kind of say, "Hey look, this is what I'm interested in. This is what I want to do. When you have something that opens up, think of me. Think of me." I know one of the things that we've talked about in the past on the podcast is really kind of, building your brand, some people think that that's really kind of weird, but asserting your intention and what you're about, what you want to do, I think is really, really powerful. And you absolutely did that at your company, so kudos to you. Congratulations. I mean, proof, it worked.

Gillian Bruce:               So here you are now, you're learning how to code, you're on this project. What was that like for you? Was that hard? What were some of the challenges? What were some of the exciting moments? Tell me a little bit more about that experience.

Luke Kanter:                 Thank you. I totally agree, that's definitely the way to go about it, and I think that technology consulting is a great opportunity for people, because you can get paid while you learn a tech skill that will make you more valuable later on. And that's exactly what I was doing on this project. I started with the point and click, the declarative configuration. I started with Trailhead, and I was doing about two hours after work every night at the beginning, going through first the developer beginner trail and then eventually the developer intermediate trail. I was also getting a lot of experience at work, because I was given user stories, functionality to create, and then I would have to do it.

Luke Kanter:                 There was again a lucky opportunity for me, where there were only three of us on this project. It was me, my manager, and then there was a new analyst out of college. The manager, who was the only one of the three of us who could code at the beginning of this project, went away for a long weekend for his bachelor party. He was getting married. While he was gone, the client asked for something that required code. It was a dynamic approval process to assign solutions based on categories, and in order to do that, I had to write a trigger. I couldn't rely on my manager, Nick, for help, and I spent the time in the documentation and on Trailhead to learn how to do this. I was able to code this trigger on my own.

Luke Kanter:                 When Nick came back, he saw that I had done it, and I had done it successfully, and that it was actually a rather difficult trigger to complete as the first one that I had written. So he said, "Why don't I give you more of these coding tasks to do?" He didn't especially enjoy the coding part, and he saw that I really had a desire to learn it. He started giving me more and more difficult coding assignments. By the time that that first half of that project had wrapped up, I was actually able to complete a lot of coding tasks that I was asking for.

Gillian Bruce:               That's great. You've got the Trailhead learning that you're doing on your own time, and then you've got the at work, on the job training essentially, that you are doing this real time and learning as you go. I mean, that's a great combination. I would imagine that that was probably a lot of work. Were there specific things that were kind of challenging along the way?

Luke Kanter:                 I would say that the number one skill that anyone who wants to be a developer needs to pick up is the ability to Google, because if you don't know how to do something, and you have the ability to Google and find the resources online that will direct you in how to do that, then you can really do anything, and it's just a matter of applying yourself.

Gillian Bruce:               Yeah, I think Google predated Trailhead as the way that people figured out a lot of things on Salesforce, so it's a great recommendation. There's definitely a skill to asking Google the right way as well, which I have learned over the years. All right, so Luke, you did that project, you kind of got some coding skills under your belt. At this point, you're a developer on the Salesforce platform. What was then next for your career? What are some of the next steps that you took after getting that experience, kind of entering that realm?

Luke Kanter:                 After that first project wrapped up, there was a second half to the project, where we were creating a Community, right when Communities had first been released. I, as part of that project, had to learn the new Lightning Components framework. That was just a rocket ship for my career as a Salesforce developer at that firm, because there were very few people at that time that had Lightning Components in their wheelhouse. Once I was able to code Lightning Components, then after that point in time, every project that I was at for the rest of the time I was there, I was in a full developer role, which was exactly the thing that I was looking for. Once I had a couple years, I think about a year and a half, of experience under my belt in a developer role, I was able move to my current firm, Bluewolf, in a senior developer position. It's really been a dream come true.

Gillian Bruce:               Well, that's awesome. Congratulations. I mean, in a very short time, you set this intention that you wanted to be more technical and you wanted to learn how to code, and you took all these great steps to get there. I really want to stress the point, that idea of letting everyone know that this is what you want to do, that helped unlock these opportunities that helped get you where you are today, in addition to all the hard work that you've done. I mean, that's a really great story, and I think it's a great example of what you can do, not even just with the platform, but kind of telling people, "Hey, this is what I want to do," and really seeking it out and going for it and taking the initiative to solve problems, maybe while your boss was away.

Gillian Bruce:               I think it's a really, really great story, but I would love to hear a little bit more about some of the stuff that you're building now, because you're working on some pretty cool projects. Tell me a little bit about some of the current work that you've got going on.

Luke Kanter:                 Yeah, the products that I'm working on now are very exciting. Back in March of this year, I was loaned from Bluewolf, which was acquired by IBM, to IBM Watson, that part of IBM. Since then, I've been building applications using Watson's AI services within Salesforce. The two applications that I built are Next Best Action with Watson and Lead Generation with Watson.

Gillian Bruce:               I'm going to pause you just for a second. Let's just explain Watson AI for our listeners who may not know about it.

Luke Kanter:                 IBM has been creating different kinds of artificial intelligence since Deep Blue back in, I believe it was the '90s, and the chess match between Deep Blue and Gary Kasparov. And then, of course, Watson was created to win Jeopardy! A lot of people became aware of it when that happened many years ago. Watson is now a collection of APIs, web services that allow businesses or any organization to do many different things that require machine learning, for instance, or natural language processing. The applications that I've built are much more on the natural language side. They do things like intent classification or extraction of keywords and entities from large chunks of text or analyzing texts for the tone.

Gillian Bruce:               That's awesome. Thank you for explaining that. Tell me a little bit about the two things you mentioned you've built. You started with Next Best Action. Tell us a little bit more about that.

Luke Kanter:                 Next Best Action is an application that's meant to help agents in Service Cloud by making their work more productive. Basically what happens is, when the case is created, the description is first classified using natural language classification, so that the intent can be determined. Based on the intent, then it also extracts the entities that are associated with that intent and can pull out things like name, date of birth, things that are relevant to the flow that that agent does in their work. And then it also actually drafts an email in the Chatter Publisher, so that when they open up the case, there's already an email that they can just click send. It's based on the combination of the intent of the case and whether or not the entities associated with that intent are present or missing. It also will create a task with those entities' values on the task.

Gillian Bruce:               That's great. I mean, talk about a huge time saver, right? I mean, that's incredible productivity for service agents, I would imagine.

Luke Kanter:                 Yeah, it has a lot of value, including things like increasing the speed of training new agents. You can even extend this in any way you want, with work flows based on the intent, or you could create reports in dashboards that can show you the breakdown of all of your cases by intent.

Gillian Bruce:               That's awesome. That's awesome. Okay, so you built a cool thing, but you've also built another cool thing. Tell about the other cool thing that you built.

Luke Kanter:                 The second application is called Lead Generation with Watson. This is a global action that is meant to help sellers get a new source of leads. In addition to traditional sources of leads like inbound marketing or social media, this opens up a whole new world by allowing you to get leads from Watson Discovery News, which is a collection of millions of articles that Watson ingests and enriches with metadata. It's always ingesting new ones. When you open up the global action, it pops up a modal from the bottom, and there's a Lightning Component there that allows you to type in a natural language query, like you would a Google search, and say how many results you want, up to 50. It also allows you to filter on a whole bunch of other things. This will go out to Watson Discovery News, and it'll bring baCK the most relevant news articles, convert them into leads, and then with one click, it'll import them into your Sales Cloud organization.

Gillian Bruce:               That's also incredible. I mean, I'm just imagining all of the ... Talk about trying to get new business. I mean, that is huge. That's a great way of automating that, and I mean, wow. You're very cool. What was the impetus for creating that? Were you solving a problem for a specific customer, or was this just something that you're like hey, I think this can do this, let me see if I can make it work?

Luke Kanter:                 Credit here goes to chief architect Marc Nehme, who is the brains behind the initial idea and has really had quite a vision for this. He would be a great person to reach out to, if anyone listening is interested in these applications. Another great person to reach out to would be Slade Foster. They'll help talk you through if these applications could be useful for you. There's also a website that anyone who's interested in these can go visit. It's

Gillian Bruce:               Great, and we'll make sure to include that link in the show notes, so people can follow up. I remember Slade Foster from, I think it was TrailheaDX earlier this year, where I was able to interview him real quick. It wasn't a podcast interview, but he's a very awesome, fun, great guy. I love that you all are working together. That's cool.

Luke Kanter:                 Slade and Marc are both great. We actually were all at Dreamforce this year, where we presented both these applications.

Gillian Bruce:               That's great. That's great. You've done some incredible things. I love hearing about your career trajectory. I know this is the admins podcast. We typically talk more about admin focus, but I think, especially when we think about how you kind of created your career, I do not think that that is unique to developer or admin or even the Salesforce ecosystem. So I really appreciate you sharing that, about setting your intentions, making it clear, putting it out there, and really going for it. That's really awesome. Thank you for sharing. And I love hearing about the cool things that you are building. I want to tinker around and play with them, so I will ping Slade, and I'll definitely be looking at the website that you mentioned. I highly encourage all of our listeners to do the same. There's some really awesome inventions out there.

Gillian Bruce:               Luke, I want to thank you for joining us, but before I let you go, I need to ask you a lightning round question. It's going to be a short, quick question. There's no right or wrong answer. It's the first thing that comes to mind. Are you ready?

Luke Kanter:                 I am.

Gillian Bruce:               Okay. It's colder weather here in the US. It's our winter. I know a lot of the ways that some people like to warm up is with something yummy to drink, maybe by the fire, to keep them warm. Is there a favorite wintertime cocktail that you like to make or enjoy?

Luke Kanter:                 Cocktails are a big hobby of mine, actually, and in the winter, one of my favorite drinks is called the Martinez. It's actually the drink that the martini was originally derived from, and what that is, is it's Old Tom gin, which is a sweeter gin, sweet vermouth, Luxardo maraschino liqueur, orange bitters, and Angostura bitters, stirred and served in a coupe glass with a lemon twist. I think that it's perfect for the wintertime, because it's a little boozier, and it has a really nice mixture of the sweetness and the aromatic-ness.

Gillian Bruce:               That sounds lovely. It kind of sounds almost like a Manhattan, but with gin.

Luke Kanter:                 Exactly. That's exactly what I would describe it as.

Gillian Bruce:               That's awesome. Well, I will put that on my holiday cocktail list. Thank you for sharing. Well Luke, thanks so much for joining us. I so appreciate you sharing your career story and some of the amazing things that you're building, and I can't wait to see what's next for you and what other cool things you build in the future.

Luke Kanter:                 Thanks, Gillian.

Gillian Bruce:               Thank you to Luke for taking the time to chat with me and share some of the amazing things he's working on, about the power of sharing your intention and letting people know what you want to do. I mean, literally he told people, "Hey, I want to be more technical. I want to code." It unlocked opportunities for him, gave him the ability to really do what he wanted to do, to learn on the job. You know, he wasn't intimidated by the fact that he hadn't already had all the experience with coding. He said, "Hey, any coding opportunity, I want to be in that seat. I want to get that opportunity." Went for it, learned on the job, spent a lot of time on Trailhead and Google, figured it out. And now he's really in that amazing position that he's wanted to be in, building really cool things full time, using code.

Gillian Bruce:               And I think that's a very strong message that all of us should think about, in terms of, we figure out something we really want to do, don't keep it inside. Share it, declare it, tell people this is what you want. Very important to think about, especially as you're setting up maybe some New Year's resolutions and goals for the incoming year. A good time to think about all these things. I also really loved hearing about the cool things that Luke is building using Watson and Salesforce, things like Next Best Action. It's an amazingly cool app that really helps the service agents get intent and related info, based on the case, and then drafts an email for them even. I mean, talk about really using AI. Very cool.

Gillian Bruce:               And then that Lead Generation with Watson that Luke talked about, the idea of the global action. That really helps sellers get new leads from using Watson Discovery News. Really, really fun stuff. There are a couple presentations that I'm going to include in the show notes that show you some of the things that Luke talked about, some great work from also him and his colleagues at IBM Watson. We also talked a little bit about Slade Foster, so Slade I met at TrailheaDX earlier this year. He was in the pre-keynote, so I put a link to that interview that I got to do with him there in the show notes. And if you want to make a yummy Martinez drink for this holiday season, highly encourage you to do that. The recipe is in the show notes.

Gillian Bruce:               Please remember to subscribe to the podcast, so that you get the latest and greatest episodes delivered to your platform or device of choice the moment they are released. I want to thank everyone for being amazing listeners this year. It has been almost a full year of me owning the podcast on my own, and I cannot tell you how much fun it has been, how rewarding it has been. The guests that I've gotten to learn about and their stories and be inspired by, the feedback that I've gotten from you listeners, it is invaluable and so fun, so please keep it going.

Gillian Bruce:               And hey, this is your show, so if there's topics, if there are people that you want to talk to, you want to hear from, let me know. I love getting ideas and feedback. This show is for you, to help inspire, enable, and empower you to be more awesome admin, so don't take that lightly. This is your show, make it yours. I'm excited to continue this into the next year, and again, I thank you all so much for listening. As always, you can find lots of great content on, blogs, webinars, and yes, even more podcasts.

Gillian Bruce:               I hope you all had a fantastic 2018, and I wish you all the best as you kick off an incredible 2019. As always, you can find us on Twitter @SalesforceAdmns, no "i". Our guest today was Lucas Kanter. You can find him on LinkedIn at lucaskanter, not lukekanter, lucaskanter. And you can find myself at gilliankbruce. Thanks again so much for listening to this year's of episodes. I so appreciate it. Hope you had a fabulous 2018, and I wish you nothing but the best as you kick off 2019. Thanks again for listening, and we'll catch you next time in the cloud.


Direct download: Claim_Your_Career_with_Luke_Kanter.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:12pm PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast we’re joined by Emma B-F (Bloksberg-Fireovid), a project manager at KELL, to continue our theme from last week. We discuss the power of conversation to transform your org and your position as a Salesforce admin within your company.

Join us as we talk about how to remove fillers from your language, sticking the landing, and why removing personal pronouns can make a problem clearer.

You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Emma B-F.

Why it’s OK to admit that being an admin is hard.

“We have this honeymoon phase because all the great content out there,” Emma says, “when you’re first new to this admin group it’s all glitz and glam.” You get a cool Twitter handle and go to Dreamforce, where you encounter big ideas and everything that’s possible as an admin. “But then I came home and I had so many ideas swirling around in my head it was entirely overwhelming, so for many of us in this community, we have to figure out what is the right next step.”

Most of us are normal humans with fears and anxieties, and we need to take some time to realize where we can fit into the Ohana. When Emma got back she was super amped for all of the certifications she could get, “but I had kind of forgotten that I hate test taking and I’m not that good at it,” she says, “it was this comedown of ‘I thought it was going to be easier.’” It’s hard, and sometimes we don’t spend enough time acknowledging that.

Learning from failure.

“My tips are mainly stories about my failures,” Emma says, but those are especially helpful considering her background. She majored in sociology in college and had a lot of experience working in social justice. “We’re never really taught how to be an assertive and clear communicator,” she says, “I got some feedback from a mentor of mine who was a white male who used to be a lawyer and had this training in communication, and he gave me feedback that I was beating around the bush too much in the way I talked about things.”

One of the things that Emma identified that she needed to work on was assertive communication. That means cutting out all of the beating-around-the-bush clauses that are typically in our sentences. That’s things like “I don’t know if this is helpful but,” or “I just want to throw this out there as an idea.” Instead, you “stick your landing” and say exactly what you mean. “The hardest part about sticking your landing is being comfortable with the silence at the end of the sentence,” she says.

Lessons from another language.

The other language suggestion that Emma has is rooted in her time spent in Latin America and becoming fluent in Spanish. “If something goes wrong,” she says, “in Spanish grammar, you put the blame on the object, so you say ‘the keys lost me,’ or ‘the salmon caught itself on fire.’” As you’re describing problems in your job as an admin or even in life, removing personal pronouns and talking about the actual object of the issue itself can make a big difference.

“When I was first getting into my admin role I was having a really hard time running reports on different objects,” Emma says. She’d say things to her team like, “I can’t figure out how to pull a report on these two objects.” Instead, when you say, “These two objects are not appearing in the report that we’re looking at,” it flips the script and changes the conversation. It moves the burden off of you and to the object, which is important because it asks people to look at the problem itself rather than you to figure out how to fix it.

How to internalize confidence.

“The way that you can internalize your own growth potential is to think and act like an executive,” Emma says. “What that usually boils down to is cultivating confidence in yourself that if you see an executive on the other side of the room,” she says, “do I have the confidence to walk over them, and have a conversation with them to the point where they know that I am standing in front of them as an equal, and I believe I am an equal, and therefore they should treat me as such?”

“Oftentimes the hardest part is getting past that barrier, that first conversation starter,” Emma says, “if you have topics (hobbies, passions, loves) that you feel like you can have a conversation about with anyone at any time, identify those and mark those down as your gateway conversations.” Getting the habit and being more comfortable with talking about yourself in a way that can build up your internal confidence to go for it when it matters.



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Full Show Transcript

Gillian Bruce:               Welcome to the Salesforce Admin podcast where we talk about product, community, and careers to help you become a more awesome Salesforce admin. I'm Gillian Bruce and today we are continuing the conversation that we started with Megan Himan last week where we talked about the power of conversation and how you can transform not only your organization, but your position as a Salesforce admin within your company using conversation and being selective about how you talk about your position, how you talk about what you're doing.

Gillian Bruce:               That was a fantastic way to kind of start this set of content that we've now got lined up to get us through the rest of the year. Now, this guests I have on today is going to be a familiar voice for those of you who've been listening to the podcast for a while. We're welcoming back Emma B-F. She was on the podcast in May and she talked about how your nontechnical background can make you an even more awesome admin.

Gillian Bruce:               Now I wanted to follow up that conversation and pair it with Megan's conversation to really talk about some tactical things you can do in conversation using language to really own this role that you have as a Salesforce admin. It can be a little overwhelming, maybe you're newly in a corporate environment or in a different kind of company than you've ever been in before, and Emma has some really practical things that she's learned in kind of owning her role and really kind of becoming that truly awesome admin that I wanted her to share with you listeners and we had a fantastic conversation so I won't do any more explaining. I will just welcome Emma to the podcast. Emma, welcome back to the podcast.

Emma B-F:                    Thanks so much for having me, Gillian.

Gillian Bruce:               Well, we had so much fun chatting last time and got a huge response from the community, from our listeners. Our previous episode was all about how your nontechnical background makes you an awesome admin and I think it resonated very strongly across the admin Ohana. Really kind of speaking to folks who don't come from a technical background and so highlighting some of those things that actually not having a technical background makes you better at your job was a really, really great message.

Gillian Bruce:               But I wanted to get you back on the podcast because I wanted to kind of continue that conversation and kind of bring it to that next step. So once we kind of talk about the nontechnical skills that do make you an awesome Admin, now you realize you're in your role, you are an awesome admin and what's next? How do you kind of take all of the role and kind of own it, make it yours and really kind of do something significant with it?

Emma B-F:                    Well, that's kind the hardest part, Julian, is we have this honeymoon phase for a lot of admins because of all this great content out there put out there by your team and others in the Ohana community. When you're first new to this admin group, it is all glitz and glam, right? For me created a Twitter account because I had never done that before and I got on Twitter and they were talking all about Dreamforce and I got all of this wave of excitement to say it's time to go to Dreamforce. And so I did, and there I saw celebrities who were in the Ohana community. I saw all of these big ideas. All that is possible as an awesome admin, but then I came home and I had so many ideas swirling around in my head.

Emma B-F:                    It was entirely overwhelming and so I think for many of us who are new to this community, we have to figure out what is our right next step because it's kind of like you see all of these beautiful possibilities and oh my gosh, maybe one day I will be as awesome as Leah McGowan Heir, and you come home and you're like, okay, but where do I start from there? Because I'm a normal human with fears and anxieties and trying to figure out how I fit into this Ohana.

Gillian Bruce:               Yeah. I mean, I think you captured it really well. You kind of go to Dreamforce so you get super excited, you get your shiny awesome admin cap and it's like rah, rah, we're going to do all these amazing things and Mark showed me how I can like make Einstein basically do my work for me on the main stage and the keynote and everyone's telling me all these amazing things I can do and then you get back to your office on Monday and you're like, cool so how do I do that?

Emma B-F:                    Right. I remember going to Dreamforce and seeing how many certification possibilities there were out there and so I came back with this ferocity of like, yes, I am going to get all of the certifications in the next year. We'll make it happen. And then I had kind of forgotten that I hate test taking and I'm not that good at it and it took me six months to study and pass my admin certification and it was kind of this come down of being like, I thought this was going to be easier. I thought my brain was just going to click into it immediately. But as you said, depending on your background technical training, depending on your education, depending on who is in your social network and what you know about these jobs, the transition to this world is hard and we times don't talk about just how hard it is and what we can do to get to the next level and overcome some of that.

Gillian Bruce:               Yeah, I think that's a really important thing to think about because especially I think as many admins like we talked about before, don't come from a technical background. Maybe you don't even come from a kind of a corporate environment or anything like that. And so now here you are in this role in a company and not only, you can get the skills, you can get the ... go to Trailhead and learn all the things you can get certified. But then how do you kind of navigate the landscape of being in a company and working with these different stakeholders and these different groups and there's languages. There's all kinds of things that now you've got to learn and if it's not something that you've been around before, it can be a lot to kind of take in and grasp.

Gillian Bruce:               So what are some of the things that would help someone learn how to kind of really start owning their role, owning this idea of being a Salesforce admin or just being a Salesforce professional within a company period. What are some tips that you have from your experience that have helped you?

Emma B-F:                    Well, my tips are mainly stories about my failures, which I hope will be helpful to some people out there because I'm in full support of let me just tell you what I tried, what didn't work and how I ended up figuring out what to do. So what you were saying, Gillian, about if you have not come from this corporate background and he did not come from tech. That was my story. So we've talked about how I came from the nonprofit sector. I majored in sociology in college and had done a lot of social justice work. But guess what that meant? A lot of what I had been trained on how to communicate professionally, how I understood my professional identity to be, was very rooted in a lot of the trends that we see in women in the workforce, people of Color in the workforce where were never really taught how to be assertive and clear communicator.

Emma B-F:                    And one of the first things that I came up to immediately was that I could tell people were not taking me seriously as an admin. And I got this feedback from a mentor of mine who was a white male who used to be a lawyer and had this training and communication. And he gave me feedback that I was beating around the bush too much. The way I talked about things. And it had been something I had noticed kind of here and there. But it was brought to me face to face being like, men are clear in their communication. And I was not being clear.

Emma B-F:                    And so one of the things that I identified as something I needed to work on was what we're calling assertive communication. And there are many definitions out there for it. But in particular, a pseudo assertive communication basically breaks down to cut out all of the beat around the bush clauses that you typically have in your sentences. So more generally, particularly in women, you'll see us say things will qualify our sentences by saying things like, I don't know if this is helpful, but ... or I just want to throw this out there as an idea ... to almost soften our landing even though we know we have a great freaking idea or we know we're pointing out something that has not been brought up before. And so there's this concept and assertive communication called sticking your landing. And what that means is that you say exactly what you mean to say and you don't say anything else.

Gillian Bruce:               I think that's an amazing, amazing tip. I'm really visualizing actually a gymnast sticking the landing like is no doubt what just happened. Boom.

Emma B-F:                    Yes. And the hardest part about sticking your landing is being comfortable with the silence at the end of the sentence. Like right there, silence again. It's hard, right? Because you're like, I need to fill this space with something because it feels awkward and I don't know how people are going to react or whatnot, but that is how you can just look at the language that you're using in your day in and day out and just a tweak and how you're communicating with your team can have a real impact.

Gillian Bruce:               Yeah, and just to highlight the impact of a pause. So it's something that they talk about in broadcasting quite a bit is that when you really want somebody to understand something, when you want your audience to understand something, it's okay to have a pause. The idea of dead air is you don't want to be maybe pausing for 30 seconds, but that gives people a chance to kind of in their brains, catch up to what you're saying and mull it over and be like, oh right. Instead of just continuing to like force the conversation and move on to the next thing so I absolutely agree with that and it is very, very powerful tool.

Emma B-F:                    Exactly. And with any type of new skill, it takes some muscle memory. So as we were saying like this is not going to be something that is easy or immediate. So the first time that I made this intentional decision to cut out qualifiers from my sentences, I could feel the rush of blood through my body, the adrenalin when I stuck my landing. But what I saw as the result was one meeting I was leading this meeting at the nonprofit I was working at, was a big workshop for our school partners in the area and I was the only woman on senior leadership at the time and I was by far the youngest and I tailored the presentation to stick my landings for every sentence. And after that meeting, our COO came up to me and he was my mentor and he brought me to a corner. He goes, you killed. It was this moment of relief being like, this works. But I was terrified.

Gillian Bruce:               Totally. That's great. I love that you immediately saw the impact of putting these into practice and having that adrenaline rush. And then getting that immediate validation, like that is pretty amazing.

Emma B-F:                    Exactly. So that is one tip or learning from failure that I offer to the admin community and anyone pretty much. But the other language suggestion that I have learned over time is actually very grammatical, which kind of turns to other languages. So I lived in Latin America for a bit and was becoming fluent in Spanish and they have this interesting thing in Spanish grammar where if something goes wrong. So let's say you leave your keys at home or you burn the salmon or something and Spanish grammar, you actually put the blame on the object.

Emma B-F:                    So you say the keys lost me or the salmon caught itself on fire and what I have taken from that, which was a tip given to me by someone else, is that as you're describing problems in your day to day work as an admin or even in life, sometimes I do this with my partner as well, removing personal pronouns from descriptions of issues or situations and talking about the actual object or issue itself.

Emma B-F:                    So an example of this is when I was first getting into my admin role and I was having a really hard time running reports on different objects. I used to complain or bring questions to my team and be like, I can't figure out how to pull a report on these two objects. When you flip the script on that and you say, these two objects are not appearing in the report that we're looking at.

Gillian Bruce:               I see what you did there. Yeah, it totally changes the conversation. Changes how you think about it.

Emma B-F:                    It changes how you think about it and it moves the burden off of you to the object, which is really important when you're new to this because I was having doubts that I running the right report type. I didn't understand what was going on. But when you flip the script on that, you're actually asking people to look at the problem itself rather than looking at you to figure out what we can do to fix it.

Gillian Bruce:               Amazing tip. So we have, don't be afraid of the pause, sticking your landing and removing those personal pronouns. I think those are three very kind of tangible things to start focusing on. I will absolutely take these into account and start using that on myself as well.

Emma B-F:                    We will send each other texts when we get it done because you need that high five as well.

Gillian Bruce:               Totally. Totally. So, you mentioned a lot of things about kind of talking to executives and when you're getting into a company and like you said you didn't ... maybe this is your first time interacting in that environment. What other ... we talk about presentation skills, but then there's also this idea of executive presence. Can you tell me a little bit about maybe some of the nuance differences there?

Emma B-F:                    Yeah, and I think it's important for us to start off as to why executive presence is important. This is something you and I have talked about where if you come into the Salesforce Ohana and you know that you are an incredible admin, you're an incredible developer, you're incredible business user and you want to take yourself and your career up to that next level. There is research out there that says thinking, acting and being viewed as an executive, as a leader is kind of the best way for you to level up in your career and move up to that next level. So that's why we're even talking about this, right? And if all of us in Ohana have just gotten over that fear and anxiety and imposter syndrome of being an admin. Now we're confronted with this other thing of being like, what? Now I have to act like a leader. I have to be seen as an executive. I how do I tackle that?

Emma B-F:                    And it can be hard if you don't have 15, 20 years of sector experience or you haven't traveled around the country presenting at different DreamIn events and Dreamforce and other things like that. But the ways that you can even start to internalize your own growth potential is by starting to think and act like an executive. And what that usually boils down to, not In all cases, but it's cultivating confidence in yourself that if you see an executive on the other side of the room, let's say. I see Mark Benioff or Parker Harris on the other side of the room. Do I have the confidence to walk over to them, have a conversation with them to a point where they know that I am standing in front of them as an equal and I believe I am an equal and therefore they should treat me as such, right?

Emma B-F:                    And that can be really daunting and really hard to do. So I'll offer just one suggestion that really worked well for me and other people in my Ohana thinking about how to overcome that, which is oftentimes the hardest part is getting past that barrier, that first conversation starter. If you're not a person who can very confidently talk about the weather or what's going on in the room and if you have topics, hobbies, passions, loves out there that you feel like you could have a conversation about with anyone at any time, identify those, mark those down as your gateway conversations.

Emma B-F:                    So for myself, I'm a huge NFL fan. I could talk about NFL games with pretty much anyone wherever they are in the country or the world. I can also have a conversation with anyone about House of Cards or Game of Thrones because I'm obsessed, but those are my like gateway conversations and it's not about the weather and it's not about Salesforce topics and it is not walking up to someone and giving them the objective statement on my LinkedIn profile or my top line items from my resume, because that's not really what people care about. I think we're conditioned to think that's what people care about, but when it comes down to it, like Gillian, you and I met and we were talking about really silly things starting off, right? Like we weren't talking about very technical field for a start and I fell over [inaudible 00:19:25] developed.

Gillian Bruce:               Yeah. No, but I wish we would have talked about NFL or Game of Thrones or House of Cards because those are also things I could talk about for days.

Emma B-F:                    Now you know we're a good fit.

Gillian Bruce:               Exactly. But I think what you say is, it's good to have that elevator pitch in your head about who you are, what you want to do, kind of your mantra. But like you said, that's not the first thing you need to roll off your mouth. You need to kind of establish a rapport or identify yourself as a human being to another human being before letting that out. I mean there's a point at which when someone says, okay, what do you do? Like what are you interested in? Then that's an invitation to kind of share that. Correct?

Emma B-F:                    Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Gillian Bruce:               You don't have to lead with that.

Emma B-F:                    Right. And it's one of those, again, you're flexing this muscle and if you haven't talked to many executives in your life, it's really can be very paralyzing to see that person on the other side of the room that you don't ever go and introduce yourself. But the more you start having conversations with executives and just with people out there they don't need to be executives. Just people out there who you want to have in your corner or people who have offered to help you along the way. Just getting in the habit and being more comfortable with talking about yourself and a more like you said, personable way, but that in the end can help you build up your internal confidence to maybe go for that next promotion that's a manager role that you've been wanting to go for, but have just been scared or didn't have what you felt like you needed to go for it.

Gillian Bruce:               Yeah. I totally agree. It's amazing how just those little things and honing those little skills will really build into opening up entire new opportunities for yourself.

Emma B-F:                    Exactly.

Gillian Bruce:               So another element that we've talked briefly about in our previous podcasts was this idea of kind of having your crew or like your Salesforce squad to kind of help support you as you go through these exercises of being more assertive and learning executive presence. And I think especially in the Salesforce world, many people who are a Salesforce admins are probably the only people in their entire company that are focused on Salesforce exclusively, right? So it can feel a little lonely. Tell me a little bit about how you can help build your Salesforce squad, especially if you kind of consider yourself maybe a solo admin.

Emma B-F:                    Definitely. That is where I was in my admin role. I was the only one running around being like, we have to migrate to lightening. You don't understand why. And people were like, I don't know what you're talking about. Please move on. And as you and I have talked about, when admins are kind of introduced to the Ohana, most of it's happening online and that can work for some people, but for others, like for me it was completely overwhelming. So when I first got my Twitter account before I went to my first Dreamforce because everyone told me I had to have a Twitter. When I got online and I started following MVPs and Salesforce employees and people in the community, it kind of felt like freshman orientation where I was looking around at all these people being like, I don't know any of you and none of you know me. This feels awkward.

Gillian Bruce:               Totally. It's like that cafeteria moment. That first day at school and you're like, cool. So I see all of you. Where do I sit?

Emma B-F:                    Right. Exactly. And if you think about that metaphor, it kind of lessens the fear of, okay, every person I meet, especially at the beginning, I don't need to become best friends with the first 10 people I meet, right? So one lesson I learned along the way is you're going to have a lot of connections with people either online or maybe you go to a local user group and that's really great. But you don't have to feel this pressure to become best friends with every person you meet. And when I kind of let that initial fear go and I really just started to focus on people who I made connections with, who were in similar situations that I was, or people who had really different interesting experiences and stories I wanted to get to know more. I started to feel more comfortable with not having thousands and thousands followers on Twitter, but instead having five solid people who I was in a text group with that we could text each other questions about our workflow rules and our lighting page updates, you know?

Gillian Bruce:               Yeah. I think that's really great. You gotta to kind of, you don't have to boil the ocean so to speak, right? You just kind of start small with a few folks that you connect with and yes, you are now in part of this Ohana, which has incredibly powerful and awesome and can also be overwhelming, especially on Twitter sometimes. But yeah, you kind of create your mini Ohana, that kind of your immediate Ohana, I guess, to kind of help be your immediate feedback circle or your immediate cheerleaders. I mean the whole Ohana will be that for you, but you've got to kind of narrow it down a little bit.

Emma B-F:                    Right. And you can also have like a specific purpose for your Ohana. Some people lean on the community for helping to get over very specific technical hurdles. Right? For me personally, I needed a Salesforce squad to help validate that what I was building and doing internally was awesome. You can have a different purpose for that and the way that you cultivate that can be different. Like I love meeting people in person and randomly DMing someone on the internet is so not my style. So you have to again, not resist the urge to do what everyone else is doing and just focus on like what do you need to be successful and what does that look like? It's okay if it's different.

Gillian Bruce:               And it should be different. I think that everyone is different and everyone learns different ways and everyone grows in different ways as well. So I think that's really important to know that there's not just one way to do it. You should create your own path and carve your [inaudible 00:25:29].

Emma B-F:                    Definitely.

Gillian Bruce:               Okay. Well Emma, this has been an amazing conversation. I so appreciate you coming back on the podcast to share like some very, very important tips and ways to really own your role, kind of take that role of being a Salesforce admin to the next level. I really appreciate you sharing that with us today.

Emma B-F:                    I gotta thank you for inviting me back because this is way too much fun.

Gillian Bruce:               Well the community loves you so as long as they keep wanting you back, I will have you back as many times as I can. So, but before I let you go, I do always get in trouble if I don't ask a lightning round question.

Speaker 3:                    Lets do it.

Gillian Bruce:               Alright. So this is official I guess your second lightning round question. So you know the deal. First thing that comes to mind. No right or wrong answer. I promise I won't ask you the same question I asked you last time. Alright, you ready?

Emma B-F:                    Let's do it.

Gillian Bruce:               Okay. So holidays are coming up and I know one of my favorite holiday traditions is to watch silly movies on TV or wherever. What is one of your favorite holiday movies?

Emma B-F:                    I know the answer to this one. My answer is Elf because we and my family combine all the holidays, so on Thanksgiving we watch Elf and then the next night we make potato latkes for Hanukkah.

Gillian Bruce:               That's awesome.

Emma B-F:                    One monster holiday tied together with the Elf movie.

Gillian Bruce:               That is fantastic. That is great. Now I'm going to add Elf to my regular rotation because I actually believe seeing it like a couple times, so I'm going to incorporate that one this year. Thank you for the take.

Emma B-F:                    It's the best.

Gillian Bruce:               All right. Thanks again so much for your time. I so appreciate you and everything you do in the community and to help inspire and empower others to do amazing things.

Emma B-F:                    I love you too, Gillian.

Gillian Bruce:               Well, clearly I love talking to Emma about these very important topics and I really, really loved some of the things that I learned and the way that she put some real concrete steps around taking more ownership in your role and how to do that. Some of the conversational things I thought were really fantastic. The way that she pointed out, is removing fillers from your language, so stop using all those words that we do use to beat around the bush and just be very direct and clear when you say a thing. Stick the landing. Do not be afraid of pausing after you have said your point. You don't need to re-say it. You don't need to explain it. Take a few seconds to let it hit and sink in. It's very hard to learn how to do that because pausing, can be very uncomfortable. Silence can be uncomfortable, but that's a really good tip.

Gillian Bruce:               And then the third thing about conversation is we're moving those personal pronouns. I love how Emma pointed out that in Spanish, if you do this all the time, it's not my fault that this report isn't working, it's that this report is not working. So, think about using those in your day to day conversations in your meetings. It's going to be really uncomfortable to start doing that, but I highly encourage you to. Another great thing that Emma talked about that I thought was really important is this idea of having gateway conversations. So, being able to interact with executives is a lot more than having your elevator pitch ready and having a certain conversation sell, just being able to talk about something that's not work related, that is a hobby, a passion, something that you can talk about comfortably as to relate to each other as a person is really important.

Gillian Bruce:               So figure out what those things are for you. I bet you have a few and don't feel like you have to connect with every single person in the community as your newly entering into the Salesforce Ohana. It can be overwhelming. There was a lot of presence online, a lot of attention, a lot of amazing people. Do not feel like you need to connect with every single one in a deep manner. Find a few that you connect with any unique way and focus on those. Develop those. Think about the things that are going to help make you successful in your Salesforce journey and find ways to get support for that through the community.

Gillian Bruce:               Alright, so those were my takeaways from our amazing conversation. I so appreciated having Emma on the podcast. If you'd like to learn a little bit more about some of the things we talked about. I have some fun resources for you, so Emma and I talked quite a bit about some fun things that might help empower you and help continue this line of thinking and this conversation, first of all there is a Ted Talk by Emily Heirs, The Power of No. Great Ted Talk to checkout. Next is something called Bossed Up Bootcamp. Now this is a really cool professional development experience that's designed to work with women to prevent burnout.

Gillian Bruce:               Emma herself actually completed the program in July 2016. Definitely recommend you check it out. I'm also have the woman who runs it has a great email as well. She sends it to people thinking about the important things to do to help up level your career and your skills. There's also a blog post called One Trick for Speaking Like a Boss that Emma actually contributed to the Bossed Up Community, and this is all about the power of eliminating those qualifiers that you used to beat around the bush and not directly say what you want to say. And then finally Dare to Lead, is a number one New York Times bestselling book and an ultimate playbook for developing brave leaders and courageous cultures.

Gillian Bruce:               So check those resources out. I put links in the show notes. We also have some great trail head content on developing your career. I'll put that in the show notes as well. I want to really thank you for listening to this episode. I want to encourage you to subscribe. Please share this with your friends, your Ohana, people who are potentially interested in Salesforce. We want to help everyone feel empowered to become truly awesome admins. As always, you can find more podcasts, webinars, blogs, events, all of the fun things from the awesome admin team, and you can find us on social and there's on Twitter @Emma_B_F. You can find myself @GillianKBruce and you can find Salesforce admins all the greatest happening from the awesome admin team @salesforceadminsknowi. Thanks again so much for listening to this episode and we'll catch you next time in the club.

Direct download: How_to_Own_Your_Role_with_Emma_B-F.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:30am PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast we’re talking to Megan Himan, CEO and Founder of BrightStep Partners, to find out how her work with nonprofits have helped them transform what they do and what they’re capable of.

Join us as we talk about how to connect more effectively with leadership around their goals, why we should think of ourselves as managers, and how to own your role as an Awesome Admin.

You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Megan Himan.

Learning Salesforce when there were only 4 objects.

About 15 years ago, Megan was managing a nonprofit in Oakland. “I said I have this crazy idea, someone told me about Salesforce and I want to implement it for this organization,” Megan says, “which was revolutionary for our organization and also for my career.”

Megan originally heard about Salesforce through her husband because he was working Software as a Service, and had heard that the platform was free for nonprofits. After she got the green light to implement it, there was a lot to do in the days before Community Groups and Trailhead. “I’m a tinkerer,” Megan says, “so I really kind of built the platform and then I started teaching other organizations how to do it.” You learn by teaching, and so getting the opportunity to share skills helped her solidify her knowledge.

The conversations that engage leaders.

These days, Megan is a Salesforce consultant for nonprofits, “we come in talking about Salesforce and we leave talking about organizational transformation,” she says. “I could be the best technologist in the world but if I couldn’t learn how to have these conversations it didn’t mean anything.” So the focus of Megan’s work as a consultant is going beyond the technical skills to have those important conversations.

“My twelve-year-old son loves this game called Fortnite,” Megan says, “and he tells me about it in excruciating detail, to the point where my eyes glaze over and I don’t care and want to move on. I think sometimes when we’re passionate about something like Salesforce or the technology we can do that too, to our leaders and other executives and coworkers.”

Maybe the details of her son’s Fortnite game aren’t that interesting, but if he were to tell her about how he’s learning collaboration and problem-solving skills she’d get interested because those are skills she wants him to acquire. The same thing is true of conversations with executive leaders: you need to understand what they care about, and if you don’t then ask them. “OK, I’m getting all these Salesforce requests for the next quarter. I want to make sure that whatever I’m working on aligns with what’s most important for you in this coming quarter. It doesn’t have to be inside of Salesforce, but can you tell me more about what are the things you’re thinking about this quarter?” You can always then come back and talk about the technical pieces in the context of what they care about.

Thinking about yourself as a manager.

“One of the things that’s been transformative for me is to think about myself as a Salesforce admin as a manager, because even though we don’t manage anyone directly,” Megan says, “we need to have influence over others.” We manage a product, which is Salesforce, but we actually manage all sorts of business processes.

In order to do that, first, we need to stem the chaos by setting up some system to tame the tide of requests. That could be Salesforce Cases or a Google sheet, but you need to have some way of tracking and prioritizing requests. The other shift that needs to be happy is to “think of ourselves as technologists who don’t necessarily have all the answers but can know where to find them,” Megan says. Finally, you need to look forward at what it is you’re trying to accomplish and asking those key Why questions of yourself.

Put on your Awesome Admin cape.

The best leaders aren’t afraid of making mistakes. Megan touches dozens of orgs per year, “and it’s not a question of if I’m going to make a mistake, it’s a question of when I’m going to make a mistake.” So she backs up data like crazy to give her the leeway to try new things and experiment. “Doing courageous things means I’m going to make a mistake,” she says, “we think leaders aren’t afraid but it’s not true, they are afraid but they just keep moving forward anyway.”

“The way we talk about ourselves matters, it feeds into that confidence piece and that risk-taking piece,” Megan says, “that’s why I love the term Awesome Admin because it puts more power and courage in that origin story.” Accidental Admin can be a bit of a loaded term, and Megan thinks it can contribute to imposter syndrome. Instead, put on that superhero cape and be an Awesome Admin with courage and confidence.



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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 become a more awesome Salesforce Admin. I'm Gillian Bruce and today we are talking to an amazing member of our Salesforce Ohana, we are talking to Megan Himan. Now, Megan is in the Bay Area so it was easy to meet up with her in person and I wanted to chat with Megan 'cause she has been working to help non profits harness the power of Salesforce to help transform the way that they make an impact in the world for a long time. She has been working with Salesforce since the days where there were only four objects. Can you imagine only having four objects to work with in Salesforce? Well, Megan's experience has really helped her transform a lot of organizations and talk about transforming careers and I wanted to get Megan on the podcast to talk about how we as Salesforce Admins can use our words to help transform our organizations, our careers, and use those words on top of those technical skills that we've gained.

Gillian Bruce:               So, without further ado, let's get Megan on the podcast.

Gillian Bruce:               Megan, welcome to the podcast.

Meghan Himan:            Thanks, it's so great to be here.

Gillian Bruce:               I am so happy to have you on, we've been talking about doing this for a long, long, long time so I'm really happy that we're here, we're doing it and well I may know you pretty well. I'd love to introduce you a little bit more to the audience and one of the questions I like to do that is to ask you, Megan, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Meghan Himan:            I love this question. So I was thinking about this and I think I wanted to be Lin-Manuel Miranda before that was a thing. So, I had this tape recorder and I had a instrumental song I wrote lyrics to it and I would go ... and like rewind on this tape recorder and then I had my friend sing the lyrics that I wrote for the song so I think that was like my biggest dream. Maybe it'll still happen some day, I don't know.

Gillian Bruce:               You never know, you never know but that's really fun so okay so making new music, cutting your own tracks with a tape recorder, that's pretty awesome.

Meghan Himan:            Yes, if I could find one that would be amazing to play it back.

Gillian Bruce:               Or I'll ping you, I'll ping you back for that. We'll put that in the podcast at some point. Well, so how did you go from kind of cutting your own tracks to using your amazing cassette tape skills to now working the Salesforce ecosystem? Tell me a little bit about that journey.

Meghan Himan:            So, I was managing a non profit in Oakland, this was about 15 years ago. I had an amazing boss named Michael McPherson and I said, "I have this crazy idea, someone told me about Salesforce, I want to implement it for this organization," and he said, "Yes," which was just revolutionary for our organization and also for my career of course. There were four objects then; leads, accounts, opportunities, and contacts and it's changed so much since then but my passion for the product and the ecosystem has not diminished.

Gillian Bruce:               How did you come up with this crazy idea to bring Salesforce to that organization at that time?

Meghan Himan:            My husband actually told me about it, 'cause he was working in software as a service and said, "I heard that they're giving away Salesforce for free to non profits," and I think that's really the thing that all of us need an invitation. You know we don't know what we don't know about and just how we can do that for others is something I think about all the time.

Gillian Bruce:               Okay, so here you are, your crazy idea, you got the green light, now you're in Salesforce. How did you learn yourself to get those Salesforce skills to actually make it work for your organization?

Meghan Himan:            I'm a tinkerer, like lots of folks so I learn by doing and at that time there wasn't really community groups or Trailhead or anything so I really kind of built the platform and then I started teaching other organizations how to do it, and I think we also learn a lot by teaching other folks and I'd encourage others even if you don't feel like you're ready to teach, like you don't know enough, to start teaching anyways and you'll be amazed at both how much you do know and also how much you learn in the process as well.

Gillian Bruce:               Now I completely agree with that, that's something that I know I talk about with my colleagues all the time. I think for me, when I finally started really, really getting some of these basic things about Salesforce was when they said, "Hey, Gillian go teach a workshop," and so I had to understand it in a whole different kind of way and explain it in a bunch of different ways, and then you realize oh okay, I do get this, I do have a way to share this, I do have a way to help other people understand it and the way they understood it helps me get it, right? So that's really cool.

Meghan Himan:            Exactly.

Gillian Bruce:               That's great, so what do you do now in the Salesforce ecosystem?

Meghan Himan:            So I'm a Salesforce consultant for non profit organizations, which I love because we come in talking about Salesforce and we leave talking about organizational transformation and also just helping the leaders within those organizations really gain their skills and confidence.

Gillian Bruce:               So you're working with non profits, that also must feel pretty empowering because a lot of the work that non profit organizations typically do aren't necessarily focused on the technology and they're not focused on making a thing, they're focused on making an impact. So you get to help them amplify their impact with technology, which is pretty cool.

Meghan Himan:            Which is amazing and it's also fun because it's a huge puzzle because there's so many different ways to do it, it's not about like optimizing one particular process, it's like really digging deep into all the ways that the organization can have impact, from fundraising to program management, so it's really fun.

Gillian Bruce:               That's awesome. So, one of the things that I know you're very passionate about and part of the reason I wanted to have you on podcast is you talk a lot about the power of conversation. Something you think about a lot, you've presented it at Dreamforce several times about this, tell me a little bit more about this idea of conversation and the agency that it has to kind of affect this transformation or change. Give me an overview.

Meghan Himan:            Well, like most lessons I've learned in my life it came from a hard situation that really forced me to wake up and I was giving an end user training session to an organization in DC and there was like 15 people in the room and one person just was like, "This isn't gonna work for me, I'm not gonna do this," and just kind of dragging their feet. And everybody's frustration was rising and so was mine and so I had a meeting the next day with the executive director and I was like, "I need to be a truth teller here," and I told this person like, "If you don't get this person under control your whole Salesforce investment is gonna go down the drain." And she essentially fired me at that point.

Gillian Bruce:               Ouch.

Meghan Himan:            And I didn't regret having the conversation because I knew that that was the thing that needed to ... I knew that was truth for the organization, but I also realized that I needed to change the way I had those conversations in order to be more effective. And I could be the best technologist in the world but if I couldn't learn how to have these conversations it didn't mean anything. I could build like the best workflows ever but if I wanted to be effective in the organizations that I was working in, end users and the leaders that I needed to really learn how to have new conversations, and I realized then that I could learn how to have conversations in the same way that I can learn any kind of technical skills. So that's what I've really focused on learning for myself but also sharing that knowledge to other folks for the last couple of years.

Gillian Bruce:               Well yeah and we talk a lot about the technical skills and how you can learn those. You know we have Trailhead now, we have in classroom sessions, you can learn you know, bit by bit those technical skills but this is a skill that you definitely have to hone outside of the technology or in tandem, ideally but this is not necessarily something you can go learn on Trailhead. So, what are some ways that you I mean ... in practice you've had to learn this, what are some things, like some moments that are some specific techniques that you've learned to help you transform the way you talk about things to help be more effective?

Meghan Himan:            For leaders, one of the techniques that's really been transformative for me is this concept of connecting with what they care about. So, as I think about having conversations ... I'll give you the example, like my 12 year old son loves this game called Fortnite, I'm sure everybody knows about Fortnite, and he tells me about it in excruciating detail. To the point where like my eyes glaze over and I just, I'm like I kind of want to ... I don't care and I want to move on and I think sometimes when we're passionate about something like Salesforce or the technology, like we can do that too to our leaders and to our other executives and our team members. Like, go into excruciating detail that they really don't care about.

Gillian Bruce:               Because you're excited about it, you want to share.

Meghan Himan:            Yeah, and that's what user groups are for because like, isn't it amazing to find someone to be like, you get me, right? Let's actually have this in depth conversation about the power of [inaudible 00:09:28] fields. For our executives, for example my 12 year old son if he came to me and said, "Mom, I'm really learning about collaboration and I'm learning about problem solving," I'd be like, "Tell me more about how you're learning about this 'cause these are things I really care about you gaining as a person." So when we think about conversations with our executive leaders like, understanding what they care about and if we don't know asking them, which sounds like a simple thing but say like, okay, I'm getting all these Salesforce requests for this next quarter. I really want to make sure that whatever I'm working on aligns with what's most important for you in this coming quarter. Can you tell me more about what are the things outside of Salesforce, it doesn't have to be inside of Salesforce but what you're really thinking about this quarter and then coming back to that and talking about whatever the technical pieces are in the context of what they care about.

Gillian Bruce:               So that's, I mean that is incredibly powerful because when you are a great Salesforce Admin you're also thinking about the goals of the company, right? And so you're trying to figure out what technology to use to get there and you're not gonna know what those are unless you have those conversations with your leaders.

Meghan Himan:            And it's amazing this woman named Joni Martin, I'm sure you might have met her, she founded a group called Amplify and she said, "What keeps your boss up at night?" And she said, "If you don't know ask," and that is such a great question because I don't think we always know the answer to that but we need to ask and you'd be surprised what you can learn in those conversations.

Gillian Bruce:               Or sometimes you think you know what they care about but then when you ask you're like oh actually what I had in my head and what I was working towards is not actually what they really care about at this moment.

Meghan Himan:            Totally.

Gillian Bruce:               Okay so leaders, so there's a certain kind of up leveling and focusing on what they care about, to talk to your leadership and kind of using your words and your conversation to be more successful that way. What other groups, 'cause you serve a lot ... I mean, as a Salesforce Admin you work with a lot of different groups, what are some other techniques with maybe some other stakeholders?

Meghan Himan:            So when I think about end users particularly, I had a great conversation with a woman named Sylvie who's the IT director and she talks about investing and having coffee with people, because trust is the foundation and so when I think about really getting folks on board, a lot of it comes through relationships. People are willing to try the scary new thing that you're asking them to do because we've had coffee together and there's a level of trust there. So that's the one piece I would say is invest in having coffee with people.

Meghan Himan:            The other piece is something Mike Gerholdt talks a lot about. You know, Salesforce Administration by walking around.

Gillian Bruce:               SABWA.

Meghan Himan:            There's an acronym for that SABWA. Sometimes we think we know what the problem is the way we think we know what our boss cares about, and then when we actually have them show it to us, it's different and the other piece of that is really asking the why questions. So sometimes end users will be really descriptive, "I want you to build this new field. I want you to build this new picklist value that has you know, all the years in a picklist format." Well why? Why is the question and getting to the heart of the why can help be more collaborative together and a part of that for end users too is involving them as solutioneers in the process.

Gillian Bruce:               I like that word, solutioneer.

Meghan Himan:            Solutioneer, I think I made that up.

Gillian Bruce:               I like it.

Meghan Himan:            So, not necessarily feeling like we have to have all the answers 'cause that as a admin was something that really brought me kind of ... that humbled me a lot that I thought they would say something and I would have to like, come up with the answers right then.

Gillian Bruce:               You have to know it all.

Meghan Himan:            I would have to know it all, exactly, but having the humility to say, "Let's figure this out together, I don't know the answer to that," can really kind of get them invested and also lead you to those bigger why questions of what they really want and how to get there.

Gillian Bruce:               Well and I think that speaks to a lot of what we do when we just develop software period, is it's ... you don't want a solution before you really get to the root of like, let's say the user story or what you're really trying to work for and what you're trying to solve. Say, "Oh I can build a process builder process for that." Well hold on, maybe that's actually ... let's not focus on that end result first let's focus on working through what you're actually trying to solve for first, and I think yeah, involving your end users in that gives them a little more skin in the game, right? Like makes them invested, makes them feel like they're part of it.

Meghan Himan:            And they are part of it, right? Because they ... oftentimes it's the business process so it needs to change and not the technology around it and it takes awhile to lead folks through that conversation and having them come up with that aha moment is just as valuable as building the technical pieces around it.

Gillian Bruce:               Absolutely. Yeah and that relationship with them, I mean yeah, I mean we're all end users in some respects, right? And like you said, kind of looking at the business process is usually what needs to change not necessarily the technology. That's like that whole you know, Salesforce Admins, we are business analyst for our company, right? We get to get that whole picture, and so that's a very valuable perspective to bring to it.

Meghan Himan:            One of the things that been transformative for me is I think about myself as a Salesforce Admin as a manager, because oftentimes we don't actually manage anyone directly. We don't have that authority over anyone, but we need to have influence over others and Mary Abbajay says that leadership in the 21st Century is more about influence than authority and I think for Salesforce Admins that is especially relevant, so when we transform the way we think about ourselves into managers and approach that and gaining influence and we manage a product which is Salesforce, but we actually manage all these business processes we can kind of revolutionize the way we interact with folks.

Gillian Bruce:               Yeah, so let's talk a little bit more about that. So when you kind of give yourself that idea of hey, I am more of a leader, what are some tips and tricks to kind of transform that thought? You know, hey I'm in a [inaudible 00:15:50] company, I kind of get told what to do by all the people. How do I start kind of taking charge of that and shifting that mindset a little bit?

Meghan Himan:            That's a great question. I think first it's kind of stemming the chaos because we can't step back enough to think of ourselves as a leader and provide kind of strategic ends when we're just swarming under water, so setting up some system to tame the tide of requests, like all the support requests whether you're using Salesforce cases internally or a Google Sheet or whatever it is but have some way of tracking those and prioritizing. And then the other thing I would think about is really thinking of ourselves as technologists that don't necessarily have all the answers but can know where to find them and that speaks to bringing in your end users together but the thing that has been most effective for me in my career is understanding that if I can't figure out a formula, I will just tag SteveMo on the hub and I having that knowledge to find him and get the answer is just as valuable as me going deep into formulas myself.

Meghan Himan:            And the other part of being a leader is having those proactive conversations, like looking forward, what is it we're trying to accomplish and asking those why questions of ourselves and of our leaders to move forward.

Gillian Bruce:               All right, so you're not just asking the five why's of all of your requests coming in but also looking a little bit deeper in yourself of why are you doing this, why it matters to you, that'll help kind of maybe recenter and elevate a little bit how you're thinking of your role in all of the ... amongst the chaos if you will, right?

Meghan Himan:            Yes 'cause that's the challenge is like with limited time, how do we prioritize what we're working on and what we're learning and what we're thinking about and move forward.

Gillian Bruce:               Well and I think a lot of what you have talked about and what we've talked about is kind of touching on that, that we talk about imposter syndrome a lot and the idea of do I belong? Is this something that I really should be doing? Maybe I am really not that technical, I don't have all the answers, I'm still learning how to go tag SteveMo and ask for help with a formula. A lot of this kind of the idea of taking control of the conversation and changing the way you communicate can help battle that in some ways, right?

Meghan Himan:            Well it starts with ourselves, right? That we have to start feeling the confidence, and I will tell you something, I wrote a whole blog about this, about the art of making mistakes. I touched dozens of orgs per year and it is not a question of if I'm gonna make a mistake it is when I'm going to make a mistake and so the thing that I do is back up data like crazy. Any time I'm doing anything I back up the data because I know it's not a question of if, it's a question of when and having that transformative moment the way I think about myself as a technologist, that doing courageous things means I'm gonna make a mistake and moving forwards anyways. As leaders we think leaders aren't afraid, but it's not true they are afraid they just keep moving forwards anyways and so the technologists that I've seen make real changes are like wow, this could mess things up and I'm gonna tread carefully but I'm gonna go forward anyways rather than folks that are a little too afraid. You know, they're the ones that have 14 installed packages in their instance that they're too afraid of uninstalling because they don't know what's gonna happen instead of saying like, "Okay I'm gonna try to move the data to places I know this is gonna impact this other thing but I'm gonna work towards doing that."

Gillian Bruce:               Kind of that idea of hey, risks are a good thing, right? 'Cause you learn and you reap rewards from them, right? No leader doesn't take risks like you just kind of said.

Meghan Himan:            Totally, and just the mid set that fear is good. Fear means that we're stretching ourselves, everyone feels fear. Everyone makes mistakes and it's really about how we move forward afterwards.

Gillian Bruce:               Yeah, absolutely. That's so well spoken, I love that. They're gonna pull some quotables out of that and put that on the headline of the podcast for the week. So, let's talk also about something that I know has kind of come up in the community. This idea of being an admin and on top of all your jobs. Some people call themselves accidental admins, some people call themselves other kinds of things, talk to me a little bit about I know you have some thoughts about that term, about how you kind of think about yourself as an admin in addition to something else or kind of adding that on to your skillset.

Meghan Himan:            So when I first started thinking about this a lot was actually at the admin keynote two years ago, which was amazing. You just shined during that.

Gillian Bruce:               Oh, thank you.

Meghan Himan:            Seriously, that was just an amazing moment. I still have the hand clapper from that. And there was a couple different admins that were interviewed and one was Eric from Tuffshed and his boss talked about how he had a great attitude and was fearless and that's why he chose him to be an admin, even though he didn't have a technical background. And the other admin that was interviewed was Bindu who's amazing and I hope I get to meet her some day, and she called herself an accidental admin and then made the comment that she realized that all of us feel like accidental admins and it was at that moment that I realized that that term was less about how someone came to be in terms of their technical background and was more about the organizationals relationship with technology, and that if an organization had a more kind of strategic view then maybe you'd be in a situation like Eric where someone tapped him and said, "I think you can do this," as opposed to another organization where someone was thinking, "Oh I need to figure this out on my own and guess what I love it too."

Meghan Himan:            The way we talk about ourselves matters, it feeds into that confidence piece and that risk taking piece and when I think about our origin stories, you know my kids went camping and they went around the camp fire telling origin stories. How the jaguar got its spots, right? And even the first question you asked me was an origin story, how do I think about myself in the Salesforce? And when I look at some of the MVPs especially kind of some male MVPs they'll say, "Somebody said go figure this out," and when I look at some of the other folks, oftentimes women and people of color, we say, "Here I am and how this just happened by accident. I didn't have someone tap me on the shoulder and say go figure this out and guess what I figured it out anyways."

Meghan Himan:            And so, the way we talk about ourselves matters and influences the courage and the risk taking we have later and that's why I love the term also admin or awesome admin instead of accidental admin because it puts more power and courage in that origin story that really can drive us forward.

Gillian Bruce:               I agree and it's ... so when the first time you brought this up and you kind of explained this to us and a lot of other people on our team was like, I had never thought about that and I think it's really insightful and when you ... it gives you that kind of that power of hey, no I may have not ... like I maybe did not set out to be a Salesforce Admin, the opportunity presented itself and I owned that and I rocked it and now here I am, and like you said kind of the organizational prioritization of Salesforce is reflected in the whole like, well nobody else was doing it so I took it on and now I'm rocking it. Saying like yes, I am an also admin because I'm also these other things instead of kind of like oh this is like an accidental thing, no one was doing it, it wasn't really prioritized and I'm kind of doing it ... like got tasked with it X, Y, Z. I can kind of hear it's a very different attitude about the role, about what you're doing, about the place in the organization.

Meghan Himan:            I think we all want a sense of belonging and so when we hear the term accidental admin we think, "Oh yes, other people feel this way." But I would challenge all of us to think about this. Let's say we show up at the New York World Tour and someones talking, they say, "Okay, we're gonna divide the room in half. Accidental admins go over on this half and everyone else go on this half." How would that feel? And does that term still serve us? And if it doesn't, let's take off that backpack and put on something that feels-

Gillian Bruce:               Your cape, your super hero cape.

Meghan Himan:            Yeah, your super hero cape, your awesome admin and just realize that like Bindu said, all of us have that origin story. Salesforce didn't exist 15 years ago so guess what, all of us came into this either as a second career or from some other way so we need to kind of just like get over ourselves and the imposter syndrome of that and just move forward with courage.

Gillian Bruce:               Amazing, so well said. I'm so glad that we got to talk about this and share this and I really, I hope that people listening kind of get some great nuggets out of that. That are really gonna help them help you listeners to kind of amplify and kind of shift your focus and how you think about yourself and how you think about your role. Speaking of which, Megan you have just kind of a top couple tips for folks that are maybe kind of like what are some first steps I can do to kind of start shifting this focus for myself? What are some words or something I can use? We talked about also admin versus accidental admin, what are some other tips you have for folks?

Meghan Himan:            Well you said there's no trail on Trailhead for this but there actually is for all these skills. It's called Manage The Salesforce Way and again as we think of ourselves as not as order takers but as managers, there's a lot of great tips in there so I would encourage folks to take that trail. There's also of course I have a shameless plug for my own blog where I write about making mistakes and like failing forward and just thinking about the way we communicate and that's at So those are two places that I would start.

Gillian Bruce:               Great, I will definitely put those in the show notes and thank you for correcting me, of course use everything in Trailhead.

Meghan Himan:            But we need more, we need more.

Gillian Bruce:               We need more, that is a great module. I have done that and I totally didn't even think about that so thank you for highlighting that. All right, before we let you go, Megan, I have to ask you a lightening round question. 'Cause when I don't ask a lightening wound question I get in big trouble. So, it's a really silly question, first thing that comes to your mind, no right or wrong answer. Are you ready?

Meghan Himan:            Yes.

Gillian Bruce:               All right, this is a fun one. You've been to a few Dreamforces, what is one of your favorite Dreamforce bands you've seen?

Meghan Himan:            Bruno Mars.

Gillian Bruce:               I like it. That's a great one. I didn't actually get to go to that one because the keynote was the morning after for me but, I heard it was amazing.

Meghan Himan:            It was.

Gillian Bruce:               That's great. Well, Megan, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and I really think some of these concepts are gonna help transform the way people think about themselves and being an admin and so I so appreciate you, the work you do and for joining us today.

Meghan Himan:            Thanks for having me.

Gillian Bruce:               Well you could probably tell that I really enjoy talking to Megan so I was very excited to be able to get her on the podcast and share with you listeners some of her amazing insights. Couple highlights for me were the idea of connecting with leadership, so understanding what your leadership care is about, ask them what their goals, what their things that they are tracking are, 'cause by understanding that, it will help you communicate better with them. I mean imagine if you understand oh my manager really cares about making the sale cycle quicker, well, then that's gonna help you prioritize what you're doing in Salesforce. What things can you automate? How can you help close business quicker? And by understanding what your leadership cares about, it's gonna help you communicate better because you're gonna be able to speak their language and you're gonna help them get done what they want to get done so that's a great way to kind of start thinking about communicating in a more powerful way.

Gillian Bruce:               Another thing I thought was very interesting is thinking of ourselves as Salesforce Admins as managers, even if we don't actually manage somebody. As a Salesforce Admin, we manage a lot. We manage not only the Salesforce Org but we also manage all of our users, our stakeholders, and there's a lot that comes with that. It gives us a lot of opportunity to kind of be a leader, to learn how to build and gain influence with others and by doing that you're gonna get others to be able to buy into what you want them to try quicker. By building the trust with your users and with your stakeholders when you come up with a new idea or something that you want to change, they're gonna be more willing to take that risk and try that new thing because they trust you because you've built a relationship with them.

Gillian Bruce:               Some really easy ways to do that are by doing coffees with your users or stakeholders or you know, the famous SABWA; Salesforce Administration By Walking Around. You know, going and talking to your users and your stakeholders and finding out how they're using Salesforce. And then finally we had a really great conversation about the term accidental admin. Now, this is something that I know many previous guests on the podcast have self identified as and I think you know if that serves you and helps you feel powerful then that's great, keep using it but I would encourage you to kind of take heed to some of the things that Megan talked about.

Gillian Bruce:               The idea of accidental might be a little disempowering. None of us probably set out to be a Salesforce Admin to begin with but here we are finding ourselves in this position and instead of saying, "Oh it accidentally fell in my lap, oh I accidentally got here," really taking that role of an admin and owning it and being an awesome admin gives you a lot more power. Gives you a lot more ownership of that role so I encourage you to think of that, that especially as we come towards the end of the year and I know some of us are probably working on some New Year's resolutions, maybe think about starting the year changing the way you view yourself. Maybe you don't view yourself as an accidental admin anymore, but you truly view yourself as an awesome admin.

Gillian Bruce:               Thank you so much listening today, I encourage you to share this episode with your friends, with your Salesforce Ohana. You can find episodes, blogs, events, webinars on so make sure to check that out. Also, please remember to subscribe to the podcast to make sure you get the latest and greatest episodes delivered to your platform or device of choice the moment they are released. If you want to learn a little bit more about what we talked today on the podcast with Megan, we have some resources for you. As mentioned there's the Manage The Salesforce Way module on Trailhead, definitely check that out and check out Megan's website Both those links are in the show notes, amazing resources to help you truly be an awesome admin. You can find us on Twitter @salesforceadmns no I. Our guest today, Megan is @meganhiman and myself @gilliankbruce. Thanks so much for listening to this episode and we'll catch you next time in the cloud.


Direct download: Transform_Your_Org_Through_Conversation_with_Megan_Himan.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:46am PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast we’re talking to Adam Rodenbeck, Senior User Experience Team Member at Salesforce, to wrap up our two-part series focused on building accessible apps. We look at his experience developing accessible apps from both the admin and the developer side of things and do a demo live on the pod of what it’s like to navigate with a screen reader.

Join us as we talk about how a screen reader works and the technology behind it, Adam’s amazing journey through tech, and what you can do to bring accessibility to your users.

You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Adam Rodenbeck.

Adam’s journey to Salesforce.

“When I started my Salesforce journey, I sent an email out that said I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up until I saw this presentation from one of the accessibility specialists at Salesforce,” Adam says, “I always wanted to do something with computers that would give back to the blind community.” Adam got his start at a nonprofit, training people who had lost their sight later in life to use the computer again, but this role was an opportunity to put together everything he loves in one role.

“We started using Salesforce as our system of record to store information on all the clients,” Adam says, “and it blew me away just how well it was working.” In 2009, it was rare to encounter an enterprise software program that was reasonable to navigate with a screen reader, and that helped him dive into the platform. He eventually found his way into the IT department as a developer.

“I work with designers on new features on the platform,” Adam says, “that’s usually discussing what it’s going to take to make this accessible, how is the keyboard interaction going to work? What are the things that are going to be visual that might need to get called out to a person who is using a screen reader?” From there, it’s working with engineering teams to actually make that happen.

The basics of screen readers and how to test for them.

A screen reader has two pieces to it. For one thing, it’s actually reading the screen aloud (and you get to decide things like how the voice sounds). But the other component is a Braille display, which connects via USB or Bluetooth and represents what’s on the screen in Braille with dots that can be raised and lowered. “Because I work a lot with code, I really need to have that Braille reinforcement to read what’s on the screen at the same time that it’s being read to me,” Adam says.

“If you’re an admin and you’re using the components that Salesforce put together, then accessibility should be available to you,” Adam says, “but a quick test to make sure that everything is working well is to see if you can get to the control you want by tabbing down the screen.” Sometimes it’s arrow keys, but try using the keyboard and seeing if you can get to anything a user is going to need.

Having conversations to improve accessibility.

“If a designer can describe something to me, how it should act or what they want to happen, and make me, as someone who is blind, understand what it is that their design does it gives us both a better understanding,” Adam says. If you can’t describe your customizations in a way that everyone can understand, you’re probably not doing it right.

The key to creating something that works for your users is to have conversations with the people you want to support. Screen reader users often use the find command, so they want as much information as possible on the screen to get to what they need quickly. Screen magnifier users, on the other hand, are looking for an uncluttered display since everything is enlarged for them. Do your research, but also have the conversations with the people you are supporting.

Hear how a screen reader user navigates Salesforce for yourself.

In order to make things that work better for a screen reader, you need to understand what it’s like to use one. We do our first ever demo on the pod, to show you the difference between a page layout optimized for a tabbing experience versus a page layout optimized for a find experience. It’s hard to explain, so take a listen for yourself and think about what you might be able to do to help make things easier.



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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 become a more awesome Salesforce Admin. I'm Gillian Bruce. Today, we are wrapping up our two part series focused on accessibility. Now, we heard from Sunday last week about what accessibility means, what an accessible app means. Today, we're going to dig down a little deeper and talk to someone who actually develops successful apps, has experienced both from the admin side, the developer side and now is working at Salesforce. We're talking to Adam Rodenbeck. Now, he's a senior user experience team member here at Salesforce. He's got an incredible personal story and he's really passionate about making apps accessible. Not only making apps accessible, but really helping others understand how important accessibility is and what opportunities that really opens up.

Gillian Bruce: Adam also is going to give us a very special treat. He's going to give us a live demonstration of what it's like to read an account page with a screen reader. Two different ways to really demonstrate the power of optimization for different types of users. So, thinking about using compact layouts, accordion features, tabbing through a page, or using a find feature. We'll talk more about that in the interview. Without further ado, let's get Adam on the podcast.

Gillian Bruce: Adam, welcome to the podcast.

Adam Rodenbeck: Thank you so much. It's awesome to be here.

Gillian Bruce: So happy to have you on the podcast. We're talking about a subject that I have been learning a lot about lately. We had our first episode talking to Sunday about an overview of accessibility and getting introduced to that, especially for our Admin audience, and I'm excited to have you on to further that discussion, but before we get into that, there's a question I like to ask to help introduce you to the audience. That question is, Adam, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Adam Rodenbeck: It's a crazy question because when I started my Salesforce journey, I sent an email out and it kind of said, like, I didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up until I saw this presentation from one of the accessibility specialists at Salesforce on accessibility, and I'm like, "Yes, that's it." Like, I always knew that I'm blind myself and so I wanted to do something to do with computers that would give back to the blindness community, but I really didn't know what that would be. If it was like programming a screen reader or I did for a little while training people who were blind to use the computer again, people who had lost their sight later in life, but it was all like, "I don't really know," until I figured out that I could put together the programming and the accessibility and the love that I have for Salesforce into this one big thing and do accessibility work at Salesforce.

Gillian Bruce: That is awesome. How did you first come into the Salesforce ecosystem? How did you first learn about Salesforce?

Adam Rodenbeck: I worked at a nonprofit. That's where I was teaching Assistive Technologies, and that's all screen readers and screen magnifier, things like that. I was teaching in our Assistive Tech lab and we started using Salesforce as our system of record to store information all the clients. It kind of blew me away just how well it was working. This is like 2009 when screen readers and the web and it really was good for enterprise software. So, using an enterprise software package that I could reasonably navigate with a screen reader was pretty impressive to me. I spent a lot of time because it also was this database, and as a computer science major, that was a big thing to me. So, I spent a bunch of time just kind of investigating it. Eventually, I ended up in our IT department and just accidentally happened to become a developer.

Gillian Bruce: Accidentally becoming a developer? I don't think that there's anything accidental about that. I mean, you studied computer science. Tell me what drew you to computer science. I'm always fascinated to know how these things get sparked for folks.

Adam Rodenbeck: I think it's really the, I liked exploring how things are put together and what makes them work, and that initially was mechanical things. So, taking apart toys and trying to figure out how to get them back together, which didn't always work. So, when I figured out that in the computer world, you can break things and fix them and they go back together a lot simpler than fitting them back in a package that somebody spent tons of time in the factory making work, it made more sense to me and a it was a great chance to understand how different things worked. So, telephone systems and I was all over the place. Anything that had to do with computers, I geeked out on.

Gillian Bruce: That's awesome. Okay. So, you started early, you've always been interested in figuring things out. I love that. That methodology, that thinking clearly has helped lead you to where you are today, and you're bringing together this passion that you have. So, tell me a little bit about actually what you do today at Salesforce.

Adam Rodenbeck: I like to think of my role as a consultant. I work with both designers and our engineering teams, and initially with the designers to figure out, here's a new design, it's a new idea of some feature that's going to be on the platform. That's initially just discussing what is it going to take to make this accessible? How is the keyboard interaction going to work? What are the things that are going to be visual that might need to get called out to a person who say is using a screen reader. Then walking that through the process of getting to the engineering teams and helping them understand, now that you have these specs from a designer, how can you actually implement that to be accessible. What needs to happen when a person tabs from one control to the next control? Or what keyboard buttons should they be pressing to make certain things happen?

Gillian Bruce: One of the things we talked about with Sunday, and this was a moment I think I told you about this when we were first talking about planning this podcast is, a colleague of mine, Marc Baizman was giving a demo in middle of a user group meeting and the mouse went out and he had to tab through the demo and I had never seen that done before in Salesforce, and I was just fascinated, because I was like, "All right, well, here we go." I had no idea it works that well, period.

Adam Rodenbeck: It's a super great example of when you have a temporary disability. It's not that you couldn't otherwise have used the mouse, but it doesn't exist anymore.

Gillian Bruce: Technology said, "Nope, you don't get to do that." Let's talk a little bit more like, you mean, you talk about screen readers, some of the technologies that are used to help drive accessibility. You've been in the space for a while. Tell me, I mean, I think screen reader reads the screen. Can you tell me a little bit more about how it works and how folks interact with it?

Adam Rodenbeck: Yes. A screen reader kind of has two pieces to it. Obviously, it's reading. So, there's a synthesized voice that there are all kinds of different ones of those. You can pick whether it sounds like a male or sounds like a female, people can vary the rate and the pitch and to make all of these tweaks to make that sound better to their ear, but it also will work with what's called a Braille display. That's this cool little box that it's usually USB, some of them are Bluetooth, but they connect to the computer and can represent with these dots that can be raised and lowered in Braille what's on the screen. So, the screen reader is the interface between both of those.

Adam Rodenbeck: Me personally because I do a lot with code, I really need to have that Braille reinforcement to read what's on the screen at the same time that it's being read to me, and then it also helps that I don't have to listen to like, semi colon, open parentheses, close parentheses and things like that.

Gillian Bruce: I don't know. That sounds thrilling. Well, I do think that's a really good point. So, you actually said you are this accidental developer, which is an interesting term. Learning how to develop on a platform, I mean, I know for me, even when I was trying to learn how to write a formula, I had a hard time and I wasn't relying on those technologies but my brain just didn't work that way. That's a whole another conversation. But the the idea of ... I mean, this is a language. It's a whole another language you're learning. How is it, like for you, learning how to build and develop on a platform? What were some of the challenges that you had maybe with the Salesforce platform because I know we talk a lot about people's journeys, learning how to built on Salesforce, what was it like for you? What were some of the challenges that you had along the way?

Adam Rodenbeck: Some of the initial challenges were really trying to figure out what was going to be a good coding environment for me, so, it's kind of difficult and not just in Salesforce, but all the way around, what is the best ID? So, what is the best developer experience that's going to work with a screen reader? That was a challenge, and it was really a lot of browsing around the various developer forums and Stock Exchange and seeing what did other people use, and then playing with that, and seeing what does work with a screen reader. So for me, I landed on Eclipse and the IDE. This was like 2013. That all worked really, really well. Impressively well, actually, with the screen reader. So, that was my initial development platform.

Gillian Bruce: That's awesome. What are some cool nerdy things that you've built that you've been really excited about?

Adam Rodenbeck: One of the most exciting or to me exciting anyway, things that I worked on was, I worked at a consulting company, we were an implementation partner and we were actually working on a project of converting over a company that used a ton of spreadsheets. They needed these crazy formulas for calculating net present value, which is a super accounting thing that I don't really understand, but-

Gillian Bruce: Get another language.

Adam Rodenbeck: ... but they told me here is what happens, and it's all very recursive, and it calculates stuff out over like 10 years. So, each year, you have to take the value from the year before and I had to figure out a way to get Apex to do that and do it in a way that wouldn't time the system out. So, it took quite a while for me to piece it all together, but I had such fun with it because I'm a crazy math geek and so it all really was interesting to me even though I don't think I still fully understand the accounting principle.

Gillian Bruce: Well, you don't have to know all the details in order to take those spreadsheets and build some automation in there and bring them in the system.

Adam Rodenbeck: Exactly.

Gillian Bruce: That's really cool. Anytime we can hear a story about turning spreadsheets and getting rid of the spreadsheets and putting them into Salesforce, we're all about it. Big fans [inaudible 00:11:01]. What are some maybe surprises that you've had along the way in terms of learning how to build on the platform?

Adam Rodenbeck: Surprises.

Gillian Bruce: They could be happy surprises. They could be bad surprises.

Adam Rodenbeck: See, one of the things early on, I wanted to do whatever it was I could with Salesforce, and an initial thing was a struggle with the Page Layout Editor and trying to manipulate things. There's a lot of drag and drop and it's something that accessibility is still working on to try to work itself out, but the fact that that didn't work so well and everyone else is like, "Yes, you can do all these cool things with Salesforce and just move stuff around and whatever people want and the Page Layout." So, I guess turning that negative experience of not being able to use the Page Layout Editor in the best way, that's what pushed me into learning how to developing Visualforce because I'm like, "How am I going to make this work?" I'll just build the whole page myself.

Adam Rodenbeck: I did that and that's really what got my career going and what launched me into moving from the nonprofit and to actually working at a partner. That kind of non accessible experience drove me to create my own path.

Gillian Bruce: I love that drive to figure it out and then opening up a whole new maybe kind of path for you to think about doing and here you are. That's very cool. It's very cool. I know Visualforce is one of those things that when people learn it or have moments like that, learning how to do a new skill, figuring out a problem, it's that feeling of like, "I got this. Okay, what else can I do?" It's very cool.

Adam Rodenbeck: All along the way, it's that whole intriguing piece of, "Oh, here's what a Salesforce page looks like." Then you look at, "Oh, here are the component. I can make it look exactly like that. It's almost like it's Salesforce." So, it was fun.

Gillian Bruce: Speaking of Page Layout Editor, and digital for us, let's talk a little bit about Lightning. Lightning has been around since 2015, and one of the things that I briefly chatted with Sunday about was that Lightning, is actually built to be a little bit more accessible at heart. Can you talk to me a little bit more about maybe the experience in lightning versus Classic?

Adam Rodenbeck: One of the places, I think, that is especially better is Chatter, it's an example I like to use because we've done a whole lot to indicate to a person what is happening. Some of the things that didn't work so well in Classic was that as pop ups happened, and say, your add mentioned somebody, it was difficult to tie together the list of people's names and the actual text field that you're typing in. That's a limitation that we overcame with Lightning and now we've made Chatter an experience that should be just like what our cited counterparts are doing, where now you can mention somebody and arrow down to the list and hit enter and it includes that app mentioned.

Adam Rodenbeck: That and another really big piece is keystrokes. We've included some shortcut keys for our power users, and also for people who are using keyboard only to get around. They are mainly for the console. If you're using say, service console or sales console, but a few of them crossover and they're actually available to anybody. If you simply hit control/ on the PC, or I think it's command/ on a Mac, it will show you a list of keyboard keystrokes that are available.

Gillian Bruce: Yes, I actually remember I think when we released keystrokes, the admin community was like, "Hurray, this is great. I can do things so much more quickly in the app." So, I have used keystrokes for sure. I think, it's interesting to think some of these things that maybe we develop for accessibility help everybody in the long run. It kind of help drive efficiency for everyone building and doing their job.

Adam Rodenbeck: Yes. I'm glad you said that because it's a lot about the universal design principle. The fact that accessibility isn't something that's just for people with disabilities, but it really improves everybody's experience, and may be is not something that you use every day, but when that thing happens and you can't use the mouse, then it's there, and it's available to you.

Gillian Bruce: That's great. One question that I would love to ask you, as an admin or maybe even a developer, when you're building an app, what are some good ways to check for accessibility? What are some good testing principles or checklist that you would recommend using?

Adam Rodenbeck: For anybody who's developing an accessibility for the first time, even if you're just building something out, if you're an admin and you're using the components that Salesforce put together, then accessibility should be available to you, but a quick test to make sure that everything is working well is to see if you can tab through. So, can you get to the control that you want by tabbing down the screen? Tab is not the only way to work with things, so, maybe if you get into a list, it's arrow keys to navigate within the list, but that first step of just making sure that you can actually use the keyboard and get to everything that your user is going to need.

Gillian Bruce: That's an easy thing to do. I can imagine going and doing that. Like we mentioned, sometimes, unintentionally, you have to figure that out anyway. That's a good test.

Gillian Bruce: Now, get ready for a first ever demo on the Salesforce Admins Podcast. Adam is going to treat us to a very special demo of a screen reader demonstrating the two differences between a page layout optimized for a tabbing experience versus a page layout optimized for a find experience. For those of you who have never had a screen reader, get ready. This is really interesting. I'd love for you, as Adam is giving this demo, try and see if you can visualize what this page looks like as he's tabbing through, he's getting with the screen reader is giving back to him and he guides us along that way, but think about in your head as you're walking your dog, driving your car, try and visualize this page that Adam is describing in this demo.

Adam Rodenbeck: First we're going to take a look at just a standard page layout that has an account view with different tabs and show how a screen reader user might navigate through that and then alternatively we have a simpler layout which just has everything on one tab rather than having to switch back and forth.

Gillian Bruce: Excellent. All right. So, let's dig in. I want to hear from the screen reader.

Adam Rodenbeck: Here's just our standard account page layout.

Speaker 3: The title is, books upon books at article bar Salesforce-Google Chrome. Books upon books at article bar Salesforce-

Adam Rodenbeck: What I'm going to now do is go down through the page using screen reader navigation to move by heading. That's just a quick method that screen reader users have to jump between various sections of the page.

Speaker 3: We found no potential duplicates of this account heading level two. Contacts left [inaudible 00:18:17] in one right [inaudible 00:18:19] heading level two link.

Adam Rodenbeck: We can see right here this heading said that its contacts. I'm actually on the related tab. So, if I'm a screener user and I'm looking for something that's on the details tab, say it's the account number that I want, I need to go back up the page to find my tab set.

Speaker 3: We found no potential duplicates of this account heading level two. Tabs heading level two.

Adam Rodenbeck: So, that said tabs.

Speaker 3: Related tab use just key plus, alt plus and to move to controlled element.

Adam Rodenbeck: I hear now that this is the related tab and I'm just going to use my arrows to switch to detail.

Speaker 3: Details tab selected use just key plus alt plus and to move to controlled element two or three.

Adam Rodenbeck: So, it tells me that this is the second of the third. So, related details and this should be news.

Speaker 3: News tab selected used.

Adam Rodenbeck: Cool. So, we'll go back to detail.

Speaker 3: Details tab selected you. Tab panel, Adam Rodenbeck link.

Adam Rodenbeck: Now I know that I'm in the tab panel for that detail section, and a real typical thing at this point would be to just use a fine command to look for the account number.

Speaker 3: Virtual find.

Adam Rodenbeck: Now we'll.

Speaker 3: Account number 12345.

Adam Rodenbeck: That's a pretty simple method for actually jumping between tabs and then finding the info that I want, but depending on how it is that you typically use this, you might find it simpler to have this on one page layout. So, I'll switch here to our demo account.

Speaker 3: Demo account, vertical bar salesforce-Google Chrome.

Adam Rodenbeck: On this page layout, we have everything all in one spot. So, there are the related lists, all of my account details, and depending on what your users prefer, it might be easier to use some of the expand collapsible sections so our user can hide things that they don't want. If you have address information in one part, maybe, or your account information, SLA, things like that. You can collapse those down and a person can again jump by headings. I'll do that.

Speaker 3: Tabs heading level two.

Adam Rodenbeck: This is just a single tab.

Speaker 3: Details tab selected use just keep-

Adam Rodenbeck: You also could get rid of the tab set entirely and just have your detail component.

Speaker 3: Details heading level two.

Adam Rodenbeck: Here are the details.

Speaker 3: Contacts heading level two link.

Adam Rodenbeck: That's followed immediately by the related lists that are available on the page.

Speaker 3: Contacts left [inaudible 00:21:05] zero right [inaudible 00:21:06] heading level two link. Opportunities left [inaudible 00:21:09] zero right [inaudible 00:21:10] heading level two link. Cases left [inaudible 00:21:13] zero right [inaudible 00:21:14] heading level two link.

Adam Rodenbeck: You can see this account we have contacts, opportunities, cases, and for each one it tells me there are zero. So, it's kind of a boring account here, but it demonstrates though that on one single page I'm able to see the information as well as the related list. So, if I'm in the section of the page which has the cases and I kind of wonder, "What was the account number?" I can again.

Speaker 3: Virtual find. [inaudible 00:21:43]

Adam Rodenbeck: We'll now search for account number.

Speaker 3: wrapping to top, account number.

Adam Rodenbeck: The screener even told me that it wraps to top, so, it was able to find down the page. There was no account number so it started over at the top of the page and now I do have my account number available.

Speaker 3: 12813.

Adam Rodenbeck: There you have it. So, kind of an easy way to change things around just depending on what is more convenient for your particular users.

Gillian Bruce: All right. Now that we've got the demo, let's get back into the interview where Adam talks about some of the amazing parts about his work with accessibility, and some of the amazing things that he has seen as outcomes from his work.

Adam Rodenbeck: I think that maybe one of the best things that I've gotten in dealing with accessibility is talking to designers. If they can describe something to me and how it should act or what they want to happen, and me being somebody who is blind and not able to see the screen, they can make me understand what it is that their design does, then I think it gives us both a better understanding. So, they become a little more in touch with what they're designing, and then I have an understanding of what it should do to help guide them down that road. That's a great place that I think accessibility bridges a gap between people, maybe with a disability, and then people who are unfamiliar with the realm entirely.

Gillian Bruce: Absolutely. I think that's a really great example. One of the things, as Admins, especially as we're building out customizations, and trying to figure out how to customize the app, if you cannot describe it in a way that everyone can understand, you're probably not doing it right.

Adam Rodenbeck: Right. I think that if you take that a step further, one of the things is, what do I need to do if I'm going to interact with this particular person? The biggest thing is that you should talk to that person and try to understand what their difficulties are, and how can you make it better for them. If it's rearranging things on a page layout in a certain way so that they can get to it more efficiently, it depends on what the person is using. If they're using a screen reader or if they're using a screen magnifier. So, a person with the screen magnifier is going to be really concerned about how much real estate things take up on the screen. That person might be more interested in having less things on a particular page layout, and they might use things like tabs, whereas a screen reader user wants to be able to get to as much information as quickly as possible, and they might do that through using the find command.

Adam Rodenbeck: So, if you think about just a standard Control F, or Command F to bring up the find box, if it's not on the screen, then their find won't be able to locate it. So, that person would probably prefer to have more information available to them, less things buried under accordions and tabs and expandable collapsible things, and just have it visible because they're going to use other navigation methods to get to it rather than just scrolling.

Gillian Bruce: I think that's a really interesting point because even just customizing this page layouts for different folks who prefer to have information displayed in different ways, I mean, that's something really easy that any of us can do that customization. So, the idea of using the accordion, using those different Lightning components versus having all of the information just there on the page, that's an easy customization that we could do within a few minutes.

Adam Rodenbeck: Absolutely. But it's most important to talk to that user and find out, "Which one is going to work better for you?" Rather than doing this blanket. This is the profile that I've been told is most accessible, so therefore, that fits you. Take the time to investigate what would people prefer.

Gillian Bruce: Well, yes. Accessibility can mean different things for different people. There's quite a spectrum of what is accessible for me may be different accessible for you, may be different accessible for somebody else. I think that we talked about with Salesforce Admins this idea of SABWA, which is an acronym for Salesforce Administration By Walking Around. It's, "Hey, you got to talk to your users. See how they're using the app. See how they're clicking through things? How are they logging a call?" That kind of thing.

Adam Rodenbeck: Absolutely. I love that.

Gillian Bruce: Yes, we can credit Mike Gerholdt with that because he created that acronym. Every time I say it I do like a machete move like, "SABWA." Adam, I so appreciate you taking the time to chat with us. It's been so great to learn more about accessibility in general and then also your story, which is really fun. I would really get in trouble if I let you go from the podcast and don't ask you a Lightning round question.

Adam Rodenbeck: All right.

Gillian Bruce: It's a question that doesn't actually have anything to do with Lightning. First thing that come to mind, there's no right or wrong answer. Are you ready?

Adam Rodenbeck: I'm ready.

Gillian Bruce: Okay, Adam. You have been in the Salesforce ecosystem for a while. What is one of your favorite features that Salesforce has released?

Adam Rodenbeck: Chatter.

Gillian Bruce: Chatter. I love it. So, would that follow that maybe Chatter is one of your favorite mascots.

Adam Rodenbeck: Yes, I think so. That's going way back, but yes. I remember one of my first Dreamforce's I got my picture taken with Chatty.

Gillian Bruce: I think it was my first or second Dreamforce when Chatty was ... they put all like these little Chatty windup toys on the seats in the keynote, I remember, and then Chatty was debut and we have a strong contingent of the Admin Ohana that misses Chatty and wishes Chatty was going to come back. But she's on sabbatical. Who knows? Maybe she'll return.

Adam Rodenbeck: I hope so.

Gillian Bruce: Excellent. Adam, thank you so much for joining us today. I'm so excited to be connected with you, and thank you for teaching me a lot.

Adam Rodenbeck: Yes, thank you. This is amazing to be on this podcast.

Gillian Bruce: Well, that was fun. I so enjoyed getting to know Adam a little bit more and spending time with him. I love the fact that he was willing to do a live demo with me on the podcast. So, I hope that it was fun for you as well, listeners. I'd love to get your feedback on that. I learned a ton between Sunday and Adam the last few weeks on the podcast. We also have a great blog post that just went live. Lee White who's on the same team wrote a blog post helping us understand as Admin, some real tactical things that we can do to optimize page layouts for our blind or low vision users. Make sure you check that out. It's on Just to recap some of the amazing things from our conversation with Adam.

Gillian Bruce: First of all, I love learning more about how a screen reader actually works. It's a synthesized voice of your choice as Adam pointed out, and this Braille display, that USB powered Braille display that you can plug into your computer is really an incredible piece of technology as well. So, between those two, that's the makeup of what a screen reader does to help those who cannot see understand what's going on the screen. I really also enjoyed the story about how Adam said that Salesforce and Eclipse, and IDE, it's what we used to call it, was actually, they performed impressively well when he was looking for coding environments that worked for low and blind users. So, I thought that was really interesting to know. I think it's great to help us realize how important that is. It's at the core of our technology.

Gillian Bruce: It was very interesting how he said to page editor of the drag and drop functionality. We actually have a few things that are drag and drop within our user experience and how that was tough for him in the beginning, but it drove him to learn Visualforce and learn a new skill and learn how to build pages, and now that we're in Lightning things have definitely shifted but it's a great example of how when you encounter a challenge, it pushes you to learn new things to try and overcome.

Gillian Bruce: I also really like the idea of shortcut keys, where an accessibility feature that I know many of us know and love. If you have not used shortcut keys, make sure you check them out. Again, I think it's command/ in how you access them. If you want to test your app to see if it is accessible, some easy things that you can do, see if you can tab through. Try not using your mouse to complete a task, to log a call, to create a record, see how that goes and use arrow keys. If you can do that, that's a good sign that you're on the right path.

Gillian Bruce: As Adam pointed out, a lot of the Salesforce natural features are pretty accessible. So, you're already starting from a good spot. When in doubt, talk to your users. Sunday talked a lot about this. We've talked a lot about this overall, as Admins, one of the most important things we can do is get to know our users. Do SABWA, Salesforce Administration By Walking Around. Go talk to your users, ask them how they use the app and what might make their lives easier and make it easier for them to use. Remember that accessibility means different things to different people. Don't discount that.

Gillian Bruce: If you want a good reminder or you want to a fun way to demonstrate the different types of things you can do to optimize Salesforce for those who cannot see, play Adams demo. I thought that was really, really interesting about how the two different types of [inaudible 00:31:18], it's just those simple little changes that you can do in a few minutes in the Lightning app builder can make a huge difference depending on how the user prefers to use the technology.

Gillian Bruce: Thank you so much for joining us. I'd love to hear from any of you who have your own accessibility stories when it comes to Salesforce. This is a topic that I have really enjoyed getting to know about and I am fascinated to learn more. I want to thank you all for listening to the podcast. Remember to subscribe so you get the latest and greatest delivered to your platform or device of choice the moment they are released. If you want some great resources for more information on accessibility check out the show notes. I've got a ton in there for you. There's groups on the Trailblazer community, there's great resources. Some of the same ones that we referenced for Sunday's podcasts as well. Make sure you check those out.

Gillian Bruce: As always, you can find all things awesome admin on including that great blog post that Lee just posted about configuring Salesforce for blind and low vision users. As always, you'll find more events, webinars and yes, even podcast there as well. You can find us on Twitter at @SalesforceAdmns, our guest today Adam is @arodenbeck, and myself @gilliankbruce. Thank you so much for listening to this episode, and we'll catch you next time in the cloud.

Direct download: How_to_Build_Accessible_Apps_with_Adam_Rodenbeck.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:17pm PDT