Fri, 21 December 2018
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 www.ibm.com/watson/ibm-salesforce.
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 admin.salesforce.com, 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.