A Community Mourns, A Community Remembers – A Tribute to Tami Esling

When I think back to the day I first met Tami, I recall immediately feeling like I had know her all my life. Her amazing smile was contagious and anyone who was in conversation with her quickly found themselves smiling as well. Tami and I met at the MVP Summit in 2015, shortly after she was named a Salesforce MVP. It was a great pleasure to meet her in person, and after having so many online interactions with her, I felt like I already knew her well.

Professionally, Tami worked for SaaS Consulting Group with a focus on directing clients and colleagues towards Salesforce education and training to help them get the most out of their Salesforce implementation. She was a firm believer that with the proper education and training that anyone could accomplish big things. Unlike some, she also practiced what she preached. Tami held five Salesforce Certifications.

Tami certs

Tami was a giver too. She was the “mother hen” for all things Salesforce in Austin, TX. She led the Austin Salesforce User group. She was an active member in the Austin Women in Tech group, and a passionate champion of Salesforce Saturday. Anytime there was anything Salesforce going on in Austin, you could find Tami there. She volunteered her time to help others in the Salesforce Community get better educated, and hopefully well prepared so that they could successfully become a Salesforce Certified individual too. I decided to make the commitment of 15 weeks and join the online Certification Study Group that Tami was leading in late 2014. It was through the interactions in the group where I really got to see Tami shine. She skillfully facilitated the online study group, week after week, drawing out the best of everyone involved through thoughtful insights above and beyond the assigned homework. Don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t the “let it ride, let everyone through” kind of person. She was tough on the people who were not prepared each week, and called them out the next week, to make sure they were doing the homework and sticking to the commitments they made when signing up for the study group.  I should know, I was probably one of her “bad” students. I had a hard time keeping up with the homework, and missed a class or two, and paid the ultimate price for that, in that I was unsuccessful when I attempted the Certified Administrator exam. Notice I did not say that I failed, because I firmly believe that Wayne Gretzky explained that best.

gretzky

In December or 2015, I featured Tami in my “I’m the (Kevin) Bacon of the Salesforce Community” blog series. It was great fun working with Tami to recall all our interactions together, and to learn more about her background, how she got started in the Salesforce Ecosystem, etc. I asked the standard questions, including “What’s more important: Who you know, or What you know?” I will never forget Tami’s reply. She said: ‘If you’re on the Salesforce Community, then you probably “know” Eric Dreshfield. That is how it all began.’ That was the first time I truly felt speechless!

There was one other question from that blog post where Tami’s response was quite surprising to me. When I asked “What’s one fact about you that few people know, that would surprise me?” To that question Tami replied, ” I have skydived and plan to take another jump in 2016.” Wow! I sure was surprised by that answer.

Tami events

As we all struggle to find a way to deal with the hole left in our hearts, and in the community due to Tami’s untimely passing, I think it’s only fitting to share some words that her friends in the Success Community stated upon hearing the sad news.

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Thank you for everything, Tami. You are truly an inspiration to many and your spirit will remain alive in the Success Community as long as one person whose life you touched is there.

Tami Esling. Wife. Mother. Mentor. Coach. Friend.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to American Heart Association  This form asks you to complete a memorial card, please choose mail card and send to: Walter Esling, 14833 Irondale Dr., Austin, TX 78717

I’m the (Kevin) Bacon of the Salesforce Community – Introducing Melissa VanDyke

This is the sixth post in my blog series in which I will feature people I know from the community: Salesforce employees, MVPs, User Group Leaders, Partners, and honestly, anyone who I’m connected with who is willing to share with me the answers to five simple questions. I hoping that this blog series will help everyone out in the community get better connected to others who are either like them, can help them, are nothing like them, can’t help them, or are simply people they haven’t met yet! After all, a stranger is simply a friend you don’t know yet.

For me, one of the greatest strengths of the Salesforce Ecosystem is its people and the connections that are shared.

So, if you are brave enough, even if you’ve never met me in person, fill out this form and I’ll feature you in an upcoming post. (In case I have confused anyone, the questions on the form about our relationship refers to you, the reader, and me, the author, Eric Dreshfield, and not the featured person in this post.)  Just beware, by completing the form, you are giving me permission to use that information in a future post, as well as allowing me to interject some of my own thoughts into your responses!

And now I introduce Melissa VanDyke, the creator of the Admin to Admin Academy and the host of the Admin to Admin Academy Video Podcast.

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What’s your job title? Manager, Salesforce.  (EFD – So you manage a team of Sales people?)  MVD: No! I manage a team of Awesome Salesforce Admins at Orbitz Worldwide, the online travel agency.

What does that mean you do?   Lead Salesforce solution architect for the Global Hotel Strategy instance of Salesforce (~300 users); Management responsibilities for the Salesforce team (2 direct reports on my team); I oversee the Hotel Strategy Salesforce deliverables for all stakeholders; Full end-to-end project management responsibilities for all SFDC projects. From requirement gathering, documentation and development to implementation, training and roll-out/change management.

(EFD – Uh, wow. That’s a lot. How do you have time for anything else, like your Admin to Admin Academy and podcast?)  MVD: I use all of my free time thinking about ways to bring value to the community and creating content. I listen to every podcast I can find that helps empower me, so I stop being my own worst enemy (for example, I try not to say “I am too busy” and instead think about ways to find the time — like how I can watch 1 hour less of TV and write a post instead! LOL!). If interested in this type of thing, check out The Life Coach School Podcast by Brooke Castillo she is definitely one of my major heroes (along with Tony Robbins and Stephen R. Covey of course :))!!

How long have you been involved with Salesforce.com (as a customer and/or an employee)? 5 years.  (EFD – That’s a pretty good amount of time, in Salesforce years.)  MVD- I actually started with Microsoft Dynamics, so it is technically 8 years’ experience of leveraging CRM as a platform for process improvement projects.

Bacon or sausage? It’s bacon, or nothing..

What’s more important: Who you know, or what you know?  It’s what you know about who you know. Listening and knowing your audience so you can learn from them and help them as necessary  (EFD – Listening?  What?  Oh right, we have 2 ears and only one mouth, so we should listen twice a much as we talk, right?)  MVD– Yes! And the key is to ask awesome questions that make people feel comfortable with you, making it clear that you are there to help them and solve their process pain!

How did our relationship start, and when? Midwest Dreamin’ 2014!!!  (EFD – Midwest Dreamin’?  What’s that?  😉  I know a thing or two about Midwest Dreamin’. If you don’t, check it out! It’s coming back to Chicago this summer!)

And now the bonus question – What’s one fact about you that few people know, that will surprise me and my blog readers? I was almost an amateur poker player. (EFD – Almost? Did you lose a bet and have to take a career path that led you to Salesforce instead?) MVD– Ha! I guess I was technically an amateur poker player because I had been playing tournaments and cash games in all of my free time for about eight years, then five years ago I seriously considered packing up and moving to Vegas to pursue my passion full time! In the end I decided instead to try and level up my career, knowing that if that did not work out I could fall back on the poker dream (and I can always retire early to try my hand at becoming a poker pro!). Luckily I found Saleforce shortly after, and have never looked back 🙂 I do miss playing poker tremendously, but now I spend all my free time creating content for the blog and podcast!!

And now for the extra bonus question – Tell me about Admin to Admin Academy and your podcast…what’s it all about and motivated you to start it?  I first started my blog in February 2015. It was something I had been dreaming about for at least 2 years. (EFD – Dreaming about a blog…hmmm.  Tell me more!)  I would talk about it, plan it and think about what I wanted to write.  (EFD – #Teaser  Sorry, readers…you’ll have to watch for another post coming soon that goes into all the details behind Admin to Admin Academy!  I promise, it’s a great story. That’s why I’m going to make it a separate post!)

You can find Melissa on Twitter and be sure to check out her site.

What Would You Do?

If you had the chance to do something (that you do every year) and help a great cause at the same time, would you do it?

Yes, that was a rhetorical question, but do me a favor, answer it anyway.

My answer would be a resounding ‘yes’. I try to give back to the Salesforce community every chance I get. So when Cirrus Insight emailed to tell me I was their weekly winner of a free Dreamforce pass, my thoughts immediately turned to helping others.  I didn’t need the pass to Dreamforce. I was already registered and would be attending. I could give the pass to someone who wants to attend, but that would only be helping one person.

What I decided to do was to hold an auction with proceeds benefiting Project Night Night. I thought that could help many people. One lucky person would still be able to attend Dreamforce, and many homeless children could get a NightNight pack from Project Night Night.

Do you still need a pass to Dreamforce? Do you want to help children have sweeter dreams at the same time? If you answered yes to both questions, please go here: DF15Pass for Project Night Night and place your bid. The high bid, at the time I published this blog post was $500.  To see the current high bid, follow me on Twitter and search for #DF15PassProjectNight2XHIGHBID.  The bidding closes at 11:59 PM on Saturday, August 8, 2015.

If you happened to answer the first question with a no, please visit Project Night Night and consider making a donation.

Thanks!

Top 10 Reasons to Attend Dreamforce 2015

Here’s my top 10 reasons why you should attend Dreamforce updated for 2015:

10: Networking…its a fabulous place to meet people who think and act like you. Don’t be scared, introduce yourself! You could very well be talking to your next coworker or manager, or even discover a solution to a challenge you have been facing! (Don’t forget to bring plenty of business cards!)

9: Exercise…with all the sessions and activities spread out over Moscone’s 3 buildings as well as a half a dozen or so hotels in the area, you might end up dropping a few pounds from all the walking you’ll do. (Be sure to wear comfortable shoes, and charge up your Fitbit!)

8: Knowledge…Keynote sessions, hands-on training sessions, breakout sessions, even pre-conference training session…who knows what all you could learn! Even without knowing who the keynote or breakout session speakers are, or who the special guests during Marc Benioff’s keynote will be, I’m 100% certain you will learn a lot! (Be sure to take notes – on paper, on your phone, or on your iPad.  Whatever your note-taking device of choice is, keep it handy! You’ll need it!)

7: Awesome…yes, be prepared to hear that word quite a lot. Many will describe the event as Awesome or Outstanding. (Guilty as charged, Your Honor.)

6: Get Social…That’s right, Dreamforce isn’t really just an 8 to 5 event. Social gatherings, dinners, parties and even concerts await the adventurous soul. After Dreamforce, be sure to hook up with your local user group, so you can keep the Dreamforce feeling all year long!  And if that’s not enough, keep an eye out on the Success Community and Twitter for amazing community-driven regional events like Midwest Dreamin’, Forcelandia, and Snowforce.

5: Charity…Don’t just take things away from Dreamforce, give things away! Give back some of your time to help out great causes. Look for the Salesforce Foundation volunteer events and GIVE! Give like there’s no tomorrow! Because if you don’t, for some people who rely on the organizations Salesforce & Dreamforce support, there may not be a tomorrow!

4: Swag…who doesn’t like a freebie?  T-shirts, portable charges, stress balls, t-shirts, pens….you name it, someone is probably giving it away, just for stopping by their booth and letting them scan your badge.  Some things are a random drawing, others, just yours for the taking.

3: Partners…be sure to carve out time to visit the Cloud Expos. Many AppExchange partners will be there to give you live demos, great reasons why you need to extend your Salesforce org outside the box, and pick up some cool swag along the way. You can also connect with Salesforce experts, interact firsthand with Salesforce products, and hear success stories shared by customers at the Salesforce Campground.

2: Rub elbows with the elite…the MVPs and User Group Leaders. Those people are almost overly passionate about the Salesforce ecosystem, but guess what? They are people too, and love helping others gain knowledge and overcome challenges!

And my number 1 reason to attend Dreamforce this year:

1: Community…What’s that? It’s the culmination of all of the other top items rolled into one neat little package. It’s that intangible benefit you get from being part of a group that is fast approaching two million strong. It’s that awesome feeling you get when racing between sessions with over 100,000 of your closest friends. It is Salesforce…it is Dreamforce. And its AWESOME!!!

It Feels Like The First Time…

Despite the racy title, this is not one of those posts that you can’t read in front of your children. In this post I want to explore human nature, and try to explain what if feels like to be named an MVP.

In the spring of 2013, I got the email telling me I had been named an MVP for the first time. I was full of all sorts of emotions. I felt incredibly honored, very humbled, and 100% totally undeserving of such an honor. It was a rather odd day to begin with. I had shut off data on my mobile phone because I was on the last day of my billing cycle and was dangerously close to exceeding my data plan limit, so it wasn’t until lunch time when I connected my iPad up to WiFi when I noticed a few tweets telling me congratulations. I replied to one of them with a ‘for what?’ and the response I got was ‘check your email’. Oh, wow. Look, I’m an MVP now! Oh &*#^! What does that mean? What’s expected of me now? I was excited, nervous and scared all at the same time. Some of the MVPs were (and still are) heroes of mine. They post so much good stuff to the community, they help so many people solve problems, and all I did was start a user group and host a small regional user conference…so small that some user groups were bigger!

Fast forward a year. I was a little nervous about being renewed. I’m one of the few MVPs who hold zero certifications, and those seem to be gaining a lot more attention. I knew I should be trying to get certified, but I’m not an Admin or a Developer at my job. I’m simply the reporting and analytics guy. I build reports and dashboards all day long. Ok, I do more than that, I do have Admin rights, and I’m allowed to play the admin role, as long as I do it in the sandbox for testing. Once I’ve got things tested out and working as I would like, I pass it all over to our Admin who moves everything to production. I did organize a “little” regional event called Midwest Dreamin’ that seemed to be a success.  When I got the email telling me I was re-awarded the MVP title, all those same feelings came right back. I felt incredibly honored, very humbled, and 100% totally undeserving of such an honor.

2015 was no different.  I’m still not certified, although I did try the Admin certification exam once, and failed.  I also just finished participating in the Salesforce Certification Study Group on the Success Community, but I haven’t yet attempted the exam. I’m not quite ready to try it again. I’ve been too busy with work, planning Midwest Dreamin’ 2015, and helping my wife launch her new business to have the appropriate time to devote to studying and practicing in a Dev org.  I got the email again, stating that I’ve been renewed as an MVP yet another time. Needless to say, I was thrilled, but still, all those same feelings came right back. I felt incredibly honored, very humbled, and 100% totally undeserving of such an honor.

I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it.

To all of the Community who has helped me, a very big THANK YOU. I couldn’t be where I am today without YOU!

So How’s THAT Make You Feel?

So, how’s THAT make you feel?

Don’t you just hate hearing those words? It almost always involves hurt feelings or revenge some how. It’s very often a sign of something bad, something that really shouldn’t happen, but most likely will end up happening…like it or not.

Well at precisely 10:22AM (Central Time) on May 1, 2014, those very words, “So how’s that make you feel?” came into my mind. And it was a good thing.  But it was really more than just a good thing.  It was one of those things that keeps you grounded. It was one of those things that helps keep you motivated to do something that helps others.  It was an email, that hit my inbox at 10:22AM, and it came from Matt Brown, Advocacy Program Manager at Salesforce.com.

Congratulations!

It’s just a word. It was the first word of that email.

congratulations

And with the simple reading of that one word, I felt excited and humbled at the very same time.  It was deja vu!  It was the exact same feeling I had on April 10, 2013.  The day I was first named a Salesforce MVP.  Whoa, hold it a second.  Back that bus up!

The_Magic_School_Bus

I just got transported to a magical place!  I just got honored as a Salesforce MVP…AGAIN!

I’m still not sure I deserve it…I’m not an Answers machine, like SteveMo or Jeff May. I’m not a blogging or podcasting machine, like the ButtonClick Admin, Mike Gerholdt or the guys from Arkus, Inc. who do the CloudFocus Weekly series. I’m just a user group leader, from the cornfields of Southern Indiana who seems to enjoy connecting with other Salesforce.com users.

To all of you in the Success Community who inspire me every day, thank you…for without you, there would be no community!