I’m in the thick of Dreamforce prep. This will be my 8th Dreamforce, and I find myself reflecting on what it’s meant to me over the years.
2007 — The band was INXS, and I was a brand new Salesforce consultant. The company I was with at the time — Model Metrics — won an “Appy” award for something we did. Pictures from that time show me wearing — gasp — a suit. My first time at Dreamforce spoiled me for other conferences. Even then, Dreamforce was a very happy place. Everyone was high energy, the partners were awesome and I felt like I was part of something much bigger than me. By the end, I was completely exhausted, and when someone stuck a camera in my face and asked, What was your favorite part of Dreamforce? I said, “The cheese plates.” Really. Hint: you should probably have a better answer. For example, I should have said, “Talking to all the Salesforce customers who came by our booth.” I love love love staffing a booth. Call me crazy, but it’s true.
2008 — I don’t remember the band, but thankfully @eliz_beth does — it was The Foo Fighters. I don’t think I went, and I regret this. This Dreamforce stands out for me because it was the first one I spoke at. I co-presented at a session on Salesforce and GCal integration. Yes, I was wearing a suit. Now, this was also the first year Salesforce offered the Certified Developer credential and I was very excited to be part of the first 500 group. If you attended the Model Metrics party at Foley’s that year, you probably also remember the dueling pianos in the basement. It was hot and crowded and a great time. The great thing for me about 2008 was getting to know people in the community better. Where DF07 was brand new, DF08 was more like a homecoming.
2009 — This was a big year for me. I had written and iterated on an app called Cloud Converter and had completed a big project working with the Salesforce partner team, and I was speaking about both. I had a great time preparing for these presentations, and got great feedback. After one of the, a friend came to me and said, “You were born to speak like this.” I was very humbled and surprised to hear that. Public speaking is something I’ve always wanted to be good at, but I hadn’t found many opportunities to exercise that muscle. Also in 2009, Jeff Grosse, Miriam Melo and I started “The Octies,” the only canned-seafood themed community recognition award in enterprise software (still!). Yes, the prize was a can of Octopus. Incidentally, I was still wearing a suit.
2010 — This was my first year at Dreamforce as a Salesforce employee, and attending Dreamforce as a Salesforce employee is a little like being part of a giant wedding. There’s always 100 more things to do, but Dreamforce is going to happen as advertised no matter what, ready or not. So you work and you plan and you hope and you rehearse, and then you do all of that some more. When I showed up in San Francisco, I remember very clearly thinking to myself, “WOW all of the work has totally been worth it.” My focus in 2010 was Salesforce1 Labs — or Force.com Labs as we called it at the time — as well as many of the “Introduction to X” sessions. Introduction to Data Modeling. Introduction to Visualforce. Introduction to Apex. Intro sessions are always my favorite because you can see the lightbulbs going off over the heads of the people in the front rows. It’s very rewarding. Also, this time I was wearing regulation long sleeve t-shirts, which I still occasionally wear today.
2011 — My second year as a Salesforce employee, I was privileged to lead The Open Source Garage. Leading any section at Dreamforce is a challenge, the Open Source Garage was no exception. I helped recruit partners, organize sessions and conversations, and I spent a good deal of time in the garage learning a lot right along with the rest of the attendees. I also caught a cold. Let me tell you what, the one thing you don’t want at Dreamforce is a cold. I was definitely not at my best when the event started. Fortunately, if memory serves me correctly, I had at least one session with the inimitable Jeff Douglas on a panel, and that’s always a good thing. By the last day, I was feeling a bit better, but was a little anxious about my final session. It was the last possible spot, late in the day Thursday, which no speaker I’ve ever talked to has been excited about. It was on open source in the Salesforce community and it was packed. The audience was just as engaged on Day 4 as they had been on Day 1. I loved it.
2012 — Most of my time during 2012 was spent working with developers who wanted to launch businesses on the AppExchange. I focused on something called AppExchange Checkout and my Dreamforce was all about the different ways partners could sell apps. It was very interesting for me to work with so many of our great partners. Up until 2012, my AppExchange experience was limited to free apps, and “free” is a very interesting question when you’re dealing with enterprise software. Consumers pretty much demand free to start. Enterprises are much more interested in the total value proposition. In fact, “free” can turn out to be very expensive, so finding the right balance is challenging. It was a huge learning opportunity for me. I should point out that the 2012 concert was my favorite of all time: the Red Hot Chili Peppers at the Civic Center. It was crazy cool, and they put on a fantastic show.
2013 — Last year was a breakthrough experience for me because it was the debut of the Connected Device Lab. I was originally nominated to lead the lab based on some work I had done in 2011 connecting my model trains to Salesforce and there’s no way I could have pulled it off without my experience running The Open Source Garage. Now, I wasn’t sure how the Lab was going to be received–nobody was. No one had really done anything like it before. I arrived at Moscone on Saturday and started the setup process. While I was working, many of the tradespeople building the DevZone stopped by to watch and ask questions. On Sunday, the same thing happened with Salesforce employees. And I started thinking, Uh oh. Monday, all hell broke loose and I have to say I loved absolutely every minute of it, including losing my voice. This tweet and the response chain summarizes the whole thing for me. The experience was breakthrough for a few reasons. First and foremost was the response of our attendees. People were curious, engaged, and asked great questions. Second, it sparked fantastic conversations with a lot of people I really respect: Parker Harris, Peter Coffee, Charlie Isaacs at Salesforce and many, many other customers and partners. Lastly, it kicked off a great year of really interesting activity — ThingMonk, ThingsExpo, IoT World, M2M Evolution in both Miami and Las Vegas, #IoT Chicago and several really rewarding customer specific engagements. 10 out of 10 — would work hard for months, talk for 14 hours straight 4 days in a row and lose my voice for two solid weeks all over again.
So that’s my personal Dreamforce history. Dreamforce is unlike any other event I’ve ever been to, and I love every minute of it, before, during and after. It’s a time to connect with old friends, a place where I get to share what I’ve been working on and a unique opportunity to meet customers and learn about their needs. DF14 is shaping up to be great in a whole new way. See you there.