To a newbie, Dreamforce can be a bit overwhelming. If you're used to thousands of people being in your personal space (say for instance Sydney at New Year's Eve or Ho Chi Minh on any given day), then you should be ok. If you're from small town NZ/Australia and haven't travelled much, you might want to brace yourself. Overall the experience is a lot like mixing the biggest summer camp ever with the grittiness of San Francisco's downtown as the perfect backdrop.
Monday found us arriving at San Fran, bright eyed and excited for the week ahead. The airport was already crazy with thousands of people flooding in from around the world. I had managed to lose my voice somewhere in transit, but I counted myself lucky to have five other people who were seasoned travellers and didn't mind corralling me to where I needed to be at any given time #winning.
I'm sure all us newbies have this grand plan to see ALL the sessions they can possibly cram in. I had read other blogs that cautioned us to pace ourselves. But of course we knew better...
I headed off down the hill in search of a sea of blue Salesforce backpacks and lanyards. The event is extremely well organized. With a little pre-planning (and the SF Events app) it's near impossible to get lost and even if you did there are hundreds of 'helpers' on the streets to guide you.
Overall, day 2 was a blur with sessions on Community Cloud, Salesforce CPQ (formally Steelbrick) and Modern Architecture - Platforms for Innovation. For me, professionally, Day 2 was the most rewarding. The Salesforce CPQ offering will be huge. The ex Sales Manager in me wanted to go tell every other Sales Manager I knew that they had to use it. The community sessions gave me hope that a) we were on the right track with some of the more innovative projects we've been working on and b) there would be answers coming soon to some of the difficult issues we had been facing. And Peter Coffee is amazing, and I will be pondering his thoughts on innovation for while to come. If you've never heard him speak I highly recommend finding him on YouTube and having a listen.
Needless to say, I was completely shattered after Day 2.
Day 3 It was an early start today as I had an early session around Design Thinking. It's a topic I'm hearing a lot about lately, and I wanted to try and get some takeaways to make it relevant to what we do with our customers. It was well worth the early start, with some of the key messages about design thinking as a process—applicable to all walks of life—of creating new and innovative ideas and solving problems.
Lunchtime found us queuing for the main Keynote with Marc and friends - as a newbie this was a must attend! I could split the experience into two main parts:
Firstly, the philanthropy. Will I Am and Deborah Dugan (from Red) were the two key speakers, and their messages - along with videos - were emotionally charged and pulled no punches. A simple request to you all. Go to red.org and donate. They need your help.
The second part of the keynote is "the big new thing". Last year it was Lightning, which was the equivalent of dragging Salesforce's 90's UI kicking & screaming into the here and now. 2016 saw Einstein unveiled as the next big thing, and from what I saw, it is pretty big. This really is the future, and it will be interesting to see how it all unfolds and changes how our customers use Salesforce.
The last presentation of the day was by our very own Abhinav Keswani and Alex from Clear Channel, discussing how a 100 year old advertising business was transformed with Heroku. I found this session fascinating as I know how difficult it can be to take a business that is mired in historical systems and processes and try and transform it. The work Trineo has done with Clear Channel is nothing short of amazing. Needless to say, I was extremely proud.
The day ended with a U2 concert. It was awesome. It was unexpected. It was chaos. And it was worth it.
Day 4 Today was all about Keynotes, but for me it was also about experiencing Dreamforce's nooks and crannies, trailheads and clouds.
The best part of the day was seeing Max Brosnahan and Abhinav present, “Go Into Production On Heroku With Confidence”. It was a much more technical presentation (aka a little over my head) but I was again so very proud to watch them deliver a polished and interesting presentation to a captivated audience.
So final thoughts. Dreamforce is an amazing experience - one I'm very grateful to have had. It was an incredible trip at an incredible time in American history. I'll happily brave the crowds again - it's totally worth it!