Lightning Champions Spotlight: Benjamin Bratcher

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Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we continue our Lightning Champion Spotlight series with Benjamin Bratcher, a Salesforce Administrator at Masergy. This episode is part four of a six-part series, the Lightning Champions Spotlight, hosted by Kelly Walker, Senior Adoption Consultant at Salesforce. We talk to our amazing Lightning Champions to find out about their career journey, how it lead them to the Lightning Experience, advice on handling change management, and why Lightning Experience is so awesome.

Join us as we talk about how he communicates with his users to get support for Lightning, the keys he found to make the transition, and how he gives back to his community as a Lightning Champion.

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

From stage to screen.

Benjamin has a bit of an unusual background for getting into Salesforce, even for this podcast where we talk to accidental admins all the time. He actually majored in Theatre in undergrad, but after graduating he found himself working in his alma mater’s admissions office in order to support himself. “About a month after I started working there they implemented Salesforce, and I took to it really quickly. I’ve always been an early adopter of technology, so it really interested me and I started to become a power user,” Benjamin says.

Eventually, Benjamin found himself promoted to a Salesforce administrator role. “At the time I had no idea that Salesforce had this huge ecosystem and was a great career opportunity,” he says, “I saw the potential and quickly jumped in.” Even with all the developments in his career, he’s still able to do some acting and fight choreography at night to get the best of both worlds. “Initially, I was worried that having a BFA in Theater would be looked down upon,” Benjamin says, “but what I’ve found is that having that experience in theater has given me a lot of skills that I’m able to use as an admin.”

Transitioning to Lightning when there’s baggage associated with it.

“When I transitioned my org to Lightning in my previous job it had already been implemented in the background,” Benjamin says, “I had been, as a business user, one of the initial test users who was asked to switch to Lightning and see what doesn’t work.” There weren’t any special customizations done for their business use cases, so it was a rather frustrating experience, and those feelings remained when Benjamin was looking really put his full energy into successfully making the switch.

“Lightning was already there but no one wanted to use it,” Benjamin says, but the director of one department, in particular, was very adamant about switching his users over to Lightning full-time. That gave him the executive support he needed to start making customizations that could have a real impact on users’ day-to-day, while also doing beta testing with a small group before doing a larger rollout.

Benjamin’s keys to adoption.

For Benjamin, adoption is all about identifying the easy wins that let you show users what Lightning is all about. One of his favorites is the Lightning App Builder. “The ability to customize the UI is just really exciting to me,” he says. Layouts are such a powerful way to make things more user-friendly and intuitive, particularly on busy pages where they need to find that one specific piece of information in order to move on with their work.

In the Lightning Champions program, Benjamin’s been able to give back to his local Dallas community. “I’ve been able to volunteer at different local events,” he says, “I got to be a helper in one of the hands-on Lightning sessions at Dallas World Tour.” He also frequently hears from the community for advice and suggestions as others make the transition to Lightning. Listen to more details about the Salesforce scavenger hunt he put together to make Salesforce training fun, and his German language skills.

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Full Show Transcript

Kelly Walker: Welcome to the Salesforce Lightning Champion Spotlight on the Salesforce Admins Podcast. My name is Kelly Walker and I am a senior adoption consultant here at Salesforce. I also have the amazing opportunity of working closely with the awesome trailblazers who are passionate about Lightning and have become Lightning champions to evangelize the power of Lightning. In this mini series, we will be talking to six awesome Lightning champions to talk about their career journey, how it led them to the Lightning experience, advice on handling change management, and to focus on their stories of why Lightning experience is so awesome.

Kelly Walker: Now, Salesforce is turning on Lightning experience on a rolling basis in Winter ’20. Users still have access to Salesforce Classic after Lightning experience is turned on, but Lightning Experience is where you want to be for driving business growth and improved productivity. To get ready, verify your org’s existing features and customizations in the new interface and prepare your users with change management best practices. This update applies to users who had the Lightning Experience user permission, including all users with standard profiles and users with custom profiles or permission sets that have the Lightning Experience user permission enabled. For more information, check out the critical update and watch this short video titled, Understand How The Lightning Experience Critical Update Affects My Users, both of which are linked in the show notes.

Kelly Walker: All right, well today we’re talking to Benjamin Bratcher, another Lightning champion in the Dallas area. Benjamin, thank you so much for joining us.

Benjamin B.: Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Kelly Walker: Well, I’m excited for everyone to learn a little bit more about you. I know your journey to Salesforce is a maybe not the norm, so let’s start there and help us understand really your background and how you came to be where you are with Salesforce.

Benjamin B.: Sure, yeah, I’d love to. I guess my journey started in 2015. I had just graduated with my bachelor’s degree. I got to be a BFA in theater. Once I graduated I kind of had an initial shock of not knowing what I was going to do to, you know, make money, make a living. Because as most people know, as an actor, it’s hard to do that as a full-time job, unfortunately. So I applied several places. Long story short, I ended up working for my alma mater as a graduate admissions advisor. Well, about a month after I started working there, they implemented Salesforce and I took to it really quickly. I’ve always been an early adopter of technology, so it really interested me and I quickly became a power user, started coming up with best practices on how to use Salesforce in the enrollment department and then also started leading Salesforce training.

Benjamin B.: That eventually, after about two years, morphed into the director and VP of enrollment asking if I would want to step into an official Salesforce administrator role. At the time I had no idea that Salesforce have this huge ecosystem and was a great career opportunity. I went home that evening, researched it, was pretty blown away with what was out there, what opportunities there are within Salesforce and so that was kind of a no brainer decision for me. I already enjoyed it, I saw the potential and decided to kind of go into that space.

Benjamin B.: So then I was a solo admin for a year and a half, accidental admin, although I think I kind of transitioned into being a purposeful admin because I decided that I wanted to pursue that as my career. But the first few months were very difficult and trying to figure out what’s going on, just learning the system. I had a lot of help from the consultant that worked with us and then of course Trailhead. Then once I started getting some certifications, that kind of changed and I started to become the subject matter experts. But that’s how I got started on the platform. So kind of … I think a lot of people have similar stories in terms of being accidental admins or kind of falling into it and that definitely was the case with me.

Kelly Walker: Awesome. Are you still acting?

Benjamin B.: Yes, yeah. That’s always been my first passion and I love being in the theater and acting. I also actually recently just opened a show where I was the fight choreographer, which was really exciting. It was really exciting getting to work on the creative side of show again. But yes, I do continue to act in the Dallas Fort Worth area, mostly as an actor and also mostly on stage, although I have done some voiceover work and also some student films, but mostly on stage. Thankfully, in Dallas, a lot of the theaters are set up so that they allow you to rehearse and perform in the evenings or on the weekends so you can balance that pretty well with a full-time job. So that’s allowed me to continue my work as an actor and then also as the Salesforce admin as well.

Kelly Walker: Would you say that there’s characteristics or different lessons that you’ve learned that you can bring into your role as an admin that you take away from your education in the theater as well as your continued role within the theater?

Benjamin B.: Yeah, that’s a great question. You know, I think that’s something that I’ve really learned a lot over the last four years of being out of my undergrad and kind of going into more of a corporate job. You know, initially I was really worried that having a BFA in theater would be kind of looked down upon. Well, what I’ve found is that having that training as an actor and then also the professional experience has really given me a lot of skills that I’ve been able to utilize as an admin.

Benjamin B.: For example, I would say communication skills are very important in a role as a Salesforce administrator and of course as an actor, that’s pretty much the number one skill that you have to have is being able to recite the lines and communicate well and connect with your other onstage, you know, among other things. So communication definitely has been a skill that’s that I’ve been able to transfer.

Benjamin B.: Along with that, creativity, I think, is also very useful as an admin. You get to be creative in designing your Lightning app pages for example, or different processes or kind of how you want to utilize Salesforce for your user group. I’ve been able to draw from the creativity that I’ve kind of fostered throughout my work in the theater and as an actor. I would say those are probably off the top of my head, the top two skills I would say that have been transferable, but I think generally, as a side note related to that, I think it’s incredible that so many people who are involved in Salesforce come from non-technical backgrounds. That has always stuck with me and I’ve always been impressed by what people can achieve without having gone to school studying IT or information systems. Of course if you’ve studied that, that’s incredible and you have a lot of background to draw from, but the fact that you can make a solid career and really advance without having that background is a really encouraging for me to see and also I think speaks a lot to kind of Salesforce’s community and the opportunities that the platform provides.

Kelly Walker: Yes, I cannot repeat or agree with you more on that because so many individuals who have come from such different backgrounds and have really made their home with Salesforce. So we’re so glad to have you. I want to dig into that communication piece because as you know, we work together very closely in the Lightning Champions program and moving to Lightning requires a lot of communication and training and overcoming feedback or just overall concerns. I’d love to understand how you embraced the transition, how you knew it was the right time, how you worked with your users and where you are today with regards to Lightning usage.

Benjamin B.: Yeah, definitely. When I transitioned my org to Lightning, that was actually at my previous job. In that environment, like I had mentioned earlier, I kind of took over as the admin and was kind of thrust into that position. Well, the person who had been in that position before me had already activated Lightning. It was already kind of just lingering in the background and I was actually as a business user, one of the initial individuals to go be a test user. I was asked to just kind of switch to Lightning and see what didn’t work and then report back, which as you can imagine, was kind of a difficult experience and very frustrating because there hadn’t been any customizations done at the time to allow for Lightning to be used for our business use cases. Unfortunately, in my situation there had already been kind of that initial wave of Lightning and so there was this negative connotation associated with it. So when I came in and Lightning was already kind of there but no one really wanted to use it, I definitely had an uphill battle to climb in order to convince people that Lightning is the way to go and that the UI allows for so many different use cases and business processes that Classic kind of doesn’t just natively because you aren’t able to customize the UI as much declaratively.

Benjamin B.: The way I approached it actually ended up being that one of the directors of the student services department was very adamant about his users switching to Lightning full-time. I took that as kind of my executive support that I needed, which I think is incredibly important if you’re making a transition, and started customizing Lightning to fit to the business processes of the student services department. That allowed me to already have a smaller user group that was my beta user group that I could kind of go to and test things out with, get feedback from pretty easily. That also made it very, very smooth or a lot smoother than if I had tried to do it for everyone all at once. Once that became successful and kind of the initial customizations had been done so that they could flawlessly go through their day to day work … of course enhancements always are continuing … but once that was completed, I could focus my intention more on other user groups and kind of transitioned those.

Benjamin B.: That was kind of my process. I think I have more of a unique experience. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who are in a similar situation or have been, but it’s, I would certainly say that it’s not an ideal kind of set-up in terms of how the migration would have gone in a perfect world but I definitely tried to make the most of it and tried to capitalize on that director’s interested in investment in Lightning and then kind of move forward with that.

Benjamin B.: On that note, I think one of the biggest struggles is user adoption. I had that at my last job where I implemented Lightning and at my current job as an admin, which at this position, they use Lightning almost exclusively, although they do let people go to Classic. So there are certain users who have used Classic for so long and just don’t see the benefits in switching. I think even once you do migrate, if you don’t deactivate the ability to switch back to Classic, you’ll continue to face those obstacles and try to overcome them. So I think for that, it’s continuing to advocate for it and show them different small wins that they can utilize, so different Lightning-specific features that I know that have been covered at Dreamforce in different world tours, you know, the top 10 Lightning features is always one of the topics. Those are incredibly valuable to share with your users because there’s short productivity gains but in the long run that really enhances your productivity. A lot of times in my experience, sales reps don’t invest the time to really study Lightning and kind of go through all the material. So if you can focus more on one-on-one training or maybe even have a platform like WalkMe or something like that, that allows you to have training live within Salesforce, I think that is really valuable to also increase user adoption.

Kelly Walker: Awesome. Speaking of user adoption and kind of find that when … is there a feature that you would really highlight maybe as your favorite or one that is just a quick win across the board?

Benjamin B.: I would say my favorite Lightning feature would have to be the Lightning app builder, I mentioned it previously, and the reason for that is the ability to customize the UI is just really exciting to me. I love getting creative in redesigning the Lightning pages.

Benjamin B.: A few months ago, one of my bigger projects was redesigning our accounts pages, so that’s both the Classic page layouts, the compact layouts, the Lightning pages, among other things. I actually came up with a really cool layout that allowed me to kind of split up the detail page — which I would assume for most organizations ends up being pretty long because you just have a lot of fields — and breaking that out into different tabs and different sections. That allowed me to have an account page layout that was just one page on a monitor so you didn’t really have to scroll and you could go into different tabs to kind of find more information. That, I think, made it so much more user friendly and intuitive so I would say that’s my favorite Lightning feature for sure.

Kelly Walker: Well awesome. It definitely is a killer feature and empowers admins and developers, as you mentioned, to really give that a unique page or that specialized page based on users’ needs, wants, whatever it may be.

Kelly Walker: Now you’ve been a Lightning champion for a while and so I’d love to understand what drew you to the program and really how you’re giving back to the community as it relates to Lightning experience in your Dallas area.

Benjamin B.: Yeah, great question. What drew me to it initially, I found out about the program around the time I was working on the migration to Lightning. I thought that would be a really great way to kind of give back to the community in terms of what I’ve learned on the job already. Then also I figured it would be a really good way to kind of network and develop professionally and make some great connections.

Benjamin B.: I’ve loved being a part of it because of the connections you make. There’s a trailblazer group, for example, of Lightning champions. We kind of get updates every now and then from the product team in Lightning and also can kind of bounce ideas off each other or get some help. But then of course, giving back is a huge part of that. In Dallas, I’ve been able to volunteer at different local events. Latest for example was the Dallas world tour; I was a helper and one of the hands on lightening sessions.

Benjamin B.: Then of course more inofficially, I would say just being an advocate for Lightning, talking to people, maybe supporting them as they go through the migration. I’ve had several people reach out to me and just ask for advice and suggestions as they embark on that journey. So yeah, that’s kind of how I’ve been involved. I’d really … my plan is to start writing some more blog posts. I’m mentioning this now in the podcast to keep me honest, but I would love to write some more content on Lightning among other Salesforce-related topics.

Kelly Walker: Well, very cool. Hopefully one of your blog posts relates to the Salesforce scavenger hunt. Can you dive into that idea a little bit? I just love it and want others to know more about it.

Benjamin B.: Yeah, that’s great. In my last position, being a solo admin, I had a lot of freedom on how to kind of design the training and user adoption and all of that within our company for Salesforce. What I ended up doing as kind of one of the stages was creating a Salesforce scavenger hunt. At the time, I made it fairly basic. I just used a Google form and kind of broke it down in different steps and had them either answer questions like multiple choice or free text, write in the answer, or maybe even upload a screenshot. But I would ask them to complete a certain task within Salesforce. Maybe that was creating a lead or favoriting your dashboard that you’re supposed to access all the time, or updating this test record that I had created to a certain status, or … different things like that.

Benjamin B.: That would kind of start to get them a little more familiar with the system, give them a little more ownership on how to navigate it. Of course, this comes after my training videos and then the bigger training session as well. So that way, my idea for it was at least to make it a fun activity. Have them go through, get hands on, maybe … well, honestly kind of like Trailhead, I guess maybe I modeled it after that if I think about it, but that was kind of my idea with the Salesforce scavenger hunt. Another reason is because Trailhead is very kind of generic and people customize their orgs however they want. This was very specific to our org and the way we used it so I thought that would be a good way to familiarize themselves with our Salesforce org. So yeah, that’s what that was.

Kelly Walker: I love it. Definitely bringing in that creative aspect of your background and just you as a person. Well Benjamin, it has been an absolute blast talking to you and I would love to end with some advice that you would give to those in the community. I know that you speak other languages other than English, so I would open it up for you to say something in German and then really highlight or speak to the German trailblazers that we have out there in terms of some advice that you would give.

Benjamin B.: All right, putting me on the spot, that’s great. [foreign language 00:21:32] Salesforce community [foreign language 00:21:51] Lightning migration [foreign language 00:22:18] Salesforce [foreign language 00:22:26]

Kelly Walker: All right, I understood Lightning transition.

Benjamin B.: Yeah. The funny thing is since most of my Salesforce experience has been in English, the technical terms are things that I find very difficult saying in German. Yeah, I definitely used a lot of English terms in there, but hopefully I got the gist across.

Kelly Walker: Awesome. Do you mind translating that into English?

Benjamin B.: Yes. I was letting them know that, just encouraging them to continue on their Salesforce journey and in their career and empowering them to make the move to migrate to Lightning and also just letting them know that there are so many people within the Salesforce community that are willing and able to share their knowledge with them and help them as they migrate. So please reach out to individuals in the community and please write me, reach out to me if you have any questions about a Lightning migration. But yeah, just encouraging them on their move to Lightning and also in their Salesforce career in general. Yeah, I wished them good luck on their journey.

Kelly Walker: All right, well we want to wish you the best of luck on your journey. It’s been a pleasure working with you through the Lightning Champions Program and I can’t wait to see what amazing things you do in the upcoming years, both in your Salesforce career and on stage. So thank you again, Benjamin, and best of luck.

Benjamin B.: Thank you so very much for having me, Kelly. It was truly an honor and yeah, I appreciate it.

Kelly Walker: It was so great to be able to spotlight Benjamin on the podcast this week. I love that we can use this platform to show all the different ways our awesome admins use their creativity in Lightening to get to the best productivity and end results for their use cases.

Kelly Walker: A huge part of being an admin is having the creative skills to effectively communicate with your users and your stakeholders really how Lightning is the right decision for your org and of course then build out new and exciting things for your users, like designing new app pages with Lightning app builder, creating different processes, with process builder or flow, or even how to utilize Salesforce for your user groups.

Kelly Walker: For admins who conduct training sessions, there are plenty of opportunities to make the experience fun. Our Lightning champions are the biggest advocates for Lightning. Each and every single one of them is here to help give back to their communities so do not be afraid to reach out for help. We have shared our social handles down in the show notes, and if you’re not part of the Trailblazer community yet, join. There are so many others out there ready to help you succeed.

Kelly Walker: Thank you for listening and tune in to find out who we will feature in our next Lightning Champion Spotlight.

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