Passion of the Platform With Laura Walker

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Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we’re live from Dreamforce with Laura Walker, Salesforce Admin Consultant and Solution Architect. We caught up with her just as she stepped off the Salesforce Admin keynote stage. 

Join us as we talk about how far Salesforce has come, how to be your own PR, and the trick to getting champions in every department you work with.

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

How far Salesforce has come.

At Dreamforce 2019, Laura got to hit the stage twice, to appear in a breakout session and to introduce Parker Harris.  “To be next to someone who is looking at the whole foreseeable future of future and know that it’s all in his brain—it’s so exciting to be so close to the people who really make it happen,” she says.

Getting to this point wasn’t always easy, especially as an admin who started in 2006, back in the days of S-Controls. If you didn’t have to go through them when they were a thing, just know that Trailhead has taken the community leagues further than what even seemed possible at the time. “It’s transformed the way anybody can go and learn,” Laura says, “there’s now no reason not to be up to date as long as you invest in yourself and invest that time.”

A community that supports each other through thick and thin.

“I’ve had a rough year,” Laura says, “and the emotional support I’ve received from the community, not just the tech, kept me going for months.” The platform and tech might the thing that everyone has in common and brings us together, but we’re all human. You don’t have to know everything and you probably can’t know everything. In fact, Laura says, “If you meet someone who says they know everything about Salesforce, run in the opposite direction—it’s not possible.”

Nowhere is that more on display than at Dreamforce. “We’ve had some amazing people talk about how to get the best from someone,” Laura says, and that perspective on leadership has been inspiring going forward. Another important concept that Mike discussed on the Admin Keynote stage is the idea of embracing your own success and being your own PR. “If you are passionate about what you’re doing, it’s infectious,” Laura says. Identify your champions on each team, use them to test new ideas, and ultimately to get understand how game-changing your work can be.

Finding the champions you need.

Identifying your champions can be tricky, but Laura has some good advice for what you’re looking for, and the answer is a little surprising. Chat with the people having a rough time, the people who keep saying how much they hate Salesforce, or maybe who you’ve identified through data as struggling with specific tasks. Then see if you can make a change to make their life easier, and get the conversation started about how they can get more involved. Laura herself ran into two of her former bosses at Dreamforce who she struggled to convince to give up their spreadsheets—they both now work at Salesforce.

“When I got asked to be an admin, I’d worked for two years in sales,” Laura says, “I was one of those people who did OK but I didn’t exactly hit the target every month either.” When she moved over the platform, she found out about all sorts of things that could have helped her be a better salesperson. She felt she had to share them, not just with her team but with all of the sales teams.

“I tapped into people’s competitive nature and said, ‘Look, you can be so much better at your job, you can work so much smarter if I can give you five minutes training on something,’” Laura says. There are so many great insights about how you can make change at your organization and in your career, so make sure you listen to the full episode.

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Full Show Transcript

Mike Gerholdt: Welcome to the Salesforce Admins Podcast and we’re here live at Dreamforce. I am with Laura Walker who’s a Salesforce admin consultant, and we just got off a stage doing a breakout session. Laura also just got off the stage last night from the Salesforce admin keynote where she got to introduce Parker Harris. So Laura, let’s talk about all of the things you’ve been doing at Dreamforce 2019 this year.

Laura Walker: Hi Mike. I have had an amazing Dreamforce, the honor of introducing Parker Harris. What a great guy he is, and to be next to someone who’s looking at the whole foreseeable future of Salesforce and know that it’s all in his brain. Oh, it’s so exciting to be so close to the people who really make it happen. The breakout session, so honored to be able to bring a little of my experience as an admin and consultant since 2006, and an end user, and bring those experiences and a little bit of knowledge to new admins to make a difference to what they’re going to do on Monday when they get back to the office.

Mike Gerholdt: Wow, so let’s talk about that. So you’ve been a Salesforce admin before I became a Salesforce admin.

Laura Walker: Heavens.

Mike Gerholdt: Well, that’s good. Let’s talk about your experience leading up to this point. How has the platform, how has the community evolved as you’ve seen it?

Laura Walker: It’s evolved beyond recognition. When I started using Salesforce, S-controls were still around.

Mike Gerholdt: Oh yeah, I remember those. S-controls.

Laura Walker: S-controls.

Mike Gerholdt: Never forget.

Laura Walker: The training was beautifully, wonderfully crafted presentations. Someone really put a lot of effort into those, but they were deathly boring to watch and listen to. I would always read them faster than I listened, so I would turn off the volume and just whip through and hope for the best. To migrate from that through to Trailhead, wow, whoever thought that up is not earning enough. Whatever it is, it’s not enough. To really transform the way anybody can go and learn. Because the presentations, you had to be a user, you had to be part of … and it was paid for.

Mike Gerholdt: Right.

Laura Walker: Now for Trailhead to be free and accessible, thank you for setting me such a great target to get to 400 badges.

Mike Gerholdt: Sure, absolutely.

Laura Walker: I’m proud and honored to have made it.

Mike Gerholdt: I can give you another target of 500.

Laura Walker: Yeah, I’m sure you will and I’m sure I’ll get there, because there’s new badges all the time for all the new features and there’s now no reason not to be up to date. As long as you invest in yourself, you invest in that time, because everyone benefits. It’s really easy to get wrapped up in day-to-day and and go, “No, I’m too busy.”

Mike Gerholdt: Right.

Laura Walker: Sometimes to take a breather, take a step back from the coalface and go, “What’s the bigger picture?” I was given advice from a director a very long time ago and he said, “Many people look at the immediate future.” He said, “But leaders take a step back and they look wider and they look longer, and they see what’s coming and they see what we need to do next.”

Laura Walker: As admins, we can look at the platform and we can look at the latest release and go, “Wow, that thing that people have been asking for that we said wasn’t possible, it’s going to be possible. Wow, how exciting it’s going to be when I can tell them, that report type that we could never do cross object reporting, well, it’s now possible and we can bring all that together.”

Laura Walker: I’ve been lucky enough to have those kind of light bulb moments. As an admin, it’s like, yeah, and that’s how I got my Twitter handle, SFLozenge.

Mike Gerholdt: Nice.

Laura Walker: So, I was a pain solver that day.

Mike Gerholdt: A pain solver.

Laura Walker: So as a true admin at heart, I solve pain, and I can see pain sometimes before they realize that they’re in a painful place. It ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Mike Gerholdt: Right.

Laura Walker: I mean, yeah, but it could be better and it could be better to such a degree that there are significant savings in time, energy, effort, emotion. Then you have the community. So, I’ve had a rough year and the emotional support I’ve had from my community, not just the tech, I mean, the leader … one of the co-founders of the London admin user group, Matt Morris, put out a tweet, said, “We’re not just here for the tech, people need people.”

Laura Walker: The emotional outpouring of support during a really rough time, kept me going for months. I was fortunate enough to go back to them and thank them and remind them, because they wouldn’t have known what an impact they have on each other. Don’t stop, do that for the next person along and then feed it forward.

Mike Gerholdt: Right. No, I think and we were talking right before I pressed record, the tech is the thing that we have in common that binds us, but we’re also human and we can so relate to each other and the tech is what brought us together. So Dreamforce is a big family reunion, we often call it. For those listening, maybe they attended, maybe they didn’t attend. What were some of the things you brought out of Dreamforce or some of the things that you’re going to pay forward as you head into your next week and you head into the holidays, and you head into this time of things you’ve learned while you were here?

Laura Walker: There is so much here. There is so much. My poor feet, I don’t think they’ll ever forgive me. But the monastic section, everyone knows, “Oh, it’s all about the tech and everything.” The monastic section of learning to breathe. I advocate taking that time out, that take a step back, come and look at something with fresh eyes, and to actually concentrate on your breathing and center yourself is a great excuse if you need one, to go and take that time.

Laura Walker: Some of the leadership sessions where we’ve had some amazing people talk about how to look at your team and get the best from them. Then Obama to actually … I was so honored that one of his mantras was one that I have used for years, which is if you want to be excellent, surround yourself with excellence. Bring that together and feed off each other and you don’t have to know everything.

Laura Walker: But knowing where to look or who to ask was great advice I was given a long time ago by my chemistry master, a mad, mad man. But I loved him to bits and he was so empowering to a group of girls in a chemistry laboratory, and I was fortunate enough to be on the end of that. You can’t know everything. If anyone runs up to you and says they know everything about Salesforce, run in the opposite direction, it’s not possible.

Laura Walker: But as an admin, if we know enough about a wide range of subjects. I’ve been in a situation where I knew I needed a flow to fix what I needed to fix. I knew at the time they were new when I couldn’t do it myself. So I reached out to the community and someone said, “Well, it’s Friday morning over here in Massachusetts, I think, I’ll give you a hand.” He spent 45 minutes and I was in the UK and he set up my flow for the not-for-profit I was working with and we got it working. It was like, “Wow, I don’t know anything else that would generate that kind of generosity.” But everyone has an interest in making it happen.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah, absolutely. So along the lines of making it happen, you said something in our breakout that really struck me and it was also something I talked about in our keynote, which is embracing your own success. You’re your own get out there and be your own PR, right? And talk to your users and show them the stuff that you did. I mean, if I had a table in that breakout, you would have been banging that table like, “This is the thing you need to do.” I mean, obviously I think that’s something you’ve done. Is that something that you’ve seen in the user groups that really is the differentiator for people?

Laura Walker: Yep. If you are passionate about what you’re doing, it’s infectious.

Mike Gerholdt: Yep.

Laura Walker: If you are sat at someone’s desk and you are watching them do something because you’re absorbing and you’re seeing where the pain points are in your business and they feel empowered because you’re taking time out with them, and you go, “Gosh, that looks really painful. What can I do to make that different?”

Mike Gerholdt: Right.

Laura Walker: Dreamforce has been great to let us know what’s coming and how we can use those features to make a difference to someone’s immediate day. Because if you can make that change, they feel empowered, because, “Hey, I said that was a problem and now it’s fixed,” and they share it with their team. It’s really easy to identify with the teams who are going to be your champions. You can target them and create a good relationship and you go, “If I have something new, would you test it for me in a sandbox?”

Laura Walker: Which is what they did for me. That’s how I began to be noticed as a person who could be a good admin, it was recognized in me from a mentor. So to be able to target those people, empower them, your passion then becomes infectious and grows throughout your community, then you gain credibility. Especially for new admins, it’s hard because you think, “Oh, I don’t know anything.” But you can. You can make those little differences and grow and you’re doing Trailhead at the same time and you’re making changes.

Laura Walker: Then you talk to a manager and you go, “Look, I did this and it made this difference to you. I’d like to do this for you, because I’ve noticed that you do reports. What reports up do you do? How can I make that better for you? How can I make that easy? Oh, you take it out into a spreadsheet. What does that spreadsheet do for you that the system doesn’t? Oh, we can do that in Lightning now.” You can get them to have an amazing experience.

Laura Walker: There are two managers who now work for Salesforce in London, who I had to fight tooth and nail to get them to use the dashboard. I got them to use it and I trained them how to use it for their teams and they empowered their teams and they became high functioning teams. I bumped into them at Salesforce Tower and I go, “Hey, what are you doing here?” And they go, “We work here.” It’s like, “Really? Are you sure?”

Mike Gerholdt: Would you like me to show you a dashboard?

Laura Walker: Yes.

Mike Gerholdt: So I love that topic and I want to dig deeper into it, because I identified champions when I was an admin. You were identified by, you said a mentor, but I think you’ve also identified users when you’ve gone to other places. I’m a new admin, I just heard Laura talk about identifying champions. What am I looking for? How do I identify one person from another? What are those things that you find in people?

Laura Walker: I think if you’re chatting with someone about what they’re doing in the platform and they go and you ask them, “So what’s painful for you? What don’t you like doing?” Or you have done a little bit of data digging and you notice that that particular person isn’t good at doing that particular data, and you go and talk to them and they go, “Oh, I hate Salesforce. Oh, I hate it.” And you make a change and all of a sudden they go, “Do you know what? That’s made my life so much easier. I can now do this. Because I now put all my tasks into Salesforce and because you showed me how to manipulate a list view, I can now go and look at all the people who have not been contacted for three months and I’ve got all these leads coming to me and I’m using the data.”

Laura Walker: You suddenly begin to hear that little bit of passion creeping into what they’re saying. Nurture that, use that and go, “Okay, if I make a change, how interested would you be in coming on that journey with me and helping the people around you come on board? Because you know people in your team, they’re not so great at doing this and I want to make it better for everybody.” You will soon hear the people who are on board and who want to be part of that.

Mike Gerholdt: Right.

Laura Walker: Who knows, as your company grows and you need more in your team, they may become your colleagues in your team, and that’s how you grow. I listened to someone last night who said, “As you get a promotion, it leaves a gap for someone else. Bring someone with you.”

Mike Gerholdt: Yep.

Laura Walker: It’s always bringing the next person on. How can we all move together, moving forward and striding ahead? That’s not just making money for your company, it’s making everyone’s daily lives better at work. We’re all at work far too long to not enjoy it.

Mike Gerholdt: Right.

Laura Walker: So put a path on a case and invoke the confetti. Although a friend of mine did put it in and her company never noticed, I really don’t know how.

Mike Gerholdt: I love celebrations like that.

Laura Walker: I think it’s great.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah.

Laura Walker: It’s such fun and you can bring fun into the office.

Mike Gerholdt: Yep.

Laura Walker: My mantra is to make someone smile every day.

Mike Gerholdt: Yep.

Laura Walker: That might be a really bad joke, that they have no option but to smile because it’s so bad. But, hey, what the hell?

Mike Gerholdt: I like that. So thinking ahead, as I listened to you talk, the word passion comes up more often than not. Working through your day, are there parts of the platform that you’re more passionate about?

Laura Walker: There are. I just want to touch on why I’m passionate.

Mike Gerholdt: Please do.

Laura Walker: So when I got asked to be an admin, I’d worked for two years in sales and I was one of those salespeople that did okay. I wasn’t terrible, but I didn’t sort of hit target every month either.

Mike Gerholdt: Okay.

Laura Walker: I moved over to the platform and I suddenly realized that there was a whole heap of stuff that, if I had known how to do this, I would have been a better salesperson. I just felt compelled to share that with my old sales team. But I had several sales teams and everyone worked in competition with one another and I had to be fair.

Mike Gerholdt: Right.

Laura Walker: But it was like, “Wow.” I was able to tap into people’s competitive nature as salespeople and go, “Look, you can be so much better at your job. You can work so much smarter, if I can give you five minutes tuition in something, trust me.” So that passion grows from there. But my first job was, it was a service team, so my heart is in service cloud.

Mike Gerholdt: Okay.

Laura Walker: I’m in a project now where I’m bringing multiple record types together to streamline a process and make reporting easier and give exec insights that they’ve never had before. At the moment, the way it’s set up, they’re making decisions on bad data and we really have to stop doing that. So to be able to make that transformation and affect that change, it makes my day. I turn into Tigger, I just bounce my way into work.

Mike Gerholdt: I like that. It’s a good visual, good visual. So let’s fast forward a year from now, where do you want admins to be? Where do you want admins thinking, in terms of their career, in terms of the platform, in terms of their passion?

Laura Walker: Wow, that’s a tough one. Everything is changing at such a crazy rate. I would want any admin out there to understand that we are all just normal people. We have all come on this journey, we have all started from nothing and knowing nothing and we have all moved forward in many different ways. So be a sponge, absorb knowledge from wherever it comes from, listen to everything. Forget what you don’t need to know and all of a sudden you go, “Ah, someone said, but I don’t know how to do that.” Go on Trailhead, set your next target. If you’re at no badges, set at 20. Make realistic targets and hit them. As soon as you’ve hit them, hit your next one.

Mike Gerholdt: Sure.

Laura Walker: People say, “Oh, go for the next promotion.” Well, I worked as a Salesforce admin for four years and there was no promotion, there was nothing above me. But I was told that one day I would build a team underneath me, because the data would grow. It didn’t pan out, I was made redundant and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I became a consultant with a consulting firm and I got exposure to many different verticals that, had I stayed in that one company, I never would’ve had exposure to.

Mike Gerholdt: Right.

Laura Walker: So embrace everything that happens. Sometimes things may seem catastrophic, but I truly believe everything happens for a reason. Just because a door shuts, doesn’t mean to say another door, window, trapdoor in the floor, or hole … Look all around, because you don’t know what’s going to open, where it’s going to take you and what fun you’re going to have along the way.

Mike Gerholdt: Wow, I can’t think of a better note to end on. Laura, you’re on Twitter. If people want to follow you and soak up some of your passion, what’s your Twitter address?

Laura Walker: My Twitter handle is @SFLozenge, L-O-Z-E-N-G-E.

Mike Gerholdt: Perfect. Fabulous. Well, I want to thank you, and who you didn’t hear from was her lovely husband who’s been taking pictures with us the whole time. Silent, quiet as a mouse.

Laura Walker: That’s a rarity.

Mike Gerholdt: I know. But thank you for being on the podcast, Laura. Thank you. It was a great pleasure to have you at Dreamforce.

Laura Walker: I’m deeply honored to have been part of it and thank you for organizing everything, Mike, you’re an absolute star.

Mike Gerholdt: Absolutely. Thank you, Laura. Have a great time at Dreamforce.

Laura Walker: See you soon.

Mike Gerholdt: This episode was filled with so much passion and encouragement. Laura has all this positive energy just flowing through her and I’m sure you can feel that in this episode. Her passion for learning stems all the way back to the days of S-controls, long before we had this thing called Trailhead, which is amazing.

Mike Gerholdt: So a good reminder from Laura. No matter what stage of your career you’re in, it’s always important to take time to invest in yourself, your education, and to make it happen. Remember, I love her line about being your own PR. Embrace your own success and don’t forget to bring others right along with you. I mean, a lot of it is in the work that we do, and you see that when you’re talking with other people in the community, you can help them find different solutions to the problems and you can help everyone get to that “Aha” moment. That’s really when the passion and excitement grows and it just spreads.

Mike Gerholdt: Now Laura’s been in this community for quite some time and I highly recommend that you reach out to her, connect with her on the trailblazer community or on Twitter, where she is @SFLozenge. Don’t worry, we’ll put the link in the show notes. Of course, we’re also on Twitter. We are @SalesforceAdmns, no I. You can connect with other Salesforce admins on Twitter using the hashtag AwesomeAdmin. You can connect with me on Twitter, I’m @MikeGerholdt.

Mike Gerholdt: With that, I wanted to remind you, go to admin.salesforce.com for even more incredible resources, webinars, podcasts like the one that you heard today. It is chockfull of information to help you be an even more awesome admin. With that, I’m Mike Gerholdt, and I’ll see you next time in the cloud.

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