Behind the Mulesoft TDX Session with Ashley Simons and David Louie

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For this week’s episode of the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we are talking with Ashley Simons, Product Management Senior Manager, and David Louie, Senior Director, Product Management; MuleSoft Citizen Integration, about their upcoming TrailheaDX session and how admins can use MuleSoft Composer to integrate with clicks, not code.

You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Ashley Simons and David Louie.

How MuleSoft makes integrations easy

TrailheaDX is right around the corner, and we’re kicking off the day on the Admin Channel with a session on MuleSoft. The idea behind MuleSoft is to be able to make it easy for admins and other business users to get the data they need, no matter where it’s stored. Integration is always the elephant in the room, where you need to involve IT just to get the ball rolling, so simplifying the process is a big step forward.

For this TrailheaDX session, Ashley and David wanted to address common questions they’ve heard from the community. Even then, there are a few thing they wished they could have expanded on. Setup is ridiculously easy in MuleSoft, and they wanted to emphasize just how simple it is to implement. And while they highlighted all the amazing ways you can take advantage of MuleSoft right now, they wished they could have shared more about where it’s headed in the future — for example, they’ve launched four connectors even in the time since they’ve recorded the session.

Listen to the full episode for more information, including what Ashley and David do with their free time and what it’s like to report to Shannon Hale.

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Full show transcript

Mike: Welcome to the Salesforce Admins Podcast, where we talk about product, community, and career to help you become an awesome admin. This week, we’re continuing our trek to TrailheaDX, where we talk with Ashley Simons, product management senior manager, and David Louie, senior director product management, MuleSoft citizen integration. That’s right. We’re talking MuleSoft, and we’re going to cover their upcoming TrailheaDX session, and how admins can use MuleSoft composer to integrate clicks, not code. This is such a cool episode. Let’s get Ashley and David on the podcast. So Ashley and David, welcome to the podcast.

David Louie: Hey, Mike.

Ashley S: Thanks for having us on.

Mike: Yes. Well, we are days away from TrailheaDX at this moment. If you’re listening to this, when it comes out on June 17th, TrailheaDX is right around the corner, and the session that we’ll kick off the whole admin channel is on MuleSoft. And I’m so glad to have both of you on. But before we get into the session, before we get into all that, let’s jump into our DeLoreans and go back in time a little bit, and let’s find out how you got started MuleSoft and your path kind of to Salesforce, and David, I’ll start with you this time.

David Louie: Sure thing. Thanks Mike. So my path into MuleSoft was that, I’ve actually been at Salesforce for about seven years now. And so I joined MuleSoft back in January, but prior to joining MuleSoft, I think in a long time product manager in Sales Cloud. And so Mike, I met you when you were still an MVP and we had probably talked about tasks, or meeting events prior to even lightening existing. And so I’ve had a long time kind of a relationship with admins, with MVPs and with customization and configuration. But yeah, here on the MuleSoft side, I’ve jumped on here in order to try to push composer forward and evolve composer with Ashley’s help and a couple other PMS.

Mike: Well, that’s a great way. Ashley, what was your path to Salesforce?

Ashley S: Yeah, I have been here at MuleSoft now for just shy of three years. And I’ve been working on composer specifically since its inception actually back in January 2020. But my path to MuleSoft is actually kind of interesting, I was a two time MuleSoft intern actually, while I was an undergrad in college. And so I was an intern back in 2016 and 2017 and then accepted a full-time offer and have been here ever since.

Mike: Wow. Two time? Well, didn’t-

Ashley S: Two time. I kept coming back. Couldn’t get rid of me.

Mike: Exactly. So I’ve had the luxury of watching the session because we’ve reviewed it and it will blow admin’s minds. I’m so excited for this and I’m excited for this session because when I was an admin, the number one question I would get from my users was always, how can I see this in Salesforce? And it’s like, well, it’s stuck in another system, or why doesn’t Salesforce update this? And it’s, well, that’s another system, right? And so I’m super excited for this session. Just the demo is so cool, but I would love to know what is an exciting part of integration that while you’ve been at MuleSoft, you get to work on? Ashley, we’ll start with you.

Ashley S: Ooh, I feel like this is a cop-out answer, and this is very high level, but honestly, since I’ve been at MuleSoft, the most exciting thing is for me now to learn about this admin audience, because we traditionally at MuleSoft have served a very different audience. And so I know that this is the super high level, but just composer in general, getting to meet this community, starting to learn more about them and take these… I mean, we’ve learned that it doesn’t have to be it that just has these needs, that wants data from different systems to create these experiences, business users, admins have the same needs. And so to find a way to take these same sorts of tools, the integration expertise that MuleSoft has, and really just figure out a new UI, a new way of exposing it. And that’s been an interesting challenge that we’ve been tackling over the past year plus.

Mike: Yeah. And David, I noticed you have citizen integration in your title, which seems to be kind of right in line with what Ashley was saying.

David Louie: Yeah, my favorite part of what we’re doing is that we are solving the problems that you identified and we’re really hitting our stride in terms of connectivity to more and more systems. And so what excites me about this particular product is that we released it, but every single month, we’re releasing more connectors to help Salesforce admins in a no-code fashion, connect those systems up and meet the problems that you had mentioned.

Mike: Oh, so follow on question, because you used the word connector, what’s a connector? For those that don’t know.

David Louie: A connector. So that is our abstraction layer and the way you connect to a system like Salesforce, like NetSuite, like Stripe. And so what we did with the connectors, it’s an intermediate layer that we’ve created to actually call the APIs for that particular system.

Mike: Oh, okay. That makes way more sense. Thank you.

Ashley S: So actually, jumping on just to what Dave said, to add even a little more color for those of you that are familiar with what a connector is, maybe you’ve heard about it in another context or even in the MuleSoft ecosystem. One of the things that composer does is it adds an abstraction layer on top of the connectors that we even have in the MuleSoft ecosystem. So it’s hiding away a lot of those concepts that you may not be familiar with and trying to make it as easy and out of the box to use as possible.

Mike: Oh, that’s nice. Yeah. I will admit that integration to me was always… It felt like a big, do I want to say elephant in the room? I know I need to tackle it. I know the business needs it, but for some reason it’s going to be really hard because I have to go over to the IT department and beg for permission to something. So let’s talk about your session. What was when you sat down thinking of this new admin community, this new composer, what was your goals for the Trailhead DX session?

Ashley S: I think one goal, at least in our minds was that we know you can see a demo and you’ve probably maybe even seen existing demos of composer. And that’s great. Hopefully this one gives you yet another layer of understanding. But one thing that we do at the end is we kind of banter back and forth a bit and we take you under the covers. And we’ve been listening in the admin community on the trailblazer community, in slack channels, questions coming from AEs. And so we’ve collected a list of questions that we get a lot. And so we spend some time going through those questions and answering them and making it a bit more interactive.

David Louie: Yeah. My side is similarly, like I wanted to make sure that we were addressing the session in a broad way that can hit people with where composer was brand new to them. And so they’re just learning about, but as Ashley is mentioning that the back and forth banter is to help not just those folks, but even for folks that kind of know about composure and just wanted to hear a little bit more.

Mike: Yeah. I think, and spoiler alert, having watched your session. What I love about as we come off the demo and the Q and A, that you do at the end was every question I was thinking of while I was watching that demo. And I love how you can kind of spell that out at the end of the session, speaking of which we only had limited time for the session. It probably felt like forever when you were recording it, but it was only 25 minutes. If we had more time, let’s say an hour, were there things David, that you wanted to include that maybe admins could follow up on later?

David Louie: Couple of things. In the Q and A, we touched on setup, but actually doing a full blown demo of it to show folks how easy it is to get set up. That would have been fantastic. The other thing that Ashley and I do in live calls with customer meetings is, we walk a little bit slower through the demo of creating the flow, explaining the why, explain a little bit more about best practices. If we had an hour, I think we would have done that. We would have kind of extended that demo and gotten a little deeper.

Mike: Ashley, was there anything you wanted to add?

Ashley S: I love Dave’s answer. I think that I’m glad he went first. I think the one other thing I would add is obviously always prefacing this with a safe harbor, but I know people are also interested on, where do we go from here? What’s on the roadmap? And so I think we would have, at a high level, touched about some of our vision for where composer’s going to be going. Like Dave has mentioned already, this is a nascent product. I mean, we’re already getting a lot of traction. We’re hearing great feedback, but we have a lot of evolution and features that we want to be adding.

So I think Dave touched on the fact that we’re going to be adding more and more connectors. We’ve already launched four additional connectors, I think from when we even recorded the sessions. So we’re constantly going to be launching new connectors, so you can connect to the systems that you care about. We’re also investing more in troubleshooting capabilities and adding in formulas you can manipulate your data. And so I think that if we had a little more time, we’d probably do a bit of a safe Harbor and visionary look to the future.

Mike: Admins are a huge, huge fan of roadmap stuff. So anytime you can tell us what’s coming in the future always, always helps us plan. So, one of the last fun questions and benefit of working at Salesforce is I can see who you report to and not to share too much of our org chart because I want to be sensitive to that. But for those longtime listeners of the pod, David and Ashley, both report to the fabulous Shannon Hale. And I say, fabulous, because she’s been on the pod, she has her own, I think, shrine or maybe church in the community. And recently, and I’ll link to this in the show notes, came out with a song about composer. So I’m curious because I’ve never reported to Shannon Hale, but maybe Ashley, we’ll start with you. What’s it like to report to Shannon Hale?

Ashley S: That is a great question. Well, I mean, I only have great things to say, obviously she’s brought the fun side, you’ll see the video. It’s just awesome and it’s brought a lot of energy. But I think on a more serious note, one of the… I don’t want to say one of, but one of the biggest things that she’s brought to the product is that she brings just such a depth of knowledge of the admin community. And so I come from the MuleSoft side, I have the integration background, but being able to partner with her and learn from her and really get that deeper understanding of what are some of the pain points, what are some of the needs? And so she’s been great for that. And I mean, I just love having her as a manager too.

Mike: David, are those one-on-ones tough or are they just a blast? Did she ever show off with a keyboard or a guitar maybe?

David Louie: She has shown up with a mustache and a wig because she was coming off of an internal skit on a Jeopardy!. And so that kind of stuff happens all the time. Like on a serious note, it’s great to have her on our team because she comes from that background of not just of Salesforce admins, but most recently flow builder. And so she is very much of the mindset of let’s build a fully functional product that meets the needs of the Salesforce admin, but build features and products that admins will love.

Mike: Yeah. I will tell you, the flownatics I believe is the current hashtag or just once we turn composer loose on them, look out, because it’s going to be exciting. And Shannon is a blast. She has been on the pod quite a few times and she spoke always at Dreamforce. She’s totally cute into the admin community. We love her. She’s fabulous. I would love to know as we kind of close things out, so far, I’ve learned that product managers and product marketing managers at Salesforce, do a lot of really fun tactical things in their free time.

I think a few weeks ago, I let everybody know that I’m really into yard work. I probably have more lawn care stuff in my garage than most people should. And unfortunately, if you’re in Iowa right now, you know that the dry grass thing is for real. I’ve also heard of product mangers that smelt metal and do board games. And one of them that was actually in a focus group for 1980s toys. So Ashley, David, I would love to know, do you have any fun hobbies or something you’d want to share with the admin community outside of just doing awesome MuleSoft stuff?

David Louie: I can go first. So outside of admin stuff, I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but I play Fortnite with my nephew.

Mike: Why ashamed? There’s a ton of people that play Fortnite.

David Louie: I’m a mid-forties person that’s playing fortnight with 12 year olds. And so at one point my nephew invited his friends and his friends was like, “That’s not really your uncle.” And they were like, “Yes, I am. I am his uncle.” They’re like, “No, you’re not. You’re lying. Show your face.” And so I’m terrible at it, but I enjoy doing it because it’s bonding time with my nephew.

Mike: I mean, it would be kind of sad if you played Fortnite and you were crushing these 12 year olds’ dreams, you know. Ashley, do you have anything that you… Do you show up and crush 12 year olds’ hopes and dreams Fortnite or?

Ashley S: No, not my forte. Let’s see. One thing I do love doing, I feel like now this seems really boring in comparison, but I just, I love reading historical fiction. That’s my favorite all time favorite genre, I get lost in a book. I can just… But the thing for me is I can’t put a book down. I have to read it in one sitting. I can’t read during the week because I will get no work done. I will cancel all my meetings to finish it. So I refuse to let myself, but if I have a weekend day where I can just sit down, I’ll knock out a couple hundred pages and just finish it. I just absolutely love historical fiction.

Mike: Okay, please. So what recently is a fave of yours? Because I have recently discovered historical fiction. I have a friend of mine that loves reading history and knows just about everything there is to know on all the presidents and he recommended, and this is probably like the McDonald’s of historical fiction, but Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer to me.

Ashley S: Nice.

Mike: And I thought it was phenomenal. And I am hooked on this historical fiction stuff.

David Louie: [inaudible] movies on that, right?

Mike: Yeah. Oh yeah. It was movie. It wasn’t the best movie, but I don’t know. I have a low bar now in pandemic times.

Ashley S: Well, I’ve actually been trying to force myself to branch out because I just absolutely love World War I and World War II, the books that are set during those time period. And so I find myself just anytime I read a description, it’s set then, I buy the book and I read it. So I’ve been trying to remind myself that there are other time periods out there and I should branch out a bit.

Mike: Yeah. Yeah. Okay. I could see that. What was that… Yeah. Well, I liked Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer. I thought that was [crosstalk]. I would also like to think he was a Vampire Slayer and that there’s secret things written on the back of the constitution in invisible ink because they invented that in 1776, you know?

Ashley S: Yeah. What was that movie again?

David Louie: National Treasure.

Ashley S: National Treasure? Yeah.

Mike: National Treasure. Yeah. That was actually… So a fun thing that I’ve recently noticed is a lot of seventies game shows are being revamped and coming back on television now, The $100,000 Pyramid, To Tell The Truth. And there’s also some European shows coming over, one of them is called The Chaser, and there was actually a couple of questions from the National Treasure movies in The Chaser episode. Because it’s a quiz show that’s timed and you’re going against somebody else that’s a trivia expert. And Benjamin, I think it was Benjamin Dogood or something, was the pen name of what constitutional author? And I was like, oh, I think I know that from the National Treasure movies and everybody in the room that I was watching the show with, looked over at me, like really? Yeah. Sometimes you learn history from…

Ashley S: You do. Just keep your eyes open, ears open.

Mike: Anywhere. Anyway. Well, David, Ashley, this was super fun and I am excited to get into fiction and maybe some Fortnight, see local kids around here, on to do that.

David Louie: Sounds good.

Ashley S: Thanks for having us on, Mike.

Mike: Thank you for being on and we’ll see your episode at TrailheaDX here in about a week.

David Louie: Excellent. Thanks Mike.

Ashley S: Woo-hoo.

Mike: Well, it was great to talk with Ashley and David and of course share some of our fun hobbies like Fortnite and historical fiction. Of course, you know I’m into yard stuff, but if you want to learn more about all things Salesforce admin go to admin.salesforce.com to find more resources. You can stay up to date with us on social. We are @SalesforceAdmns, no I on Twitter. You can follow MuleSoft on Twitter. They are @MuleSoft. My cohost Gillian Bruce is on Twitter @gilliankbruce. And of course I’m on Twitter. Give me a follow as well. I am @MikeGerholdt. And with that stay safe. Stay awesome. And we’ll see you next week at TrailheaDX.

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