It’s become a bit of a ritual to write a blog post early in the morning on the second day at’s Open Source Community Sprint, this time in Long Beach, CA. (See prior posts here and here). Usually in these posts, I gush about how much I’m learning, how awesome it is to be part of a growing technology ‘ecosystem,’ and how I’ve gotten drawn in to project ideas with small groups of extremely smart people. Today is no different!

To new blog readers and to TDAA fans who I’ve gotten to meet in person! I love this space that we have cultivated together. <3

My sprint project

This sprint, I’m working on a project near and dear to my heart – a theme that we first discussed at an NPSP Day event in Philadelphia and we are now bringing to a larger cohort for refinement, feedback, and general collaboration.

In the Salesforce world, there is a role called an Admin who is generally responsible for tweaking the database, training users, fixing problems, coordinating integrations, etc. I think that EVERY nonprofit or grassroots org pretty much has someone thinking about these functions, but they aren’t necessarily endowed with a title. For organizations that use Salesforce, there are certain things that ONLY admins can do (like authorizing new users) but there are SO MANY things that admins SHOULD do that don’t get discussed!

some examples of soft skills

Things like… just because you CAN build automation for a certain process, SHOULD you? When is it appropriate to outsouorce build projects to a consultant versus a DIY approach? How do you prioritize requests from users who need changes in the system? How do you write good documentation to guide current and future users? There is so much more to being an admin than what they teach you in Admin bootcamp.

However, lacking alignment about these “soft skills” and how to develop them, admins are left out in the cold! Without clear role definition between Admins and Consultants, you can easily duplicate efforts or (perhaps worse?) skip a key step of the process, leading to frustration, wasted time, and poor communication.

Since I believe change is possible, I want to develop better resources to fix these problems! Our ideas include:

  • Creating an annotated bibliograhy of what resources exist and where there are gaps
  • Influence folks in charge of Admins and Partners to incorporate soft skills into the hard skills training
  • Circulate a survey to better understand how Admins and Partners define key soft skills that we’ve identified
  • Accumulate job descriptions for System Administrator, Business Analyst, Implementation Partner and try to create standard descriptions for these key roles.

What I’m learning

It is a precious, rare opportunity to be in the presence of experts (especially when I am beginner in so many ways) and just soak up knowledge. That’s what I got to do a few days ago during the pre-sprint half day Hand-On-Training where I was introduced to the technology infrastructure that undergirds open source projects for Salesforce.

I’m certain that I’m not the only one who didn’t complete all of the pre-reqs (I tried!) and wasn’t able to totally follow along in all of the steps in the demo. THAT’S OK! I treat these experiences as a learning opportunity; a chance to eat a slice of humble pie; a chance to empathize with my co-workers and my community members who might feel like I’m speaking Latin when I explain database functions.

I started learning about CumulusCI which is a … thingy … that lets you build Salesforce functions, export them into code, change the code, collaborate on it, and export it into a new Salesforce version so that you can test it and make sure it really works! At first, I was like “this isn’t for me! I think it’s just for coders and developers!” But then I learned that it’s actually incredibly inclusive because the whole point is to take “point and click” changes (the things I DO know how to do!) and export them into the back-end code (mystery to me!) so that I can share them with other people who might want to implement the hard thing I built in their organization.

I’m so grateful for the opportunity to learn and collaborate in this special way! I hope that over the course of 2019, I’ll get more acquainted with this technology – and – support changemakers to be ok with diving into data stuff that you’ve NEVER SEEN BEFORE and may seem SUPER overwhelming at first!

2 thoughts on “open (source) sesame

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