Over the past few days and weeks, I’ve had SO many learning opportunities! I’m delighted to be growing and be exposed to so many new ideas and good advice. I want to write about a few of the scenarios here. It will be useful for my own memory and learning process – and I hope that it might “shed some light” on how we can keep building better systems that support changemaking organizations. Most of all, I want to thank friends, mentors, collaborators and co-conspirators who have been so generous with me recently. You know who you are… Michael, Matthew, Vered, Sara, Pallavi, Steve, Carolina, Thomas, Dana, Rachel, Emily and more!

Have I been here before?

My day job is working for a philanthropic foundation. I LOVE what I do there (here) – connecting with smart people, pushing the envelope with technology, grantmaking, etc. I started this job when the Foundation first implemented Salesforce – so I’m the founding admin and the only messes in there are my own ;P Since implementing, one of the things I’ve learned is that our grantmaking process is way more collaborative and iterative than previously thought.

At first, I thought our process was like…

But then I learned that there were actions and decisions and automation that had to happen at each point, more like…

But after we built that out, it became clear that each step can happen more than once – so our automation was firing WAY too often. Now we’re beginning to design automation that looks more like this…

The work becomes figuring out when a process is “done” and exits the loop. If there’s any automation involved, it should only fire the first time… not the subsequent times!

Figuring this out been giving me quite a headache, but I got to work with our brilliant consultants yesterday to get to the root of the problem. We added checkboxes that get checked off the FIRST TIME a grant hits that stage. If it hits the stage again (and the checkbox has already been checked off), different actions will happen. I feel incredibly excited about this! It seems simple now that I’m writing about it, but it took a long time to get to that conclusion.

What else is possible?

At work, we are contemplating our move to Lightning Experience, an “version” of Salesforce (same database, but looks different, with new bells and whistles!). I’ve taken this as an opportunity to think long and hard about what’s working and not working in our system, and how to make our page layouts better and more intuitive.

I think this is a great example of the kind of thinking that I want changemakers to be doing with our systems and spreadsheets because change is possible. We are not stuck with systems that don’t work!

I’ve gotten to have a series of screenshares with people who are really, really good at Lightning so that we can learn from them – and they have totally blown my mind! From page sections that show up only under some conditions … to components that can expand into their own window … to prompts that help people put in the right information at the right time … to better home pages and dashboards … my mind is buzzing with possibilities. I feel very fortunate to connect with friends, colleagues, and perfect strangers who are advanced in their careers and generous enough to show me what they’ve built.

Preaching to the choir

Over the course of the year, there are “community led” Salesforce conferences that are lower-stakes than the ginormous Salesforce events like Dreamforce. This year, I resolved to submit a couple of session ideas – but what to submit? My first thought was to propose something based on my most technologically rigorous and complicated accomplishment. I think the inclination was based on celebrating and sharing cool stuff, pushing the envelope and (if we’re all being honest) showing off a little bit. But who wants to go to a conference where everyone is showing off? That sounds like no fun at all! I went out looking for advice, from trusted friends and Twitter colleagues.

And what came out of those conversations was a clear mandate… YES share the “shiny thing” I built (and put it in a framework that is relevant to other people) and ALSO submit something that is not technical at all, but purely my voice. So, I submitted a session proposal based on one of my very most favorite blog posts ever… which doesn’t have anything to do with Salesforce but also has EVERYTHING to do with it! Read along here: How activism makes me a better admin.

Hooray for submitting TWO session proposals!

Who can you call?

One of my mentors likes to tell this story: We were in a small group and each had the opportunity to share our personal goals for the Dreamforce conference. My goal was to make 10 friends who I could call and ask for advice.

It’s taken years but I have way more than 10 people now! And it feels so, so good! I couldn’t do the work I love without this ever-expanding community. I’m incredibly grateful.

When you get stuck with a question or an infrastructural decision to support your changemaking organization, who do you call for advice? Brainstorming? How about someone to listen to you as you get sharper at describing the problem? You can always write through Dear Spreadsheet Whisperer and I might feature your question on the blog!

One thought on “with a little help from my friends

  1. Sam,

    “components that can expand into their own window”? What?!?!?!

    Can you show me? Or tell me who it was that showed you so I can ask to see their layout?

    And in the meantime, tell me who else’s layouts need to be shown off widely? I want NPSP Cribs to actually happen again!


    Michael Kolodner Director of Information Systems mkolodner@sparkprogram.org


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