I try to write a blogpost after every Salesforce.org Open Source Community Sprint. This is #7 in the series… if I counted correctly!
Here’s something you may not know about me: I have vivid childhood memories. For example, I remember moving into the house where I grew up. I was around 4 years old; we packed up the car with toilet paper in the trunk. I remember a light beam coming in through the window, and bits of dust floating gracefully over the coarse, olive green living room carpet. I think that’s my earliest memory. Most of my childhood memories are connected to strong emotions, which makes a lot of sense. It’s not until writing this post that I’m realizing the “strong emotion” in that memory must have been, Wonder. In the first grade, I remember when my teacher skipped me when she handed out a popcorn reward. Unfairness. Bitterness. Envy. Same year, I wrote a story with my spelling words. When we hung the stories in the hallway, mine was so long that the pages formed an accordion on the floor. Pride. Shame. I remember all sorts of anecdotes from the third grade. But only one memory sticks from the second grade: clouds.
Learning about clouds was revolutionary! The science activity was a variation of stretching and coloring cotton balls and gluing them to a poster. I remember trying to get the black marker ink to stick to the cotton to show storm clouds. I remember the strange texture of deformed cottonballs. Just to be abundantly clear… this wasn’t exactly the pedagogy of the century, but something about it really stuck with me. To this day, I remember the unusual vocab. Cumulo-nimbus! I love how the words roll off the tongue. Somehow the cloud names are like a visual version of onomatopoeia to me. Cumulo – round, puffy – like my lips pronouncing these strange words. Stratus – wispy, layered. Cirrus – the highest clouds, high like my voice pitch when I say it. Is there a word for this type of synesthesia? I’m hoping for something better than a lowly mnemonic device.
Why is she waxing on about clouds, you might be wondering? It’s a reasonable question! Short answer – clouds are the logo for Salesforce, so there are lots of cloud motifs and general cloud fandom among Salesforce practitioners who drink the koolaid.
But more specifically, at this week’s Salesforce.org Virtual Open Source Community Sprint, I had the opportunity to dive in and really grapple with an open source Salesforce tool called CumulusCI, or Cumulus Continuous Integration, CCI for short. And with a childlike sense of wonder, I succeeded at using the tool to move data from one sandbox to another. WOWZERS!
Once upon a time, on the deck of the Queen Mary cruise ship, I sat with a friend/mentor to do the prep steps to participate in a workshop on learning CCI. The year was February, 2019… If I’m remembering the sequence correctly, I think this was the first public workshop on this groundbreaking technology. Three hours later, we had barely made it through half of the instructions and went on to the workshop with a heavy dose of humility. Let’s just say that I couldn’t even turn the thing on! I doubt that I was even able to download the pre-requisites and building blocks that it required to function! I took it as a learning opportunity to be among experts, to try something new, and to develop empathy for my peers and clients for whom Salesforce represents a step beyond their comfort zone.
Fast forward to today, when I not only used the very same technology that had so stymied past-me but also began the path to support other community members to use it, too! That’s one of the objectives of our Open Source Commons project, Data Generation Toolkit. (Shoutout to co-leaders Aaron Crosman and Cassie Supilowski)! We want to figure out how to use existing tools (or create new ones) to help any Salesforce Admin to easily create valid test data. It’s been really energizing to learn from developers in our group, while also bringing some of my skills and gifts to the table: I’m organized, I’m a good writer, I know how to ask questions, and I have a bubbly personality that keeps our meetings fun and upbeat. (Partially saying this because I am constantly combatting imposter syndrome!)
We set out to accomplish 4 goals and I’m delighted that we vanquished all of them!
- analyze survey results
- create an outline for writing documentation
- write documentation for at least two process options
- this team crushed their goal and even created instructions for more people to start following the documentation steps and give feedback (more at the end of this post, wink wink)
- create sketches for a program that would make generating mock datasets easier for less technical audiences
- this team ALSO crushed their goal and created TWO “proof of concept” designs and a whole bunch of awesome diagrams!
This is one of the most impressive list of sprint outcomes I’ve ever contributed to! (And I’ve been to… 6 or 7 so far!). I’m so proud of the team behind this project and so grateful for the new teammates who chose to lend their time and expertise to the effort. Mazel tov all around!
In one of my favorite longform essays ever, Some Notes on Attunement, Zadie Smith writes about encountering Joni Mitchell’s music and hating it at first, and then growing to love it.
But when I think of that Joni Mitchell-hating pilgrim, standing at the east window, idly wondering whether she could persuade her beloved to stop for some kind of microwaved service-station snack somewhere between here and the church (British weddings being notorious in their late delivery of lunch), I truly cannot understand the language of my former heart. Who was that person? Petulant, hardly aware that she was humming Joni, not yet conscious of the transformation she had already undergone. How is it possible to hate something so completely and then suddenly love it so unreasonably? How does such a change occur?
I wouldn’t say that I hated CumulusCI at first, but I distanced myself from it because I found it so out of reach. I can relate to Smith’s dramatic change of heart and “sudden unreasonable love.” Maybe it’s because I have adrenaline flowing from solving a 1.5 year long puzzle. But let the blogosphere record the phenomenon – as of today, 9/24/2020 at 9:55 PM – I am feeling amorous toward this tool.
And really, who better to look to for songs on this subject than Joni herself? After all, she has an entire album called Clouds, which I crooned all through my adolescence. One of the tracks might as well be an anthem for what it’s like to learn new technology: “I Think I Understand.” How many times have I said that? How many times just this week?
Speaking of not liking Joni Mitchell at first (which to me sounds blasphemous, but to each their own)… I can’t write about this topic without referencing this gem of a video & story. I mean, besides being a heartmelting love story, plus Brandi Carlisle (who perhaps needs no explanation?), what I love most about this is telling the truth about changing our minds. This is a kind of vulnerability that I crave and this video simply hits the spot.
For those of you who are inclined to learning ambitious Salesforce tools, here’s an invitation: (1) Complete the Trailhead Trail on CCI (it’s a pre-req for the next step) and then (2) Follow these instructions and take our survey. In this process, you’ll have the opportunity to learn the technology in a supportive environment (expert engineers are standing by to help if you get stuck … this whole process is part of making the technology better) AND you’ll be contributing to our project AND you can apply what you’re learning in your Salesforce org pretty much instantaneously. It’s really a win-win-win 🙂 Hopefully we can reduce the learning curve from 1.5 years to ~1.5 hours.
For those of you who are not so inclined, I hope you know that you belong here, too! As grassroots changemakers and data practitioners, and as my friends, my gut instinct is that this blogpost has something for you – even if that thing is mostly baby pictures. 😉 What’s the technology skill that’s just beyond your grasp? An excel formula? A database report? A hardware upgrade? (I still need to order that dang wifi range extender!!!!!) I’m here to say that whatever that thing is, I think you can tackle it! I think you can succeed at it with flying colors. It might take time, elbow grease, and asking a lot of questions to two people who both happen to be named David, but overall, the time-saving, impact and personal satisfaction (relief?) of figuring it out is worth it. I have utmost confidence in you!
I’m now 28 and a half – and this Joni Mitchell + Brandi Carlisle + Zadie Smith + plastic suitcases full of beads + cloud-anatomy + data lovin’ babe is living her best life, moving data between sandboxes and more! Cheers to THAT!