Shoutout to my spreadsheet soulmate Emily for publishing a brilliant and necessary rebuttal to the assertion that databases should replace spreadsheets. Do yourself a favor and add this to your reading list!

The past few weeks have been a time of tremendous growth and unexpected “firsts.” I feel kinda like a baby. I’ve learned that babies often hoist themselves up before learning to crawl. I love this because it shows so much chutzpah and trial and error before the whole locomotion thing works out. It’ll be awhile before I’m toddling with these new tools, but man, oh man, have I gone from sitting to standing, yes, holding on for dear life and reaching out for support, and yes, falling on my ass, but nevertheless getting back up.

I can’t say that I’m much of a disciple of mindfulness (although I do use some principles from it to manage my anxiety), but in my research for this post, I realized that I wanted to better understand the Zen Buddhist principle of beginner’s mind, especially as it relates to technology. I found this article particularly illuminating. (If you’re not super interested in reading about the platforms I’ve dabbled with, I won’t be offended. Stop here and switch over to the links above!).

I am excited to embrace beginner thinking not only as a mindfulness practice, but also because it yields space for creative thinking when we are not distracted by “expertise.” This is a tough one for me because I pride myself on expertise (heck, I even have an advice column about fixing spreadsheet problems). Here’s to eating that slice of humble pie, a la mode, please!

Want to read a more in-depth blog post on any of the topics below? Leave me a comment! Any of them could be expanded, but we’re going for teasers for now.

Community Cloud

OMG! It’s been about a month since I took my Salesforce Community Cloud Consultant exam and I still haven’t found time to write about it on the ole TDAA! I’m delighted to say that I passed (certification #5 baybay!) and I’m dismayed to say that I found studying the material to be dreadfully tedious. Nevertheless, I learned a whole lot about what Community Cloud (recently rebranded as Experience Cloud) can do – and also situations where it’s def not the right fit. I worked hard on this because my job will likely be evaluating Community Cloud for some big changes we’ll need to make in our Salesforce system in the next 2 years or so, and I wanted to be equipped with adequate background knowledge to inform the process.

Image by Katie Blanchard.

Conga Mail Merge

I’ve written about Conga Composer on my blog in years past – which is essentially an extension in Salesforce that takes complex data (like households, pledges, and payments combined) and merges them into Word, Excel, Powerpoint, or even an email. Conga Mail Merge is another application that uses a wizard-like format (leading you through a series of steps) to export mail merge letters and more importantly ~address labels.~ I ran into a slew of problems getting this set up, from a permissions error with downloading the application, to Word compatibility issues (templates must be stored as Word 2003 files!), to browser compatibility issues (needed to update something called “flags” in Google Chrome), but once I cleared those hurdles, the rest was smooth as (warm) butter. This contributed to a reduced a process which took 10-12 hours down to 1-2 hours (with most of that time being manually stuffing envelopes). WIN!

Conga Sign

This one has been a few months in the works, but hasn’t made it into TDAA either. At my job, we are in the planning process for implementing e-signature, which will be a really nice feature so that we don’t spend so much time scanning and emailing signed contracts. It turns out that there is another extension to Conga that handles e-signatures, however it’s been quite hard to configure! We needed to commission custom code to tell Conga Sign who should designated as a Signer for each contract. We also faced a bunch of random errors and discrepancies in the documentation, and meanwhile, we need to evaluate our own process to make it compatible with e-signature. This has been a big project, and we’re not done yet!

Salesforce Flows

Truth be told, I’ve been afraid of Flows for … awhile … and I’ve been too shy to admit it. WELL, THOSE DAYS ARE OVER! I came to a fork in the road and the only option was to use a Flow, so I buckled my seatbelt, reached out to a friend for support, and started on Trailhead and following along with others’ blogs (and here) to make the magic happen. Two mentors, 3 blog tutorials, and a whole lot of hours later, my first flow is working! (Special thanks to M.T. and S.A.). It takes a group of opportunities (selected from a list view) and processes them (complete with scheduling payments and other related records) all in just a few clicks. I think it’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever built! Words/concepts that were added to my vocabulary: bulkified, DML, loop, assignment, variable, collection, governor limits.

(Can’t fit the whole Flow in one screenshot!)


In order to get the above Flow up ‘n running, I had to (EEEK!) write CODE. Two pieces of code. YES, CODE! I copied it from a very helpful, very phenomenal blog post and edited it, and subsequently found out that there’s a better way to solve the problem (with the same result), but still, I flippin’ wrote code, y’all! And I used the Dev Console. Who has two thumbs and feels pretty epic? Meeeeeeeee. This girl!

HubSpot database

Canvas Web Style Guide: Brand Guidelines

This has been a pretty Salesforce-centric post (which makes sense, given that it’s the root of most of my work these days) but I was completely delighted to dabble in HubSpot with a community organization here in Philadelphia. Through exploring HubSpot, I had the opportunity to learn more about Inbound Marketing which I 100% want to learn more about. It’s always such a pleasure to see platforms that are (trying, and succeeding, from what I can tell!) at being an all-in-one platform, meaning they incorporate list management, forms, email blasts, constituent relationship tracking (and in some cases, texting and website!) without needing any integrations. FWIW, I think NationBuilder and CiviCRM do this really well, too. In a span of an hour or two, I was able to learn the basics of HubSpot (#beginnersmind), create a registration form, and send out an HTML email with a link to said form, and then update my own contact info. Having this loop in place can save social justice organizations HEAPS of time! Imagine, no more scattered GoogleForms with different contact info in each one! Best of all, HubSpot offers a pretty generous free (/freemium) package! Definitely a place where I want to continue to dig in.

In conclusion…

… there is no real conclusion! These tools/skills, just like this blog post, are a work in progress. Instead of staying in the comfort zone, whether that’s because you are intimated by Flows or because you are such an expert that you can survive by giving the same professional advice over and over again, I hope you’ll consider joining me in exploring new stuff. I’ve found it to be stimulating, generative, and deeply satisfying. What are you dabbling in? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Oh, and Happy Chanukah to those of you who are celebrating! May the light increase!

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