Episode Show Notes & Transcript
- Another Salesforce Blog: https://anothersalesforceblog.com
- RAD Women Code: https://radwomen.org/
- Personal Website: https://evelyn.fyi
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/evelyngrizzle/
Announcer: Hello, and welcome to Screaming in the Cloud with your host, Chief Cloud Economist at The Duckbill Group, Corey Quinn. This weekly show features conversations with people doing interesting work in the world of cloud, thoughtful commentary on the state of the technical world, and ridiculous titles for which Corey refuses to apologize. This is Screaming in the Cloud.
Corey: Welcome to Screaming in the Cloud. I’m Corey Quinn, and this is Screaming in the Cloud. But what do we mean by cloud? Well, people have the snarky answer of, it’s always someone else’s computer. I tend to view it through a lens of being someone else’s call center, which is neither here nor there.
But it all seems to come back to Infrastructure as a Service, which is maddeningly incomplete. Today, we’re going in a slightly different direction in the world of cloud. My guest today is Evelyn Grizzle, who, among many other things, is also the author of anothersalesforceblog.com. I want to be clear, that is not me being dismissive. That is the actual name of the blog. Evelyn, thank you for joining me.
Evelyn: Hi, Corey. Thank you for having me.
Corey: So, I want to talk a little bit about one of the great unacknowledged secrets of the industry, which is that every company out there, sooner or later, uses Salesforce. They talk about their cloud infrastructure, but Salesforce is nowhere to be seen in it. But, for God’s sake, at The Duckbill Group, we are a Salesforce customer. Everyone uses Salesforce. How do you think that wound up not being included in the narrative of cloud in quite the same way as AWS or, heaven forbid, Azure?
Evelyn: So, Salesforce is kind of at the proverbial kid’s table in terms of the cloud infrastructure at most companies. And this is relatively because the end-users are, you know, sales reps. We’ve got people in call centers who are working on Salesforce, taking in information, taking in leads, opportunities, creating accounts for folks. And it’s kind of seen as a lesser service because the primary users of Salesforce are not necessarily the techiest people on the planet. So, I am really passionate about, like, making sure that end-users are respected.
Salesforce actually just added a new certification, the Sales Representative Certification that you can get. That kind of gives you insight to what it’s like to use Salesforce as an end-user. And given that Salesforce is for sales, a lot of times Salesforce is kind of grouped under the Financial Services portion of a company as opposed to, like, engineering. So again, kind of at the proverbial kid’s table; we’re over in finance, and the engineering team who’s working on the website, they have their engineering stuff.
So, it’s not only an issue of the end-users are call center reps, their analysts, they’re working on stuff that isn’t necessarily considered techie, but there’s also kind of an institutional breakdown of, like, what is Salesforce? This person is just dragging and dropping when that isn’t true. It’s actually, you know, we’re writing code, we’re doing stuff, we’re basically writing full-stack Java. So, I like to call that out.
Corey: I mean, your undergraduate degree is in network engineering, let’s be very clear. This is—I’m not speaking to you as someone who’s non-technical trying to justify what they do as being technical. You have come from a very deep place that no one would argue is, “Well, that’s not real computering.” Oh, I assure you, networking is very much real computering, and so is Salesforce. I have zero patience for this gatekeeping nonsense we see in so many areas of tech, but I found this out firsthand when we started trying to get set up with Salesforce here. It took wailing and gnashing of teeth and contractor upon contractor. Some agencies did not do super well, some people had to come in and rescue the project. And now it mostly—I think—works.
Evelyn: Yeah, and that’s what we go for. And actually, so my degree is in network engineering, but an interesting story about me. I actually went to school for chemical engineering. I hated it. It was the worst. And I dropped out of school did, like, data analytics for a while. Worked my way up as a call center rep at a telephone company and made a play into database administration. And because I was working at the phone company, my degree is in network engineering because I was like, “I want to work at the phone company forever.” Of course that did not pan out. I got a job doing Salesforce development and really enjoy it. There’s always something to learn. I taught myself Salesforce while I was working at IBM, and with the Blue Wolf department that… they’re a big Salesforce consulting shop at IBM, and through their guidance and tutelage, I guess, I did a lot of training and worked up on Salesforce. And it’s been a lot of fun.
Corey: I do feel that I need to raise my hand here and say that I am in the group you described earlier of not really understanding what Salesforce is. My first real exposure to Salesforce in anything approaching a modern era was when I was at a small consulting company that has since been bought by IBM, which rather than opine on that, what I found interesting was the Salesforce use case where we wound up using that internally to track where all the consultants were deployed, how they wound up doing on their most recent refresher skills assessment, et cetera, so that when we had something strange, like a customer coming in with, “I need someone who knows the AS/400 really well,” we could query that database internally and say, “Ah. We happen to have someone coming off of a project who does in fact, know how that system works. Let’s throw them into the mix.” And that was incredibly powerful, but I never thought of it as being a problem that a tool that was aimed primarily at sales would be effective at solving. I was very clearly wrong.
Evelyn: Yeah. So, the thing about Salesforce is there’s a bunch of different clouds that you can access. So there’s, like, Health Cloud, Service Cloud, Sales Cloud is the most common, you know, Salesforce, Sales Cloud, obviously. But Service Cloud is going to be a service-based Salesforce organization that allows you to track folks, your HR components, you’re going to track your people. There’s also Field Service Lightning.
And an interesting use case I had for Field Service Lightning, which is a application that’s built on top of Salesforce that allows field technicians to access Salesforce, one of the coolest projects I’ve built in my career so far is, the use case is, there’s an HVAC company that wants to be able to charge customers when they go out into the field. And they want to have their technician pull out an iPad, swipe the credit card, and it charges the customer for however much duct tape they used, however much piping, whatever, duct work they do. Like I said, I’m a software engineer, I’m not a HVAC person, but—
Corey: It’s the AWS building equivalent for HVAC, as best I can tell. It’s like all right, “By the metric foot-pound—” “Isn’t that a torque measurement?” “Not anymore.” Yeah, that’s how we’re going to bill you for time and materials. It’ll be great.
Evelyn: Exactly. So, this project I built out, it connects with Square, which is awesome. And Field Service Lightning allows this technician to see where they’re supposed to go on the map, it pulls up all the information, a trigger in Salesforce, an automation, pulls all the information into Field Service Lightning, and then you run the card, it webhooks into Square, you send the information back. And it was a really fun project to work on. So, that was actually a use case I had not thought of for Salesforce is, you know, being able to do something like this in the field and making a technician’s job that much easier.
Corey: That’s really when I started to feel, as this Salesforce deployment we were doing here started rolling out, it wasn’t just—my opinion on it was like, “Wait, isn’t this basically just that Excel sheet somewhere that we can have?” And it starts off that way, sure, but then you have people—for example, we’ve made extensive use of aspects of this over on the media side of our business, where we have different people that we’ve reached out to who then matriculate on to other companies and become sponsors in that side of the world. And how do we track this? How do we wind up figuring out what’s currently in flight that doesn’t live in someone’s head, or God forbid, email inbox? How do we start reasoning about these things in a more holistic way?
We went in a slightly different direction before rolling it out to handle all of the production pieces and the various things we have in flight, but I could have easily seen a path whereas we instead went down that rabbit hole and used it as more or less the ERP, for lack of a better term, for running a services business.
Evelyn: Yeah. And that is one thing you can use Salesforce as an ERP. FinancialForce, now Certinia, exists, so it is possible to use Salesforce as an ERP, but there’s so much more to it than that. And Salesforce, at its heart, is a relational database with a fancy user interface. And when I say, “I’m a Salesforce developer,” they’re like, “Oh, you work at Salesforce?” And I’m like, “No, not quite. I customize Salesforce for companies that purchase Salesforce as a Salesforce customer.”
And the extensibility of the platform is really awesome. And you know, speaking of the external clients that want to use Salesforce, there’s, like, Community Cloud where you can come in and have guest users. You can have your—if you are, say at a phone company, you can have a troubleshooting help center. You can have chatbots in Salesforce. I have a lot of friends who are working on AI chatbots with the Einstein AI within Salesforce, which is actually really cool. So, there is a lot of functionality that is extensible within Salesforce beyond just a basic Excel spreadsheet. And it’s a lot of fun.
Corey: If I pull up your website, anothersalesforceblog.com, one of the first things that you mentioned on the About the Author page just below the fold, is that you are an eight-time Salesforce Certified Developer and application architect. Like, wow, “Eight different certifications? What is this, AWS, on some level?”
I think that there’s not a broad level of awareness in the ecosystem, just how vast the Salesforce-specific ecosystem really is. It seems like there’s an entire, I want to reprise the term that someone—I can’t recall who—used to describe Dark Matter developers, the people that you don’t generally see in most of the common developer watering holes like Stack Overflow, or historically shitposting on Twitter, but they’re out there. They rock in, they do their jobs. Why is it that we don’t see more Salesforce representation in, I guess, the usual tech watering holes?
Evelyn: So, we do have a Stack Overflow, a Stack Exchange as well. They are separate entities that are within the greater Stack websites. And I assure you, there’s lots of Salesforce shitposting on Twitter. I used to be very good at it, but no longer on Twitter due to personal reasons. We’ll leave it at that.
But yeah, Dreamforce is like a massive conference that happens in San Francisco every year. We are gearing up for that right now. And there’s not a lot of visibility into Salesforce outside of that it feels like. It’s kind of an insulated community. And that goes back to the Salesforce being at the kids’ table in the engineering departments.
To the outside, it may seem like we’re dragging and dropping stuff. Which yes, there is some stuff. I love Flows, which are… they’re drag-and-drop automations that you can do within Salesforce that are actually really powerful. In the most recent update, you can actually do an HTTP call-out in a Flow, which is something that’s, like, unheard of for a Salesforce admin with no coding background can come in, they can call an Apex class, they can do an HTTP call-out to an external resource and say, like, “Hey, I want to grab this information, pull it back into Salesforce, and get running off the ground with, like, zero development resources, if there are none available.”
Corey: I want to call out just for people who think this is more niche than it really is. I live in San Francisco. And I remember back in pre-Covid times, back when Dreamforce was in town. I started seeing a bunch of, you know, nerdy-looking people with badges. Oh, it’s a tech conference, what conference is it? It’s something called Dreamforce for Salesforce.
Oh, is that like the sad small equivalent of re:Invent in Las Vegas? And it’s no, no, it’s actually about three times the size. 170,000 people descend on San Francisco to attend this conference. It is massive. And it was a real eye-opener for me just to understand that. I mean, I have a background in sales before I got into tech and I did not realize that this entire ecosystem existed. It really does feel like it is more or less invisible and made me wonder what the hell else I’m missing, as I am too myopically focused on one particular giant cloud company to the point where it has now become a major facet of my personality.
Evelyn: And that’s the thing is there’s all kinds of community events as well. So, I’m actually speaking at Forcelandia which, it’s a Salesforce developer-focused event that is in Portland—Forcelandia, obviously—and I’m going to be speaking on a project that I built for my current company that is, like, REST APIs, we’ve got some encryption, we’ve got a front-end widget that you drop into a Salesforce object. Which, a Salesforce object is a table within the relational database, and being able to use polymorphic object relationships within Salesforce and really extending the functionality of Salesforce. So, if you’re in Portland, I will be at Forcelandia on July 13th and I’m really excited about it.
But it’s this really cool ecosystem that, you know, there’s events all over the world, every month, happening. And we’ve got Mile High Dreamin’ coming up in August, which I’ll be at as well, speaking there on how to break into the ecosystem from a non-tech role, which will be exciting. But yeah, it’s a really vibrant community like, and it’s a really close-knit community as well. Everyone is so super helpful. If I have a question on Stack Exchange, or, you know, back in my Twittering days, if I’d have something on Twitter, I could just post out and blast out, and the whole Salesforce community would come in with answers, which is awesome. I feel like the Stack Exchange is not the friendliest place on the planet, so to be able to have people who, like, I recognize that username and this person is going to come and help me out. And that’s really cool. I like that about the Salesforce community.
Corey: Yeah, a ding for a second on the whole Stack Exchange thing. That the Stack Overflow survey was fascinating, and last year, they showed that 92% of their respondents were male. So, this year, they fixed that problem and did not ask the question. So, I just refer to it nowadays as Stack Broverflow because that’s exactly how it seems.
Corey: And that is a giant problem. I just didn’t want that to pass uncommented-on in public. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to basically—
Evelyn: Fair enough.
Corey: —mouth off about that crappy misbehavior.
Evelyn: Oh, yeah. No. And that’s one of the things that I really like about the Salesforce community is there’s actually, like, a huge movement towards gender equity and parity. So, one of the organizations that I’m involved with is RAD Women Code, which is a nonprofit that Angela Mahoney and a couple of other women started that it seeks to upskill women and other marginalized genders from Salesforce admins, which are your declarative users within Salesforce that set up the security settings, they set up the database relationships, they make metadata changes within Salesforce, and take that relational database knowledge and then upskill them into Salesforce developers.
And right now, there is a two-part course that you can sign up for. If you have I believe it’s a year or two of Salesforce admin experience and you are a woman or other marginalized gender, you can sign up and take part one, which is a very intro to computer programming, you go over the basics of object-oriented programming, a little bit of Java, a little bit of SOQL, which is the Salesforce Object Query Language. And then you build projects, which is really awesome, which is, like, the most effective way to learn is actually building stuff. And then the second part of the course is, like, a more advanced, like, let’s get into our bash classes, which is like an automation that you can run every night. Let’s do advanced object-oriented programming topics like abstraction and polymorphism. And being able to teach that is really fun.
But yeah, we’re planning on adding a third course. We are currently getting ready to launch the pilot program on that for RAD Women Code. So, if you are listening to this, and you are a Salesforce admin who is a marginalized gender, definitely hit me up on LinkedIn and I will send you some information because it’s a really good program and I love being able to help out with it.
Corey: We’ll definitely include links to that in the [show notes 00:18:59]. I mean, this does tie into the next question I have, which is, how do you go about giving a cohesive talk or even talking at all about Salesforce, given the tremendous variety in terms of technical skills people bring to bear with it, the backgrounds that they have going into it? It feels, on some level, like, it’s only a half-step removed from, “So, you’re into computers? Here’s a conference for that.” Which I understand, let’s be clear here, that I am speaking from the position of the AWS ecosystem, which is throwing stones in a very fragile glass house.
Evelyn: Yeah, so again, I said this already. When I say I’m a Salesforce developer, people say, “Oh, you work at Salesforce. That is so cool.” And I have to say, “No, no. No working at Salesforce. I work on Salesforce in the proprietary system.” But there’s always stuff to be learned. There’s obviously, like, two releases a year where they send updates to the Salesforce software that companies are running on and working on computers is kind of how I sum it up, but yeah, I don’t know [laugh].
Corey: No, I think that’s a fair place to come at from. It’s, I think that we all have a bit of a bias in that we tend to assume that other people, in the absence of data to the contrary, have similar backgrounds and experiences to our own. And that means in many cases, we paper over things that are not necessarily true. We find ourselves biasing for people whose paths resemble our own, which is not inherently a bad thing until it becomes exclusionary. But it does tend to occlude the fact that there are many paths to this broader industry.
Evelyn: Yeah. So, there is a term in the Salesforce ecosystem, we like to call people accidental admins, where they learn Salesforce on a job and like it so much that they become a Salesforce admin. And a lot of times these folks will then become developers and then architects, even, which is kind of how I got into it as well. I started at a phone company as a Salesforce end-user, worked my way up as a database admin, database coordinator doing e911 databases, and then transitioned into software engineering from there. So, there’s a lot of folks who find themselves within the Salesforce ecosystem, and yeah, there are people with, like, bonafide top-ten computer science school degrees, and you know, we’ve got a fair bit of that, but one thing that I really like about the Salesforce ecosystem is because everyone’s so friendly and helpful and because there’s so many resources to upskill folks, it’s really easy to get involved in the ecosystem.
Like Trailhead, the training platform for Salesforce is entirely free. You can sign up for an account, you can learn anything on Salesforce from end-user stuff to Salesforce architecture and anything in between. So, that’s how most people study for their certifications. And I love Trailhead. It’s a very fun little modules.
It gamifies learning and you get little, I call them Girl Scout badges because they resemble, you know, you have your Girl Scout vest and your Girl Scout sash, and you get the little badges. So, when you complete a project, you get a badge—or if you work on a big project, a super badge—that you can then put on your resume and say, “Hey, I built this 12-hour project in Salesforce Trailhead.” And some of them are required for certifications. So, you can say, “I did this. I got this certification, and I can actually showcase my skills and what I’ve been working on.”
So, it really makes a good entrance to the ecosystem. Because there’s a lot of people who want to break into tech that don’t necessarily have that background that are able to do so and really, really shine. And I tell people, like, let’s see, it’s 2023. Eight years ago, I was a barista. I was doing undergraduate research and working in a coffee shop. And that’s really helped me in my career.
And a lot of people don’t think about this, but the soft skills that you learn in, like, a food service job or a retail job are really helpful for communicating with those internal and external stakeholders, technical and non-technical stakeholders. And if you’ve ever been yelled at by a Karen on a Sunday morning, in a university town on graduation weekend, you can handle any project manager. So, that’s one thing that, like, because there’s so many resources in the ecosystem, there’s so many people with so many varied backgrounds in the ecosystem, it’s a really welcoming place. And there’s not, like… I don’t know, there’s not a lot of, like, degree shaming or school shaming or background shaming that I feel happens in some other tech spaces. You know, I see your face you’re making there. I know you know what I’m talking about. But—[laugh].
Corey: I have an eighth-grade education on paper. My 20s were very interesting. Now, it’s a fun story, but it was very tricky to get past a lot of that bias early on in my career. You’re not wrong.
Evelyn: Absolutely. And like I said, eight years ago, I was a barista. I went to school for chemical engineering. I have an engineering background, I have most of a chemical engineering degree. I just hated it so much.
But getting into Salesforce honestly changed my life because I worked my way up from a call center as an end-user on Salesforce. Being able to say I have worked as a consultant. I have worked as a staff software engineer, I have worked at an ISV partner, which if you don’t know what that is, Salesforce has an app store, kind of like the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store, but purely apps on Salesforce, and it’s called the Salesforce App Exchange. So, if you have Salesforce, you can extend your functionality by adding an app from the App Exchange to if you want to use Salesforce as an ERP, for example, you can add the Certinia app from the App Exchange. And I’ve worked on AppExchange apps before, and now I’m like, making a big kid salary and, like, it’s really, really kind of cool because ten years ago, I didn’t think my life was going to be like this, and I owe it to—I’m going to give my old boss Scott Bell a shout out on this because he hired me, and I’m happy about it, so thank you, Scott for taking a chance and letting me learn Salesforce. Because now I’m on Screaming in the Cloud, which is really cool, so—talking about Salesforce, which is dorky, but it’s really fun.
Corey: If it works, what’s wrong with it?
Corey: There’s a lot to be said for helping people find a path forward. One of the things that I’ve always been taken aback by has been just how much small gestures can mean to people. I mean, I’ve had people thanked me for things I’ve done for them in their career that I don’t even remember because it was, “You introduced me to someone once,” or, “You sat down with me at a conference and talked for 20 minutes about something that then changed the course of my career.” And honestly, I feel like a jerk when I don’t remember some of these things, but it’s a yeah, you asked me my opinion, I’m thrilled to give it to you, but the choices beyond that are yours. It still sticks out, though, that the things I do can have that level of impact for people.
Evelyn: Yeah, absolutely. And that’s one of the things about the Salesforce community is there are so many opportunities to make those potentially life-changing moments for people. You can give back by being a Trailblazer Mentor, you can sign up for Trailblazer Mentorship from any level of your career, from being a basic fresh, green admin to signing up for architecture lessons. And the highest level of certification in Salesforce is the Certified Technical Architect. There’s, like, 300 of them in the world and there are nonprofits that are entirely dedicated to helping marginalized genders and women and black and indigenous people of color to make these milestones and go for the Certified Technical Architect certification.
And there’s lots of opportunities to give back and create those moments for people. And I spoke at Forcelandia last year, and one of the things that I did—it was the Women in Tech breakfast, and we went over my LinkedIn—which is apparently very good, so if you don’t know what to do on LinkedIn, you can look at mine, it’s fine—we went through LinkedIn and your search engine optimization in LinkedIn and how you can do this, and you know, how to get recruiters to look at your LinkedIn profile. And I went through my salary history of, like, this is how much I was making ten years ago, this is how much I’m making now, and this is how much I made at every job on the way. And we went through and did that. And I had, like, ten women come up to me afterwards and say, “I have never heard someone say outright their salary numbers before. And I don’t know what to ask for when I’m in negotiations.”
Corey: It’s such a massive imbalance because all the companies know what other people are making because they get a holistic view. They know what they’re paying across the board. I think a lot of the pay transparency movement has been phenomenal. I’ve been in situations before myself, where my boss walks up to me out of nowhere, and gives me a unsolicited $10,000 raise. It’s, “Wow, thanks.” Followed immediately by, “Wait a minute.”
Corey: People generally don’t do that out of the goodness of their hearts. How underpaid, am I? And every time it was, yeah, here’s the $10,000 raise so you don’t go get 30 somewhere else.
Evelyn: Yeah. And that’s one of the things that, like, going into job negotiations, women and people of marginalized genders will apply for jobs that they’re a hundred percent qualified for, which means that they’re not growing in their positions. So, if you’re not kind of reaching when you’re applying for positions, you’re not going to get the salary you need, you’re not going to get that career growth you need, whereas, not to play this card, but like, white men will go in and be, like, “I’ve got 60% of the qualifications. I’m going to ask for this much money.” And then they get it.
And it’s like, why don’t I do that? It’s, you know, societal whatever is pressuring me not to. And being able to talk transparently about that stuff is, like, so important. And these women just, like, went into salary negotiations a couple weeks later, and I had one of them message me and say, like, “Yeah, I asked for the number you said at this conference and I got it.” And I was like, “Yes! congratulations.” Because that is life-changing, especially, like, because so many of us come from non-technical backgrounds in Salesforce, you don’t know how much money you can make in tech until you get it, and it’s absolutely life-changing.
Corey: Yeah, it’s wild to me, but that’s the way it works. I really want to thank you for taking the time to speak with me. If people want to learn more, where’s the best place for them to find you?
Evelyn: So, I am reachable at anothersalesforceblog.com, and evelyn.fyi, E-V-E-L-Y-N dot F-Y-I, which actually just links back to another Salesforce blog, which is fine. But I’m really [laugh] reachable on LinkedIn and really active there, so if you need any Salesforce mentorship, I do that. And I love doing it because so many people have helped me in my career that it’s really, like, anything I can do to give back. And that’s really kind of the attitude of the Salesforce ecosystem, so definitely feel free to reach out.
Corey: And we will, of course, put links to that in the [show notes 00:30:27]. Thank you so much for taking the time to, I guess, explain how an entire swath of the ecosystem views the world.
Evelyn: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for having me, Corey.
Corey: Evelyn Grizzle, Senior Salesforce Developer. I’m Cloud Economist Corey Quinn, and this is Screaming in the Cloud. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please leave a five-star review on your podcast platform of choice, whereas if you’ve hated this podcast, please leave a five-star review on your podcast platform of choice along with an angry, insulting comment that I will one day aggregate somewhere, undoubtedly within Salesforce.
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