My True North Dreamin’ Experience - Mita Patel

“It’s the first ever Canadian Salesforce community conference!!” she said with glowing eyes and an enthusiastic smile. That was over a year ago, and the woman speaking was Sarah Deutsch Thornton. I was at an Ottawa Salesforce user group meeting, and something about Sarah got me really excited about this conference, about Salesforce, and about my part in it. I wanted to be there dammit!!

Over the next year, I witnessed first-hand the passion of Sarah and her team. Did these people ever sleep?! I’m amazed that people like this even exist, visionaries whose aim is to help and empower others, to spread knowledge and create forums for collaboration and innovation - all while having fun! It’s the kind of vision that gives you goosebumps.

This past July, I was able to experience how this vision was executed and brought into reality. Over two days on July 11th and 12th, I attended sessions, networked, soaked in the advice and presence of experts in field, and left feeling more inspired, more hopeful and confident about my future in Salesforce, and equipped with so many takeaways that it will take me months to process. Conferences like these go way beyond the two days that you’re there – they plant the seed for opportunities that reap benefits for years to come.

Here are the highlights of my experience over the two days of True North Dreamin’ 2019.

Day 1

I arrived at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Gatineau, registered, and located my partner at Evolving Sales, Kevin Caputo. </Shameless plug> He just developed an amazing app that helps companies handle opportunity, account, and lead management in a more streamlined and intuitive way. <Shameless plug over/> We discussed our goals for the day. Kevin was going to attend a few of sessions in the afternoon, while I could only attend the keynote since I had to work later that day.

I settled into a table near the front with my poutine (that’s Canadian for fries, cheese, and gravy) and a pepsi. I looked around and was pleasantly surprised by the turnout. Initially they had expected roughly 50 registrants for this inaugural event, and there ended up being over 200!!!

Conference Introduction - Nik Panter, Zarina Varley Scott, and Sarah Deutsch Thornton

Conference Introduction - Nik Panter, Zarina Varley Scott, and Sarah Deutsch Thornton

Nik Panter, Sarah, and Zarina did the introduction and instantly we all felt at home. Sarah shared how she thought that in order to be a real Salesforce Admin, she had to overcome the dreaded “code cliff.” She dabbled in object-oriented programming, yet was happy to discover that she was “not a developer!!” and didn’t have to be. That’s one of the strong points of Salesforce. I’ve heard all kinds of stories of people from all walks of life – arts majors, philosophers, physiotherapists – who end up pursuing a career in Salesforce. It is accessible to just about anyone who has grit, determination, and loves to help and connect with others.

Sarah introduced the keynote speaker, Leah McGowan-Hare. Leah is a Senior Director at Salesforce, a mother, an inspirational speaker, a children’s book author, and all-around amazing woman.

Leah talked about we can move from Vision to Victory, through Vision, Action, and Creativity. Most of us type A personalities are constantly in doing mode, so Leah’s suggestions on how we should all “carve out space to be still” really struck a chord. Problems push, visions pull. And above all, always be open to opportunities. She conveyed some of these principles through her story about Charlie the Hotdog, a character she created in the children’s book she wrote for her son.

I left that day feeling inspired, wanting more, and wishing I could’ve stayed the whole day!

Day 2

On Friday I came ready to enjoy the whole day. Kevin and I arrived at 9 AM, and I attended my first session, Advanced Reporting Tips and Tricks for New Admins by Aaron Crear from Hat Trick Consulting. He taught us some cool reporting features, including the Power of 1, that allows for more meaningful record counts.

The next session, Admins are Critical Change Agents delivered by Elizabeth Hellinga, Silverline, was right up my alley. Throughout my career in healthcare consulting, I’ve always noticed that change management is the hardest part of any project. The technical implementation is a piece of cake compared to the change management part; change is hard, and must be done with the involvement of the people that will be impacted. Elizabeth focused on the people side of change and provided some effective techniques to ensure smooth sailing.

I volunteered as a session monitor for the rest of the morning. Luckily the role doesn’t require much work, so I was able to take in the sessions. Allison Park, Solution Architect at Slalom, spoke about her ongoing #JourneytoCTA (the revered Salesforce Technical Architect certification) and how many times she has failed along the way. This was probably my favourite session of the whole conference. It was inspiring to hear her speak about how she was told that she could not be a developer with her non-technical background (she studied philosophy) yet she kept on going, and has since been nominated by the Salesforce community as an MVP. She mentioned that there are still not a lot of female developers out there – and like me, if she’s told that she can’t do something, it makes her want to do it more.

#MyJourneytoCTA Session - Alison Park, Solution Architect at Slalom, and I

#MyJourneytoCTA Session - Alison Park, Solution Architect at Slalom, and I

After lunch I took a break from the sessions and did some networking. I ran into my friend Yu Wang from Shopify, had a great conversation with Lisa Trumbley from Versature, a beer at the Diabsolut booth, took some selfies, and made friends with Alyssa Abbey from Elements.Cloud.

Lisa Trumbley, Versature, and I

Lisa Trumbley, Versature, and I

I also ran into Julia Khon from Una Buro, a company that helps organizations in the non-profit space to implement Salesforce. Julia epitomizes what the Salesforce Ohana (translation: family, culture) is all about. She didn’t even know me, yet over several conference calls, helped me with a problem that had been plaguing me for a while. Even when I was ready to give up on it and tell the client to explore another route, she wouldn’t give up. It was great to finally meet her in person!

That afternoon I attended Chris Duarte’s keynote speech, where she talked about empowering people at all different levels in Salesforce, and how to take them even further.  There are many resources available to anyone on a Salesforce journey: Trailhead (free online learning platform), certifications, the Trailblazer community, user groups, learning events, conferences, and mentors.

 The last session I attended was Why Lightning Migration Must be a Priority by Andy Singh, CEO of Teqfocus. He presented a lot of useful tips on how to make the transition from Salesforce’s Classic version to its newer Lightning version. It was the end of day Friday so there weren’t too many of us, but it was nice to have a small crowd so that we could interact and ask more questions.

Why Lightning Migration Must be Your Priority - Andy Singh &amp; Jas Kaur, Teqfocus, and the volunteers

Why Lightning Migration Must be Your Priority - Andy Singh & Jas Kaur, Teqfocus, and the volunteers

The conference wrapped up with a keynote speech by Peter Coffee, VP for Strategic Research at Salesforce. He spoke of the importance about having the right tools to solve problems. Your brain can’t always see what’s right in front of your eyes, so discernment and having the right tools is key. Awareness is important, but just because you know about your biases doesn’t mean that they’ll go away. Then he said something that hit home for me, about how your work can truly change the world. We often don’t think of it while we’re doing it, but when you step back and look at the big picture, you can really see the impact.

“I didn’t create Salesforce for CRM – I did it to save the world”
Peter Coffee

That was the end of my two fun-filled days at True North Dreamin’ 2019. The team made an exciting announcement – next year the event will be held in Vancouver!!!

It's a wrap! Thanks to the TND dream team for an amazing event

It's a wrap! Thanks to the TND dream team for an amazing event

If you are involved with Salesforce, are thinking of starting your career in Salesforce, or have never even used it (I met a couple of attendees in this category!), I highly recommend that you attend True North Dreamin’ 2020 on April 23-24th. I hope to cross paths with you on my journey to the cloud.

End of Event Selfie!!

End of Event Selfie!!

Mita Patel is a Consultant at Evolving Sales, a company that helps businesses grow to the next level by evolving their sales & marketing business processes using Salesforce. She is also a sales representative at Your Community Voice Newspaper in Ottawa. Mita is currently pursuing her Salesforce Administrator certification and recently started a Salesforce blog called Journey to the Cloud


Sarah Deutsch Thornton