This was my third TrailheaDX. For those not familiar, Salesforce launched the TrailheaDX conference in 2016 as a companion to Dreamforce. When it was first launched it was focused primarily on developer content but over the years it has shifted to include content for admins and app builders. And this year, the conference expanded to include architect content!
I was lucky enough to be involved in the planning of the architect track for the conference along with the other co-leads of Ladies Be Architects, current CTAs and some key Salesforce staff. You can read more Architects @ TDX19 here. But this blog is about my crazy journey leading up to conference this year.
To my surprise, about two months before TDX19 I received a note from Zayne Turner asking for us to have a phone call to catch up. I’ve known Zayne for several years. But we don’t talk outside of conferences and work very often, so it was a bit unusual for her to ask me to have a phone chat with her. And at the last minute she invited Christophe Coenraets to the call. In case you aren’t aware, Christophe is Principal Developer Evangelist at Salesforce, and kind of a big deal. I was utterly perplexed and also very curious about what we would be talking about.
During the call, Zayne and Christophe let me know that I was at the top of the list to be featured at TDX for my work with the company I work for, Boston Scientific, and also my work in the community. After a series of calls with Salesforce staff, and some major finger-crossing on my side, it was confirmed that I would be featured in a Salesforce led demo at the KEYNOTE AT TDX. Crazy, right?
And to add something even more unreal, I found out that Salesforce wanted to make a Trailblazer video featuring me. WOW. I never expected this to happen.
To film the amazing Trailblazer films that you see on the “big screen” or online, Salesforce employs a Hollywood-style film crew (literally 14 people came to my house to film!) It was absolutely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And it was all a bit of a blur. The filming took place over two days. The first day I went to a film studio in Boston to record my main interview, then the second day the crew came to my house and then to my office. Luckily my partner captured a view pictures in between the filming of me playing viola, “working” on my computer, feeding my dog Parker, and drinking coffee…all multiple times to capture that perfect shot.
I also realized how difficult it can be to navigate proper approvals and sign-offs at a large company. I work in IT at Boston Scientific, and trying to find out who has the authority to approve a 14 person film crew to come onsite was not an easy task. And making sure I had the right marketing and legal sign-offs for the video and demo was no walk in the park either. There were definitely days where I thought the TDX feature might fall through. But with persistence and a bit of patience, plus the wonderful help of Salesforce, it all worked out.
Leading up to the event a few of my friends and colleagues in the community who knew what I had been up to mentioned to me that they thought I might be getting a golden hoodie. I won't lie, the thought had crossed my mind as well, especially since I’m familiar with the Salesforce “formula” of events. But I tried not to get my hopes up very much.
As the time passed it was hard to keep my excitement in check. Especially as my video was screened at Trailblazer Day to a focus group of Salesforce influencers. A big thank you to everyone who gave feedback during that initial screening! The film team definitely listened and improved the video based on what you shared.
I had learned in the weeks leading up to TDX19, that they would be showing two other films during the keynote. RAD Women Code, the community group that I credit with starting me on my technical journey with Salesforce, would be highlighted along with the shoe company Asics. I also found out that I wouldn’t need to speak or get up on stage. Which was a bit of a relief, but I also figured that this meant that I wouldn’t be getting any additional recognition during the event. I tempered my expectations accordingly, even when my event contacts at Salesforce asked me for my t-shirt/hoodie size.
It was finally the day of the keynote. Some of the amazing Salesforce marketing staff I had been working with arranged for me and Angela to sit together and get escorted to our assigned seats early. We snapped a picture with Parker before the event (unreal!) and settled into our seats. I had approved an image that Salesforce warned me would be used during the event, but seeing it up on the screen in the keynote room still was a shock.
The Salesforce event folks told me that after the demo portion of my feature Parker would acknowledge me and I should just stand up and wave. Pretty easy I figured. Also, I realized that was probably the nail in the coffin for my golden hoodie hopes, but I was so excited to just be there and see the other Trailblazer videos. When the lights went down for the keynote intro video I grabbed Angela’s hand, and whispered, “omg is this one of our videos?” I guess the nerves were finally kicking in.
The content of the keynote went by in a blur. We learned about the new Salesforce Blockchain product, saw Leah McGowen-Hare and Zayne Turner absolutely rock the keynote stage and we all definitely coveted Sarah Franklin’s 4-inch bedazzled platforms. I cried during the RAD Women Code film and held my breath while my film screened. After each video, I waited for someone to get the golden hoodie. But no one did. Were they going to skip it this year?
Across the keynote hall I saw a rustling of bags and spied several hoodies. Could it be? Up front at the keynote you can see the presenter slide view, so I peeked at what was next. And it was happening. For the first time ever, three golden hoodies were awarded!
In the Salesforce ecosystem it is never a zero sum game, even when it comes to Golden Hoodies. We all win when we lift one another up.
Parker called all three of us on stage. I was in complete shock. We received our hoodies, snapped selfies with Parker and Sarah, and were swarmed at the end of the keynote with congratulations from all of our friends and colleagues. It was one of the most fantastic experiences I’ve had.
After the keynote I had the opportunity to record two videos for the Salesforce twitter stream before heading back to present three more sessions. The day ended with an incredible private event at the top of Salesforce Tower where we toasted to RAD Women Code and ate the fanciest hors d'oeuvres I’ve ever had. And If the wasn’t enough, I was invited to participate in a meet and greet with Macklemore after the Trailblazer Celebration. The entire two-day experience was rounded out with a private photoshoot with Gemma and Charly in a secret photo studio in downtown San Francisco. What is this life?
The entire event was a reminder for me that in the Salesforce ecosystem it is never a zero sum game. Even when it comes to Golden Hoodies. We all win when we lift one another up.
In February I spoke with a member of the Salesforce team and she told me about an idea she had. A new area at TrailheaDX (TDX) just for current and aspiring architects. I thought to myself, “this could be HUGE”.
But I knew it was still just one of many potential ideas floating around for the event. I was hopeful that it might come together, but tried not to get my hopes up too much. Ideas like this happen a lot, but bringing them into reality can be tough.
A month or so later I was thrilled to learn that an Architect track and lodge were confirmed for TDX. This was huge. Since I started attending Salesforce events 7 years ago, I had not seen an expansion beyond just admin and developer content.
And to my surprise, Charly, Gemma, and I were invited to help contribute to the creation of the content as part of Ladies Be Architects. How cool! The next month was full of plotting and planning with Salesforce staff and current CTAs.
We had a ton of ideas floating around in our communal Quip doc. From an architect game show, to 1-on-1 CTA consults, to a new female architect mascot. Again, I tried to temper my excitement. But nearly all of our ideas were coming to life as the weeks passed by.
The weeks leading up to TDX19 were full of more and more good (and overwhelming news). Ladies Be Architects would be presenting one session three times, I would be presenting twice with the amazing Gillian Bruce and I would be leading a panel focused on diversity in the architect career path. Before I knew it, I was committed to 8 sessions at TDX. Oh my!
As if that wasn’t enough, we found out that the popularity of some of the Architect sessions was so large that we needed to add “repeat” sessions and move some to larger rooms. It was completely unbelievable how much demand there was for architect content. Not to mention that the post-TDX architect bootcamps were completely sold out.
TDX week was finally upon us. This would only be the second time that Gemma, Charly and I would all be together in the same place (the first was Dreamforce last year). I couldn’t wait to see my ladies.
The day before the conference we were lucky enough to get a private tour of Salesforce tower. We went up to the Ohana floor and also to floor 12 where the Trailhead team sits and all the magic happens. Oh, and I had the most amazing latte I’ve ever had at the Ohana café. If you get the chance, I definitely recommend grabbing a coffee there.
The first day of TDX was a bit of a blur. We had our first session at 8:15 AM, and before that, I had committed myself to two (!) breakfasts. After our first session I had to run to the keynote where I was featured and got to meet Parker Harris and Sarah Franklin. I have an entire post dedicated to that experience , because it was absolutely once-in-a-lifetime.
While I wasn’t able to attend many sessions that I wasn’t presenting in, I did make sure to show up for one important Architect Theater presentation. In case you missed it, the amazing Domenique Sillett, Senior Creative Director at Team Trailhead, introduced a new Salesforce character at TDX this year. I saw an early preview but was sworn to secrecy. I’m so glad I can rave about her now.
The elephant is in the room and she's a total boss.
- Domenique Sillett
Ruth is the newest addition to the Trailhead family! Ruth's pronouns are She/Her. She is an the mascot for all Salesforce Architects and replaces her processor, Meta Moose. Her favorite superbadge is Advanced Apex Specialist and she is absolutely adorable. Ruth was inspired by a real-life powerhouse—a woman that Dominique met in Kenya who was an amazing Traiblazer.
It sounds a bit silly since there were so many amazing things that happened at TDX (ahem…golden hoodie) but the introduction of Ruth is what finally got me completely emotional. For as long as I can remember I’ve been obsessed with elephants. I have an elephant tattoo, have elephant themed stuff all over my house, and have traveled to Africa and Asia to see elephants. So seeing Ruth introduced to the ecosystem as an Architect mascot seemed like the universe telling me that I am doing what I’m meant to be doing.
More than anything, this year’s TrailheaDX made me so excited for the future of the Salesforce Architect career path. I’m honored to be doing this work and helping others pursue their architect journeys. And now the secret is out. The elephant is in the room, and she’s a total boss.
Susannah Kate St-Germain is a 18x certified Colombian-American Salesforce nerd, travel fanatic, and aspiring Certified Technical Architect.