Last month I attended the second annual WITness Success conference as an attendee and also as a first time speaker. In case you’re not familiar with it, WITness Success is a community-led Women in Tech (WIT) event for the worldwide Salesforce ecosystem that aims to equip attendees to excel in their careers. This year’s conference was held in Denver the weekend after Daydreamin’ at 5280.
I started my trip to the Mile High City on about three hours of sleep. The night before I went to see Taylor Swift, because…priorities. And in order to arrive in Denver with enough time to participate in the first sessions of the day I had to catch a 5AM flight, which meant leaving my house at 3AM. Needless to say, I was tired.
When I landed in Denver, I headed to the hotel and dropped my bags before heading up to registration area to meet Gillian Bruce and record a segment for the Salesforce Admins Podcast. I had an absolutely lovely conversation with Gillian and we both enjoyed a pretty jaw-dropping view of the city. Our selfie definitely didn’t do it justice!
After the podcast recording I joined a few trailblazers for a pre-conference lunch. We finished up just in time to head back to the hotel for the first sessions of the conference. I knew I had chosen my session wisely since I got to hear from both Chris Duarte and Leah McGowen-Hare about the new Be A Multiplier (BAM) program and there were free cookies AND t-shirts.
Still running on three hours of sleep, I went back to my room to change and recharge before the evening’s events started. With a bit more spring in my step, I headed downstairs for the Allies Dinner, hosted by Accenture. In addition to a great dinner the event featured an incredible panel hosted by Brigid Warmerdam and featuring Jessica Murphy, Adam Olshansky and Guillermo Pedroni. All the speakers were great, but Jessica Murphy brought down the house, speaking about the Shine Theory and sharing important statistics about the wage gap as it pertains to black and brown women. Did you know that on average, black women make 65 cents for every dollar that white men make? And latina women only make 59 cents on the dollar?
Day two of the event was even more of a whirlwind. Luckily I was able to get a full night’s sleep before diving back in. First thing in the morning I met with my co-presenter Charly Prinsloo, co-lead for Ladies Be Architects, for the first time. Her flight to Denver had been delayed the previous day, so we were squeezing in some quick presentation prep before the Opening Keynote. Luckily, we are both incredibly passionate about encouraging other women to pursue the #JourneyToCTA, so we knew that our session would be a success as long as we spoke from the heart.
The Opening Keynote was incredibly powerful. Leah McGowen-Hare is always a fantastic speaker, but hearing her talk about moving from Grit to Grace was beyond what I had expected. After the keynote I ran the mic for questions from the audience, then headed to hair and makeup for a Trailblazer video clip and also for my first Trailblazer hoodie photoshoot. I had a blast with both, and really commend the Salesforce team for making the experience fun and efficient.
After lunch I took a quick break before reviewing my slides one last time and heading to the room where our session would be held. I didn’t realize it until then, but we would be presenting in the same room where the opening keynote was held. It was not a small room! Luckily, we had an incredible turnout for our session, “Go for It – The Path to Becoming a Certified Technical Architect”. Not only in number, but the excitement and interest of each of the attendees was really incredible. Charly and I spoke about the logistics of getting the CTA certification, and also shared details about our individual journeys.
One of the themes throughout the entire conference was the idea that failure is not a bad thing. That we, as women, should embrace our failures and learn from them. Charly and I each shared some of the failures that we have faced on our journeys. And I vowed, in front of the group. that I would be taking the Integration Designer exam by the end of August. I know that holding off announcing that you took an exam, until after you pass it is tempting, but I hope that one day we will all feel comfortable to share the things we’re striving for. Even if that means people will know we fail!
The day ended with a lovely happy hour sponsored by Deloitte. At the event my dear friend Tami Lau was awarded the Tami Esling award, for all the work that she does in the community. I was in charge of making sure Tami made it to the happy hour. Luckily, it all went off without a hitch.
Sunday morning after brunch I headed to the 1up, a classic arcade, where I played one of my favorite rare arcade games. As I headed to the airport to fly to San Francisco for my next bit of Salesforce related travel, I reflected on what an amazing experience WITness success truly was. It was the first time that I felt deeply connected to the #SalesforceOhana in person, and it was one of my most successful public speaking experiences to date. The presentation went so well in fact, that Charly invited me to join her at Forcelandia to do the same talk again.
Another stop on my “Summer of Salesforce” tour….why not?
In July I took the train down to New York City for the only East Coast stop of Codey’s Summer Block Party. The weather didn’t allow for an outdoor event, but luckily the Salesforce team had an “in case of rain” venue reserved…just in case. I arrived at the event and was welcomed by the Salesforce staff and had a quick photo op with a few NYC based Trailblazers.
Before I got down to work, I had to get my fill of the fun Salesforce-themed activities, including Platypus Plinko, Jenga, and of course, some Trailhead VR. Let’s just say I’m lucky that I’m better at earning badges than I am at shooting them.
My first job at the block party was to help teach a small group about Salesforce Connect in a hands-on workshop. In just 30 minutes we were able to connect an external database to Salesforce. If you’ve never explored Salesforce Connect, I highly encourage you to take a look this powerful functionality. And in case you were wondering how to get started, there’s a badge for that!
After the hands-on workshop I took the stage to answer some questions and share my “trailblazer story”. I’ve only spoken in front of a crowd like this a handful of times, so it still blows me away when people come up to me after and tell me that they were inspired by what they heard (thank you)!
At this event in particular, my story about how I have transitioned from musician to nonprofit fundraiser to a career with Salesforce seemed to really resonate. I’m so glad I can spread the word about how anyone can make a career on the Salesforce platform…no computer science degree…or any degree…required!
Susannah Kate St-Germain is a 20x certified Colombian-American Salesforce nerd, travel fanatic, and aspiring Certified Technical Architect.