Episode 61: Salesforce Community Organizing with Joey Chan | Salesforce Developers Podcast

Joey Chan is the Principal Consultant for Cloud Jedi Solutions. He also organized the Philippines Trailblazer Community Group and Philippines Dreamin’. Though he is focusing more on business and marketing now, Joey has attained 15 certifications.

In this episode, we’re sitting down with Joey to talk about a wide range of subjects. We especially focus on the Philippines Trailblazer Community Group and Philippines Dreamin’ and how we went about organizing both. Tune in and you’ll learn a lot from his diverse experiences.

Show Highlights:

  • Advice for people looking to get certified.
  • How Joey has been training with Salesforce and interacting with the community.
  • How he transitioned from learning and researching to organizing community groups and events.
  • The benefit of holding live events.
  • The challenges he’s faced in forming community groups and keeping them going.
  • How the pandemic has affected his work and what kind of new content and interactions he’s seen as a result.
  • The 5 free Salesforce tools  that can help both admins and developers in their daily work.
  • The drawbacks of the virtual interaction layer.
  • His motivation for organizing Philippines Dreamin’ and when he began doing so.
  • Advice for those who want to organize community events like Joey but have no experience.

Links:

Episode Transcript:

Joey Chan:

We’ve accumulated so much knowledge in our heads, it’s pointless, actually, this stays there. It’s all about applying it. The best way to really learn something, is to teach it.

Josh Birk:

That is Joey Chan, Principal Consultant for Cloud Jedi Solutions. I’m Josh Birk, your host for the Salesforce Developer podcast, and here on the podcast you’ll hear stories and insights from developers for developers.

Josh Birk:

Today, we sit down and talk with Joey on a wide range of topics, especially his organization of the Philippines Developer Group and Philippines Dreams. But we start with how he was learning Salesforce.

Joey Chan:

A lot of it is really about going through the documentation. And one of the things that I did in order to basically keep up with all the rest of the ecosystem is I tried to find all of the possible Salesforce related blogs that I could find. And if you remember Google Reader, I used to subscribe to all of it and basically go through all of the past posts that I can find. And basically my thinking there is, hey, I want to learn as much as I can about Salesforce and this is my way of making sure that I know as much as I can about it, that way once we have a potential client, I’d know as much as about it already.

Josh Birk:

Nice. No, I miss the days of Google Reader and I sometimes joke that a podcast is one of the few bastions of an RSS feed that’s still out there. Speaking of leveling up and training, you have 15 certifications, is that correct?

Joey Chan:

So far. I haven’t been counting, but around that much, yes. Some of it probably just [inaudible 00:01:48].

Josh Birk:

Got it.

Joey Chan:

Right now, I’m not directly collecting certification anymore, but of course I’m still learning. Right now we’re focusing a lot more on the business side of things, so mostly growing marketing, sales, [inaudible 00:00:02:05].

Josh Birk:

Got it. In that loop of getting certifications, do you have any advice for people who are looking to get certified?

Joey Chan:

My best advice is basically start scheduling it as soon as you can and then do the work. So I usually scheduled mine, let’s say, one month ahead, and then it’s basically just dock off the time off your calendar. Say, for example, Saturday or Sunday, I’ll make sure that I spend four or five hours just going through the material.

Joey Chan:

Personally though, I know there are quite a lot of free and paid resources out there. I usually just stick with the official resources, though. Mostly really just Trailhead and documentation. That’s actually more than enough. Definitely, there are a lot of study materials [inaudible 00:02:53] that can help, but for me, I’ve never had to do that.

Josh Birk:

So you haven’t necessarily had to rely on example questions or study tools like that?

Joey Chan:

Correct, yes. The thing is, I mean, most of the free ones are even probably worse because some of the answers might not be correct.

Josh Birk:

Right. It’d give you a kind of a misleading view of what the exam might look like.

Joey Chan:

Correct, yes. And most of the time it’s really just a study guide and looking at the documentation themselves.

Josh Birk:

Got it. Now I want to just hit back on that really quickly. Do you book the certification exam early so that that gives you a forcing function that you’re like, I have to study for this because it’s on my calendar?

Joey Chan:

Exactly, yes. So basically it’s something to force me that, hey, this is target and we have to make sure that we at least take that exam on that date.

Josh Birk:

Got it. How has things like answering questions online and working with things like Stack Exchange, how has that influenced how you’ve been training in Salesforce and also how you’ve been interacting with the community?

Joey Chan:

One of the things that I probably lacked back then when I was started thinking is basically the opportunities to learn a lot about Salesforce. The thing is, you only get the project depending on what it is, but you don’t necessarily get exposed to all of the different possible use cases that people around the world are experiencing.

Joey Chan:

My way to compensate for those is to actually go through the answers community and try to help as much people as I can. Basically, whenever I encounter a question that I don’t know the answer to, I would then search for it and then answer it for them. So in the process learning the different aspects of Salesforce that you don’t normally get to touch.

Josh Birk:

Got it. So you’re using sites like Stack Exchange as a reason to go out and research and learn new code.

Joey Chan:

Correct, yes. Well back then Stack Exchange wasn’t really a thing yet, so a lot of it is the answers community.

Josh Birk:

Got it. Nice. Yeah, no, I love that, in part, because that mirrors, actually, to be honest, it’s one of the reasons we have Trailhead, is because I would go to my workshops and I would talk about intermediate to advanced topics, like Apex REST, and what I found consistently was it wasn’t that the developers didn’t necessarily know the existence of Apex REST or similar things, but their job had never give them an excuse to go out and actually try it. And it’s like, that’s what we wanted to do in the workshops with some of the early prototypes of Trailhead, was like, here’s a challenge to kind of force you to go and fix an Apex REST kind of thing.

Joey Chan:

That’s one of the things that I really like about the Trailhead. Basically as you’re connecting more badges, you actually are technically learning a lot along the way. A lot of those are things that you don’t necessarily get to touch in your day-to-day work.

Joey Chan:

Same thing with certification though, I view it not necessarily something that proves your expertise, but it basically tells everyone that, hey, you have this baseline knowledge about this part of Salesforce. Basically just learning things that you normally wouldn’t touch, things like advanced currency management. Things like those. It depends on the company that you’re working with if they use that or not.

Josh Birk:

Right. In our platform there’s a lot of dark corners that people don’t necessarily have to go shed a light into. When did you start to kind of move from you focusing on learning and researching and answering questions, to getting involved with, and even organizing, community groups and events?

Joey Chan:

Well, here in the Philippines, it was in around 2018 or 2019 where we actually get more people involved in Salesforce. I tried to start something back in 2015, but then there weren’t really that much community yet, at least people involved in Salesforce yet during that time, so a lot of my involvement was literally on the online communities. So only back in 2018, 2019, that we actually started having in-person meetings, building up the community.

Josh Birk:

What was the motivation for that? Why did you want to get a local in-person event running?

Joey Chan:

A lot of it is really sharing the passion with Salesforce because throughout my whole career, technically working career, it’s all focused on Salesforce. I’ve spent countless hours on Salesforce. And whenever I hear someone talking about Salesforce it makes me feel excited though, because imagine giving so much time to something and whenever it’s being talked about, hey, I know I can share something about it and learn something about it. So it’s really about that, and really paying it forward. I mean, Salesforce has given me quite a lot in terms of career opportunities.

Joey Chan:

The thing is, I’m not sure about other technologies, but Salesforce gave me the opportunity to work with companies all around the world, while staying within the Philippines.

Josh Birk:

Gotcha. Nice. That’s interesting, in that it sounds like one of the big benefits of doing something like that is you’re creating a feedback loop. You’re sharing information, you’re getting information, and you’re also getting, I guess, a community feel good movie because you’re doing it live with other people who are also being passionate about this kind of stuff.

Joey Chan:

Right. I mean a lot of it is really sharing what you know. I mean, whenever we look at, let’s say, for people that we look up to, a lot of times it’s actually because they shared something, or they’re sharing information, that you’re learning from. You then trust this person and then you look up to them.

Josh Birk:

Nice. And it sounds like we kind of alluded to this in that one of the challenges of getting a local developer group up and running is just that critical mass of getting enough people together in order to really have an in-person event. What are other some of the challenges that you’ve had in forming and keeping a community like that going?

Joey Chan:

A lot of it is really about engagement. The thing is, especially right now with COVID, I guess part of the challenge is bringing great content and bringing great speakers. A lot of what’s being discussed is probably already being recorded somewhere, so either it’s through the Dreamforce website or some of them are actually on YouTube. And there’s quite a lot of videos about different topics. I mean, it’s all in YouTube right now.

Joey Chan:

I guess, before COVID, a lot of the benefit of having the in-person event is actually not just the session itself, but actually the discussions that happen around it and after it, and the friendships that are made. People really out there to help each other.

Joey Chan:

Typically, whenever people ask around, usually it’s an opportunity for you to actually give them a much more in depth answer on what they need. And it’s really just sharing what you know.

Josh Birk:

I have to say, it’s one of the things I always loved about doing developer group presentations was not the presentation itself, but the Q&A that would come after, which I think has always been some of the most engaging moments of Q&A that I’ve had when I’ve been on stage.

Josh Birk:

But also, more importantly, the little tidbits that I learn from developers, which may have nothing to do with the presentation that I just gave. I didn’t know continuous integration was a challenge on the platform until… This was years ago. But I’m having a conversation with somebody about CI and Jenkins and stuff like that, and I’m like, that’s interesting. And now I can go back and actually research that a little bit.

Joey Chan:

Right. A lot of it, I guess, is because of the focus of our jobs. You’re usually just exposed to what we have to be exposed to. We don’t normally get to experience how, let’s say, a Fortune 500 company does things, and they usually have a lot of things that are happening all around. So the challenges are different all across the board, but it’s all happening within the Salesforce ecosystem, and that’s also… One of my motivation is really, back then, is to understand how things work for both the small, medium, and large companies. Because most likely for large companies, unless you’re working for them, or you’re a part of a large consultancy, you won’t necessarily get a chance to work with them directly.

Joey Chan:

[inaudible 00:11:59] like that, I usually get insights in there whenever I talk to people. And part of what I usually do whenever we have in-person meetings, is actually going around and meeting all the different people within the community, just talking to them, just understanding what they do, what they’re focused on, and basically building on their relationship. And a lot of times they usually have problems and I mean, we’re all excited to help someone with their questions. So that’s part of it.

Josh Birk:

Nice. Well, going back to the elephant in the room, how has the pandemic affected this kind of organization and organizing? And what kind of new content are you seeing, what kind of new interactions are you seeing?

Joey Chan:

With regards to the pandemic, actually, we were initially planning on quite a number of events. Here in the Philippines what we did in terms of the community is we actually organized ourselves into one big group.

Joey Chan:

For other countries, different groups have their own setup, but what we did for the Philippines is we are organized ourselves to make sure that we’re not stepping into each other’s events, basically. So we have the developer group, the admin group, marketing cloud, Pardot, nonprofit, women in tech. So just making sure that we’re clear in terms of what we want there. Make sure that we’re all organized.

Josh Birk:

Nice. Have you changed your strategy on how to get speakers now that it’s not in-person and you have sort of more access because you can kind of ask anybody to appear remotely.

Joey Chan:

Right, exactly. So one of the things that we thought about during the pandemic is, hey, now that we are forced to go virtual in terms of the user group meetings, one of the things that we try to take advantage of is, hey, there’s nothing stopping us from inviting people from around the world to speak within our group.

Joey Chan:

One of the things that we did is we actually started what we call Salesforce MVP Series. This is where we would actually invite all of the people the groups want to listen to. People like Steve Moore, a lot of Salesforce MVPs. I mean, they’re doing quite a lot of contribution to the community, so they’re fairly well known. So they are the type of people that people want to listen to, so that helps a lot in terms of attendance. And of course we’re also recording all of those, so it can be found in our YouTube channel.

Josh Birk:

Gotcha. Nice. And you’ll have to remind me to put a link to that YouTube channel in the show notes for this episode. On the flip side, if I’m reading LinkedIn correctly, you spoke at the Cleveland Developer Group. So what’s it been like on the other side of it that you can now connect remotely with DGs that you probably never would have visited?

Joey Chan:

Right, exactly. Well, one of the things that I enjoy really is to be able to connect to all of the different groups around the world. Basically being able to interact with a lot of different leaders, understanding how their community works and what we can actually apply on our own community site.

Joey Chan:

With regards to that Cleveland Developer Group, one of the things that I shared there is the five fleet tools that you can easily install within Salesforce that can help both admins and developers in their daily work. So a lot of it are mostly free Chrome extensions from our web application. So yeah, it’s all recorded through that.

Josh Birk:

Can you give me the elevator pitch of those five tools? A quick description?

Joey Chan:

Sure. So the first one is Salesforce Inspector. One of the things that it allows me to do is easily see all of the fields within that specific record. So [inaudible 00:16:01] all use cases if somebody needs to look at a field that’s not on the page layout, usually have to either add it on the page layout or go through a report to see it. So with that specific tool, you can see all of the fields values. Part of the feature is being able to, for example, easily login as a user just typing things in there.

Joey Chan:

Other tools are like Salesforce Organizer, where within Salesforce Classic or Lightning, you could move to different parts of the page or set up just by typing it. If you’re familiar with [crosstalk 00:16:41] quick search within Salesforce.

Joey Chan:

Most of the time you already know where to go, but it takes time to do the clicks. We can say a few seconds here and there, so it adds up.

Joey Chan:

Another tool is Salesforce DevTools, it allows you to easily generate really nice Excel files that shows you all the meta information about a specific object. It includes field name, label. If it’s a formula, it even includes the formula itself, thickness values, and things like those that most admin can easily use for data dictionary.

Josh Birk:

Nice. On the Organizer I find that funny, because in my workshops, I used to joke that if I didn’t tell people that the quick filter existed in setup, that I would probably get stoned by the end of the day, because that thing just saves so much time.

Joey Chan:

Yeah, I mean, it’s even faster if you were using Salesforce Organizer. [crosstalk 00:17:34].

Josh Birk:

Nice. Very cool. So with all of this kind of changing and trends in how people are interacting and speaking, do you think in a post vaccine world, where we’re not trying to stay away from this virus, do you think that the community’s going to keep kind of a virtual layer of interaction or go back full in with in-person events?

Joey Chan:

I am 100% sure that virtual is never going away, because there will always be something. Because there are quite a lot of benefits with going virtual, but of course there’s also a lot of cons with it. But there’s still going to be a place for virtual meetings, especially when they’re here in the Philippines. The problem is the traffic. Imagine if you just need to travel around three to five miles, it could take you at least an hour.

Josh Birk:

Gotcha. Interesting.

Joey Chan:

That’s usually challenge, and people usually can’t just leave their work whenever they want to, so usually there’s a specific time, so you need to have [inaudible 00:18:44] scheduled for that. Back then, we usually have it around 7:30 PM. So usually can’t have really that long of a section. You only have so much time. So that’s part of the challenge.

Josh Birk:

Interesting. Tell me some of the cons of this virtual interaction layer. What are some of the drawbacks that you’re seeing?

Joey Chan:

Well, one of the things that’s missing right now is a lot of the interactions between the participants are either eliminated or minimized a lot. One of the things that I’ve been noticing is people tend to simply just listen and end up off after it’s done.

Joey Chan:

I think one of the most important things that I’d want to build up is how we can help each of the participants know each other. I mean, they know the organizer, but in between them, I mean, it helps a lot if they can have discussions here and there. So one of the ways that we’re actually addressing that is we also have Facebook groups. Because here in the Philippines, Facebook is really big. That’s almost anyone that you know probably have a Facebook account, unless they basically didn’t want to have one. So that helps in terms of quick discussions here and there.

Joey Chan:

But at the same time, it would be nice to have really discussions in between. We typically have between 50 to 70 people within our user group meetings, so it will be quite hard to have everyone talking.

Josh Birk:

Right. You can’t just wander off to a corner and have a one-on-one.

Joey Chan:

Right.

Josh Birk:

Are you seeing anything with Zoom fatigue?

Joey Chan:

So far, for us, I think depending on the person that may be a consideration, yes. Because the problem with the pandemic, I mean, everybody’s working from home. Part of the challenge there is people tend to have back to back meetings. So before you usually have some break in between, but you’re basically, hey, whenever somebody sees a blank available time on your calendar, they would book it up. I’m not sure if that happens to everyone, but that’s [crosstalk 00:21:08] that I see.

Josh Birk:

It can happen, yeah. Totally.

Joey Chan:

Usually during the evenings, people just tend to want to rest.

Josh Birk:

Right. That makes sense. Let’s talk about it in a slightly broader scope, when did you start organizing Philippine Dreams and what was the motivation behind that?

Joey Chan:

We did Philippine Dreams on October. In terms of organizing it, we did not really have that much time. I believe we started immediately after, I believe, if I remember correctly, [inaudible 00:21:46] global gathering. So that’s probably just around three to four months lead time.

Joey Chan:

One of the things that we did there is I know we can actually make it bigger. We had around 240 participants back then. We know that we can actually make it bigger, but none of us actually had professional experience in terms of organizing such an event, so we’d rather just set our expectation and make a great event rather than trying to go too big.

Joey Chan:

We were actually initially planning on having at least 500 participants this year, but the pandemic happened, and technically we’re still not allowed to gather here in the Philippines, and most companies are basically on a work from home arrangement. So even if we wanted to, we aren’t allowed to.

Josh Birk:

Do you have any advice for somebody who’s thinking about doing something like this, but, like yourself, has no experience in it?

Joey Chan:

With regards to the Philippine Dreams? [crosstalk 00:22:52].

Josh Birk:

Or I should say, had no experience in it, because obviously you’ve been in the waters now.

Joey Chan:

I guess it helps a lot to have the commitment of a set of people. I mean, you can’t really do it alone, you need a team to do things. I mean, much like any event, like, for example, a wedding, there’s usually a team of people that’s helping each other out. It’s really finding that core theme that you can work together on and really go through the up and down. I mean, it’s definitely not something smooth sailing, but it’s definitely a great experience and it definitely help a lot in terms of building a relationship with each other.

Josh Birk:

Got it. So moving more into your business side of things, you have the distinction of being number one on the AppExchange developer listing, and you’re not just highly rated, you’re actually have been rated a lot as well. Was this a professional goal or did it just sort of happen?

Joey Chan:

It’s not really a goal in itself to me, but of course, part of it is of course the rating system of Salesforce. So whenever we work on a project, I usually request for some review with there, so that way it’s not just lost in the void. I usually have it either in LinkedIn or there in the AppExchange. So I guess part of it’s really being there since early on, back in 2010.

Joey Chan:

A lot of slowly accumulated number of reviews of the different companies that we’ve worked with. And, at least for our set up, we usually work with a lot of SMEs, so the typical project could last between weeks to one or two months. So the cycles are actually fairly quick, so we tend to get a chance to work with a lot of different companies.

Joey Chan:

I know for larger companies, you tend to be stuck in, let’s say, one project for like a year or two, so I guess that’s part of the difference there.

Josh Birk:

Have you always worked as a team, or did you kind of come to a conclusion that you can get work done either more efficiently or go after bigger projects if you formed Cloud Jedi, if you formed a company?

Joey Chan:

Well, technically started Cloud Jedi in 2010. So most of the years, actually, for the past, what, seven, eight years, I’ve mostly been doing things on my own, but nowadays I am mostly building a team, mainly because of capacity building. I mean, we’ve grown our client base to the point that I can’t do this alone now, as much as I’d like to. I mean, I’d have to sacrifice quite a lot of things, especially now that we have two kids. So we have a three year old and a six months old.

Josh Birk:

Got it. Yes, I heard that they can be at least a little bit time consuming.

Joey Chan:

Right, just a little bit. It’s just one of those things that I try to make sure that I don’t ignore them.

Josh Birk:

A good goal to have indeed. And that’s our show. But before we go, I did ask after Joey’s favorite non-technical hobby and it turns out he gets a lot more exercise than I do.

Joey Chan:

For me, it’s actually CrossFit, so it also helps me in terms of making sure that I’m not working too much, although it’s still a workout so at least it gives me a lot of sanity in terms of not facing the computer too much.

Josh Birk:

I want to thank Joey for the great information and great conversation. Of course, I want to thank you for listening. Now, if you want to learn more about this podcast, head on over to developer.salesforce.com/podcast, where you can hear old episodes, see the show notes, and have links to your favorite podcast service. I’ll talk to you next week.