Apple Inc. is a huge company that’s defined by the simplicity of its products. Two of my favourite examples of this can be found in 1997 when Steve Jobs slashed the majority of Apple’s lineup and in 2007 when he slashed the majority of mobile phone buttons. So many tech companies are defined by the products or services they provide.

I believe Salesforce is different though.

It’s not a company defined by the cloud architecture. It’s not defined by regular release of new features three times a year. It’s not even defined by the mascots. It’s defined by the community.

The community of end users, admins, partners, ISVs and Salesforce employees.

Before I proceed, I’d just like to give a little disclaimer that I love the architecture, the features and the mascots. Astro, you’re part of my #Brohana. Disclaimer disclaimer, #Brohana is open for all dudes and dudettes – we’re inclusive.

I was really reminded of the community’s power at the recent London World Tour. It was my third year attending and previously I would arrive after the keynote, walk around the expo floor, have some interesting conversations with the vendors and hunt for swag. While these were really enjoyable days, something big happened recently that changed the way I approached World Tour this year.

In November 2017, I attended my first user group in London. I was so overwhelmed by the number of people who all took an evening out of their busy week to share, learn and network. It made me realise that I needed to take what I’d personally learned and pay it forward. Not long after that night, I got more involved in the Trailblazer Community, got more active on Twitter and attempted to attend every London based Admin and Dev user group. It felt good to get in the mix and give back. It also felt comforting to know that there were all these people out there if I needed help.

When you’re surrounded by so many passionate and clever people, the technology almost takes a back seat. The technology is successful and continually evolving because of the community, not the other way around. If you give the Salesforce community an abacus and tell them to design a retail Point Of Sale system, in two weeks you’ll have a slick solution, probably with wi-fi thrown in. That’s how much I believe in these people.

I’d like to highlight three key moments where this amazing group helped define my World Tour experience this year.

Coffee Break with Tony Prophet

About a week before World Tour, Gemma gave out an excited shriek. She’d been invited to a 30-minute coffee break with Salesforce’s Chief Equality Officer. As a proud ally, I asked if I could tag along and much to my delight, I was able to go.

It was 8 am and about half a dozen familiar faces were sat around a small table in an empty room. We exchanged pleasantries and talked about the day ahead before Tony Prophet walked into the room. As a C suite executive, I expected him to have a domineering presence with a big personality and big ideas. Every single one of my preconceptions turned out to be wrong. Tony walked in with an eagerness to meet everyone at the table and more importantly, to listen to what everyone had to say.

The fascinating part of the 30-minute conversation wasn’t necessarily what Tony said, but the conversations he fostered within the environment. I learned about so many wonderful programmes that companies have in place and because I already knew these people, the conversation carried on long after the coffee break had finished.

Equality may be a hot-button topic at the moment, but it’s not a fad. It needs to be constantly reviewed, discussed and challenged and I’m thoroughly grateful for the opportunity to be part of the conversation and not just an observer.

The Keynote

Not long after the coffee break had finished, we were summoned to the keynote stage to get seated and prepared for Gemma’s Trailblazer video presentation. After about an hour of chatting amongst ourselves, others started to come in and the show began.

Because I was nervous for Gemma, I didn’t really take in the first 10 minutes of the keynote. Once the video had played though, I was very aware of what happened. The audience’s applause, the generous messages on Twitter and the outright love made me so incredibly proud of this woman I get to call my wife. The fact that Gem didn’t set out to do anything but start a simple study group makes me even prouder.

Three presentations from very different organisations followed this and one, in particular, stood out for me.

ASTRiiD is a non-profit company that helps those with long-term medical issues find meaningful work within the Salesforce ecosystem. It hit a few raw notes for me, not least of all because Gemma was a recovering cancer patient and unfortunately, about to go through the process again. ASTRiiD gave me a sense of hope that the power of the cloud and remote working could give those with healthy and active minds a place to contribute to the world.

Ask The Expert

To continue with my pay it forward mentality, I signed up to help out at the community booths. At 3:15 in the afternoon, I turned up to the Lightning stand for my shift, waited for the next person to approach and said: “How can I help?”. What followed was 90-minutes of sharing knowledge, handling some head-scratchers that I honestly couldn’t answer and networking.

It felt like a user group turned up to 11 and it felt amazing to give back.

Being given an opportunity to take a bigger role in the World Tour this year was a huge honour. It reinforced my belief in the power of the community and more than that, I felt like I had an extended family. A family of a few people I know, and a lot that I’m still to meet, someday.