From day one, in April 2008, I was aware of Salesforce user groups. My mentor at the time, Julie, told me I should consider going along since I was so into Salesforce. What put me off was the expense of getting into London from High Wycombe and the fact I would need to give up my own personal time. As a 24-year old, it wasn’t something I was prepared to do.
Growth of the Meet-ups
I often used to imagine a user group as being a small group of about ten people sitting in a circle, discussing and sharing how they deal with certain requirements and features. It didn’t sound that fun to me, but I was majorly missing the point by assuming it was like a knitting circle. Over the following years, I went from client to client, relying on the knowledge accumulated through working as an admin, study and experience; never realising that there was another great resource out there that would help me be a better Salesforce professional. The user groups I’d been ignoring.
Over time, as Salesforce grew, inevitably the user groups grew too. Then they branched off into specialisms: admin, developer, marketing, Pardot, women in technology – and now, even groups centred around Partner ISVs. Clearly what started as a few people just getting together to talk about Salesforce had become a network of extra-curricular “clubs” populated by like-minded people. People who ran user groups were actively giving back to the community by creating safe and friendly places to learn and network. It’s no wonder some of these people have been awarded MVP status as a result of what they do – it takes a lot of your own time and energy to run a user group.
How we got into it
I started going to user groups following a conversation with a colleague at Bluewolf. In November 2017, Chris and I arranged some childcare, stayed around after work and went to our first Salesforce Admin User Group in London. We had an absolute blast – not only that, but we bumped into some people I’d not seen in years and it was great to catch up. The group leaders are a highly engaging group of people. They are clearly good friends who work well together and make members feel welcome and entertained – like they want to come back next time.
Chris and I looked at each other on the train home and just said: “this is our thing now”. And it was. We now go to three groups once a month: London Admin User Group, London Developer User Group and London Women in Tech. We both get great things out of them, but we have also made some fantastic new friends. We’ve even given presentations at the Admin and Developer user groups and we always stay for drinks afterwards if we can.
What we’ve learnt from user groups
As a Solution Architect, knowing what’s out there is really important. I’ll need to evaluate various tools to optimise my clients’ solutions. At user group events, we’ve seen technical presentations on field service lightning, off-platform backup, coding tricks, Command Line interfaces and architect certifications. We’ve also been to some fantastic presentations and exercises for building confidence and soft skills. The Women in Tech groups are great for that; identifying your inner critic, a speed dating-style chat for International Women’s Day and a presentation about getting back to work after having a baby are some of the highlights we’ve seen.
The other thing we learnt is that people make a choice to go to a user group. They’re not there because they have to be there. The meet-ups are usually held outside of working hours, so if people are prepared to give up their personal time to attend, and each meet-up is over-subscribed, that should tell you it’s worth going to. Everyone’s really supportive and we have fun.
I can’t believe I ignored such a valuable learning and networking opportunity for such a long time. If I can’t make it to a user group one month, I’m genuinely gutted, it’s become a highlight of mine and Chris’ life.
How can you get involved?
If you’ve never been to a user group, then the User Groups list is a great place to start. If you tweet – have a look at Twitter – there are videos, photos and some great tweets to give you an idea of what’s being covered.