Alek Gokiert’s early work as a Salesforce instructor introduced him to a community in which his passion for problem-solving could thrive. Now he’s sharing that passion as Managing Consultant with Appirio and giving back to the community that nurtured him as Co-Leader of the Sydney Admin Trailblazer Community Group.
TrainTheCrowd Founder Alice Becker introduced me to Salesforce more than 10 years ago when she brought me on as a trainer. It was the beginning of an exciting journey for me – I was an instructor within a couple of months and, next thing I knew, running around the country training groups of people.
The principles weren’t new to me. I’d been in tech for a while and understood CRMs and databases. There was a whole new jargon to learn but I thought I understood what the platform could do – take contact details, manage contacts etc. But even back then, the automation and out of the box functionality was really quite amazing. It was capable of much more than I’d expected.
To be an instructor, I had to get a certification and, when I eventually left TrainTheCrowd, certifications helped me understand the depths of the product and gave me much more clout. Now I have nine certifications under my belt. My stretch goal last year was to get my Certified Application Architect – I scraped in with an exam on New Year’s Eve!
I’ll probably battle the beast that is the Certified Technical Architect sometime in the next four years, but in the meantime my consultancy work is really about understanding what the platform can do and being able to discuss those capabilities to find solutions. While I’m not doing the development itself, I have a comprehensive knowledge of where I can take the platform.
The most rewarding aspect of working with the Salesforce platform is seeing how it can help people – in their businesses and how that then flows on into their lives.
I love seeing people get real value out of a platform – how it’s saving them time or solving a problem – and knowing they can spend that time doing something they love, or even just having a time out and a coffee. Anyone can teach you how to log in to a system. The reward comes when you can make that system really work for them. The potential for automation and artificial intelligence to further increase those capabilities is really exciting.
One of my most satisfying projects was helping a whole division within retirement living at Leadlease adopt Salesforce. It’s not enough to just turn up and say “here’s your Salesforce system, do this, see you later”. With this project I got into a real rhythm with the user group, constantly listening to them and implementing a two-week release cycle. And that had been unheard of at Lendlease which is a big, slow-moving machine.
Because I was embedded in the same team as the users, they were being heard and the changes they needed could happen quickly. Sales people would ring me up and say “Hey, I’d love to see this, could we try it?”.
This wasn’t management – this was people on the ground realising the potential of the platform to make them more efficient and effective. We’d crowdsource ideas from user groups and explore how far we could stretch the program to meet those challenges.
That’s always been my focus as an instructor: not just to tell people what a platform can do, but to engage with them on finding all the possibilities and potential of a platform to help them. We're not just a bus driver getting people from A to B. We're a tour guide, leading them through that landscape and getting them to their perfect goal.
The Salesforce community is a really powerful resource and one that I love being part of - both giving and receiving help and advice. Trailhead is fantastic and even better when combined with a mentor who can offer real-world context. I’m always happy to put my hand up if people want assistance bedding down that theoretical learning with practical examples.
As an instructor, I relied a lot on the Trailblazer Community. Steve Molis in particular was a really important mentor for me - always willing to answer questions and share insights. I really respect and admire the way he dedicates his time to sharing knowledge with whomever needs it. I learned a lot from him about how to learn and how to teach.
The community aspect of Dreamforce has also really developed over the years – for me the event is about getting people together to talk, collaborate and build relationships. The conversations I’ve had at Dreamforce have really benefited my career.
My favourite sessions are the product roadmaps. The product owner is standing right in front of you, you can ask them direct questions, and they are always happy to engage. There is an attitude of “Ok, here is the customer so how can we connect best, how can we solve their problems with our product?”. That one-on-one interaction is pretty unique in my experience of tech conferences and I value it enormously.
And that’s great for me to be able to take back to my clients. Instead of saying something vague about a great new product that might be coming out soon, I can give them specific information about what they can expect and I can be in touch with the product owner about the client’s feedback and needs.
Networking is great, but if you can’t bring something back to the table for your clients, then it’s not worth much to them. As a trusted adviser, that’s a very important part of my role.
After Dreamforce I can also share knowledge with internal staff who don’t go. I can play back useful sessions or go to presentations that I know are going to be valuable to other teams. And I’m always discovering new products or new approaches. For example, I’ve attended some of the Women In Tech sessions which give me a whole new perspective on developing a career.
I always have sore feet at the end of Dreamforce and just pass out on the plane home!
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