I can't remember exactly how I found out about Salesforce User Groups, but I definitely remember the first one I ever attended. It was sometime in early 2005 and I was still working as a secretary as well as doing the Salesforce administration work. I was trying to get myself promoted within my company to just do Salesforce configuration and administration. My new manager seemed open to it, but only if I could complete a project. The project was for Sales to track more information and have additional reporting and metrics.
I had been working on this project for two weeks with the hope of getting a promotion and a raise. I had about 90% of the work done, but I was stuck on two formula fields. I just couldn't get them to work correctly. I had one that I couldn't save because I was getting a syntax error and another that wasn't displaying the proper result. After about two days of being completely frustrated I found myself on my way to my first User Group meeting. On my way to the meeting I stopped at an ATM and withdrew $200 for the purpose of potentially paying someone to help me get my formulas in working order. I wasn't sure what the going rate for a Salesforce consultant was, but I figured the $200 would be sufficient and an investment in my own career and future.
I wasn't sure what to expect out of the User Group as I really had never been to anything like this before. When I arrived, there were nice people to greet me and tell me where to go. I sat down and was delighted to find out there was going to be a presentation on reporting as well as a partner presentation. I was surprised how much I learned in just a few minutes of listening to someone talk about some key metrics and reports admins should create for their organizations. I couldn't believe that this whole thing was free. I felt like I hit the jackpot.
After the presentations ended they had a networking session with snacks and drinks. I approached two people that were quite active in the discussions during the presentation and introduced myself and told them of my formula woes. They walked me over to an area where we could get an internet connection and I setup my laptop. I showed them what I was trying to accomplish and my error message. Within two minutes they helped me save my formula and correct my syntax error! Hallelujah! Within another five minutes they walked me through how to properly use one of the formula functions to get the correct result in my formula. Hooray! I was in business and could move forward with my project.
After my formulas were saved, I pulled out my wallet and asked how much I owed them. I was secretly praying and hoping that it wasn't more than $200. They looked at me really funny and explained to me the purpose of the User Group. My new heroes explained that the User Groups were about helping each other and their payment was to see me grow my skill set. I couldn't believe it. I only had two more small pieces to do on the project and then I would have completed my first Salesforce project!
It would be hard for me to articulate in words how my first User Group experience made me feel. I have never forgotten that feeling, the two people that helped me, or the purpose of the User Groups. If you are reading this and have never attended your local user group, I highly encourage it. The User Group program has evolved so much since I first attended in 2005. There are so many groups in various cities as well as groups specific to non-profits, developers and verticals. I promise, it will be worth your time.
For those of you wondering, I did finish my project and the Sales teams loved it. Unfortunately, my manager didn't think it was enough to warrant a promotion. I did eventually end up spending that $200. I purchased a new suit that I could use for job interviews. If you read my previous blog, then you know what happened next. Onwards and upwards as they say!
I would like to dedicate this post to those in the community leading user groups, answering questions, writing blogs, training people and helping others. I have built my career on Salesforce not only because its a great platform but because of the great community surrounding it. Thank you. I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for all of you. See you at a User Group meeting soon.
This post originally appeared on Cheryl Feldman's blog.
Cheryl Feldman is a Business Systems Analyst III and a Salesforce user group leader. Cheryl has built her career around salesforce.com, and understands both the business process side and technology side.