It’s that time again!

Last year I did a thing to help raise money for ExtraLife, and I introduced the world to Brunhilda Battlehammer, AKA Trailblazer, AKA my dwarf ranger character for DnDF16.

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THIS dwarf ranger

I have news for you all…

SHE IS BACK WITH A VENGEANCE! And by vengeance, I simply mean that I will be reprising this role for DnDF17!

Shame on me, late to the party and such, but if you’re curious/interested/want to watch me and some of my Salesforce friends do this thing…it starts TONIGHT at 9pm EST!

Details here: https://cloudforcecollective.com/dndf17/

And, perhaps most importantly, why are we doing this? Yes, it’s fun. Yes, it’s an excuse to hang out virtually with some of my favorite people. But it’s also a really important thing we’re doing. This is part of the ExtraLife fundraising initiative, a nonprofit that allows gamers (like me) to give back to something that matters.

Here’s why we’re participating: https://cloudforcecollective.com/2017/10/16/ddf17-why/

Achievement Unlocked

So…I’m an MVP now.

I’ve stared at this blank screen for I don’t know how long trying to determine the best way to start this post. I’ve wanted to post since last week. I want to express my gratitude, my disbelief. But all I can keep thinking is “so…I’m an MVP now?” Thank you 4 years of college for a writing degree.

Of course me being me, getting the email notification that I’d been nominated and subsequently selected caused *introspection* to the nth degree.

I moved to Michigan in 2012. 5 years ago when I moved here, I was leaving TFA with no plans of continuing as a teacher. I had background as a candy maker, a 9-1-1 dispatcher, a risk and safety specialist, and a writing degree. I knew no one here. My first job was at Michael’s, making minimum wage and getting up at 4am to unload trucks.

Then came Geek Squad.

Then came Lean and learning all of the things about OTR logistics.

And then came Salesforce.

Like so many before me have experienced, it was a footnote in a job description. After 6 months, I was certified, and after a year, I was starting the West Michigan Women in Tech group.

It’s not like I consciously thought about this. It was a one-thing-led-to-another situation. I found that I enjoyed my work, and I wanted to share what I learned. I met some really great people, so I wanted to offer a place for others to do the same. I saw a vacuum, and I attempted to fill it. Objects in motion will stay in motion, and so forward it has been since then.

To know that what I’ve done has had an impact? It is humbling and rewarding.

The title is cool. I’ve never been most valuable anything, so this is all very new to me. I’ve been struggling with how best to capture all of it. It is overwhelming in the best possible way.

All I can really say is thank you. To everyone. For creating a space where I can contribute, a place that is welcoming to everyone, a career path that I don’t think many of us saw coming. What a welcome surprise Salesforce has been in my life.

I will endeavor to continue doing what I’ve done, offering what I can where I can, in the hopes that it’s helpful or at least entertaining to others out there. And in that way show my gratitude for everything that this platform and this Ohana have given me.

 

 

Ready Admin One

Or what video games have taught me as a Salesforce admin (and consultant).

I realize that this will come as a shock to almost 0% of my audience, but I like to play video games. Mostly long (100 hour plus) RPGs with rich stories, well-developed characters, or at least enough of one to mask the lack of the other.

Growing up I didn’t have a game console. It wasn’t until I was an adult, free to make my own choices and eschew responsibilities as I saw fit, that I really started getting into them. As an avid reader and someone who revels in the feeling of accomplishing a task, they’re kind of perfect. There’s a story, and there are clear steps and tasks presented that have clear success or fail requirements. You know…not at all like real life.

All the same, I’ve been able to apply a lot of things from my hobby to my job. If you’re a fellow gamer, you might recognize some these things, too.

Leveling up can be a grind

I am a trophy hunter. If there is an achievement to be unlocked in a game, I’ll probably go after it. Enter: Skyrim.

One of the last trophies I earned before getting platinum was the silver Master trophy, for reaching Level 50. I had completed the main game with two different characters. I had finished all of the side faction storylines, but I still wasn’t quite there. So I did what any other Skyrim fan has done – I started grinding through low-level abilities to get that sweet XP. I made so many daggers; I cleared so many dungeons. It was boring.

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But I got the trophy. And I got the platinum.

Twice. (Thank you, Bethesda, for re-releasing it on the PS4.)

If you think that only applies to games, you’ve obviously never gone after multiple Salesforce certifications. Reading and re-reading release notes, help articles, the study guide, blog posts, Trailhead, etc. It takes some serious heads-down time to study for some of the certifications out there, and yeah, it can be really boring. But at then end, you have a brand new certification.

Side quests

It’s Monday morning for the solo admin, and they have their week planned out. Got some Trailhead badges to earn, a new dashboard to build, and a meeting with the steering committee. They have one goal this week: deploy a new custom object and flow, to support a functional group that is adopting Salesforce.

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Except….

A user needs a password reset.

Another user deleted a record but they can’t remember which one, and they need it back.

An executive needs a report of all sales in 2012, for some reason they have deemed unimportant to share.

And on and on and on. Each random task may only take a handful of minutes, but those minutes start to add up, and soon your inbox is full of minor requests that may have a time limit attached to them. At least all experience is good experience, right?

It’s good to recruit companions

dangerousEven non-gamers know this one.

It’s not impossible to finish quests and storylines alone, of course. But misery and joy and struggle…pretty much everything loves company. So why wouldn’t you recruit companions? Especially if they can fill in gaps in your abilities or knowledge.

Most of us already know the importance of the community, so I can pretty much just…leave this here, right? Ohana, my peeps.

Once a completionist…

This is actually a thing (read about the Zeigarnik Effect here). Once a gamer (or an admin) starts on a quest, we have to finish it. Luckily many of these tasks have definitive end-games.

Slay the dragon.

Deploy the change set.

Find the pan.

Build the report.

We obsess over the things we haven’t completed. How many of us have gone to sleep, thinking about data schema, only to wake up with the answer and excitedly go about building what we imagined?

How many of us have to get all the Trailhead badges? (BTW, if you think Trailhead hasn’t taken into account some of what I’m writing about here, you aren’t paying attention.)

And it’s not just video games

Ultimately it comes down to liking the feeling of solving a puzzle. Admins are problem-solvers. We are people that like to get our hands dirty, play with something, and make it work. For me it’s like video games. For some people it’s like puzzles or building things.

We are the people who stay up into the wee hours, searching the community, building and rebuilding our flows, until it is done.

And bonus! Now I can check this particular task off my list.

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Time flies etc.

I have had a few people lately approach me to ask about what it’s like being a consultant. I’m always a little surprised by that because I think “why would they ask me? I haven’t been at it very long.”

I looked at the calendar recently. It’s already almost September. 2017. What the actual…anyway, that means that I’ve been a consultant for over a year now. And being the annoyingly introspective person that I am, that led me to hours and hours of thinking about that question and my answer.

I still don’t feel like I’m the right person to ask. There are still days where I haven’t quite gotten my feet underneath me. The treadmill is still just a tad too fast sometimes, and I stumble. Being human means that I focus a lot on those stumbles and less on the increasing number of successful steps.

Here’s how I’ve been answering that question.

Becoming a consultant is like any other major change in life. Day to day, nothing changes. I get emails from clients – sometimes I know the answer off-hand, and sometimes I have to do some research. I build things in Salesforce, and then I test those things and rebuild them. I provide insight into what the platform can and cannot do, what it can do natively vs. custom, what might be better left to a third party app, etc. I encourage admins to learn, and somewhere in all of that, I manage to occasionally put on a virtual meeting for the West Michigan WIT group.

But then I look back over the past 3 months, and I realize I have learned quite a bit. Over the past 6 months, 9 months…a year. I see things that I did early on that I would do differently now. Not that I was wrong then, but I’d be better prepared for them now.

There are little things, too. I speak more confidently about some things than I used to. I recognize patterns that I hadn’t noticed before. Gradually, I’m getting faster with some things.

Even I keep waiting for something to click. Some obvious and clear sign that says “You are now a Consultant.” But that’s not going to come. My business cards and job description say that. What I do on a daily basis says that.

That’s been the biggest lesson for me. I’ve learned in every job I’ve ever had – that’s what we do. This time it just feels more intangible. I can’t say “I now know how to complete an OSHA 300 and 300A form.” It’s more things like…”I now know that I can use Talend for data transfers and transformations.” But that encompasses so many things, not just a single task or ability.

As one of the least patient people I know, this kind of slow adaptation and realization of what I’ve learned has been both the most difficult and most rewarding part of the transition for me.

I don’t know if that’s the kind of answer people are looking for when they ask. Being a consultant varies depending on where you work, on what kind of team you’re working with. Just like being an admin at one place will be different than being an admin at another. But that’s the best answer I can give.

Regardless I’ve appreciated the questions because they forced me to take that long look and give myself some credit for how far I’ve come. And it’s made me really excited for whatever will come next. What will I know 3 months from now? 6 months, 9 months, a year?

If nothing else, I can safely say that being a consultant is never dull, and that’s probably the most important advice I can offer.

 

Obligatory apology and excuses blog post

That’s right, folks, it’s that time again, where I fish for flimsy excuses about why my (now paid) blog site has lain dormant as Moria for the past…can we say weeks? I’ll feel better if I say weeks.

Right, so let’s get it over with.

I’ve been working. Really, truly, I have. Statistically speaking, it takes about 12 months for someone to become (or at least feel) proficient in a new job. I’m about halfway there! In the meantime, I still forget details, sometimes – little things like checking a box or something. And then bigger things like balancing time or wrapping my head around how long it takes me to do Things. I still don’t always know if something is going to take me an hour or six days…

I’ve been meaning to write. As I was explaining to my Professional Writer father the other day, at any given time I have at least 3 draft posts, and then there are times that I have 7 or 8, all sitting there, wondering if I’ll ever get back to them. At least one of those drafts has been around longer than my new job…so….I’m sure I’ll finish it one of these days.

To be fair, I’ve had a lot going on. After Zoe left us so suddenly, I can safely say that the very last thing I wanted to do was…anything.

The first time you skip or forget something, it’s minor, right? It’s just a hiccup. The problem is that if you then skip a second time, or a third, it starts to snowball. And it snowballs fast. I guess that’s kind of the point of that metaphor, though, right?

Eventually going back seems that much more daunting. What do you mean I have to roll this 2 ton snowball back up the hill? It was so much smaller when it started falling! I’ll just wait for it to thaw a bit.

It doesn’t thaw. Winter has officially arrived.

My point is just that after a while writing a post seemed like an insurmountable challenge. It had been too long. I put in work to provide regular content, and then I let it fall to the side, in order to take on some more pressing things, and coming back to it means facing that gaping chasm in between last post and this post.

I don’t even want to THINK about how many of these posts I’ve made. But whatever. I’m only human. I disappear sometimes. The weight of things gets just a little too heavy, and my response is to tuck myself away.

So maybe this can be my blanket post moving forward? For the next time I need to limp away to lick my wounds and can’t work up the energy to put this kind of stuff into words.

I have some ideas in the works, though…all of the “well at least I’ll think it’s hilarious” variety. But it’s something, at least.

Sweet Baby, Mama Loves You

Sweet baby, mama loves you.

zoeinbow

You came to me, unexpectedly, when I was a junior in college. Working at the pizza place, living with a fellow student who had a kitten, and you were mentioned offhandedly. Someone was moving and couldn’t bring their cat, and did I know anyone interested in a black cat?

Me. I was interested.

“She’s not a lap cat,” they said, handing you over in a metal crate that looked more like a bird or rodent cage than a cat carrier. I put you in the back of my Camry – the same one still in the garage, and I took you home.

You slept on my pillow that night.

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You were not fond of the kitten, but that was ok.

One time you got out of the house, and I ran down the street in a panic, trying to find you. You were hiding on the covered porch, watching my antics, no doubt with amusement.

You moved into that windowless basement apartment with me, despite the dog, and then you moved into my parents’ house with me when I left that place behind.

You flew 3,000 miles to be with me in Seattle, where you met Eric, who I still maintain you love more than me. He denies it. But we both know.

zoeatchurch

You drove almost that same distance to Arkansas, when we moved again. Eric tells the story better than me – you meowed the whole way, non-stop, until the final day. When you arrived, I had a sign on the door “Welcome Home Zoe! (And Eric).”

That was a good apartment for you, with all of the light in the living room and big windows. And the ample room for your favorite pastime: hunting hair ties.

zoeskills

Then you and I drove to Michigan; it was my turn with you in the car, but you didn’t cry nearly as much. So maybe I am your favorite. We drove all the way in one day, and you spent the night learning your way around that old house in Zeeland.

When we bought our house, we had you in mind. I was disappointed that the only windows for you to sit in were in the basement, but we figured we could make it work.

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My right shoulder is sore most of the time because you insisted on perching there like a parrot. Your head – so soft and warm – pressing against my neck. I can’t really be upset about it. What’s a little soreness compared to cute, fluffy black cat on my shoulder? And there was the pawing at my side until I picked you up and put you there.

You were always so small; people thought you were a kitten, even though you had the disposition of an old woman, set in her ways and kind of demanding, but no one says anything.

You were also exceptionally sweet. Most of the time. And only to us. With others, you were standoffish. And there were the times you mangled me. But never Eric. So I guess point for him again.

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This morning you were even smaller, impossibly so. And I don’t know if it was worse seeing you like that or putting away your scratch post this afternoon, so I won’t see it tomorrow and be somewhere between confused and devastated.

It’s unfair, really.

I told you and the universe and anyone who would listen that you were, in fact, immortal. But then, you always got your way.

You are, though. Because here you are – small and sweet and precious and all of those things I would say or sing or whisper to you (and at you, and at Eric about you, until he would make that annoyed face, even as he agreed). The concept of immortality has changed in the digital era because pieces of us, of you, can live on forever. A series of 0’s and 1’s, words translated to digital memory.

It’s all I can give you now.

Sweet baby, mama loves you.

zoeinsun

Why I read Hawthorne

I’ve been thinking about this post for a while, putting it off because I couldn’t remember my professor’s name, and it made me sad. The things that are so important to us at certain times in our lives can be difficult to hold onto. It’s like another world, another Sam that existed, and I don’t always share her memories.

Which is, ironically, a fantastic segue into what I’ve been thinking about – American Romanticism. Or, more specifically, American Dark Romanticism (or American Gothic) of the early to late 1800s. Mmmmhmm. I can feel your excitement right now.

I fell in love with this particular literary movement in high school, when I first read The Scarlet Letter. And don’t come to me with “ugh, that book is so boring,” because then I’m convinced you didn’t read it.

My adoration grew in college, when I was pleased to take two classes with a professor (the aforementioned one whose name has escaped me, and I feel like I’ve betrayed my degree) who shared my excitement over this time period. He taught a class in Crime, Morality, and Punishment in 19th and 20th Century Literature, and if that doesn’t sound like a whirlwind of a time, then I don’t really know what is. And he taught early American Lit. AKA all of the quietly, sneakily depraved writing of the 1800s.

When most people think of gothic literature, they think of Poe and his Raven. I love Poe, too. One of my favorite assignments in college was my feminist critique of The Fall of the House of Usher. I had a grand time with that. Not to mention “A Descent Into the Maelstrom,” a view into that human nature to hang a foot off the edge of a cliff, to see what might happen.

But the dark romanticism of the age, for me, is settled snugly in the hands of Hawthorne. I find myself thinking about his writing a lot lately. As the world has shifted underneath me, and I feel unsteady, I think about the Minister’s Black Veil or Ethan Brand. I imagine him sitting and writing the words, his cautionary tales about the world, about Us vs. Them, about false piety.

He wrote extensively about Puritans. His grandfather had been a judge during the Salem witch trials, after all. He did not cast them in a favorable light. They are instead depicted harshly, like deep, rough lines against an otherwise normal backdrop. They are hypocritical, placing their chosen heroes on pedestals and denouncing their preferred outcasts. And inevitably the heroes are flawed, and the outcasts are noble (though also flawed because they are human).

It strikes a little close to home these days.

Think about what you may (or may not) remember about The Scarlet Letter. Spoilers, I guess? But then again, this story is over a hundred years old. You’ve had ample time.

Hester Prynne has been put in jail, unwed (or, more specifically, widowed) and now with child. They cannot put her to death, so they instead require her to wear a scarlet letter A upon her clothes, forever marking her sin and displaying it for the world to see. They demand to know the identity of the father, but she refused. She lives outside of the village, raising her daughter.

Hester otherwise lives by all of the puritanical rules of society. She wears somber colors, is gentile and respectful. She also sews the most elaborate and beautiful dresses. Her daughter wears fanciful and colorful outfits, and the wealthier matrons in the village hire her for all manner of seamstress work. She tends to the sick, staying by their beds to comfort them. But still she is treated as an outsider, an untouchable.

The local minister, Arthur Dimmesdale, is meanwhile looked on as a paragon of society. His increasingly poor health is attributed to his piety, with many members of his church believing that he is fasting, or that he is simply so overwhelmed with goodness that he is being called to Heaven.

It is, instead, his own guilt eating away at him.

At the end of the novel, before a crowd of people, Dimmesdale rips away his shirt, confessing that he is Pearl’s father and that his sin is all the greater for having allowed Hester to bear the burden for those 7 years. The crowd is stunned to see a bright scarlet A branded on his chest.

(Yeah, see, boring my ass.)

The village immediately turns on him, some shouting that he should be hanged for his sin.

Until Pearl, the child of Hester and Arthur’s union, speaks out, reminding all in the crowd that they, too, have sinned. That in the wake of seven years of her mother’s continued service to the town, she has heard some say kind words. That her father has been seen as holy and admirable. She reminds them that forgiveness is more important than judgment.

I could talk about (or write about) this story for hours, for days. Hawthorne so brilliantly captures the hypocrisy of those shouting about propriety. And in this modern era of loud voices and pulpit-pounding, I find peace in these tales.

Dimmesdale dies after his confession. He and Hester do not run off the Europe to start a fresh life together and they had hoped a mere chapter earlier. But Chillingworth (just read the story, seriously) finds forgiveness, and he leaves his fortune to Pearl a few years later. When Hester dies, she is buried by Arthur. Though he feared they would be damned together, Hester believed they would be forgiven and spend an eternity by each other’s sides.

And I guess that’s why I love Hawthorne. Though dark and at times depressing, the background characters of his tales often learned a lesson via the suffering of his protagonists. He did not sugar coat his stories; he shed light on the harsh truths of society but still maintained hope that people could learn and grow and change.

I need that reminder.

Of course, there’s always Poe, too. When it’s time to simply scream into the void. That might work just as well.