The niche struggle is real

There are so many smart people in the Salesforce Ohana. Seriously. So many. They are in the community, on Twitter, writing blogs, hosting podcasts, just generally being awesome. Need to know how to write a formula? There’s a blog for that. Process Builder trouble? There’s a weekly webcast for that. Prepping for an exam? So many sites to help.

As someone who has always been the person on the edge of social circles, one foot in and just hesitant enough to not insert myself, I can tell you that it can be hard to find your place in any situation. As someone who likes to write, who feels safest being herself behind a keyboard, I can also tell you that it’s not any easier finding your place via the blogosphere.

When I first started with Salesforce, blogs helped me become a better admin. I used Salesforce’s documentation to learn the functionality, but project and product management, understanding users’ needs, best practices…that all came from the community. Once I started feeling more confident, I wanted to share what I had learned with others. I’ve tried a few avenues – speaking at events, starting the local Women in Tech chapter, evangelizing on the streets, you name it. Oh yeah. And this thing you’re reading.

I have a backlog of drafts about a mile long. Posts I’ve started, trying to fit into my own little corner of the Salesforce blog world. Am I a place for new admins to learn basic functionality? Am I a marketing automation guru? Maybe I should talk about consulting? Women in Tech. Community. Automation. Communication. Learning to code. Etc. Etc.

Guess what? It exists already.

There are days I find it disheartening. I don’t have the experience or knowledge that many of the existing bloggers have. It’s easy to be down on myself, to feel inadequate, to think that this whole thing is a waste of time.

Not what it’s about, though.

If you want to share something or do something or create something in this community, I’m giving you the permission and the advice to do it. Even if it’s already been done. Even if you think no one will care. All of those blogs and MVPs and community heroes didn’t become experts overnight. They all started somewhere, and they are all here to support you.

Oh, and if you’re looking for your niche, your expertise? It’s you. It’s your unique perspective, your own experiences. That’s all you need. So you’re basically half way there.


A genius visited

I have to be getting ready for work, so I don’t have a ton of time, but two things I’d like to mention:

1. In Greece, when an orator or artist created and subsequently unveiled their masterpieces, it was said that they had been visited by a genius. Think of a genius like a muse – a spirit with the ability to grant the orator/artist with the clarity to share their ultimate vision. It wasn’t until the “enlightenment” that people were described as geniuses. I learned all of this in a Ted Talk, and this fact was posited as why the idea of the tortured artist is so prevalent today. Fascinating stuff.

2. I’m reading Kafka on the Shore right now, among other things, and with all of Murakami’s work, there are lines that seem to jump out of the page and stick themselves in my brain. They are timeless and ethereal, yet concrete truths. But more than that, I’ve noticed a pattern: every line that I’ve paused to contemplate and/or write down has been underlined by a previous reader.

I find myself feeling a strange kinship to this faceless, nameless stranger that is drawn to the same tangents in this book.

And a genius visited me, whispering that this could be the beginning of a great story in its own right.

So now I get to go to work, which is not very creative, and hopefully the genius will allow me to pause, just for a few hours. When I get home, I’ll give it the time and attention it deserves.

How cool is that though? I feel a little less alone in the world right now.

Have I written about insomnia before?

On stretches like this, more than a night or so staying up later than I intend, I like to console myself by saying that insomnia thrives in creative people. Clearly my inability to sleep works in direct correlation to my ability to create. And, if you’ve noticed a “minor” dip in my number of posts the past handful of months, then clearly you know that is a load of bull.

I have created things at work – mostly documents, forms, and ideas that I’m sure my coworkers are groaning inwardly about every time I open my mouth. I have written in my trusty moleskine – the thoughts that I’m not brave enough to share with the world as a whole.

But other than that, I’ve watched the minutes and hours tick by while stand up flickers in front of me. I sometimes open a word document (okay, okay, notepad) and stare at it in hopes that I can put something on the screen worth reading. I usually get “I am an idiot,” and then I trail off, but my fingers don’t actually do any typing. Self-deprecating has always been my fall-back for inspiration…not sure what that says about me. It hasn’t been working lately.

Work has been going swell. I love my job. I love my coworkers. My boss wants me to move up, and I want to move up, and my coworkers came out to celebrate my birthday, and I felt celebrated and loved and…there’s that. That’s pretty awesome.

The house stuff is still going well. To be honest, I haven’t been thinking about it because we still have to close. And then we have to wait a week to do anything after that. That’s still pretty awesome.

But you know what’s not awesome? I was awake until 2:30am, went to work, struggled to keep up, and now here it is, creeping up on 11, and I know I’ll probably stay up late again. Bad habits breed bad habits; what’s next?

The worst part is that I could be doing other things. I could be catching up on my reading. I could be writing (oh, wait). I could be crafting or studying or solving the world’s problems, and instead I’m watching Craig Ferguson circa 2009, waiting for something that isn’t going to solve my problems anyway. And it makes me feel isolated. I feel like I’m the only person alive in the world one nights like this; sometimes that can be a peaceful feeling, but most of the time it’s unnerving.

Right now I’m unnerved. I guess that’s why I’m writing about it (maybe again. I really feel like I’ve written about insomnia before). When I feel alone and isolated, I like to write, shout at the world, whether it’s willing or able to hear me or not.

Scratching the itch of nostalgia

My bet would be that most folks reading this blog have not danced with Windows 8 yet. I’ll admit it takes some getting used to, and mostly what I do, working at Geek Squad, is resetting computers or removing passwords because folks are returning computers.

Who cares about Windows 8, you’re probably asking.

9 times out of 10, I would say that I don’t. At all. However, I bring it up because you might not know that the default sign-in screen is an animated landscape featuring picturesque mountains…and the Space Needle.

Once upon a time, this used to be a common sight for me. This was a picture I took one morning walking from Eric’s house (when we were first dating) to my apartment on the other side of Queen Anne hill.

Now that fact of the matter is, I’m too young to be going on about “the good ole days,” but I’m not so young that I can’t get a little bit sentimental about the places I’ve been. And maybe having a weekend to myself and a little bit of vodka in my system isn’t helping, but I was thinking about work, thinking about Windows 8, and thinking about how immensely cool it is that I lived in Seattle. Me! Samantha Grillo from Sautee-Nacoochee, Georgia, moved to Seattle, Washington.

I met my husband there. I got my first “real” job there. I signed the lease for my first apartment of my very own, with no one else to pay my bills with me. I bought my first computer, my first furniture, and my first ferry pass there. I had my first brush with the legal system (don’t worry – I wasn’t arrested!) there. And now, sometimes, it feels like the most tangible connection I have to the city is the log-in screen on Windows 8.

I started this blog in Seattle. Really! Go back to my first post; I made it in Seattle.

I should be taking this weekend of solitude and putting toward crafting, and in a sense I am. Remember NaNoWriMo? Going steady at 77,870 words at the moment, and I’m just getting to the action.

Maybe I made this post because, in a buzzy haze, I was feeling nostalgic. But mostly I made it because I feel an immense level of guilt when I don’t post for a few days. So, in conclusion:

The people who complain about Marvel movies not being canon need to read comics in each decade and see how much is retconned.

Jeremy Renner is astonishingly handsome.

I like it that my coworkers tell me I can’t leave when my shift ends because they want me to stay.

Sierra Mist Cranberry is the best mixer for vodka ever.

A little bit about perspective

If desire alone were not enough to lead me to a new degree, then all of the signs would do the trick. In addition to the divine intervention on Saturday, I had even more pieces fall into place today. Namely the director of admissions of the engineering department and I spoke today, and we decided it would be best for me to go and speak with him in person. “I am booked this week and out most of next week. The earliest I could meet with you would be next Friday. That’s the 14th.” As it happens, that will be the first Friday I’ve had off since I started my new job.

But as crazily perfect as that was, it is not what I am posting about. The application process required some very brief essay writing on my part, and I thought I would share the one I wrote about perspective because, well, why not?

As far as other crafts go, I have tomorrow off, and I will try to get started on Eric’s gift. I also got a text today from my aunt that she is sending me a craft that needs to be finished. Her exact words were “maybe you can figure it out.” So that’s great.

Without further ado:


Albert Einstein, of e=mc2 fame, discovered his theory of relativity partly due to perspective. According to his theory, the flow of time changes with an object’s speed. This helps explain why an object moving at a constant speed might look faster or slower depending on how fast the observer is going. In other words, perspective changes everything, and any two people moving at different speeds will have a different perspective.

By the time I return to school, I will be 26. It could be said that time will be moving faster for me than, say, an 18-year-old, because one year is a smaller fraction of my life (1/26 compared to 1/18). This fact has made me wary of returning to a brand new field that will require, at best, 4 more years of study. It means that I would be finishing and entering said new field at 30. If nothing else, this gives me a greater sense of urgency and a strong desire to do well.

I also bring, with these 26 years, a host of life and work experiences that range from the mundane to the uplifting or heartbreaking. I have worked for a company that employed people from 50 different countries; I went through Georgia’s fire academy and finished 3rd in my class; I entered a classroom in Arkansas as a teacher – and the minority – and won over 135 students. I have seen the absolute best in people, and I have seen the worst. I have moved across the country, 3000 miles from my home and everyone that I knew, and I lived out of my car for a month before making a life for myself in Seattle.

I am embarrassed to say that, even as someone with a writing degree and plenty of writing experience, that I found myself somewhat stumped with this question of perspective. I loathe a flat-out explanation of anything – what fun is there in simply stating a perspective? After all, writers must “show, not tell.” But how do I show a perspective that has grown and changed over two decades and through all of the joys, heartaches, highs, and lows of a typical human life? How to adequately explain what teaching in Pine Bluff has taught me about the world? Or perhaps I should focus on the struggles of the special needs community, how I have lost friends because of my request for them not to use the word “retard” as an insult because it hurts. Maybe I should point out my perspective on safety and how important it is to not take life for granted.

My perspective is one of a constantly shifting life. Life is not a static thing; it changes everyday, sometimes minutely and sometimes drastically. All of the plans in the world cannot stop change, and I have learned to simply be open to its inevitability. I have worn many hats, and I have been to a handful of places. I use this to my advantage; I like relating to people. I like talking to strangers and hearing their life stories, and I always find that we have something in common, despite our differences. I think it’s good to shift gears every now and then. I think it is necessary. Variety is the spice of life, after all.

In short, I bring the unique perspective of Samantha Grillo Safin (formerly Samantha Leigh Grillo) to GVSU – all of my ideas, dreams, fears, idiosyncrasies, experiences, and velocity. Albert Einstein would agree, and who am I to argue?


Back to basics

I am quite vocal about my degree at work, as well as my teaching experience, because I am desperate for someone to ask me about what I know. I’ll be the first to admit (and am admitting right now) that that is sad. But it’s also true, and I’m nothing if not honest in my little home on the web. All of this leads me to my current buzz: my dear coworker (and namesake) asked me for some help on her final undergrad research paper.

I was so stupidly happy about it, I bid Eric goodnight and settled onto the couch to read, take notes, and send some feedback. I don’t know if she’ll go with the changes I suggested, and while I say I don’t care, I kind of do.

When I first went to school, it was with dreams of becoming a book editor. I had romantic notions, most of them spawning from the remarkable and prolific career of Maxwell Perkins, of giving authors a voice. I wanted to find the next Thomas Wolfe or F. Scott Fitzgerald, and I wanted them to have the kind of trust in me that said authors had in Perkins. I wrote papers about this vision, and I planned my entire life around it.

But college is more about changing crushing dreams, and I became distracted. First I thought about moving on to Environmental Law, then I was enamored with Folklore, and finally I was in the midst of a break-up and changing the rest of my life. Somewhere among those different ideas, I lost my dream of book editing and took on a series of mostly unrelated jobs that might one day spawn an interesting memoir.

Back to my point – assuming I had one – my coworker asked me to help with her paper, and I was excited.

Another coworker recently put in her two weeks’ notice, and in her explanation to me about leaving she said “no offense, but I know I’m capable of so much more.”

That has been bugging me lately. A whole hell of a lot. She is graduating in a few weeks with a BA in Film Editing. When she said it, I just smiled and agreed and went on with my day, but like a microscopic parasite, it’s been eating any sort of nourishment I’ve tried to swallow the past week or so. Seriously, what did she mean by that?

I took this job with the intention of going back to school, and I think it’s time I make a decision on that. I can either go for an MA in English, or I can look at another Bachelor’s. But I need to make a decision and move forward because otherwise, I am going to be deserving of that look down her nose at me. And, really, I get stupidly excited about school papers that I didn’t even write. This is ridiculous.

Oh, hello rambling tangent of a post!

Summary: Once upon a time, I wanted to be a book editor, but then life happened, and now I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up except that I’d like to get moving on something.

I’ll keep you posted.

And I need to craft!

I made some really good Indian food last night that made my mouth bleed fire. But it was delicious.

NaNoWriMo: An excerpt

Writing is, strictly speaking, a craft. This blog is meant to showcase my crafts. Thus, an excerpt from my novel this year, which is currently sitting pretty at just over 33,000 words.

This particular scene is about halfway through what I have so far. Two main characters are rival mercenaries/assassins, and one has been sent after the other. In answer, Kami’s boss calls her in to discuss the contract on her head. Then she goes out on the town. There are absolutely no spoilers in this excerpt.


Kami was displeased. She had never been one to appreciate being called in, like a dog. Her boss had her number; why couldn’t he just call her with information? Instead she would get some cryptic message and have to drive to the city just to be given a name and general location. All of that could be done in five minutes over the phone.

She stopped the bike in front of the headquarters of the Inagawa-kai and glowered at the door for a moment. Her approach to the door was without pomp, but the guards showed her reverence anyway. She gave them a sarcastic salute and entered, making a bee line for the staircase, ignoring the secretaries who tittered at her.

She took the steps two at a time, stopping at the door at the top. She popped her neck a few times, pushed it open and walked in, “Sunny day today.”

Her boss looked up from the desk and the quiet conversation he was having. He wasn’t happy with Kami’s general disposition, but he had grown accustomed to it. The man speaking with him was obviously unfamiliar with Kami, however, because he stood abruptly and turned, “Who do you think you are?”

Kami arched a brow and watched him approach.

Answer me!”

Kami smiled and tilted her head, glancing over at her boss. He stood calmly and sighed, “Hanaka-san, please-”

You do not barge in on private meetings. Someone must teach you a lesson, clearly,” he raised his hand to strike, and Kami almost laughed. This clearly only angered him more, but the retort was cut off when Kami grabbed his arm, roughly pushing it back and stepping around him. When she had his arm pinned behind him, she turned him around to face her boss, “Clearly.”

Ishii-san sighed, “Kami. Let him go.”

The man tried to peer over his shoulder, fear obvious on his features, “Kami? Kami Mitsuko…”

Kami smiled and let go of his arm, “You didn’t know. I realize,” she looked over his shoulder, “You called me here.”

Ishii-san nodded, “Yes. Hanaka-san, you may go. Kami, please come in.”

The man stepped away, bowed, and then walked out, giving Kami a wide berth. She took a seat across from her boss and waited.

Are you aware, Kami, that the Yamaguchi-gumi have put a contract on you?”

Kami looked over the desk, scanning for anything of interest. She saw nothing that caught her eye, “Of course.”

The man sat in his chair and leaned on the desk before him. He looked across at Kami, fingers crossed in front of him, “Are you planning to do anything about it?”

She considered this for a moment, “No.”

He sighed, dropping his head, “I thought that might be your answer. This doesn’t bother you at all? You have no concerns?”

I am not concerned, no. But it does bother me…in the way that a fly being in my house bothers me.”

Ishii-san sighed, “I will trust your judgment for now, but if things continue to progress, I will have to send you out in retaliation.”

Kami nodded, chewing her lip for a moment, “Okay. Why couldn’t we do this over the phone?”

He smiled, “You know I don’t like doing business that way.”

Yeah,” she stood with a sigh, “I’m really not worried. I’ve met the guy they sent after me, and he’s not going to do it.”

And when they take him off and put someone else on it?”

She shrugged, making her way to the door, “I’ll deal with that if it happens. I’m sure the Yamaguchi-gumi will get over it, right? The guy was a fat pimp. He probably was more trouble for them than anything, and as soon as they realize it…and that their number one assassin can’t even take me in, well, they’ll get over it,” and she walked out.

Waste of a drive, she thought, but I might as well take advantage.

She waved to the guards as she mounted her bike and took off down the street. She felt confident she could find at least one good bar in the area. She had agreed to meet with Mary Elizabeth in the morning, so a crazy night was probably out of the question, but what could happen?

*          *           *

The impact was perhaps more than she had anticipated; the wall creaked behind the weight of her hitting it. She slid down the wall and took a moment to catch her breath before standing again, using the wall as a support. She shook her head free of the fog that was creeping up on her.

That…all you got?”

*        *        *

The sun made red streaks flash across her eyelids, and she groaned. She searched her memory for what woke her – oh, yes, knocking. There it was again. She pushed herself up slowly, still unwilling to open her eyes to face the sun. Based on what was under her fingers and the position of the sun, she placed herself on her couch. She shuffled to the door, still working on the details of how she got home, and opened it, “Yes?”

It’s October!

And that means one month left to NaNoWriMo!

They reset their site every October, though, and that means that I spent about an hour today writing a synopsis for my novel idea this year. And I am not exaggerating, by the way; it really did take me that long. I think at one point I had one sentence written, and I just stared at it, hoping it would self-procreate, dividing itself into more sentences.

It did not, by the way, in case you were wondering.

But I did eventually come up with something that I could stand. I also posted an excerpt, and I also drew the cover!

Version 1! Silhouette not colored in.

The inspiration for the cover was hurricane meets James Bond. I wasn’t sure how to make the hurricane completely obvious, but, really, I don’t care. Final product is below.

Silhouette shaded

Overall, I was pleased with the outcome, and the synopsis I thought was fairly well balanced.

I also have some upcoming news. I got some good news today, but it won’t be complete until Thursday. I will have to post again then.

Progress on Eric’s gift is promising. I have a solid idea finally, and I am making progress. I will post when able, and I will start on Christmas soon!

So much going on…so little time! And November will be spent writing mostly. Crap. I didn’t think about that. Best get to it!