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The Life and Times of a Salesforce MVP

Last week, I got a wonderful email from Salesforce. It simply said, “Congratulations…again!” in the subject line. Just to fill y’all in, I was invited into the MVP program at Dreamforce 2010–the “inaugural class.” Then, in 2015, I took a step back to focus on my family. And last week I found out that I’m back.

 

This blog post’s going to get personal. I’ve got a lot to say about my participation in the Salesforce MVP program, and I want to share a little bit of my journey–where I’ve been, where I’m at, and where I hope to go. My goal here is to outline my own professional experiences over the last 5+ years and how being an MVP was an important part of that. I’ll also get into what went on with the program that impacted me personally–and why I believe the Salesforce MVP program is such a great thing.

 

Salesforce MVP Badges

The Salesforce MVP Badge Collection – A Magnificent Thing to Behold

 

In the Beginning…

In 2008-2010, I was running on all cylinders with Salesforce. The community was gaining a lot of momentum–it was kind of like the Wild Wild West, with varying levels of awareness and support by Salesforce. I shared war stories, helped people out, and received help in the form of tech support, mentorship, and plenty of laughs and hugs from my newfound friends. It felt like we were a posse in a way, and when the MVP program was minted and we were selected as the initial inductees, it was amazing. But we also had no idea of what this program really meant or what effects it would have. On an individual level, we all just kept working hard and doing what we could to help the community. The designation was just a feather in our cap. It didn’t impact our relationships with one another or what we did to help the community–we kept on moving onward and upward.

 

Acceleration

In many ways, 2011 through 2015 was a blur. Four years of hard work punctuated by 4 Dreamforces. Red Argyle and Salesforce were all consuming–and amazing! Red Argyle grew every year. I made more friends, and my old friends kept getting more awesome. I watched my friends and people in the MVP program advance their careers, just as I was advancing mine. The MVP program was certainly a catalyst for growth, but then again, the MVPs were chosen partly because we were leaders in the Salesforce community. And if you can lead in the community, you can also lead in the workplace. The MVP program took off like a rocket and grew from 15 to 150(ish) near the end of my first tenure. It was wonderful. I think one reason these years flew by was because they were just so much fun.

 

Time for a Hiatus

In late 2014, things were changing. Red Argyle was evolving, expanding, and demanding a lot of attention, and I just found out that I was about to have a second baby. With my first baby, I had no idea what to expect or what it would be like. And, when my son was born, I made one of the biggest mistakes of my life: I ONLY TOOK 3 DAYS OFF FROM WORK and then jumped back into the mix. I still look back at that and have regrets, knowing now that I shorted myself on what is a truly special time in anyone’s life. The second time around, with my daughter on the way, I wanted to FOCUS on my family and keep pushing hard at Red Argyle. I made the decision to bow out of the MVP program. I called the leadership and explained things to them, and they told me that there was a new “Emeritus” status for people like me who had put years into the program and needed to step down. Of course, I graciously accepted and still appreciate them and that opportunity to this day.

The funny thing is, that while I was on hiatus, a lot of things still happened. I did spend more time with my wife and kids, and it was GREAT. I also had a lot of success at Red Argyle. And I also accidentally met the criteria to get nominated and brought back as a full MVP. When I found out this incredible truth, even I had doubts and tried to quantify things. Looking back, I guess I wasn’t idle. Here are a few of the things I did during the break:

 

  • Tweeted almost daily about Salesforce
  • Attended & presented at Dreamforce, plus produced a video for the session
  • Worked in the Admin Zone at Dreamforce, answering customer questions
  • Wrote about 2 dozen Red Argyle blog posts, which drove a good amount of traffic
  • Attended 2 customer company tours and a Partner Forum
  • Helped the MVP Mentorship team rewrite their mentorship playbook
  • Helped find new leaders for the Albany User group and got them introduced to contacts at Salesforce (and now we’re on our way to rebuilding the group)
  • Delivered another 125 Salesforce projects with Red Argyle
  • Pushed hard to keep giving 1% of my resources to charity. It ended up being about $10,000 donated from Red Argyle and over 60 hours of my volunteer time as a board member for the Food Bank of Northeastern New York

 

So, while I was surprised that that’s how things shook out, I guess I was pretty busy last year. Which leads me to a big stroke of irony that I’ve been pushing during my work with the mentorship team:

Don’t try to be an MVP just to be an MVP. As my “idol” Ted likes to say – “Be Excellent to One Another.” People who are MVP material just do their thing, get discovered, and get recognized for it. And sure, they may get a little nudge along the way from a mentor (more on that later), but becoming an MVP should never be a goal.

 

Nothing’s Perfect

Don’t think the last 6 years have been sheer perfection. This journey was not made without some challenges, hardships, and frustrations. For starters, the MVP program is doing something that’s never been done before, and it has seen explosive growth. It’s hard, if not impossible, to do something great without making a few mistakes, learning and improving along the way. Whenever I have had issues related to the program, I’ve dealt with them privately and in a professional manner–and I’ve always felt heard. I firmly believe that the MVP program was, is, and will continue be a GOOD thing for the community, as a role model for other businesses in the tech industry, and for the individuals within or around the program. I know that it will continue to change over time, but no matter what, I’m always going to appreciate the role it has played in my life, along with the hardworking staff at Salesforce who built this program from nothing. I’m honored to be a part of the program, and proud of this community of which we are stewards.

 

Salesforce MVP - Dreamforce Bag

My Well Traveled Salesforce Companion Bag

 

The Future

In my professional career, there is one thing that has always been particularly special and valuable to me: the mentorship that I’ve received. People in the community (and people far, far outside of it) take time out of their busy schedules to help me not only be a better professional, but a better person all around. Good advice and empathy are a priceless gift that I’ve been fortunate enough to receive. Therefore, I’m going to work hard to put my energy into the MVP Mentorship program, so that I can hopefully help some others in a similar way.

On a more personal note, when I helped build Red Argyle with my business partner Tom, we pledged to give 1%, just like Salesforce does. So, as a corollary to my mission of mentorship, I hope to continue spreading my love for philanthropy with my friends in the program. As a group, we wield tremendous influence, and there’s no better way to use it than to help those in need.

 

My MVP V2MOM

If you’re not familiar with the Salesforce V2MOM process, here’s a (very) brief synopsis: it’s a short way to summarize how you’re going to get the job done. Now let me share with you my personal MVP V2MOM:  

Vision

Help the Salesforce MVP program continue to cultivate great members while also promoting charitable giving through my networks within the program.

Values

  • Awesomeness (In my opinion, this can be defined as doing a good job while being creative and keeping a big smile on your face)
  • Empathy
  • Honesty
  • Decisiveness

Methods

  • Have at least one Salesforce or MVP-centric creative project active at all times (I just found out about two that really interest me.)
  • Establish a formal mentee relationship with someone within 3 months
  • Promote the 1/1/1 program within the MVP program
    • Have informal conversations with friends
    • Encourage my mentees to participate
    • Solicit speaking engagements where I can promote this
  • Continue to use Twitter as my tool of choice for daily public communications

Obstacles

  • Time–many obligations stand in my way, and I will have to fight hard to balance this

Measures

  • Personal PM tool to measure creative outputs
  • Track dollars donated to charity
  • Track hours donated to charity
  • Number of mentees
  • Twitter statistics

 

I love this community and what we’re doing together. My Salesforce journey has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. I’ve been able to build a career, make friends for life, and have a lot of fun at work, all while growing my family. There’s no company I’d rather keep than the incredible people who make up my own personal (always growing) Salesforce community. I owe a huge amount of gratitude to my mentors, the hard working staff at Salesforce, and, of course, all my friends out there in the world. Thank you!!

Comments

  • Jason Lawrence says:

    You’re an inspiration to us all; how you seem to balance family life, running and growing a successful business, and doing the best for the community. All the time having fun; be it chopping wood or playing with Lego. I’m honored to be able to call you a friend.

    Looking forward to catching up with you again soon, virtually, and in person sometime in 2017.

  • Hi Garry,
    I recently stumbled across this blog from Chris Zullo who recommended your blog. I am a salesforce consultant specializing in higher ed and running the salesforce crm practice for Eigenx. I follow the 1-1-1 model of salesforce myself and have a goal of becoming a MVP this year. I am based in Philly and i am a blogger doing 2 blogs a month on higher ed and posts for admins. I would like to know if there is a good time to talk to you or if you can point to me 3 to 5 things specific i can do which would help me meet the MVP program criteria?
    Please feel to email me directly at buyan47@gmail.com or let me know a good time to chat?
    Thanks
    Buyan

  • Marshall Harrison says:

    Great Post Garry.

    I appreciate your community roadmap.

    I spent 6 years as a Microsoft MVP and recently changed my career to become a Salesforce developer. I’m loving the community and the MVP approach so much better with Salesforce. The willingness of people to give back seems way above what I experienced in the Microsoft eco system.

    • That’s a great thing to hear Marshall! I believe that Salesforce has truly cultivated something remarkable in their community and the model will serve as the gold standard for other companies to follow in the future. Glad you’re getting involved and I hope we get a chance to meet sometime! Cheers!

  • So well said Garry. I have always loved the passion you have for the entire Salesforce space and it comes through so clearly in this blog.

    Keep it up my friend ?

  • Becoming a Salesforce MVP is more of a responsibility towards the community who recognized you for your contributions.

    Urging and enabling one to keep contributing in the awesomest way possible.

  • Great job keep up the good work.