We are pleased to have a new addition to The Celebrities of Dreamforce series, in which we’ve interviewed some of the most recognizable faces of DF15 and Dreamforces past. They are the stars that make Dreamforce the most memorable event of the year, the reason Dreamforce feels like the Mardi Gras of business conferences, the Coachella of cloud computing.
For the second installment of the Celebrities of Dreamforce, we interviewed Brian Kwong, a.ka. the Salesforce Wizard.
When he’s not donning a pointy hat and cape, Brian is the Vice President of Delivery and Operations for Better Partners. He has been working with Salesforce environments since 2007. He is a Certified Developer, Certified Administrator, and a Salesforce MVP since 2012 (Winter ‘13 release). Brian presented at the Salesforce annual Dreamforce convention in 2012, 2013, and 2014. Brian has a passion for sharing best practices and assisting companies, end users, and administrators to succeed and excel with Salesforce. Brian is also founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Wizard News. Let’s get started!
1. How did the Salesforce Wizard come about?
It started as a Halloween joke. I was planning on dressing up as a wizard for a house party. It was shortly after Visualforce came out and I was spending lots of time creating little wizards to help with data entry. So I thought it would be hilarious to tape Salesforce logos all over my rob & Hat and walk around the office. Turned out to be so popular my end users insisted I wear the hat during meetings/trainings. One day, I had an end user take my hat, print a cloth logo, and sew it on. Thus the start of my hat. You can see a full story with pictures on my blog post.
2. As a Certified Admin, Developer and an MVP, what would you say your most Wizardly skill is on the Salesforce Platform?
I wouldn’t say this is a Wizardly skill, although it’s a skill that all Wizard’s should have. It’s the ability to learn new things and have the curiosity to want to learn them. I’ve spent a lot of non-work time “working” in Salesforce to learn or test something out. A lot of the projects I shared on TheWizardNews.com, my blog, actually started as fun little tests to learn or practice some functionality.
3. How many Dreamforces have you attended over the years? What is your favorite part / favorite memory?
My first Dreamforce was “Foo Fighters” in 2008. It seems quite odd that 7 years later, I’m repeating a Foo Fighter Dreamforce.
There’s so many favorite parts to Dreamforce. When I first got started it was all the Hands-On-Training (HOTs) sessions. Those were amazing learning experience that also led me to stalk Sophie Westerbrook and Chris Barry (Hi Sophie and Chris!). Networking with all the people from across careers and industries is also an eye opening experience that I absolutely love, especially in the Admin and Dev zones. My favorite memory was the first time I got to present at Dreamforce back in 2012. It was before I became an MVP and was I nervous!
4. What are you most looking forward to at DF15?
This might be a “quiet” year for me. The last couple of years I’ve been presenting up to 5 sessions which can really fill your week. This year, I’m looking forward to co-presenting my first HOT. I’ll be presenting with Mark Ross on Advance Flows. That’s going to be amazing. I’m looking forward to spreading the word of the Flow Code and add new members to the secret person-hood of the Flownatics.
I’m also really looking forward to hosting a live – and likely unscripted – podcast episode of the WizardCast… oddly enough also with Mark Ross. For some reason everything I’m doing at Dreamforce the last two years is with Mark Ross…. Quite odd. Well not Mark, well he is odd, but in a good way. I meant it’s odd how much we do together.
5. How often are you stopped by people to take selfies with you? Who is the coolest person you’ve been able to selfie with? Who is one person you would love to selfie with?
It doesn’t happen very often, but it does happen. Typically, it happens at networking events. Photo is up at TheWizardNews.com
One of my favorite selfies is with Peter Coffee who is someone I really admire and respect. That I hope one day to get my photo with Parker Harris, mainly because he’s just so darn cool. One day, I want to have a similar position and still be able to dress up in wacky clothes in front of thousands of people and still come off as “cool.” You have to have respect for someone in a visible senior position dress up as Doc Brown or in a lightning suit in front of more than 100,000 people.
6. If you got to open for Marc Benioff during the Dreamforce Keynote, what would you discuss?
It’s all about the community for me. Salesforce has built this amazing and unique community of customers and users that I have not found anywhere else. In some cases it can almost become an extended family. As Salesforce continues to grow, change and adapt – especially towards that 20 billion dollar company mark – I want to know how Marc sees their community changing.
7. What advice do you have for companies who want to make the most of their Salesforce investment?
Salesforce is a tool. It’s a piece of technology. It does not inherently solve problems. You need someone who’s able to understand the process that the tool (Salesforce) is supporting. This can be your Salesforce Admin, but it doesn’t have to be. The skill and experience to both quickly understand process, the required process changes and the platform knowledge to implement those changes are not easily found. A company is very lucky indeed to have someone who can do both on staff. Other companies should find a resource to help them as needed. This is one of the aspects about working at Better Partners (BetterPartners.com) that I really enjoy. We look to partner with our customers for their long term success which means helping them with their processes and the technology that supports it. When you succeed in managing the processes and their supporting technology ultimately results in also helping our customer meet their goals.
8. Who does the Wizard turn to if he has Salesforce related questions?
I have questions. I have a LOT of questions. The Salesforce platform is just too big for one person to know everything about it perfectly. The general answer is, I go to the community, blogs, and Google. I’ll post on the forums, success.salesforce.com, twitter and the #Salesforce channel in IRC. When it’s something that is very specific question, I go to people I know and trust. For example, when working on an APEX problem I’ll often go to Kevin Poorman (Codefriar), Jame Loghry (Dancinllama), and Mike Tetlow (Mikename). I also have people I partner with on projects. When I hit a roadblock on Process Builder and Flow, I often pester Mark Ross (Salesforce Yoda). The community is typically the first place to look.
9. What does the Wizard enjoy doing outside of Salesforce?
There are things outside of Salesforce? The number one thing outside of Salesforce is spending time with my family. I have twin girls (currently 3 years old) who like to steal my Salesforce stuff. I’m also expecting a baby boy sometime in August which will make life interesting.
After family, I enjoy gardening (veggies and flowers), fishing, and video games. Particularly enjoy strategy and simulation games – bonus if I’m able to play cooperatively (to play with my wife, better marriage this way) or competitively with my friends. I’m also a big fan of board games, but don’t get an opportunity to play very often. It’s amazing how difficult it is to get a few adults together and not have the play board get disrupted by three year olds.