Salesforce Influencer Spotlight: Fabrice Cathala

Salesforce community is powered by the diverse talent coming from completely different backgrounds. In the previous editions of Salesforce Influencer Spotlight, we have talked with Eric Dreshfield, the main organizer of Midwest Dreamin’ conference, and with Ben McCarthy, the founder of Salesforce Ben.

We are happy to present you our next guest, a Salesforce MVP, who represents the strong IT backbone of the community – Fabrice Cathala. He is a seasoned IT professional with 24 years working in various areas of computing. Fabrice’s background is in enterprise IT infrastructures, managing data centers’ operations. He has been implementing various flavors of CRM since 2002, doing his first Salesforce rollout in 2005 for Symantec, 3,000 seats worldwide.

In the following interview, Fabrice shares insights from his 10+ years of Salesforce experience and advises his favorite blogs to follow, so you could expand your knowledge of the platform and the community.


How did you become interested in Salesforce?

Fabrice Cathala: I used to run data centers’ operations. I was fulfilling my taste for technology but the job was missing a purpose: Why? Why do you keep servers up and running 24/7? Moving to the CRM industry in 2002 gave me the best of both worlds: the technology plus the glowing smiles on happy users’ faces (that’s the “why”). Note that my experience with data centers’ operations helped me to be an early adopter of cloud computing ten years later…
In 2005, I was part of a team benchmarking a new kind of application delivered “on-demand” rather than installed on a server. It was Salesforce and it changed my life.

Fabrice Cathala

Can you tell us about your first job related to Salesforce? How did you end up getting it and how did it influence your future career?

Fabrice Cathala: I was a project manager in charge of Salesforce’s adoption at Symantec for our emerging territories and as part of a global Sales Cloud roll-out. I rapidly felt that Salesforce was different from the other vendors I was used to dealing with.

It had a soul! In fact, in 2006 I ended up being part of the team who founded the first user group in Europe. It wasn’t structured as it is today but it was showing one of Salesforce’s difference: the mix between business and human values. It was the early days in Europe, there was only just one cloud (the Sales Cloud) but still, people were excited and keen to help each other.

Can you please share with our readers what are your favorite Salesforce tips/tricks that help you be more efficient?

Fabrice Cathala: Salesforce’s revolution is based on its resilience (“trust”), powerful declarative features and a steady pace of three new releases a year. As it happens, it also ships with programmatic capabilities.
Leave heavy programmatic work to ISVs, a customer or an SI should always stick to low-code deliveries as this is the best way to avoid technical debt and stay compatible with the future releases.

What are the three Salesforce apps that you use the most?

Fabrice Cathala: I love Quip and use it more and more. I like the fact that documents always look neat and tidy thanks to the limited use of text styling and that you can add components and even integrations including Salesforce data!
I’m also using dataloader.io quite a lot in particular to load parent/child data.
And of course, as a consultant, I need to track my time and expenses somewhere and, at Appirio, we’re doing it in FinancialForce.

What is the one Salesforce feature that you never use and the one you can’t live without?

Fabrice Cathala: I’m not using Campaigns as this is something more for our marketing team. I do implement it for my customers though. As for the feature I couldn’t live without, it’s got to be Reports & Dashboards. Not only am I making intense use of it on the Appirio org but this is an area which has always been key to every single implementation I’ve ever made. It was the original selling point of Salesforce Automation and I think it’s still the cornerstone of CRM projects.

What advice would you give to individuals considering a career related to Salesforce environment?

Fabrice Cathala: Jump in. Now!
Considering Salesforce’s ambitious objectives, the demand will remain for years to come. It’s a great ecosystem to be in, with good money, cool technology and very respectable human values!

You spend quite some time reading Salesforce blogs. Would you share some of your personal favorite ones that have had the most influence on your growth? Why do you like each of them in particular?

Fabrice Cathala: Hmmm… I’m going to lose some friends here… There are so many great blogs out there, sorry for the ones I’m missing:

Final question – If you could ask Marc Benioff just one question, what would it be?

Fabrice Cathala: After social, mobile and AI, what is the next real-life innovation that could influence the platform’s roadmap?

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Salesforce Influencer Spotlight: Eric Dreshfield

In our previous Salesforce Influencer Spotlight, we had a chance to talk to an outstanding member of Salesforce community Ben McCarthy, the founder of SalesforceBen.com. However, Salesforce community is vast and diverse as well as its Influencers and MVPs. When it comes to the Salesforce professionals sharing their knowledge in the real world, the best way to reach them is by attending any of the multiple conferences organized by the most pro-active community members.

We are happy to share that one of such people is our next guest – Eric Dreshfield. Eric has been in the Salesforce ecosystem since 2009. In 2010 he started the Southern Indiana Salesforce User Group. In 2011, he organized the very first Midwest Dreamin’, where 100 Salesforce enthusiasts descended upon Louisville for a full day of Salesforce goodness. Since 2014 Midwest Dreamin’ has attracted between 500 and 800 attendees annually to Chicago. Eric has been named a Salesforce MVP every year since 2013. He has spoken at Dreamforce in 2013, ’14, ’16 & ’17, Apttus Accelerate in 2016, Tahoe Dreamin’ in 2017 and Snowforce in 2018, and at countless user group meetings across the country. He has organized a Dreamforce Breakfast for Newbies as a fundraising effort supporting Project Night Night since 2012 and has been Advocacy Manager at Apttus since January 2016. 

In the following interview, Eric shares his incredible experience with the Salesforce Community as well as gives some tips on how to improve your experience with the CRM.


Eric, you have a very interesting story about how you got into the Salesforce ecosystem – can you tell us what led you to your first Salesforce-related job?

Photo Credit: Eric Dreshfield

Eric Dreshfield: I was going thru a really tough time – I lost a great job at the end of 2005, essentially because I told the president of the company that his expectations were unrealistic. I worked short-term contract jobs and part-time jobs doing whatever I could to keep the house and food on the table for my family, sometimes working as many as 4 jobs at once, and up to 20 hours per day. One day I saw an ad in the newspaper for a company looking for a technical support representative – I applied. A couple weeks later I received a phone call on a Sunday afternoon, “Can you be at this location tomorrow morning at 7 am for an interview and skills testing, and if they like you, can you start immediately?” I was also told how much the pay was, and that the job was temporary – 8 weeks in length. I thought: “8 weeks at good pay beats 8 weeks of lousy pay, and I might be able to work both jobs during those 8 weeks anyway.”

So I went to the interview that next day and started immediately. Me and 3 others got 3 days of training and then we were live on the phones providing support for this company’s customers. The call volume was lower than expected so the 4 of us quickly became 3, then 2 then just me, and by then the 8 weeks was over, and I was also trained on all the other products this company offered. After a few more weeks of wondering how many months this 8-week job would last, I was told by my manager to just keep coming back to work. They would let me know if the role would end. After a nearly 8 months of working on a temporary 8-week job, I ended up being offered a role as a Business Analyst to help the company roll out Salesforce to the contact center I was working in. At that point in time, I had never heard of Salesforce…but I got the job, just the same. Thanks, Pauline Mulvey, for believing in me and giving me a chance!

What are your favorite Salesforce tips/tricks that you’ve learned during your exciting career?

Eric Dreshfield: Utilize the resources that are available to you: local user groups, conferences and the online answers board. This was before Trailhead – when learning how to do things in Salesforce wasn’t as easy as it is today. I quickly discovered there were plenty of people out there who knew way more about Salesforce than I did – and they were willing to share that knowledge for FREE! Today – I would add Trailhead as a tip…do the trails, expand your knowledge.

What are the three Salesforce apps that you use the most and what do you like about them?

My number 1 favorite App: X-Author for Excel by Apttus – it’s the reason I wanted to work at Apttus, to begin with – and that was after simply seeing a demo of the product! It’s Excel, but its Salesforce. It’s Excel connected to Salesforce – with the best of both worlds. You can use any function and feature of Excel, including VBA & macros, and all the security and access controls of Salesforce that are enforced through the browser, are enforced through X-Author for Excel – but you are working in a spreadsheet. Imagine being a sales rep needing to update your opportunities: Salesforce – 1 record at a time; X-Author for Excel – all your opportunities in a single spreadsheet, update as many or as few as you like, then click save, and it’s all safely stored back in Salesforce.

My number 2 favorite App: FormAssembly – it makes it easy to get data into Salesforce through the simple creation of web forms, and an easy to configure connection back to Salesforce. I use it to collect data for my personal blog site, as well as to run an annual Dreamforce pass auction with proceeds benefiting Project Night Night. And… FormAssembly’s HQ is just a little over 100 miles from my house, which might very well make them the closest Salesforce Partner to me, geographically speaking.

My number 3 favorite App: SwagIQ by PFL. SwagIQ helps increase connections and close more deals by automation of intelligent gifting. It’s like the best of both worlds – CRM and business gifts, except that PFL does the fulfillment on the gifting, based on your settings in Salesforce, and you get notifications when your gifts arrive so you can perfectly time your follow-up and convert that opportunity to Closed-Won!

What is the one Salesforce feature that you never use and the one you can’t live without?

Eric Dreshfield: Salesforce feature I never use – the Developer Console. I’m not a Developer, at least not in the “pro-code” sense of the word. I think many of us who claim to not be developers really are when you consider the use of Flow, Process Builder and all the cool things you can now do with Lightning. Salesforce Feature I can’t live without – it’s not really a feature of the product, more a feature of the ecosystem, and it’s quite possibly the 2nd best invention in the entire world (second to bacon, of course) And that’s the Trailblazer Community.

Eric, you are the founder of Midwest Dreamin’. Can you tell us the story about how you decided to create this wonderful event and how did it change over the years?

Eric Dreshfield: The origin of Midwest Dreamin’ is a rather funny story, but with some serious educational enlightenment that took place. The very first Midwest Dreamin’ was held in 2011, in Louisville, KY. During my first year of working with Salesforce I was unable to attend Dreamforce due to budgetary limitations at the company I was working for. So this crazy idea popped into my head: Let’s bring Dreamforce to me! And that was the beginnings of what is now Midwest Dreamin’, and I convinced 100 people to join me in Louisville, KY in May, 2011, for a full day of Salesforce education and community. I quickly learned that running an event like this was the wrong way to be able to enjoy the event, as I was too busy making sure everything was running smooth and on schedule, that I barely had time to breathe!

I wasn’t totally alone – I did have support from afar from people like Jackie TraviesoJoshua Hoskins and Jennifer Philips – they organized an event called “Dreamforce to You – Florida”, that was held 2010 to 2012, and I spent several hours in conversations with them about what it took to make those events happen. Due to various circumstances, Midwest Dreamin’ did not take place in 2012 or 2013, but those 100 people (and others they talked to about the event) kept on me: “When’s the next Midwest Dreamin’?” So in late 2013, I put out the call to Midwest US Salesforce MVPs and User Group Leaders: “Who want’s to help me bring Midwest Dreamin’ to Chicago in 2014?” 11 awesome people raised their hands and offered to help: Denise CarboneLeyna HofferAndy OgnenoffNatalie GuntherJen NelsonMichael EstesJason KortBrian KwongDianna RaisorJohn Receveur, and Susan Thayer.

Photo Credit: Midwest Dreamin’

Today’s Midwest Dreamin’ core team still has 2 of those great people. It’s been an amazing ride, watching the event grow, drawing anywhere from 500 to 800 people each year since 2014. It’s also been awesome getting to meet so many great community members and Salesforce employees along the way. And now, just a few short years later, there are “Dreamin'” events all over the US and even the world! Many of those events started with the organizer reaching out to me for a conversation about what it takes to pull of Midwest Dreamin’ – and I was brutally honest about it. It’s not easy, it’s a huge time commitment, and a financial risk…not to mention the added stress that comes along with all that. And the rewards are AMAZING! The feeling you get when a random stranger walks up to you at Dreamforce and says “Thanks for organizing Midwest Dreamin’. I learned a ton.” (and yes, that has happened to me on more than one occasion, and at more than just Dreamforce, too. And that’s why I keep doing it – if one person tells me it helped them, there are dozens who it helped that aren’t being vocal about it….and that makes it all worthwhile.) But I didn’t scare anyone off, and the community-led events keep growing!

You have attended and presented at many Salesforce-related events. Which events, in addition to Midwest Dreamin’ of course, would you recommend attending to get the most value?

Eric Dreshfield: I’m not going to talk about Midwest Dreamin’ anymore in this interview. (#ForwardLookingStatement #SafeHarbor) I’ve attended Dreamforce every year since 2011. I’ve attended Salesforce World Tours in both Chicago and Atlanta. I’ve also attended Tahoe Dreamin’ twice, PhillyForce, Southeast Dreamin’ and Snowforce once. I’ve also attended community group (user, WIT, etc.) meetings all over the U.S. To be perfectly honest, I would say any chance you have to get to any Salesforce event, whether it’s Community-led or put on by Salesforce, GO! There are benefits to be gathered from attending any of them.

For me, the biggest benefit is the one-on-one, personal, face-to-face connections you can make, whether it’s with someone you previously only knew via Twitter or the Trailblazer Community, or if you’ve met them in person before. Don’t be afraid to talk to people who are in the same sessions or lines as you are. You never know where it will lead!

Thanks for the great interview, Eric! To wrap it up, what advice would you give to individuals considering a career related to Salesforce environment? Advice to someone considering a career related to Salesforce?

Eric Dreshfield: That’s easy! Stop considering, and start doing! The job market for people with Salesforce skills is RED HOT! The possibilities are virtually unlimited. Thanks so much for inviting me to share my thoughts with you, and the Community! Please follow me on Twitter.


In addition to writing for Apttus and X-Author, Eric blogs personally at www.ericforcefield.wordpress.com. You can find him tweeting from one of four Twitter accounts: personal; Southern Indiana Salesforce User Group; Midwest Dreamin’; and Dreamforce Newbie Breakfast. He’s on LinkedIn and Facebook, and all over the Salesforce Trailblazer Community:

Inspire Planner is a user-friendly project management app for Salesforce

Salesforce Influencer Spotlight: Ben McCarthy (Salesforce Ben)

While Salesforce is a very powerful and effective CRM, some people might find it very challenging especially when they start using it. Good thing that Salesforce has an extremely active community, which is always ready to help. Some of the community members are going even further in educating and inspiring people about Salesforce, and that is why they became famous as Salesforce influencers and Salesforce MVPs.

As our continuous effort to help the community, in addition to the Inspire App Stack, where we’ve partnered with some of the best apps from the Salesforce AppExchange to offer over $10,000 worth of software deals, we decided to launch a new format on the Inspire Planner blog – “Salesforce Influencer Spotlight.”

In this format, we will present you some of the most valuable Salesforce Influencers who will share their knowledge and advice on how to be more efficient with Salesforce.

Our first interview guest is one of the most famous Salesforce influencers – Ben McCarthy. Ben is the founder of SalesforceBen.com, the world’s leading Salesforce blog. He has held a variety of roles in his relatively short time in the Salesforce space but is currently the Managing Director of EMPAUA UK, Europe’s fastest growing Salesforce consultancy. As a 7x Certified Salesforce professional, Ben has a keen interest in business transformation through the use of new and emerging technologies.

In the following interview, Ben shares some of the insights about his experience with Salesforce as well as the story behind SalesforceBen blog. Enjoy!

Hi Ben! Thanks for your time to do this interview. How did a Salesforce influencer like yourself become interested in Salesforce?

Ben McCarthy: By pure coincidence, I am most definitely an accidental admin. After graduating from University in Information Systems, I was looking for a role where I could use my IT skills, but also work with business stakeholders to improve processes. I landed myself a graduate role as an associate consultant at a UK based partner. Here I learned all about consulting in general, the Salesforce platform, and got some hands-on experience working on projects.

I was hooked once I saw how easy it was to build business applications on the most powerful CRM in the world. Once I saw one or two projects through to the end and the benefit it brought back to the business, I was sold.

Can you please share with our readers what are your favorite Salesforce tips / tricks that help you be more efficient?

Ben McCarthy: It’s hard to focus on specific tips to help Admins or users become more efficient, there are so many shortcuts to learn in Salesforce that it takes time to slowly discover them. One of my biggest tips would be to follow community blogs out there (I know a pretty good one here), there is so much great content each week around the web that you can scratch up on your knowledge over time.

For a specific tip, I would recommend checking out a post I did a while ago on Google Chrome Extensions. There is a huge amount for Salesforce to support every type of user, enjoy!

Ultimate Salesforce Chrome Extensions

Credits: http://www.salesforceben.com/

To be honest, Salesforce Ben is one of our favorite blogs here at Inspire Planner so we highly recommend subscribing to it in order to stay updated about Salesforce-related topics.

Can you please tell us how did you get started with Salesforce Ben?

Ben McCarthy: Selfishly, I created the blog just for my own reference to start adding tricks and tips I learned whilst being an Admin. While there were blogs around at the time, I noticed that none of them focussed on a broad range of topics, mainly either Admin or Developer content. This gave me the motivation to create a blog that catered for all. My aim was to create a blog that all Salesforce professionals logged onto weekly to gain insights on the industry and learn skills surrounding their field of expertise.

Now that I’m 4 years on from founding Salesforce Ben, I’ve never been more motivated to continue growing the blog and give back to the community that has been so good to me!

Salesforce Ben blog

Credits: http://www.salesforceben.com/

What are the three Salesforce apps that you use the most?

Ben McCarthy:

Conga – Having worked at Conga for a few years helping set up the UK office, I know the product very well. This is one of the products that I recommend with nearly every implementation. Document generation just isn’t something that Salesforce can natively do, and Conga works like a dream. The most common use cases I recommend Conga for are quotes and proposals, but the use cases are endless.

Field Trip – A fantastic App that can be used to analyze your field data. Pick an object and let Field Trip go to work, it will analyze the percentage a certain field is filled in. This is fantastic for cleaning out an org and actually working out which fields are being used.

Salesforce Adoption Dashboards – A fantastic App that gives you a pre-built dashboard that gives you insights into the adoption of your Salesforce org. Definitely one that every single Salesforce Admin out there can take advantage of.

What is the one Salesforce feature that you never use and the one you can’t live without?

Ben McCarthy: Now that I’ve successfully made the switch to Lightning in my organization, I definitely couldn’t live without the Kanban view. Being able to quickly glance at my Opportunities in a summarised view is fantastic. The added bonuses of seeing the totals at each stage, dragging and dropping to change stage, and being to edit Opportunities in a pop up really make this feature sticky.

A feature I never use but probably should use is the Schema Builder, I’ve got nothing against it and it can actually be used to create objects, fields, and lookups. I just always forget about it!

Last but not least, what advice would you give to individuals considering a career related to Salesforce environment?

Ben McCarthy: My advice for people starting out is to push through that initial struggle to learn because it WILL pay off. I’ve given a lot of people advice over the years and many people that get excited by the prospect of working with Salesforce, don’t follow through with the motivation to learn the initial steps.

It’s always going to be hard learning about something you are unfamiliar with, but the reward in this scenario is huge. Salesforce has done amazing things for my career and others around the world, and it can do the same for you. Just push through!

Inspire Planner is a user-friendly project management app for Salesforce