Salesforce is a fantastic platform to work with, but it wouldn’t be where it is today without the vibrant and diverse Trailblazer Community that surrounds it. That’s why S-Docs is introducing Salesforce MVP Spotlights, a blog series that highlights some of the most influential and inspiring individuals in the Salesforce community.
As a native Salesforce app, we’ve worked with hundreds of incredible admins, developers, architects, and other extraordinary people in the community, and we know that tapping into this group always results in new knowledge and opportunities for career growth. We leveraged our ties within the Salesforce ecosystem to gather advice from some of the top Salesforce experts and MVPs worldwide. Over the next few months, we’ll provide you with an exclusive look into their Salesforce journeys, featuring best practices, career advice, and favorite ways they give back to the community.
Dive into the stories of these Salesforce superstars to learn something new and be inspired to blaze your own trail. Kicking off the series is Salesforce MVP Steve Molis.
Salesforce MVP Spotlight: Steve Molis
Steve Molis is a 10x Salesforce MVP with a passion for formulas and helping others. It would be an understatement to say that Steve, also known as SteveMo, is an active member of the community -- he’s answered over 82,000 questions on the Trailblazer Community to date. To match Steve’s contributions, you’d have to answer 22 questions a day for the next 10 years!
Steve has been involved with Salesforce since 2003, when he was put in charge of implementing Salesforce for his company, Epsilon. Since then, he’s been inducted into the MVP Hall of Fame, spoken at Dreamforce numerous times, and established himself as an acclaimed member of the Salesforce community for his extensive formula knowledge and willingness to lend a helping hand.
We sat down with Steve to learn more about his story, Salesforce best practices, and advice for anyone in the community looking to improve their skills, further their career, or simply find a way to get more connected to their fellow trailblazers.
"Whenever I learn something new, whether it’s a formula or a process or something that’s just not in the owner’s manual, I can’t wait to share it with the community."
Tell us about your journey to MVP status.
I got into computers in my junior year of highschool when my mom got me a data entry job at the bank she worked at. After a few years, the lightbulb finally started to flicker on and I realized that computers aren’t that bad to work on, and I’m not that bad at it.
A few years later, I found myself at Epsilon, working as a Lotus Domino developer. During a team meeting one week, my boss said to me, “Sales is getting this thing called Salesforce, and it's gonna be about 25 users. You got some time - you take it,” and that was it.
Luckily, I hit the jackpot. I had written thousands of Lotus Domino formulas before, and moving from Domino formulas to Salesforce formulas is like moving from the US to Ireland. 99.9% of the words are the same - it’s just the slang that’s a little bit different. Domino gave me the background that made Salesforce make sense right out of the box.
When I first saw Salesforce, there was definitely a “wow” factor for me. It was like so many other individual things I’d worked on before, but it all came together with Salesforce. I could finally apply all those little nuggets that I’d learned over the years into one system.
I was also very fortunate to work for and with great people. I learned everything about writing Domino from my boss, who was brilliant and always willing to help.
As far as MVP status goes, I kind of just found myself there. In 2004 they spun up DeveloperForce -- old-school discussion boards and forums for people to post questions or chunks of code -- and then in 2009 they created the foundation of the community as we know it today with the IdeaExchange and the Answers Community. When Erica Kuhl created the MVP program, I was lucky enough to have been found by this community that they had built.
"I love the AppExchange because there's so many things out there that can help you ... I guarantee you're gonna find something out there that fits your needs."
Giving back is a core focus for a lot of Salesforce MVPs. What’s your favorite way to give back?
I like to joke that I will talk about Salesforce to anyone, anywhere, anytime...whether they want to hear me talk about Salesforce or not! It’s a community where you enjoy sharing what you come up with, and that’s what I love to do: share what I’ve learned.
I liken it to Disney people or Harley Davidson people. You get some people who just go to Disney one time and then they’re done, or they have a Harley, but it’s just a mode of transportation to them. Then you get those who really geek out about these things; they love to get together and talk about their passions, and for them, it’s also about sharing their passion with the community.
It’s the same thing with Salesforce. Whenever I learn something new, whether it’s a formula or a process or something that’s just not in the owner’s manual, I can’t wait to share it with the community. That’s how I love to give back. In the early days of Salesforce, there was no Trailhead, and learning was all self-taught or through collaborating online and looking at what other people were doing. I learned a lot doing that, so I like to return the favor.
Who in the community inspires you most?
There’s too many to count! If I could only mention one person, it would have to be Deepak Anand - he is the most brilliant person on the Answers Community that I have ever seen.
If I have a question about process automation or flow, I’ll ask Jennifer Lee, Mark Ross, or Brian Kwong, three of the most brilliant people in the entire world on process automation and flow technology. There’s countless others out there, but those three are like the Mount Rushmore of process automation. And they can reach out to me if they have a question about a formula -- It’s a two-way street.
There are also a ton of other brilliant people on there everyday. Eric Praud is doing some great things in the community, and it’s not just the stuff he comes up with, either. He goes into detail when he answers a question, explaining his thought process and why he did what he did, how he did it, and why it’s working. He basically gives you the owner’s manual for what he built.
Another great person is Sunil Kumar Sirangi. If my life depended on a datetime formula functioning properly, I would put my life in his hands, and have him write it.
Evan Ponter is another one. He does amazing things with reports.
I wish I could name everybody. Like I said, there’s so many great people in the community that I could go on and on; that’s just how the community is!
"Put yourself out there. The Success Community is a judgment-free part of the internet. If you have an idea or if you have a question, don't be afraid to ask. There is no stupid question."
In addition to the people who inspire you, what else do you do to keep up to date on all things Salesforce? What resources are most helpful to you?
I listen to the Admin Podcast. There's also all these Salesforce-moderated groups like Release Readiness, in addition to these individual Chatter groups that people have spun up on their own. I have mine for who owes me a beer... but some of them are more serious than that! I like the Process Automation Hour with Jen Lee -- I go there for what people are talking about in process automation, what people are talking about in reports and dashboards, what new features are out there like field to field filtering and role-level formulas.
Christine Marshall, a new MVP from the UK, has got a great blog called the Everyday Admin. Celeste Keller has posted some great stuff on the Salesforce Saint blog. All you have to do is Google “Salesforce” and you're not going to be wanting for resources.
What are some of your favorite must-have apps?
I love the AppExchange because there's so many things out there that can help you if you can't do it through the regular setup and configuration of Salesforce -- I guarantee you're gonna find something out there that fits your needs. I had a requirement for document generation a couple of years ago, and I stumbled onto S-Docs, and sure enough it did exactly what I needed it to do.
There’s some great premium apps out there that give you a fully functioning version of their solution that you can install, play around with, and evaluate, which can be really great for people in areas like the Salesforce nonprofit community.
I’ve found some great apps by Salesforce Labs that I’ve installed in a sandbox or dev org, and then used as the foundation for my own creation, whether it be my own custom object or custom app.
"Don’t jump on the first answer or the first solution you find. Be open to other ideas or new ways of looking at things."
What are other Salesforce tips & best practices you’d like to share?
I have a little admin life hack that I came up with while working with formulas. If you create or edit a formula in the formula editor, that little “check syntax” button makes sure that you're not doing something illegal in your formula, like using an INCLUDES function on a checkbox field, or comparing datetime to just date. However, it doesn't check the logic of your formula. (A+B)/C will give you a completely different result than A+B/C, but they are both syntactically correct.
So, to test my validation rule logic, I create a custom formula checkbox field on every object called “validation test,” and before I activate my validation rule, I put my validation rule formula in my formula checkbox field. Then I create a report or a list view that has all of the fields that the validation formula is evaluating, along with my checkbox right there.
This way, I can see if a record returns a true checkbox -- meaning it would trigger and flunk my validation rule -- or if it's an unchecked checkbox -- meaning it would pass my validation rule. This way, I can see if I've got a loophole.
What’s the biggest piece of advice you have for your fellow Trailblazers?
Put yourself out there. The Success Community is a judgment-free part of the internet. The people are welcoming. If you have an idea or if you have a question, don't be afraid to ask. There is no stupid question.
Back in 2008-2009, Salesforce had these weekly conference calls for admins that I would join, since I was a self-taught admin. They were basically open forums for people to ask their questions, and they were moderated by Salesforce employees. If people threw out a technical question, the people from Salesforce would take a crack at answering it - but sometimes people were doing things that weren’t in the owner’s manual. That’s when I would chime in, say “I’ve done something like that in my org. This is how I did it, and this is what you need to look for.”
At a Boston user group meeting, I was recognized from those calls by Jennifer West. She said “You’re Boston Steve! I moderate those phone calls and when you check in, everybody is glad because you answer all the questions for everyone!”
So she asked me if I was going to Dreamforce that year, and I told her that I was thinking of taking the admin workshop instead since I really want to get my certification, and that I couldn’t ask my boss to pay for both. She looked at me and said “I’m doing a session at Dreamforce. If you’re one of my speakers, your registration is comped.”
And so I was a speaker in front of about 300 people at my first ever Dreamforce in 2009. Putting myself out there in the Salesforce community really helped me get out of my shell.
Another piece of advice I have is don’t jump on the first answer or the first solution you find. Be open to other ideas or new ways of looking at things.
The Salesforce Community Advantage
Steve Molis’s incredible journey shows just how amazing the Trailblazer community really is. After starting from scratch in 2003, Steve became an influential leader in the Salesforce community by always being willing to lend a helping hand. We hope that his expert advice and unique insights have inspired you to learn something new and share your knowledge with the community around you.
To stay in the know on all things Salesforce and the community, follow Steve on Twitter and subscribe to the S-Docs blog, where we’ll be posting more Salesforce MVP spotlights throughout the summer, along with the latest and greatest in the Salesforce world.