Dreamforce 2021: The Conference of Dreams

As most in the tech industry know, Dreamforce truly is the mothership of all things related to Salesforce—arguably the world’s most popular CRM. Salesforce admins, business owners, and partners flock to San Francisco, California (Salesforce’s HQ) each year to attend this magical conference and networking event to learn about optimizing their Salesforce orgs, implementing new modules, and examining new niche tips and tricks to help make Salesforce really work for their organizations. 

Somewhere in the amount of 170,000 people have attended this event in person year over year. This year however, the event was scaled back due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and adjusted procedures/safety protocols. Dreamforce 2021 became a hybrid event this time around, integrating online streaming combined with distanced, masked, in-person events. Those who attended were required to show proof of vaccination from COVID-19 and some couldn’t travel due to international COVID-19 restrictions. 

That said, Bitwise Industries had a handful of our California-based team members attend this year’s event, and despite the concerns surrounding this pandemic, they felt safe attending due to the increased care and safety protocols Salesforce put in place to keep all attendees, vendors, and speakers safe. We asked one of our team members to share his first-hand account of his experience at Dreamforce 2021. Meet Himadri Sinha, one of our Salesforce Apprentices for Bitwise Industries Oakland. Read about his experience in his own words.

The Dreamforce 2021 Experience in a COVID-19 World

By: Himadri Sinha

I remember when I first heard about Dreamforce. I was in a Bitwise Class for Salesforce, taught by Jake Aguilar, and he was telling us about this once-a-year conference, held in downtown San Francisco, that was all about Salesforce. He also told us that tickets for this event were roughly $2,200; as a student who was still looking for an apprenticeship with Bitwise Industries, I knew I could never afford to go, or at least not this year.

Well, I got accepted into the Bitwise Salesforce Oakland Apprenticeship and began my training to learn how to use Salesforce in a work environment. In July I found out that Dreamforce may be happening in person. However, only a select number of team members would be invited to go in person, while the majority of us who wanted to attend could watch the event virtually through the newly created Salesforce+ streaming platform. Along with probably hundreds of thousands of individuals who also wanted to physically attend in person, I registered for Dreamforce. But I never thought I’d get to go; to borrow and change a phrase from The Hunger Games, the odds were not in my favor.   

As luck would have it, I—along with a handful of other team members from our Salesforce squad—were selected to go in person; compliments of Bitwise. After that, it was time to make plans. Figuring out my event schedule was the easy part. The registration process required me to submit my vaccine record, in addition to returning four at-home negative COVID-19 tests via mail or in person. I also needed to figure out how I would get there. Fortunately, I live in Oakland, so all I had to do was use Bay Area Rapid Transit or BART to easily (and very cheaply) get from my apartment to Dreamforce.

Dreamforce: Day 1

When I showed up to Dreamforce on the first day, I was already feeling overwhelmed. Though this wasn’t the usual event with 170,000+ in attendance, it was overwhelming being a first timer with all the events occurring inside and outside of the Moscone Center, as well as nearby hotels. Due to accidentally reading my schedule wrong, I had an hour to kill before anyone from my team showed up, so I decided to explore. 

All of Howard Street, the stretch that runs between the Moscone Center buildings, was closed and transformed into a fictional trail. The “trail” was complete with cabins and tents, individuals dressed as park rangers, and the Salesforce Mascots: Astro, Cody, Einstein, and Ruth walking up and down the trail.

As attendees began to arrive, I noticed two things. First, everyone seemed very nice and overjoyed that they could attend. The second thing I noticed was the sense of community and closeness—almost like family—that many attendees showed to each other. It reminded me of the community feeling I get at Bitwise Industries. It was great to see it so prevalent in the Salesforce community as well. 

Much of the opening ceremony was as I expected it to be: talks about how Salesforce was able to pivot and thrive in a now work-from-home environment, discussions on how Salesforce is constantly growing and evolving, and enthusiasm that the Trailblazer Community could celebrate in person during this pandemic. But what stood out to me the most, was the Hawaiian Blessing that we received that further solidified the Ohana Culture that Marc Benioff and Salesforce always talk about nurturing.  

Another thing I noticed was the temperature. It was HOT for San Francisco that day, but fortunately there were plenty of water stations and areas where we could sit and cool off in the shade. I’ll be honest, much of the first day for me was trying to stay cool and hydrated.

As the day progressed, one feature that surprised me was how Salesforce is using Slack to make working remotely from home so much more efficient. This is capable through all the various integrations that Salesforce has implemented, such as apps that can be built in Slack and then viewed in Salesforce and vice versa. The other thing that I really benefited from was the discussion on Apex, Salesforce’s coding language. The presentation I attended was so helpful for me and my knowledge of Apex, and it all finally started to click in my mind.  

Dreamforce is known for their headliners when it comes to entertainment. That evening was a live concert by the Foo Fighters. Being able to rock out, nod my head, and see the Salesforce Mascots dancing on the stage with the Foo Fighters is an experience I’ll never forget! After having dinner in San Francisco with my team, I got home at around 10PM and immediately fell asleep; I was exhausted!

Dreamforce: Day 2

The weather was much cooler on day 2. I went to several presentations and learned a lot in various training sessions, such as learning about the new Salesforce designer role. Moreover, there was a brief discussion by IBM on the future state of Salesforce. 

I also experienced an emotion I hadn’t felt since the early weeks of my apprenticeship—imposter syndrome. Bitwise’s motto is No One Belongs Here More Than You, however during Dreamforce Day 2, I felt like I didn’t belong there or others deserve to be here more than I. Yes, I had over one hundred badges and close to 100,000 points in Trailhead, but I had no certifications. It seemed like every presentation I attended, a presenter had at least five certifications, and some presenters had ten to twenty certifications. Many attendees also had multiple certifications, including members of my team. 
While there, I went to a presentation that dealt with imposter syndrome and it helped me overcome mine for that day. It was reassuring to me that though a person may have a bunch of certifications or have a manager title, those same people also get imposter syndrome, and I’m not alone with this issue. The presentation helped me focus on my accomplishments, such as getting Ranger in Trailhead, being accepted into the Bitwise Apprenticeship, and being able to attend Dreamforce in person. By keeping this positive attitude in my mind, I was able to prevent myself from sinking further into imposter syndrome.

Dreamforce: Day 3

For the final day, participation in Dreamforce was virtual for anyone who had a Trailblazer Badge, which was a majority of attendees. I participated in one event, which discussed future product releases of Salesforce. Most of what I viewed had already been covered, though there were a couple of things I noted in my journal. Though I was riding the high from Dreamforce in person, the virtual events did not have the same energy as being in person. However, I was also very exhausted. My feet and legs were sore from all the walking and it was very difficult keeping my eyes open during work—but I persevered.  

Happy Trails, Dreamforce 2021

I had a blast at Dreamforce. From the event setting and theme, the energy from the presenters and attendees, and the wealth of knowledge that I gained from the presentations, the whole experience was very memorable for me. Being around other people, especially members of my team who I had only met via Zoom or Google Meet, made the experience even more special for me. I’m really looking forward to next year where I can hopefully experience Dreamforce in all its entirety and splendor once again.

If you’re thinking about going in person, here are some pro tips that I gathered from my experience and from others who have gone in the past.

  • Wear comfortable shoes for walking/standing because you’ll be doing a lot of that.
  • Dress for the weather. Remember San Francisco gets cold, so pack a jacket, hoodie, and/or sweater just in case.
  • If you don’t live in the Bay Area, plan to get a hotel, flight, or Airbnb way in advance.
  • If possible, freeze a bottle of water the night before, so you can have cold water during the next day.
  • Get yourself a Clipper Card for municipal transportation. If your phone has a Mobile Wallet, such as Apple Pay, set up a Clipper Card account and add money to the card. This will give you a cheap and efficient way to move around the city, and you won’t need to rely on a car and the expensive parking fees.
  • Begin saving up. Though it was free this year, there’s no guarantee that it will be free next year. (Plus, you gotta eat and get some cool swag!
  • Remember to learn, have fun, and take plenty of pictures and videos!

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This blog post was written by Himadri Sinha, an Apprentice with our Oakland Salesforce Apprenticeship at Bitwise Industries. He loves to play video games, binge-watch anime and sci-fi films, cook delicious food, and visit his family in San Francisco.