Reflections on Dreamforce

by Cala Estes, Director of Candidate Services, BIT

Last week, Mike Hess and I set off for San Francisco to attend Dreamforce19, a Salesforce conference bringing together 170000 members of the Salesforce community. From the moment BIT was asked to speak at this incredible event, we started working on our presentation: “Best Practices for Empowering Employees with Disabilities Using Salesforce.”

Even before my time at BIT, I was a Salesforce user. We utilize Salesforce to support our business operations, so I’m immersed in Salesforce on a daily basis. On top of that, I’ve started studying to become a Salesforce administrator, and have taken on some admin roles for BIT as I prepare to sit for my certification exam. When BIT was asked to speak about Salesforce, Mike asked if I would take the stage for BIT to represent an employee who has been empowered by this cloud-based CRM platform.

I had twenty minutes to deliver the message of accessibility and inclusion. Twenty minutes flies when you’re up on stage before a room of people, and I had a lot to say. I spoke about how Salesforce has been designed with accessibility in mind right from the start. Companies don’t need to do anything special to their Salesforce instance; it just works. I can just log in and do my job without having to worry about whether or not I’m going to be able to read some critical piece of data. Having the same level playing field as everyone else is an empowering feeling.

I’m not just a Salesforce user though, I’m becoming an admin. The study materials to get me there, and the admin console itself have been designed with accessibility in mind. I spoke about the BIT Academy’s Salesforce admin certification preparation course which is finishing up next month. Standing on stage with my cane balanced in the crook of one arm, I felt a powerful sense of pride when I told the audience that we have five people, plus myself who made it to the end of the course. I smiled as I told them that all of us are women with some level of vision impairment.

This is an inspiring and amazing accomplishment, but as I told the room, I want to move beyond the inspiration and beyond the theory of hiring people with disabilities. It’s easy to be inspired, but we need to turn that feeling into action. After the presentation, a woman approached me with her story. She is a business analyst who is losing her vision. She said it was so powerful to see a blind woman up on-stage talking tech and admin roles. Multiple people approached Mike and myself to ask about accessibility testing. “Hire from the community you’re testing for,” I told them. One person asked me how to attract more talented professionals with disabilities. I advised them to make their internal technology accessible and advertise their efforts. Let people know that your company cares about making sure their internal products are designed with everyone in mind.

It’s all down to accessible design. I told Dreamforce that accessibility means ensuring that everyone can participate. When everyone has a chance to make it to the table, your team becomes more dynamic and agile with a wider range of problem-solving techniques and perspectives on tap. My aim was to broaden horizons and get companies to realize the value of accessibility. When something like Salesforce comes out of the gate designed with inclusivity in mind, people like me and our BIT Academy graduates have the same chance as everyone else to be successful.