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Peter Coffee Taught Me My ABCs

By October 1, 2016

By: Joanna Iturbe, Salesforce Denver User Group Co-Leader, Higher Education Advisory Council, and Girlforce Leadership Team

“Because doing the wrong thing better is, technically…doing the wrong thing.” – Peter Coffee, VP for Strategic Research at Salesforce, Daydreamin’ at 5280, September 13, 2016

It all started on a beautiful spring day in New Orleans at the Higher Education Summit. I found myself standing next to Peter Coffee at a reception, so I struck up a conversation. I had just taken over the 1200-member Salesforce Denver User Group from the notorious MVP and Admin Hero, Brent Downey, so I started talking with Peter about my new endeavor. I asked, “Have you ever spoken in Denver? What would it take to get you out to see us?” To which Peter responded, “An invitation.” He wasn’t kidding. I connected with him, via LinkedIn, and 6 months later, Daydreamin’ at 5280 took place with Peter and Erica Kuhl, VP of Community for Salesforce, headlining.

In my opinion, Peter’s presentations are always inspiring and thought-provoking, to say the least, and although he’s never shared his IQ results with me, I’m quite certain he’s brilliant. When he came to us with a brand new, hot-off-the-press presentation, born en route from Seattle to LA merely 36 hours earlier, I knew it was certain to be excellent. He did not disappoint.

Peter taught me my ABCs! Do I know the alphabet? Why yes, yes I do. But, Peter taught me the ABCs of what Salesforce doesn’t do any more, and what I shouldn’t be doing any more.

A – Assuming
B – Bridging
C – Coding
D – Debugging
E – Estimating & Extrapolating

It seems simple enough on the surface:

Don’t assume. Don’t survey for survey’s sake. Don’t code just to code. Don’t debug under the false presumption that debugging equals security. We shouldn’t be doing these things anymore! So, if you are – stop.

Instead, challenge the status quo. Ask questions. Collect data productively. Deter, deceive, defend, detect and develop – don’t debug. As Peter put it, “You have to look where the keys were dropped, not where the light is best for finding them.”

It turns out, A-B-C isn’t as easy as 1-2-3.

According to Peter, humans will soon do things indistinguishable from magic. He arrived at this theory at least in part due to an article released last week: MIT and Georgia Tech develop technology to read books without opening them!

But, as Peter pointed out by presenting actual recent examples, the simple truth is we are still working to get the simple things right.

Throughout his hour long presentation, I found myself conflicted: I wanted to just stop and listen, but as the host of the event, I also needed to take notes and keep up with our Twitter feed, but I also had a part of my mind slipping to how I could not do these ABCs within my role and within higher education on a larger scale. I left feeling pretty good about where my particular Salesforce implementation sits, but we’re such a collaborative community, why can’t we work to be more proactive in affecting the pace at which higher ed technology moves? Evolves? Grows? Expands?

Now, I’m not a betting woman, but if I were, I’d put my money on Peter’s theories and hypotheses for the future of technology and what we should be doing. After all, he is the VP of Strategic Research for Salesforce.

…So, I’m off to practice my ABCs and hope that if I practice what Peter preaches, I may be able to have a small impact on higher education technology through the use of Salesforce.