With Dreamforce 2019 on it’s way, we’re highlighting some of our favorite Dreamforce memories and discussing some exciting new plans for this year in a #DF19 blog series. Tune in each week for the next month as we gear up for another awesome year in San Francisco!
Blakely Graham, co-founder and CEO of TaskRay, has been attending Dreamforce since its inaugural event in 2003. Learn how her time at Dreamforce, both as a long-time attendee and an Independent Software Vendor (ISV), has shaped her personal story and professional trajectory in this first installment of our multi-part blog series on Dreamforce 2019.
What does Dreamforce mean to you, both personally and professionally?
I remember at the first Dreamforce, in 2003, all of the attendees could fit in one hotel ballroom. There were thousands of us all hanging out dancing to this 1970s cover band, and it was amazing! What I loved that first year, and continue to love all these years later, is the opportunity to come together with new people to explore new ideas and new ways of thinking and innovating. Salesforce enabled us to be visionaries: they let any person in your organization–whether an executive or an admin–think about how to uniquely design and build new a new process or a new asset. We were dreaming together.
Above all, Salesforce wanted to drive change, and that is truly at the heart of this event. We take something that was once locked behind closed doors and instead say, “Anyone in a business can now design, build, and dream up a solution to help your customers.” It’s a powerful idea that I think is worthy of the name Dreamforce.
How has Dreamforce has changed over the years?
One thing I truly appreciate about Dreamforce is that it hasn’t lost its heartbeat. In my journey with Dreamforce, it has gone from filling up one ballroom to being the largest technology conference in the world. Now it shuts down the city of San Francisco for a week each year! Yet, at its core, it’s still about being able to dream and interact with other dreamers. Innovation is really at its center, and it’s always been that way.
One of the things I look forward to most is that Salesforce continuously pushes and challenges the marketplace. As a business that’s what we live for: being on the forefront of change. Dreamforce offers a world of possibilities for participation. Whether I’m a customer, a partner, a user, or a leader, I look forward to the lasting impact it has on my customers and my business.
Today, Salesforce has added specific tracks to meet the educational needs of the community. Many people have joined up in the ecosystem, and the educational component is a way to give back to the larger community. Marc Benioff is philanthropic in his philosophy, and he implements his 1-1-1 model of leveraging technology, people, and resources to improve communities throughout the world, to drive the event. He has built up a very unique set of speakers and topics that are meant to bring change back to our home communities. They take a theme every year, like healthcare for example, and apply this dreaming and innovating brainpower to it on a global scale. They’re interested in talking about how to have a real impact and how can we be thinking globally. Issues like climate change, equality–which is a huge passion of mine–and how can we bring more women leaders into business are all given bandwidth and brainpower at Dreamforce.
TaskRay is now a scholarship sponsor for Dreamforce. How did this program come about?
The Dreamforce scholarship idea was driven by this amazing woman named Melanie Fellay, who is the CEO and co-founder of Spekit. She led an equality round table at Salesforce that was looking for a way to support underrepresented founders in the larger ecosystem. Melanie saw that while it was a very tight-knit ecosystem, vital voices were missing. She began taking a closer look at the statistics and found that while there are quite a few female-founded consulting partners, the two of us–to the best of our knowledge–were the only female-founded venture companies.
When Melanie first gave me a call, we discussed not only that we had pioneered this path, but that we now have the opportunity to make the path a little wider for the next generation, and we can help more underrepresented people get started on that path. We feel that by helping others come up and join the ecosystem, we improve it for all of us, and for those to come. We can only be better with greater representation. The Dreamforce scholarship came about as an opportunity to bring up-and-coming founders to the world’s largest technology conference, to help them receive mentorship and support, and to get a seat at the table. We didn’t want to limit it to female leaders either, because it’s really about diversity and inclusion. That’s the heart and spirit of the Dreamforce scholarship, and I think it’s a great start.