Surf Force 2017, a secluded retreat
It’s just one week since I returned from Surf Force, a highly enjoyable community-led Salesforce conference held this year in County Donegal, Ireland.
Surf Force 2017 was a unique opportunity to discuss technology, social and environmental issues in a family-friendly environment with leading thinkers from the Salesforce ecosystem.
Attendees were treated to 2+ days of presentations, conversations, new horizons and of course, surfing. I will be going again next year for certain.
Where was it?
The location on the west coast of Ireland was remote and required a travel commitment beyond a “capital city” conference. We flew into Dublin and then drove across country for a few hours. The town of Bundoran is a magnet for surfers visiting the Wild Atlantic Way and the conference was located in the Great Northern Hotel on a headland overlooking the dramatic ocean. For me, the location in the landscape created the feel of a secluded retreat that allowed me to put aside day-to-day concerns and focus on the here and now.
Who was there?
Smaller conferences provide a unique opportunity to speak with leading members of the Salesforce community and Salesforce employees who are technical experts and leaders.
I joined my wife Jess, who also now works in the Salesforce ecosystem and the timing of the conference provided an opportunity to bring along our girls, ages 3 & 10, to experience the environment and people. Other attendees too brought their partners along for the trip and there was an adorable 7-month-old baby who became the conference darling!
Surf Force attracted a list of Salesforce names over from San Francisco; Chuck Mortimore, SVP of Identity & Security Product Management, Gregg Rewis, Principal Developer Evangelist and Charlie Issacs, CTO for Customer Connection (a.k.a IoT). It was also wonderful to catch up with Community Director Holly Firestone, who was introducing a new recruit in her team, Tiffany Oda to the community at large. The EMEA team of Christe Fidura and Will Coleman were on hand supporting the organisers in delivering and recording the conference. This level of attendance demonstrates how important these grassroots conferences are to Salesforce’s event mix.
People just like you
Attendees and speakers came from near and far and I saw presentations from Lauren Touyet, Chuck Liddell, Roger Mitchell, Meighan Brodkey, Barry Hughes, Penny Townsend, Sean Dukes, Paul Harris and Martin Humpolec. The content was more diverse than a corporate event such as you would find at a Salesforce World Tour or Dreamforce. This is a big plus for me to see out-of-band topics from people who are passionate or expert. Having the time and space to chat with them during the event was hugely valuable to me and opened my mind to new ideas and points of view.
Diversity & Inspiration
The keynotes and panel discussion were equally thought-provoking and I was so happy that my 10-year-old daughter was sitting next to me and had the opportunity to see Ann O’Dea, CEO and Co-Founder of the technology website Silicon Republic, talk about how women have been instrumental in the development of computing & technology through history.
Ann listed multiple role models, beginning with Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, through Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson (NASA’s Hidden Figures) and up to the modern day. In the second half of her presentation, Ann expanded the theme from WIT to diversity and inclusion for all abilities, languages and races. Her conclusion was that it feels as if attitudes have come a long way but that we should all lend our weight to keep the momentum needed to close the gaps. By way of example, Ann introduced an event called InspireFest, which she is involved with to create a positive environment for young people who will shape the world of tomorrow. I have put this event on my calendar for next year.
I want to congratulate the Surf Force leadership for including environmental issues in the event programme. The presentation from Clean Coasts officer Beckey-Finn Britton on ocean pollution, was really shocking to me. Clean Coasts is a charity that organises beach cleanups around the coast of Ireland in response to the global problem of rubbish in the ocean. Beckey explained to the Surf Force audience that almost all the rubbish which washes up on beaches is some kind of plastic and the items which Clean Coasts volunteers collect and catalogue is an indicator of the volume of plastics which continue to grow in the World’s oceans.
The surfing activity group was made up of novices and experienced surfers (those folks from California!) and it was operated by a local surf school who provided the gear, supervision and coaching. Before we took to the water the group carried out a beach clean. The volume of plastics and general rubbish which we collected in a 20-30 minute period blew me away. Beckey’s presentation the day before had shown pictures and graphs but here in front of me was the ugly reality of the problem piled up amidst the beauty of the beach and sea from where it came.
The water and waves of Tullan Strand where we surfed were simply beautiful. While the experienced surfers paddled out to sit on their boards’ commune with the power of the ocean, we novices stayed waist deep and caught white water waves. The power of the waves was still plenty to launch boards towards the beach and after a couple of turns jumping on and riding the waves laying down I decided to give standing up a go. Though we had practised the technique on the beach to “pop” from laying to standing I didn’t have much luck and will need some more practice in the future. No such problem for the young though – I was treated to the sight of my 10-year-old daughter catching her first waves and successfully standing up within minutes. Oh to be young again!
Leadership & Sponsors
Thanks to all the sponsors and to the passion and energy of Shaun, Kerry, Scott, Marcelle, Lauren and Mick for bringing Surf Force 2017 to the world. Once you have all recovered, I hope that you will start to plan for 2018. You can be sure that I will be there, and maybe I’ll bring my two sons along next time too!