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Michael presenting his team’s Salesforce Flow demo at Trailblazer DX’s Automation Keynote.

Go with the Flow: Behind the Scenes with Salesforce Solution Engineers

Sadie Evans

March 31, 2023

Ning (L) and Michael (R) at a Salesforce event

TrailblazerDX -- a two-day event to learn about the Salesforce ecosystem -- is always the highlight of the year for developers, admins, and architects. But, for Salesforce employees, the event also offers opportunities to get hands-on experience building product demos for over 5,000 attendees onsite and over 20,000 more on Salesforce+ to see.


The Retail Enterprise Team, comprised of Solution Engineers who work every day to customize Salesforce technology to meet the needs of customers, was tapped to build demos that showcased how Salesforce’s latest automation tool, Salesforce Flow, can bring immense value to users.


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We sat down with two of these engineers— Lead Solution Engineer Ning Tay and her team leader Michael Richards, Senior Manager, Solution Engineering— to get an inside look into the development of one of the Salesforce Flow demos featured in the TrailblazerDX Automation Keynote, No-Code to Low Code: Enabling Enterprise-Wide Automation, as well as what it’s like to work as a Solution Engineer at Salesforce.


Michael Richards, Senior Manager, Solution Engineering at Salesforce

Before we dive into what it took to create your Salesforce Flow demos for TrailblazerDX, tell us about what you do as Solution Engineers at Salesforce.

Michael: I’ve been with Salesforce for just over seven years and I lead the Retail Enterprise team. We are focused on aligning our products and solutions to our customers’ business challenges. The way I like to talk about it is: if you’re at a car dealership and someone is selling you a car, we're the ones that know how the car works, all the features of the car that are useful to you, and we can customize the car to align it to your needs. With Solution Engineering, you can't teach it like you can teach math. Solution engineering is art and science: the art of building trusted relationships, and the science of figuring out the perfect solution.

“Solution engineering is art and science: the art of building trusted relationships, and the science of figuring out the perfect solution.”

Ning: I've been a Solution Engineer at Salesforce for two years, and in my role, I give customer demos for the core platform products, including Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, and Experience Cloud. I show our customers the Salesforce product in a way that's relevant to them, their business, and their industry. I tailor the product to their needs and their use cases. But I get to be creative and tell stories to make the experience engaging and fun for everyone. You can be funny, you can tell jokes, and then you watch the audience loosen up and laugh and have a good time. The job is what you want to make of it, and you can make it fun.

What was the challenge your TrailblazerDX Automation demo had to solve using Salesforce Flow?

Michael: Building automation from scratch can take a lot of time that our customers don’t have to spare. Within our keynote, we were highlighting the ability to automate various complex tasks efficiently. Salesforce Flow has an out-of-the-box automation that your organization can download from the AppExchange that’s prebuilt for a business process with the ability to be customized.


In our demo, we were highlighting the ability to automate incident management by looking at incoming cases at a fictional retailer. If a certain amount of cases looked similar to one another, how could they be grouped and then escalated automatically so that the organization could respond to an issue that is frequently impacting the business? We used the out-of-the-box Flow solution to create that automation. Before Flow, customer service agents were manually addressing each issue, and some were missed. With Flow, the incident information integrates into the system and our fictional agents leverage Salesforce Flow to work in the background. It’s seamless, accurate, and instant.

When your team was tapped to build these two demos, how did the work get done, and what was that experience like?

Michael: The timing, for me, was very challenging. I had to be onsite at Company Kick Off for a full week, and right after that, I had a planned vacation. That was all during the timeline of when the demo had to be built. I had always planned on asking my team to contribute to building with me, but my capacity was much more limited than I had anticipated. So I told my team I really needed their help. I wrote out a script and shared what I wanted the story to be, but that was all I had done before I left. I asked my team to get as far as they could and that I would pick it back up when I returned.


Amazingly, when I came back, everything was done. But what was even better was not only was it done, there was a level of enthusiasm and positivity. The team worked together, and Ning jumped in as a leader. I got to catch up on their Slack messages and I saw they all jumped into a Slack Huddle and built together to learn from each other. Ning took the time to share it with other Solution Engineers so that they could learn about it too.


Something that I value as a leader is that I'm giving people the opportunity to succeed. I know Ning's career goals. It was amazing to see her rise to the occasion and for me to be able to provide her with that opportunity. I felt like it was a big moment for Ning and she crushed it. I had no doubt that she would do well, but then she far exceeded what I planned for, and her leadership allowed me to have a vacation. It allowed me to not have to worry about it. For me, it was a lot of growth, too, as a leader. You have to hand over responsibility. You have to trust someone else. I think in that sense we both grew from the experience tremendously.

Salesforce Flow is brand new to the Salesforce Ecosystem. How did you approach building a demo with features that had never been seen before?

Ning Tay, Lead Solution Engineer at Salesforce

Ning: Michael left everything that we needed to succeed in a Slack post to the team, so I don't want him to be giving me too much credit. But there was a point where I knew what needed to be done, and I'd never done it before. It was more ambiguous, which is why I decided to take it on. It was a good challenge for me.


It was a lot of trial and error. I didn't know what the demo was actually going to look like at the end. So I kept looking through all of the internal Salesforce resources and public-facing documentation, talking to experts internally to figure out from different perspectives how they thought this could be demoed, and piecing that all together, until it clicked.


I think a lot of that [perseverance] came from my consulting background where we were often starting from a point where...we know nothing and no one will help us. Where do we go from here? And so it’s about not being afraid to try things, not being afraid to fail, and anticipating failure. By assuming that it's going to be a lot of failures all the way throughout you can just continue to try different things, take different perspectives, and ask for help. There are so many smarter people for me to lean on and learn from and connect with at Salesforce, I never felt like I was lost or in the dark or alone.

“It’s about not being afraid to try things, not being afraid to fail, and anticipating failure.”

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Ning and Michael are ambassadors for what makes a great Solution Engineer: they share a passion for technology, for creating unique solutions to customer challenges, and a commitment to innovation and trust, two of Salesforce’s core values. Together, they guided their team to achieve an exciting and engaging TrailblazerDX demo that you can watch on Salesforce+ today.

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