From time to time people in the community give shout outs to each other. Sometimes it is a single tweet telling how a video or an article helped them, sometimes it is like a chain letter with people tagging each other. Those chain letters do not tell the stories behind why someone inspired you. I prefer stories and this is my story. For me, everything began with small seeds of inspiration, which got planted in my mind when reading and getting help from one blog post at a time. Many seeds were planted a whole decade ago, before I started to create any community content myself. Apparently, it can take time to grow.
Now I will take you on a journey back in time. How did I get into tech, find my way into community and what people inspired me along the way? Some people have inspired me for a long time, some I have known of for a shorter period of time. Hopefully my story and the community content I create can bring inspiration to someone else.
How I got into tech
There are many great stories about people who was not in tech at first but then some day they took a different path in life. My story is not like that. I went to school and studied my way into tech. After years with (at first) scary looking algebra and even more scary looking C++ pointers, inspiring math teachers and a great mix of personalities among my fellow students, I graduated from Chalmers University of Technology.
What inspired me to start studying? Somehow it was my dad who inspired me to get into tech. Not by showing me the way into it, rather more by constantly reminding me about the importance of getting yourself an education and Computer Engineering seemed like a good choice with lots of possibilities for the future. I know that the education part is not the necessary way into tech for everyone, but for me that was a great path. Studying to get a masters degree, the people who inspired me were the ones who actually studied and wanted to learn new things.
Looking back, I wish I had been introduced to computers earlier in life. Concepts like PowerApps4Kidz and coding for kids programs did not exist yet (at least as far as I knew). In 8th grade I took typewriter lessons, learning where to find the typewriter keys without looking at my hands. I even had a typewriter at home, wrote letters, to be send by post. I do not remember the exact year my family bought a computer, I think it was when I was in senior high school. First when I started my studies at the university, I got a computer of my own. It was quite challenging with the first programming labs, being a newbie and some of the other students already had programming experience. Luckily, I found someone similar to me and we learned together.
I will never forget the first time we were exposed to a programming exercise, the lab instructions all looked like Greek to us. We raised hands “What are we supposed to do?” We got the answer: “You are just going to do some debugging”. We raised hands again. “Debugging – what’s that”? Today I can laugh at it. Don’t forget that even if you think something looks like Greek (only applicable for non-Greek readers of course) at first or even though you feel like everyone else know so much more than you about a certain topic, you can learn it too! When you have gained enough experience, then you can be the one telling your story and helping others by sharing your experience. Actually, you do not need to wait for the experience, share your learning journey and others will get inspired along the way.
Finding Microsoft Dynamics CRM and a whole Community
I ended school on one day and started at a job on the next day. Java development (new UI for IBM AS/400 and RPG based solutions) was my main task. As a newbie in tech, I was inspired by my colleagues who had gain a few years of experience. Those who always knew how to solve problems, were service minded and great with the customers. I also had a great female manager, who quickly realized that I enjoyed doing a bit of everything. Both figuring out solutions for customers, doing the techy things, code, but also meeting with customers, finding out the requirements and needs. She got me into CRM. Not the Microsoft based software, but a Lotus Notes based CRM system, developed as CRM solution to be used together with that RPG based ERP system. One thing led to another and after working with the Lotus Notes based system for a few years, an opportunity came up to come and work with Microsoft based solutions. That was the start of a long journey!
Coming from working with a Lotus Notes based CRM system with very few developers and most of them had left the company, it was such a relief to be able to search for solutions that others had come up with when you got stuck. It did not take long until I realized there was a whole community out there working with similar implementations as I did and people who were facing similar problems. I used Google Reader and started a precious collection of blogs to regularly follow. Not only because I wanted to learn as much as I could from those people writing the blog posts but also because I enjoyed reading the posts.
At that time, I was the only one at the company who worked with CRM and the xRM platform (learned it, got certified, supported the company’s own CRM 3.0 and tried to sell it to customers). There was one other person, but it was an independent consultant mostly doing other things. Acting like our IT manager, helping out with our servers and server related tasks when installing Microsoft Dynamics CRM on premises (cloud ☁️ was not yet a big thing in our MSCRM world back then) and also had some MSCRM experience. I was happy to have this person to chat with every now and then.
Those chats and reading blog posts from the community was all I had as inspiration and CRM/xRM related interaction with people who knew how to create solutions with the platform and to solve problems related to implementing solutions at customers. Not much to hang in the Christmas tree as we say here in Sweden, the interactions you have when reading blog posts, I mean. I knew there was a Swedish MVP within CRM (Business Applications), Gustaf Westerlund, but I did not know him and he was in another city and at another company.
After a while I got a bit tried of being the only one working with xRM and I found a company where still I was the only one located on the west coast of Sweden and working with CRM, but there was a whole CRM team located in Stockholm. All of a sudden I had new possibilities to have xRM related chats about customer solutions, new features coming to the platform, the possibilities to extend with code, what you are allowed to do and not to (what was considered as ”supported”), how to best do data models, what entities to use for different solutions, how to best meet the customer requirements etc.
I also realized that one of my new colleagues also followed RSS feeds and we compared the blogs we followed, discussed around different blog posts and explored new features together. I got inspiration from this person by having these xRM talks, discussing the blogs that was out there as well as the news in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 compared with 4.0. We even talked about how fun it would be to go to some event where MVPs were going to talk about the techy things related to Microsoft Dynamics CRM and how fun it would be to just mingle around with these like-minded people.
Inspiration from following the Community
I started my Twitter account on the 7th of November 2010. The main reason was to follow people in the community and to get a Microsoft Dynamics CRM related feed. I started to follow other people working with Microsoft Dynamics CRM and also some BizApps, or was it called CRM, MVPs. People I remember from back then are Mark Smith sharing lots and lots of news on Twitter, Julie Yack, also sharing news and being a female MVP – very inspiring back then just the fact that there was a female MVP working with Microsoft Dynamics CRM! I also remember following Anne Stanton, Mitch Milam and Larry Lentz. I followed Richard Knudsson‘s blog, it was one of my favorite blogs.
For several years the community content which was of highest priority to me and the sources I always recommended to my colleagues where mainly three. The newsletter Dynamics Weekly by Guido Preite during the years it existed, the blog Surviving CRM by Jukka Niiranen, which still exists and was rebranded in 2019. The third was the quick tip blog CRM tip of the Day by George Doubinski, Joel Lindstrom and more. Not only good to follow, but I cannot count the number of times I have had a problem, searched for a solution and ended up following a tip from that blog.
Back to the story of my (work and community) life. So I had gain a “CRM team” at work and I had one person who also liked to read blog posts and follow others in the community. This person and also another colleague changed to another employer during the time that I was on parental leave. Fortunately they recommended me to their new manager. An opportunity came up and I changed to a company with around 40 people who all more or less worked with Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Still most of them on the east coast, but talk about how my xRM world all of a sudden got a whole lot bigger! I also got to meet with and had the privilege to start working with Jonas Rapp and (among other things) as an ISV partner to Microsoft, doing an AppSource journey.
It did not take long until I realized that Jonas is someone who knows much, is really good at what he does and at the same time very willing to help others learn and understand all about a certain topic. Supportive, encouraging and full of creative ideas, at work and during community time. When I started this blog, even though we were not at the same company at that time, he was quickly there, encouraging me with the blog and also with some upcoming speaking engagements. It was also Jonas who nominated me to become an MVP last year. Today I am inspired by his strength and openness during his recovery from a stroke. We were at different companies for some time but then at the same company again, which is the company founded by Sweden’s first BizApps MVP, which I mentioned earlier, Gustaf Westerlund.
Jonas has created lots of helpful tools, not only for the company where we worked but also for the community and I have enjoyed following his journey with these tools. One other tool that I used for many years is Scott Durow‘s Ribbon Workbench, first stand-alone and then as part of Tanguy TOUZARD‘s XrmToolBox. Many XrmToolBox tools have helped me during my work journey. Also Level up for Dynamics 365/Power Apps, the browser extension for Dynamics CRM/365/Power Apps Power users by Natraj Yegnaraman. It is very inspiring seeing people putting a lot of job into creating and maintaining those tools, which help others all over the world.
People who write great articles have always inspired me. Still two of my favorite blogs are Jukka Niiranen’s blog (full of information and great insights) and CRM tip of the Day (still high quality tips!). Other blogs I enjoy following are It Ain’t Boring by Alex Shlega and ReadyXRM by Nick Doelman. Full of tips and tricks and simply high quality, well written content. There are many others too, if you follow Power Platform Weekly you will find out what articles I find inspirational. You can also have a look at the Community Blogs page in Power Wiki. In the end of the next chapter you will also here about the amazing WIT, writing articles and creating other types of content. By the way, did you know that there is one person in the community, which do not only have a Power Platform blog, but also has written a real book? Not a technical book, but a novel. It is still on my reading list and you can find more info about it here.
Following people on Twitter helped me keep up with what’s new and to find great resources. It was also somewhere here seeds started to get planted. Telling me that I can share things too. Here follows some nostalgic retweets I made back then. At that time there were other profile pictures and descriptions of these people of course.
Finding my way into the community
For a long time I thought about starting a blog. However it took some time from idea to action and in April 2019 it was time for some action. I had just explored the Data Integration parts in Power Platform (now Dataflows) and I had not seen any article about the subject at all at that time. So I thought, it is time! Time to give back to the community. It sounds cheesy, but I am sure grateful for every single piece of community content that helped me during my journey.
Then followed preparations for some speaking engagements and I attended a community event for the first time. First time attendee and first time speaker, all at the same day! You can read about it in my articles Power Platform Saturday Sweden – from an attendee’s point of view and Power Platform Saturday Sweden – from a speaker’s point of view – Introduction to Dataflows and Data Integration. How fun to eventually mingle around with people in the community! During that event and during other events after this I got to know inspirational and supportive people in the community. Once again, my (not CRM anymore but rather) Power Platform world grew a whole lot bigger! The year 2019 was a lot about community, as I wrote about in this summary post. Sweden got an own Power Platform community when Sara Lagerquist started Power Platform Community Sweden.
In 2020 I attended the 90 Day Mentoring Challenge with Mark Smith, who delivers all he does with such energy. You can really tell he is passionate about what he does and that is inspiring. One of the best parts of the program was to meet with the other participants. Inspiring people, all eager to learn and sharing their learning journeys. The content was great and overall a good mixture of introducing Microsoft Business Applications, the community and different ideas about how you can contribute with your experience and your unique views.
Collaborations in different formats are great, it is inspiring working together with others. The first to mention is Power Platform Weekly, I enjoy collaborating with the team to summarize and feature community content. Of course the inspiration came from Guido Preite, which ran Dynamics Weekly and impressively created 149 issues. Another collaboration is a wiki. Around the same time as I started my blog, I had the thought of creating a wiki. Two years later Power Wiki came to life and with me on that journey I had Benedikt Bergmann (as well as others). Here’s the Power Wiki launch article. A third collaboration to mention is when I was introduced to Amanda Sterner and all of a sudden, my world grew out from Power Platform. Just like our customers solutions stretches over more technology areas than those I have most experience from. Me and Amanda wrote two articles together and who knows, you might see more from us combined in the future.
It is inspiring to see others grow their seeds. I could not be more proud of my colleague Carl Gustavsson, who will deliver the session The Button Strikes Back: The How, What & Why of Using Flic Smart Button with Power Automate. at the Community Summit on the 13th of October as well as Thomas Passad with his session A Beginner’s Guide to Dynamics 365 Marketing. Two community heroes in the making!
In 2011, a Microsoft Dynamics 2011 Top 10 in 10 video was created and I asked myself, where are the CRM MVP girls? I could have asked the same question in general, where are my female CRM colleagues? There are more WIT nowadays, it is very inspiring to see other WIT writing articles and creating other types of community content. Tae Rim Han, Diana Birkelbash, Olena Grischenko, Megan V. Walker, Amey Holden, Malin Martnes, Ana Inés Urrutia just to name a few. I have gotten more and more female CRM (nowadays Power Platform) colleagues as the years have past as well as lots of inspiring female community and MVP fellows to follow and connect with. Today Lisa Crosbie creates 10 in 10 videos, April Dunnam makes Power Platform Rewind videos and Elaiza Benitez makes WTF (What The Flow) magic videos. There are so many more inspiring WIT and it is great to follow and seeing them all doing inspiring work!
If you have read this far, by now you have probably figured out what inspires me. People who are equally interested in tech, have a passion for what they do, are creative, never stop their learning journeys and who are willing to help others along the way. People whose writing style I admire. There are also people “operating in the dark” so to say. People who are not active in the community, but still encouraging and motivating you behind the scenes. It might be someone who creates you a (Power Wiki) logo or someone who inspires you to get started with (Power Wiki) analytics and offers you to review your articles or someone who simply likes to talk about what’s new in the platform and how these new features can help our customers.
In the beginning there was only me (and a rented IT manager), then it was a “CRM team”, followed by a super hero building XrmToolBox tools and helping others becoming more efficient. Now there is a whole community spread all over the world. Who could have known back then when I was chatting with my very few CRM fellows about the possibility to come and watch a BizApps/CRM MVP speak about the techy things, that in 10 years I would be the BizApps MVP who creates community content? Who could have known that in 10 years I would work at a company with equally passionate people and be one of 5 Swedish BizApps MVPs, which summarizes all BizApps MVPs in Sweden and all of us would be working at the same company?
What’s next for me? I don’t know yet. I am hoping that the seeds planted during the past few years will show the way. Don’t forget to nurture the seeds, who knows, you might end up with a forest and as an inspiration to others.
Cover picture: Blue anemones in the forest during spring, west coast of Sweden. Taken by me in 2018.