It was a cold day in Brussels and I was so excited to experience my first undersea tunnel train experience from Brussels Midi Station to St Pancras Station in London where I would be presenting my first ever international Tech Session at London’s Calling ’18. Before I share my experience let me introduce myself. I’m Sahan Perera from Sri Lanka and am working as a Senior Software Engineer at Content Management Solutions (Pvt) Ltd focusing on custom application development on the Salesforce Platform. I’m working in collaboration with a Salesforce Platinum Consulting Partner in Brussels, Belgium.

The story starts with a R&D project I worked on to meet a client requirement of one of the largest Elevator Manufacturing Companies in the world. The client wanted to overcome a platform limitation in Salesforce related to generating PDF reports along with complex data visualizations. This was not possible in Salesforce since the PDF rendering engine is incapable of parsing SVG or any dynamic element which executes on the modern HTML5 browser. My challenge was to overcome this limitation.

About the Solution

Once I started this R&D, I started studying the underlying architecture of existing PDF engine. And I found that it was built on top of Flying Saucer Engine. “Flying Saucer is an XML/CSS renderer, which means it takes XML files as input, applies formatting and styling using CSS, and generates a rendered representation of that XML as output. – The Flying Saucer User’s Guide“. This Engine does not support HTML5 and only supports up to CSS 2.1. This is one of the main reasons for the Salesforce PDF engine to fail loading dynamic visual content. As the solution, I reverse-engineered the visual content flow of the PDF engine and it was a success.

Invitation to Present my Solution at Dreamforce ’17

When Salesforce called for papers for Dreamforce ’17 in May-2017, I applied with this solution and got selected as a Developer Intermediate Tech Session out of thousands of submissions . (Link to session can be found here). This is the first time a technical session was selected from Sri Lanka to be presented at Dreamforce, one of the largest tech conferences in the world with more that 150,000+ participants in San Francisco, USA (Silicon Valley). It was exciting to receive the official invitations sent by Salesforce along with a free Pass to the entire conference. But unfortunately, I could not obtain US VISA and Dreamforce remained a dream for me!

Invitation to Present my Solution at London’s Calling ’18

After my unsuccessful attempt on the US VISA, we looked at alternative options in Europe. And with everyone’s encouragement, I applied for London’s Calling ’18 Conference and due to the impact this solution could make, it got selected as a Developer Session at London’s Calling ’18. And, I finally got the opportunity to present my solution in an International Conference. (Session Recording can be found here)

Pre-Conference Party

It was Feb. 15th and I had an invitation to the VIP Pre-conference party which took place at CodeNode, Moorgate, London. It was a fun-filled event and a great opportunity to do quality networking, as all the high officials from Salesforce EMEA were partying there including superstars like Bob Buzzard. The party was held for all speakers, MVP’s, User group leaders and VIP people. There I met CEOs and tech people from different solution providers. I also got the chance to pitch my solution to different people during the party and many of them were quite interested in it.

Networking

One of the most interesting persons I met was Mr. Skip Sauls (Senior Director of Product Management at Salesforce). We had a good conversation after CEO of MobileCaddy Mr. Justin Halfpenny & CTO of MobileCaddy Mr.Paul Tarpey introduced me to Mr. Sauls. I explained to him the solution I had developed and also the solution I’m cooking-up at the moment on Heroku, which is all about generating data visualizations totally on backend without any frontend client. He said that Salesforce is working on a service which can deliver advance data visualization functionality for PDFs and the interesting part is they plan to do it exactly the same way I did, using Google V8 engine on headless mode. But not all the clients have access to it and that functionality is coming with an expensive feature called Einstein Wave Analytics. So still, consultant companies like my collaborator will have the potential to market my solution as we can deliver it without any additional cost.


Also, meeting Mr. Peter Chittum (Director, Developer Evangelism EMEA at Salesforce) and personally getting positive feedback about my solution was great. I had the pleasure of meeting almost all the ISV partners sponsoring the event and the opportunity to gain their technical and solution domain knowledge. This knowledge will definitely benefit our future solutions, as our Collaborator is taking a product centered path based on new products such as Converse & Rellex.

I also got the opportunity to talk with Todd Halfpenny about MobileCaddy as I did a proof of concept (POC) to evaluate their system with our SODICAM product development.

My Session

Since it was my first international event, I was quite excited. Having Samuel next to me motivating me and encouraging me all the time was quite helpful to get rid of the nervousness. London’s Calling team also gave an immense support to set up everything on time for the session. I felt that i could do the session even better than i practiced due to all the support given by people around me. I managed to harvest the attention of the audience and really enjoyed the atmosphere there. I could explain clearly how big the invented solution can be for different user-cases.

I had the honor of having Peter Chittum (Director, Developer Evangelism EMEA at Salesforce) sitting in the audience of my session and received great feedback from him after the presentation. And I also received good feedback from the audience. Following are some of the twitter posts I got from people including Peter Chittum.

Event

The event was very well organized and local food / drinks were available too. Also I managed to win some cool Swags from the event as well.


After Party

This was one of the most fruitful part of the event. I had the pleasure of meeting big guys from Salesforce who are actively involved in the area of my topic. I got the opportunity to share my professional details with them and to be able to promote my client as a leading Salesforce Consulting company for Europe.


Highlights From Event

  • Met high profiles from Salesforce and received their positive feedback, about my collaborator and my invention to overcome product limitations.
  • Visited all platinum ISV partners booths to understand their solutions and technical background behind the solutions which could benefit my collaborator with their future products.
  • Managed to promote ABSI as a leading consulting partner for Salesforce in Europe even though our presence is not there in UK at the moment (but there is serious potential)
  • Was able to expand my knowledge by attending a few sessions but most sessions were at a basic level targeting admins and beginners.
  • I was also able to explore the possibilities to grow in future and most importantly got motivated to step into product development as we could see the demos from top notch advance products
  • Managed to network with many important and significant profiles of the Salesforce Community
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Author : Admin
Published Date June 1, 2018