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Blog

Filtering by Tag: Girl Geek Dinners

Forces to Reckon With: Girl Geeks Meet Salesforce

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IMG_2880 Originally posted on the Bay Area Girl Geek Dinners blog

Last Wednesday night, Salesforce brought a little star power to the Girl Geek Dinners—presenting demos, dropping knowledge, and getting the crowd going with an original song.

It’s no secret that we’re big Salesforce fans. Sukrutha Bhadouria, our Managing Director, is a Quality Engineer on the Salesforce1 Platform team, and the Cloud Computing wunderkind is our recurring and gracious host.

This year, Girl Geeks nibbled on Hawaiian barbeque, mingled in the Salesforce café, and compared notes on lightning talks by some very talented women. The talks focused on the how and why of successful Salesforce products and processes, yielding insight and inspiration.

“Drinking Our Own Champagne,” and Other Trust-Builders

VP of Engineering for Search Cathy Polinsky kicked off the lightning talks, exploring how Salesforce improves with the help of—well—Salesforce.

The Salesforce platform can be used to manage virtually anything, with the right amount of tweaking. Salesforce teams rely on the company’s own product to track bugs, manage development, develop SCRUM apps and more. The platform provides big-picture perspective, so that deadlines are met and performance improves.

By “drinking its own champagne,” Salesforce improves internal performance and fosters customer confidence. Maintaining an API-first system, Salesforce writes tests and automations for every line of code. “Our customers are trusting their sensitive corporate data and contacts to us,” says Cathy. “Security is our priority, right from the get-go.”

When it comes to addressing issues, Salesforce is forthright. “We like to over-communicate, and do root cause analysis to formulate a plan,” Cathy says.

Serving Up Customer Needs: Wave, the Salesforce Analytics Cloud

Next up, a demo from Qingqing Liu, Salesforce Software Architect. Qingqing led with the user research driving the creation of Wave. As businesspeople, “our users don’t know about data mining—they just want their data when they need it, without hiring million-dollar consultants,” says Qingqing.

Salesforce set out to design a valuable experience prioritizing speed, mobility, and customization. The team focused on fine-tuning the right features, as well as overall ease and pleasure of use. They turned to the user to help iterate and reiterate the design, creating a clean and customizable application. Want to see for yourself? Download an unlicensed version to your phone to play around with a set of sample data.

Why Functional Prototypes Are Rad: Salesforce Lightning App Builder

According to Salesforce Senior Accessibility Specialist Cordelia Dillon, functional prototypes are more than rad. They are also very important to the design process.

On the spectrum of napkin-sketch to full-fledged program, a functional prototype trends to the right, somewhere past clickable linear prototype. Some projects don’t require functional prototypes; however, for customizable products, only a functional prototype will do.

Take the Salesforce Lightning App Builder, for example. The application allows users to build pages by dragging and dropping components. “We don’t know what users are going to do with the app,” says Cordelia. “So a clickable linear prototype doesn’t quite work.” By simulating the finished program, the functional prototype allowed for stronger user feedback. It also can serve as interaction specs for developers, simplifying complex written ideas into visuals.

Done well, functional prototypes can serve as demos, too. “Salesforce actually demoed the Lightning App Builder prototype at Dreamforce,” says Cordelia.

Bringing Down The House

The final act of the evening, Anjali Ashok put the “performance” in Performance Engineer with a couple of original songs about work and the joys of coffee. Check out more of her vocal stylings here.

Designing Magnetic Experiences With Houzz: From Interiors To Applications

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IMG_2787 Originally posted on the Bay Area Girl Geek Dinners blog.

Pop quiz: can you name four countries that Houzz launched in this year? How about the remodeling giant’s unofficial mascot?**

We were thrilled to have Houzz host the 81st Girl Geek Dinner at its Palo Alto headquarters. On Wednesday January 14th, over 100 women in tech and beyond connected over fine fare, drinks, and nuggets of wisdom from Houzz’s dynamic co-founders.

The “How” of Houzz

For homeowners and professionals, Houzz simplifies the renovation experience—and infuses it with sheer delight. With over 25 million unique viewers a month, 200,000 5-star average reviews, 600,000 active professional users, and 197 countries represented, Houzz delivers a streamlined, habit-forming solution to home improvement.

Throughout its expansion, Houzz has maintained its user-oriented philosophy and lean structure. Business partners and married couple Adi Tatarko and Alon Cohen conjured the experience for us in vivid detail: that first year of bootstrapping, finding an all-star team, and how Houzz reconciles its founding values with its whirlwind growth.

Building a User-Oriented Product

True facilitators, Adi and Alon envisioned Houzz as the solution to their own home renovation woes. In 2009, the couple bought a home, launching upon what they thought would be an exciting adventure in design. Instead, they endured years of headaches, blunders, and unsatisfactory floor plans. Thus, Houzz was born, and soon consumed Adi and Alon’s evenings and weekends.

The duo introduced their fledging product to their friends and local community, gathering feedback along the way. By calling on early Houzz users to share their renovation experiences, Adi and Alon gained further insight into the challenges that designers, architects, and homeowners face.

Houzz continues to rely on user feedback to drive growth. The company performs testing regularly, releasing modifications to a select set of users and analyzing the resulting data. “We try to follow what’s best for our users,” says Alon. “That way, we create a product that people are excited to use. 

Fostering A Robust Company Culture

At Houzz, culture is vital: but it’s not all catered lunches, birthday parties, and getaways. “We do those things too,” says Adi. “But culture is more than perks. It’s what you do all day.”

In addition to the user experience, the employee experience is paramount at Houzz. Leadership puts its resources into building a supportive environment: nurturing the right talent, and empowering employees to discover their skills. A diverse group (with a 50/50 gender split, almost unprecedented in Silicon Valley), Houzz employees enjoy a voice within their community.

To inspire employee engagement, Adi and Alon prioritize leanness: “There’s not a lot of management or red tape at Houzz. We don’t tell people what to do… we let them do it themselves,” says Alon. By hiring entrepreneurial individuals driven to build great products, Adi and Alon sustain their founding principles: hard work, integrity, and innovation.

At the end of the day, Adi and Alon put users’ remodeling problems first. When it comes to building a successful company, Adi suggests this: “Create something your users need and love. Once you deliver, you can focus on the [monetization techniques] that will positively impact both users and advertisers.”

We tend to agree. Thanks for hosting us, Houzz!

**UK, Australia, France, Germany, and rubber ducks.