I’ve been asked a lot recently by friends and colleagues about how my recent move to Salesforce has gone. I get the sense that many are still a bit taken aback by what appears to be a radical departure from what I’ve done in the past. Complicating this is a notion from many people that it's a zero-sum game where companies like Microsoft and Salesforce can only succeed when the other fails.

The reality is that nothing has really changed. I’m still in the business of helping people to build solutions using technology. Most enterprises I’ve worked with use a combination of technologies and platforms to deliver value to their customers. By joining Salesforce I’m not turning my back on Microsoft and declaring it “old, antiquated, or wrong” (except maybe for the Windows RT - that’s definitely just wrong). Far from it. As my friend Buck Woody recently said, “... use what works. [It’s] not religion, just tech.”

There’s a lot to learn from the approach Salesforce has taken in building out it’s platform. The motto “No Software” initially rubbed me wrong as I’m in the business of writing software. Yet, the more I’ve thought about it, what initially comes across as a gimmicky catchphrase is rooted in a compelling philosophy that looks to empower everyone to solve problems without letting software “get in the way”. Furthermore, the deeper you go, you start to realize that Salesforce provides ample opportunity to write software; in fact, for developers, it’s brilliant as the platform handles most of the things we’re all tired of building, allowing us to focus on the fun stuff (e.g. mobile, web, and even devices).

Okay, I promised you a top five list and here I’ve been rambling. Let’s get to it. Here are the top five things I’ve learned since joining Salesforce.

Learning #1: There’s a lot more to the platform than just CRM yet it’s all about the customer.

Yes, we’ve all heard about Force.com and know that Salesforce is not just a CRM application. But, do you really believe it? For me, it wasn’t until I really started to build against the APIs available in Force.com that I realized that this is a platform far more compelling and sophisticated than I had originally thought.

  • Want to build an app in Python? Make a token request and use OAuth to connect to the Force.com APIs.

  • Want to build a mobile app for your customers that connects back to Salesforce? Use the Salesforce Mobile SDK for iOS or Android.

  • Want to build solutions for your customers that inherently are accessible as a mobile application? Take advantage of Salesforce1/ (Incidentally, here’s a good and quick summary of Salesforce1 you might want to review.)

Learning #2: There are many different ways to build enterprise and mobile apps.

You don’t have to leave what you know at the door, but definitely enter with a humble willingness to learn and do things a different way.

Learning #3: Philanthropy is not something to do some day in the future. It’s something we should all do today.

Learning #4: There is a vibrant and diverse community.

I made an observation to Reid Carlberg at Dreamforce, saying “It’s amazing to see how much these people love Salesforce.” And I truly meant it. I could see it every minute of the event. Reid’s response? “It’s because we love them.” Totally blew me away.

Learning #5: There's an attitude of ownership at Salesforce beyond what I've seen at other large companies.

I saw it immediately at the Dreamforce DevZone and the Salesforce $1 Million Hackathon. These were big and bold gambles taken and owned by a small, but incredibly committed team. Same with Salesforce1 - this is not just a marketing motion but instead a new perspepective and bet for the company. This is inspiring. This is the kind of place people want to be.