Creating the Dance: Travel Insights from South America

DatabaseSherpa Rainbow.JPG

I turned 50 this May and decided it was a good time to take a trip to a continent I’d never visited, South America. I visited three countries: Argentina, Brazil, and Colombia -- mostly because I wanted to wanted to see various sites in these places, but I also wanted to visit a good friend in Colombia. Trish Perkins, a Sherpa friend and colleague who travels all around the world doing Salesforce work, joined me during parts of my trip. I met so many interesting people, danced my way across the country with tango, samba, and salsa, ate so much yummy food (dulce de leche was amazing), read and wrote constantly.

Connecting with Wingu

In Argentina, I had the good fortune, thanks to Trish’s suggestion, to meet with Wingu, a nonprofit organization helping other nonprofits in South America and Mexico implement various technologies, including Salesforce. Their model is very similar to ours because they want to ensure that nonprofits are self-sufficient and able to manage their own Salesforce instance. However, they don’t teach them to build their instance as we do. Instead, they build it for them. They were fascinated that we teach others to do it themselves, so we shared a lovely discussion along with a warm herbal drink called mate (the cup and straw are shared with each other, germs be damned). We pushed and pulled, discussing whether this approach to the work is hard or not, and what if maybe some people couldn't learn.

Regardless of a person’s ability to learn or not learn the technical details, I shared that we’ve come to understand, as Sherpas, that it’s vital that people know how their own database functions. Yet it’s also important to give a client what they can handle. No more and no less. Therefore, if they cannot learn it for now, maybe it's not the right time for them. There was a long pause after that conversation where we both just digested it all. It was a connecting experience and one I still hold in my heart. I hope to visit Wingu again so we can continue the dialogue and share more about the Sherpa model.

Two Important Reads

If the vision is only clear to one person, that person ends up trying to drive everyone toward their vision, or at minimum control how everyone gets to the vision. That makes sense, and it's exhausting. Decentralized work requires more trust building on the front end, but ultimately it is easier, more fluid.

adrienne maree brown
Emergent Strategy

With all the traveling within the countries, I was able to carve out a lot of time to read. I finally finished the book Maverick by Ricardo Semler and realized that much of what he discusses are things that we’d like to implement in our business. As it is OUR business, Bhanu, myself and Gabriel. We all have ownership together. And while I am the founder, they have touched so many parts of this business that I feel like it’s my job to ensure their vision also continues. Who knows, one day, as Mr. Semler says, I will no longer be needed.

I also began reading another book called Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown. She was inspired to write this book because of Octavia Butler’s series of books called Earth Seeds. You need to read the book yourself, but basically, it’s all about the one constant -- change -- and how entire systems in nature are set up to adapt to change. And how we, as organizations, can adapt using similar systems that nature follows. Transform yourself and you transform the world. I love that notion: one ripple can have lasting and great impact on the world. We have been told this, but to have someone write about it from a natural perspective and grounded in theories like organized chaos was delightful. I haven’t yet finished the book, but hope that we can begin to embed some of these learnings in our work at Database Sherpa.

Reflecting on the Path for Database Sherpa

Why not replace the pyramid with something more fluid. Like a circle. A pyramid was rigid and constraining. A circle is filled with possibilities. Why not try a round pyramid?

Ricardo Semler

Having space to read, absorb, connect and breath was such a lovely gift to myself to celebrate my birth. And while the trip was deeply personal, so much impacted me that it’s bound to impact this business. I don’t like bullet points, but here are a few things that I would like to try to work on in Database Sherpa:

  • Having the three of us all on the same page regarding financials in the business. We’ll all learn and grow on this front as finances is vital to our continued growth and development.
  • Spending time as a team developing our plan for Database Sherpa centered around compassion. Currently, it’s been my role to do the work, but now I see my role as changing to facilitate the discussion between the three of us. 
  • Expanding services to help others who want to run their business with compassion at the center. I’ve had many discussions with other business owners, even on my trips, who wanted more. I’d like to share this broadly with others, and I have no desire to keep it a guarded secret. How fantastic it would be to see more and more businesses using this as a marker for success. If this speaks to your curiosity in any way, please drop me a note!

These are just a few of the many thoughts bouncing around my head while traveling, reading, writing, dancing and breathing. I’d like to leave you with a practice that I found fascinating during my dancing. I was able to practice my favorite dance, tango, in Buenos Aires, the birthplace of the dance. I had a patient teacher and dance partner in Buenos Aires. We visited a tango club (milonga) where there was live music. Just as we were just getting ready to dance he said to me, “I’ve no idea what I’m going to do in this dance with live music. So just follow me the best you can.” 

And that’s exactly what I did, I followed him, the best I could. And it felt very good. Not perfect, but really good. Two people, doing the best they can to create a dance that expressed the music.

Ashima Saigal
Founder of Database Sherpa