Robert Wickham didn’t just accept a job when he became Salesforce APAC’s Regional Vice President for Platform, Analytics & Service Cloud, he also nabbed a seat on a fast train to the future of business. Now Regional Vice President for Platform & Emerging Technologies, he’s been on board for four years, and is still loving the ride.
My story began in the Caribbean. I grew up in Trinidad and Tobago and had two dreams in life. One was to become an astronaut! I was obsessed with science and technology from watching Star Trek and Thunderbirds. The second was to play cricket for the West Indies.
I ended up playing for the Trinidad and Tobago under-19 cricket team and a couple of my teammates went on to become international superstars, but I was fortunate enough to be accepted into MIT in the United States. So I packed all of my worldly possessions into two suitcases and headed off to Boston at the age of 19, and life took a very different turn.
My first job after university was in management consulting with Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in New York, but I was quickly shipped off to Australia. BCG had a big project with Qantas and I'd studied rocket science as an undergraduate, so it was a perfect fit. I spent two and a half years in Australia, met my wife and we moved back to Boston, where we lived for many years.
I joined a tech startup in Boston after business school and worked there from 2000 to 2008 in product management and product marketing, before eventually running the sales division. That company was ultimately sold to Oracle and I moved my family (we had two kids by then) back to Australia.
Then one day, I got a call from an old colleague asking me to come across to Salesforce. They said, “We’re putting the band back together!”
Frankly, Salesforce wasn’t on my radar, but the more I spoke to people about it, the more intriguing it became. Then I heard an interview with American investor Marc Andreessen, who basically said to invest in companies like HP, Dell and Oracle is to have a view that the future will look very similar to the present. Whereas to invest in companies like Google, Facebook and Salesforce is to have a view that the world is going to look dramatically different in the future. I joined Salesforce the next day – I wanted to be a part of that journey.
I run a team of specialist salespeople who look after our emerging technologies, things like Einstein Analytics, Quip and CPQ, as well as the Platform that underpins everything we do at Salesforce. We’ve got teams around Asia Pacific working with customers to help them leverage these solutions to transform and deliver intelligent experiences for their customers and employees.
Also, Salesforce has a strong corporate venture group that invests globally, and I play a role in the APAC market looking for companies that fit our investment strategy.
That’s part of the beauty of my job – I don’t have a predictable day and that’s what keeps it interesting. I travel a lot, so although I’m based in Melbourne, I could be in India, Singapore, Hong Kong, Sydney or elsewhere.
When I’m not traveling, I typically get into the office early, about 7:30am, then it’s a combination of conversations – with both Salesforce employees and customers – through phone calls, Google hangouts and face-to-face meetings. I love spending time with customers and having conversations around how we might help them solve problems, so I try to do that as much as possible.
We live in very exciting times! Everything is becoming more connected and intelligent, which has triggered the Fourth Industrial Revolution. AI is becoming the new electricity. It’s becoming part of the fundamental fabric of everything. We talk a lot at Salesforce about intelligent services and intelligent experiences, where every personal or professional interaction is intrinsically smarter. That’s the next frontier.
The conversation is around not only using technology to improve your current business model, but actually considering how you might develop an entirely new business model around technology. When businesses moved from steam power to electricity, the ones that thrived and dominated are the ones that changed their business models completely.
The first is wellness, because without wellness of mind and body, nothing else matters. You’ve got this vehicle in which you’re travelling around the planet – your body – and if that’s not functioning as well as it can be then the journey’s not going to be great.
The second is relationships, both professional and personal. Strong, enduring relationships necessitate other intrinsic values around trust, integrity and credibility.
The third is family. I have two young kids. I think our ability to have an enduring impact on the universe is through our children.
It’s a tough one because we run hard at Salesforce, but I try to prioritise what’s important. When I’m not travelling, I make a point to be home every night for dinner, and we all sit around the table and tell stories.
I also put my kids’ activities first. For example, I coach my son’s cricket team as part of my VTO – every Salesforce employee gets seven paid days volunteer time off (VTO) each year – that gives me the opportunity to spend quality time with him. And I do things like fly back from Dreamforce early so I can be at my daughter’s recital.
I also recently took my daughter with a group of Salesforce employees and their children to Cambodia for a week to build houses, which was amazing and very gratifying – quality parent time and a digital detox, while having an impact.
I interview Australian high school students who want to go to MIT in Boston. When I first started doing this, I asked the MIT admissions office what they were looking for in a person and they said excellence, intellectual curiosity and resilience. That really resonated with me and I use it now, in my professional and personal life. These are the things I try to develop, what I look for when I’m interviewing candidates for Salesforce and what I hope to infuse in my children. If I can infuse those three things in my kids then they’re well on their way.
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