This edition of Trailblazer Voices focuses on a Trailblazer in the making: TJ Wynn, a Futureforce MBA intern from the Summer 2017 class. Futureforce is core to Salesforce’s commitment to workforce development, helping to train and hire for the jobs of tomorrow. This post originally appeared on TJ’s LinkedIn page, here.
During the final interview for my MBA internship at Salesforce, a vice president told me this about the company: “We’re like a big battleship that makes really sharp turns.” Having spent a few years at a small Bay Area startup before business school, this quote stuck with me.
Once I was accepted into the summer internship program, I was eager to have the opportunity to see for myself whether a 25,000-employee company could truly be as nimble as a startup. The answer is yes. Despite its size, on several levels, Salesforce exhibits many of the qualities I enjoyed most about working at a small startup. Let me explain...
What I cherished most about working at a startup was the feeling of excitement that my teammates and I shared each day when we got to our desks. Back then, our company goals were simple:
Walking through the sales aisle each morning, you could feel the energy in the air. It was almost palpable — like the nervous excitement I used to feel before each puck drop throughout my twenty years of playing competitive ice hockey.
We each knew how our roles contributed to the future of the company, and because of that, we bonded closely as a team. Each day we learned from each other, pushed each other, and celebrated each other’s wins. And the next day, we did it all over again.
Heading into my first day at Salesforce, I thought there’s no way it could be the same. But I was wrong. I was taken aback by the unexpected buzz of excitement in the San Francisco headquarters. Like the startup, Salesforce has one simple goal: customer success. If our customers succeed, the entire Salesforce ecosystem thrives. I saw yet again how a singular common goal can bring a team together.
The second characteristic I carry with me from my time at a startup is conviction. We knew that we had a good idea and that it would be critical to challenge existing norms and inspire others to get onboard. Our big idea was recruiting software that we felt was ahead of the market — a technology that most recruiters didn’t even know they needed...yet.
At times, selling that software to new customers felt like climbing uphill. But we did our research and watched our early customers kick butt. Like any good Journey fan, we didn’t stop believin’ in ourselves or our product.
At Salesforce, conviction is part of the company’s history. Back in 1999, Marc Benioff set out to convince the tech world that packaged software was out, and that cloud-based systems were the future. Fast forward to 2017, and cloud technologies are now widely accepted and, in many cases, the norm. But Salesforce has also had to make big investments in emerging technologies to keep growing. Artificial intelligence, for example, has caused an explosion of joke-telling, music-playing, and now outfit-perfecting personal “AIssistants.” Salesforce recognized the technology’s value and launched their own with Einstein.
The Einstein Analytics Product Marketing team is where I spent my summer internship, and it was both exciting and painful to see this “Personal Data Scientist” make quick work of the complex manual spreadsheets and endless reports I used to run. I’m pretty sure I’ll never run my own regression analysis again (Shhh! Don’t tell my statistics professor).
At the startup, we had what we fondly referred to as “Spartan-like” office accommodations. We often had to get creative with tools and resources. For example, we created standing desks from a combination of cinder blocks and plywood cutouts. None of us minded the makeshift seating arrangement or having to opt for manual or free tools because being humble is important when you’re trying to get a company off the ground.
With a new building, free coffee bar, and wellness rooms on every floor, Salesforce’s office accommodations weren’t nearly as Spartan-like as those of the startup. (If I were to amend the vice president’s original quote, I’d say that Salesforce is more “like a big cruise ship that makes sharp turns"). But it does make sharp turns nonetheless. Innovation is one of the company’s core values, and you can see that in how quickly the entire organization shifts and aligns behind new strategies, all in order to fuel more customer success.
As my summer internship came to a close, I was glad to see many of my original reservations about working for a large company disappear. I now know that much of Salesforce’s success has come from retaining those startup qualities I mentioned — from that nervous excitement that comes with alignment around common goals, to having conviction about an idea and product, and seeing how large teams can be agile enough to stay innovative. After all, I would expect nothing less from a 25,000-person startup.
Like many of our Futureforce interns, TJ will continue blazing new trails as a full-time Salesforce employee this Summer, returning to the Product Marketing team. If you’re thinking about a future with Salesforce, click here to find the right internship opportunity for you. Also, be sure to follow Futureforce on Twitter and Instagram to see what it’s like to work at Salesforce.
This article is part of an ongoing series highlighting the many voices and stories that make up Salesforce’s diverse community of Trailblazers.