At Salesforce, we believe that talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not. Today, in celebration of National Intern Day, Salesforce is announcing $1.8M in investments towards four workforce development organizations — Year Up, Genesys Works, Enterprise for Youth, and Futures and Options. These trailblazing nonprofits are committed to a future where every young adult has opportunities for meaningful work, including high-quality, paid internships.
Simply put: diversity matters. Not only does having a diverse workforce expose people to different perspectives and experiences, fostering greater understanding, but it can also fuel innovation and improved performance. In a recent study, Forbes identified tangible benefits of having a diverse work environment. For example, compared to individual decision-makers, teams that are diverse in terms of gender, age, and geography were found to make better business decisions 87% of the time, compared to only 73% of the time with gender diverse teams, and 58% of the time with all-male teams. McKinsey & Company found that diverse companies were more likely to have financial returns above the average for their industry.
It’s increasingly clear that companies and communities prosper when diverse viewpoints are given a voice. Mentorship can help foster a more inclusive work environment, as the support and allyship of mentors can boost the confidence, networks, and workplace “know-how” of their mentees. Through the power of mentorship, Salesforce actively creates and invests in a diverse, talented workforce, where everyone has the opportunity to flourish. But what may be surprising about mentoring is that the benefits extend beyond the individual mentees.
While young talent is nurtured, employee mentors also learn: to listen, improvise, coach, and expand their perspectives. Today, on National Intern Day, two Salesforce employees who serve as mentors, Vijay Ratthinam and Al Dea, share their experiences as mentors for interns from the Year Up and Genesys Works programs, and why mentorship has become a pivotal part of their work experience and professional development.
Vijay, a mentor many times over, became a Year Up and Genesys Works mentor at a Salesforce volunteer fair. While he volunteers with many organizations, Vijay initially learned the value of mentorship firsthand as a mentee.
Growing up in an underserved community in India, he struggled to get into and complete college, like many of his generation. His mentors helped him focus on his studies and supported him in navigating bureaucracy and determining how to pay for college. Vijay became the first in his family to graduate from university.
“Because I came up in life, I was able to support my sister, who’s in the U.S. now; my brother, who’s in engineering; and my cousins. I was able to lift up four or five families. One person can make a whole lot of difference.”
Unlike Vijay, Al is new to mentorship. When he talks about Year Up, he speaks with a focused, intense enthusiasm; he sees every intern as an exciting agent of positive change: “The person who is the youngest or least experienced is in the best position to disagree. They’re going to sniff out the things that feel funny.” Al describes his work with Nico, his Year Up mentee, as a kind of tactical collaboration that helps keep both parties productive, focused, and working toward new goals.
Changing personal and work dynamics
Both mentors describe a profound shift in their own personal and professional lives as a result of their time spent mentoring. For both Vijay and Al, their mentees help them renew their passion and enhance their creative problem-solving.
Together Vijay and Yafet, his high school mentee through Genesys Works, find new avenues for growth in their coaching sessions. Vijay was surprised, “Yafet talked to us about Trailhead, about badges, about getting a Salesforce admin certification. I was thinking the same thing, and he said ‘Let’s do it together.’” In just a few weeks, Yafet challenged Vijay to not only be an active listener and leader, but also a partner in education and career acceleration.
Nico provided a similar spark for Al by pushing him to jump headfirst into new challenges. Nico began his career at Salesforce on the Equality team, and Al has watched him dive into every challenge with an open mind. “Nico’s taught me that even when you feel different or encounter something new, there’s no reason why you can’t overcome that fear.”
Now, Nico has become a mentor in his own right, crafting Chatter posts about lessons learned during his internship and speaking at events about his experiences. For Al, Nico being a mentor was a clear step on his leadership journey, while also helping to shape the next class of mentors and mentees:
“Nico was able to connect the dots. He was able to see the value of mentorship and how mentorship could be valuable to him. He thought ‘I don’t just have to have mentors; I can be one, too.’ And that’s how you know the system is working.”
Shifting the paradigm
But more than careers and business, diversity isn’t only about how to enhance our bottom line; it’s about building a global community that benefits from having more voices and points of view. Mentorship is a critical step on the path toward inclusion and equality.
As we gear up for our newest group of interns at Salesforce, now is a great time to become a mentor. As Vijay says, “My pitch to fellow Salesforce employees and anyone who wants to be a mentor: Mentorship helps everyone develop as leaders, active listeners, and communicators.”
Read about the grant that was just announced to Year Up and Genesys Works (and two other high-impact organizations) to support young adults on their journey to be Future Ready.