Alumni Network Spotlight -
Julie Trell

by Theresa Ludvigson and T.J. Vilardi

“Salesforce Set The Bar Really High.”

Julie Trell grew up at Salesforce. She is responsible for a lot of the amazing pieces of the Salesforce Culture that you see in place today.

But first, let’s go back to 1998 where her Salesforce story truly starts. At the time, Julie worked as a Technology Specialist at a middle school in Atlanta, Georgia. During a trip to Israel, she met Marc Benioff, who worked for Oracle at the time. During her conversations with Marc, he told her that he wanted to bridge the digital divide and was going to start a company that sold software over the web. Little did Julie know, the chat was actually her interview for a future role that would keep her at the company for nearly 12 years. This story, Julie’s story, is actually in Marc’s book Behind The Cloud (Check out Play #67 - Choose a Cause That Makes Sense and Get Experts on Board.)

Julie was the 110th employee at Salesforce and the 2nd employee at the Salesforce Foundation. As Julie said, “When you are at a startup with around 100 employees, you get to make up your own titles. It also helped that I was the one creating the business cards for the company ... so I also got to make the titles. I told Marc the title I wanted and that is when I became the Curriculum Imagineer, Technology Inspirer, Volunteer Energizer”. Her fun titles didn’t end there. Her last title during her time at Salesforce was as the VP of All Things Fun, Meaningful & Rewarding.

Looking Back

Looking back at her time with Salesforce, Julie has a lot of fond memories and work of which she’s proud. She explained one of the high points for her was when the first VTO model was created. “It was relatively new in the corporate world to be able to volunteer during working hours. It was great to see employees know they were encouraged to leave work and help their local community or causes important to them.” Another program that Julie was essential in launching at the Salesforce Foundation was the BizAcademy. “At BizAcademy, youth aged 15 to 20 learned to build a business—and left not just a little richer, but with on-the-job training, (including using Salesforce to track their sales and marketing), and expanded networks for moving forward in their careers,” Julie said. She still keeps in touch with many of the students from the program - some that are Salesforce employees today!

When talking about her memories, there was a common theme around being provided a safe space to take risks and build trust. She said, “Being empowered to take risks and working with others who thrive in that kind of environment helped me build relationships internally that created a tight, authentic and trusting bond with the original crew at Salesforce.” She still keeps in regular touch with many of her colleagues from the early days of Salesforce. 

Life After Salesforce

Immediately after Salesforce, Julie took some time for herself. During this break she paused to go deep in understanding what was important to her, what change she wanted to make in the world and with whom she wanted to work. As she says, “Salesforce set the bar really high in regards to what she would look for in a next role.” She started doing consulting work for companies who wanted to follow the Salesforce path and integrate philanthropic programs into their business models. In 2013 she was hired at Workday as the Executive Director launching the Workday Foundation. One key relationship she brought to Workday was YearUp - which is still going strong today. She then met the founder of SheEO, a radically designed ecosystem and fund for women who want to support other women working on the words to do list - aka the Sustainable Development Goals. The perpetual fund is made up of hundreds of women contributing $1,100 (or $92/month) who become Activators. As an Activator you vote on the companies you believe in, will buy from, and want to share with your network. The selected companies decide how the money is divided amongst them and pay back this zero interest loan in five years. In 2016, Julie helped launch SheEO in the US and in Australia in 2017. She is currently the Australian Country lead with SheEO today - a volunteer position.

Today, Julie finds herself in Sydney, Australia at Telstra. There, she is the Head of muru-D which is the accelerator backed by Telstra. In her creative titling fashion, she calls herself the Chief Human API, connecting APAC founders of startups with her extensive network including Salesforce, Silicon Valley and beyond. With 140 companies in the portfolio across Australia and Singapore, she works to ensure their success through corporate innovation programs, applied improv (and play) as well as her experience of building culture from the start when growing a company.

Staying Balanced

“It is hard!”, Julie said when describing how she manages to balance her personal life and corporate life. To help stay well and balanced, Julie has gone back to her love of up arts and crafts . She is currently making her own COVID-19 masks, coasters out of old flip flops, and fun things out of toilet paper rolls - can you tell she used to be a teacher?! She has also taken time out of her busy days to join in on the Salesforce B-Well Together calls, join Salesforce Alumni events, and has taken more (online) improv workshops. When she can find time and opportunity to travel - she takes it. She also enjoys listening to podcasts and also being featured in them! See her interview here on the Wabi Sabi Series Podcast on the Power of Play.

After leaving Salesforce, Julie avoided the phrase ‘I’m so busy’. As Julie says, “If you love what you’re doing in work, life or play, and your schedule is full, consider reframing the phrase ‘I’m so busy’ to ‘I’m positively occupied’. Often language or choosing the right words can change attitude and perspective.”

The Alumni Network

Julie has found the Salesforce Alumni Network valuable because as she says, “She grew up at Salesforce - it’s shaped who I am. I love the stories from Salesforce employees and alumni who are speaking the same language as I do. It is fun, meaningful and rewarding to connect with people from my past life at Salesforce and see how they’ve succeeded, grown and been positively impacted by the programs I was a part of creating at the Salesforce Foundation.”

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