Boomerang Spotlight - Jim Steele

by Ernesto Maturrano & T.J. Vilardi

“Jim Steele is @RoadWarrior247”

This month we sat down with #SalesforceBoomerang, Jim Steele. Jim is currently our President of Global Strategic Customers. Discover why he returned to Salesforce below.

The Beginning of a Historic Run

Jim Steele’s Boomerang story starts back in 1999 when his employer at the time, IBM, moved him out to the San Francisco Bay area. After a successful 23-year career at IBM, Jim decided to leave the company and head to Ariba in 2000. While at Ariba, Jim saw the company take a meteoric rise before the historic .com bubble burst in 2002. This would lead to a new journey that Jim didn’t see coming. 

Later that year, Jim was visiting his parents in Stone Harbor, New Jersey when he got a call from a headhunter letting him know that Marc Benioff, Chair & Chief Executive Officer at Salesforce, wanted to talk. Jim told us, “Salesforce? Why would they be calling me? I was running sales in big enterprise companies.” Nevertheless, there was Jim on a video chat with Marc talking about Salesforce. After about a hour and a half of talking with Marc, Jim said, “My wife was in the back of the room for the entire interview and when it ended she told me she thought Marc was amazing and she knew I would be going to work for him.” After progressing through the interview process, Jim was offered and accepted a position at Salesforce. During his final interview with Marc, Jim told us he had a couple questions for his future boss. Jim said, “I asked Marc about how we could ensure the success of the business. I also wanted to know who the largest customer was at the time. I had never managed customers this small before so I knew this was going to be different.”

Before long, Jim was back in San Francisco as a Salesforce employee. Jim said, “Marc told me my job was to build out a playbook that would help get us into enterprise customer accounts.” Jim knew it was not going to be an easy task but that he was the right person for the job. “I immediately reached out to my contacts and was told ‘no’ each time. At first, it took us a while to earn the trust of the customers and win their business. We were the new company in the enterprise space and not many people wanted to give us a chance initially,” Jim told us. However, that would soon change. As Jim said, “We kept on knocking on doors and those doors kept opening. We started to see a shift in our customers mindset and our business continued to grow.” 

After eight years of being the President of Global Sales, Marc named Jim as Chief Customer Officer of Salesforce. Jim said, “I thought to myself, what is a Chief Customer Officer? I had never heard of a title like that. I suspect I was the first Chief Customer Officer in the industry at the time. Marc wanted me to focus 100% on our customer and make sure I was helping them innovate while closing deals for the business.” When Marc said he wanted Jim to focus 100% on the customer, Jim didn’t know how serious Marc was until he walked by Jim’s office one day and saw him sitting at his desk. “What are you doing here? I don’t see any customers in the office today!” said Marc. From that point on, Jim knew that he was not to be seen in the office. Jim told us, “Marc was so serious about this that he went on Twitter and made me an account named @RoadWarrior247. I had no idea how to use Twitter at the time but that is still my account today.”

This Isn’t Goodbye, It’s See You Later

“At the end of 2014, I started to get the itch to go out there and do it all over again. Moving from IBM to Ariba to Salesforce was very exhilarating and exciting for me. I wanted to go back to the startup world, ideally in the Salesforce ecosystem, and help build another company” said Jim. He continued, “I told Marc that this would be the hardest thing I’ll ever do because the company felt like family and I never thought I would leave. However, deep down, I knew that if I did leave that one day I would return as a Boomerang.” After much consideration and thought Jim decided to take his talents to “However, Salesforce would soon come out with a similar tool utilizing Einstein,” said Jim. “I did not want to directly compete with Salesforce in that field so I decided to leave after two years and join Yext,” Jim said. Jim would go on to spend the next two years at Yext, a company aimed at helping businesses and organizations around the world deliver official answers everywhere people search, as their President and Chief Revenue Officer. He helped build up the company, take it public, and he says the company is still doing very well today. 

The Comeback

“Marc kept asking me when I would be returning to the company. In my heart, I always knew I would. Salesforce is home. It is in my blood,” said Jim. And this year, that is exactly what happened. Jim returned to Salesforce in October as the President of Global Strategic Customers reporting to Gavin Patterson, Salesforce’s new President & Chief Revenue Officer. Jim told us that not much had changed at the company since his time away — except how big Salesforce has become. Jim told us one thing has been constant, “...the continued investment and commitment to our customer’s success. We care deeply about those relationships and Salesforce makes our customers a priority. That will never change.” He added, “Now that we are considered a big company, we must keep our edge. We must stay focused on the customer and never take them for granted.”

Being Grounded

As @RoadWarrior247 entails, Jim was constantly on an airplane, in a car, or in a hotel on his way to visit customers. Since the pandemic has grounded all travel, Jim has had to adapt to this entirely new lifestyle. Jim told us, “I lost 15 pounds between March and July. I can attribute that to not eating airplane and hotel food and developing a normal exercise routine. In March, I ordered exercise equipment to make myself a home gym. We also live in mountains so I am constantly hiking with my family.”

In addition to adopting new rituals to maintain personal wellbeing, Jim has honed his approach with customers. To develop relationships from a distance, he utilizes best practices to tell compelling stories virtually and fosters an environment of digital togetherness.

Life as a Salesforce Alumni

As we heard before, Jim always knew he would end up back at Salesforce. He told us, “Keep in touch with your Salesforce connections. Be careful to nurture relationships, even during your departure, because you will never know when you will want to re-cross that bridge.”

Want to hear more about Jim’s amazing #SalesforceBoomerang story? Connect with him on LinkedIn! Or, if you’re inspired to find your next role at Salesforce, explore our openings today.


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