How Four Women Created Their Own Roles at Salesforce
April 21, 2021
What if your dream job didn’t exist yet? As we reflect on the inspiring stories of the trailblazing women who came before us during Women’s History Month, I interviewed four women here at Salesforce who defied convention, broke new ground in their fields, overcame obstacles, and created their own roles — shifting the company and culture around them.
The challenges look different for everyone. For Mai Green, it looked like missing the opportunity for a promotion, even with all the boxes being checked. Vatora Godwin and Shalaya Shipman found themselves in roles that didn’t fully unlock their true potential or tap into all of their passions. And for Alexandra Siegel what started as a determination to stop being the “only” in tech spaces led her to a career she never knew existed. But these stories also have a lot in common — mentorship, purpose, community, and the courage to lean into the uncomfortable and unknown.
Read on for their best advice on how they were able to create their own roles and define their paths at Salesforce:
VP, Partner Engagement & Communications
Mai Green is the Vice President of Partner Engagement and Communications. She has been at Salesforce for over ten years where she started as an independent contractor and has since risen through her career by investing in the relationships around her, owning her brand, and leading strategically.
In 2016, she created her role, Customer Engagement & Marketing, by setting up a plan that centered on her purpose and advocated for her work. She is an accomplished marketer with a passion for customer success, innovation, and technology with now over twenty years of experience in the entertainment, marketing, and software industries.
Develop a Business Plan for Your Career
“I learned the hard way that keeping my head down was not the best path for my growth. My peers, who were often men, were advancing much faster than me because they were always loudly representing themselves and promoting their own work. I needed to learn how to advocate for myself, and that looked like taking two key steps:
- Set up a plan on my purpose
- Create, own, and grow my career plan
I created a plan on my path to a promotion leveraging a “V2Me” methodology (like a V2MOM, but for me) alongside a plan of action for my career path. I consider what’s the vision for my career, my values, and what are the methods I need to take to get there. A huge part of this success was learning to advocate for myself, and building a bench of champions who encouraged me to feel comfortable being uncomfortable – it’s part of growth.”
Ask for feedback, and give feedback! Don’t do it anonymously, either. One of the best ways to grow is to hear feedback from your peers and leaders, so get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
“Feedback is a gift, and something so valuable. When someone provides it, and delivers it well, they’re making an investment in you.”
Q: What would be one of the biggest pieces of advice you have for other leaders?
We, as leaders, need to develop a high level of emotional intelligence — and it’s difficult to teach. But we need to learn how to lead with empathy and understanding so that we ensure people feel valued and understood.
One of my biggest journeys as a leader has been creating an environment where people feel seen, and one of the ways we do this is by creating a “User Manual” for every person on our team. It’s a document where you can be open about who you are, your communication style, your values, what drives you, and how to best communicate.
Marketing & Video Content Producer
Vatora Godwin created her own role as Head of Video Marketing for Trailhead, Salesforce’s self-learning platform to empower everyone with the skills needed to succeed in tech and beyond. A trained videographer and photographer, Vatora creates enablement content that is open to all and elevates heroes within the community with visual storytelling. She is also the Global Vice President of BOLDforce, Salesforce’s Black Organization for Leadership and Development to build community and increase the representation of Black talent in tech.<
Outside of Salesforce, she is the founder and owner of her own video production company, Vizzle Productions.
Follow Your Passion
Getting the Green Light
“Being vocal about what my passions were led to me being chosen to partner with one of our executives, Sarah Franklin, in 2018 to participate in a project as a storyteller and filmmaker. The project went incredibly well with so many positive reviews — but suddenly I felt stuck. I asked myself, “Where do I go from here?”
One of my mentors, Leah McGowen-Hare, pushed me to get granular and specific with what I wanted to do next, which meant drafting up an ideal job description. This was something I did with my “board of directors” — a group of people who help me dream bigger, give me advice and are people that I admire and feel connected with.
As my mentor, Leah was able to connect me again with Sarah who became my sponsor and ultimately advocated for me to get to my dream role as a Marketing & Video Content producer, a role that didn’t previously exist. My mentors set me up on the path — they advocated for me and helped me craft my vision. My sponsor was the person who gave me the green light. You need both.”
“My mentors set me up on the path — they advocated for me and helped me craft my vision. My sponsor was the person who gave me the green light. You need both.”
Q: How do you know what your gift is?
There isn’t necessarily a single answer to finding what your gift is. You should figure out what drives you and what your passion is. My aunt always said to me, “Your gifts will make room for you.” Pay attention to the doors that open for you. If you try a new project and it picks up, that might be a clue — you’ll never know what it is until you try.
Watch “The Art of Storytelling: Storytelling techniques from the Karibu Center in Kenya”, directed and produced by Vatora
Senior Director of Strategic Business Development for Small Business
In 2020, Shalaya Shipman created her own role as a Director of Strategic Business Development for Small Business at Salesforce. In her role, Shalaya empowers the acceleration and success of Black and Latinx-owned Small-to-Medium Businesses (SMB). Her approach is deeply rooted in her personal commitment to closing the equity gap and cultivating economic empowerment in Black and Latinx communities.
Before joining the SMB team, Shalaya held roles on Salesforce’s Product Marketing and Real Estate and Workplace Services teams. Outside of Salesforce, Shalaya is the owner of her own small business, a boutique residential real estate brokerage firm.
Reconnect with Your Source of Inspiration
Lean Into Your Truth
Meredith was having similar conversations across her leadership team and was looking to change the narrative within our Small Business organization. She encouraged me to build out a vision for the role and I immediately got to work. I leaned into my personal board of directors that includes small business owners, colleagues, and mentors such as Ebony Beckwith and Cristina Jones. Through an iterative process, I wrote a V2MOM and created a presentation including my scope, job description, and what success would look like for the role.
My biggest learning from this process is that there is so much power in aligning your intentions with your authenticity — and to lean into your network and allies to guide you as you navigate new opportunities for growth.”
Be fearless in all that you do even when you don’t have all the answers. This is often easier said than done, but the benefits of pushing forward can be incredibly rewarding. And, even if you don’t get it ‘right’ the first time, the lessons and perspective you gain can serve as the building blocks to your next move.
“Be fearless in all that you do even when you don’t have all the answers. This is often easier said than done but the benefits of pushing forward can be incredibly rewarding.”
Director, Equality & Recruiting, Content and Enablement
Alexandra Legend Siegel leads the Equality Enablement and Content team at Salesforce — a role she created to help educate and inspire change around diversity, equity, and inclusion in the tech industry. Her team works to build a movement around Equality through interactive trainings, content, research, and inclusive storytelling.‘
Alexandra also served as the global President of Salesforce's Black Employee Resource Group, BOLDforce, which strives to build and empower the Black community within the company as well as the greater tech community. Prior to her current role, she worked for many years as a journalist and technology content marketer.
Discovering the Path Right In Front of You
“In a sense, I’ve been doing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) work my whole life — without really knowing it. Growing up a mixed, Black, white, and Jewish woman, I was often bridging different communities, teaching others to consider different perspectives, and finding myself in spaces where I was the only woman of color. When I moved into the tech industry I found myself doing much of the same and I couldn’t shake that I continued to be the only or one of few women of color in the room.
Having come from a journalism background, I put on my research hat and set out to discover why the tech industry seemed to struggle so much with representation. I looked at data, researched bias, talked to DEI experts, and found BOLDforce — our Black Organization for Leadership and Development. Soon I was giving presentations on how to recognize bias and drive racial equality in the workplace. I never considered this could be a career, I just felt I had a responsibility to do something.”
Skills and Purpose meet Opportunity and Timing
“During all of this, I was still working hard at my day job as a content marketer. While I enjoyed my job I began to crave more of that purpose I felt working with BOLDforce. I looked for ways to do more while stretching my skills. I had become the go-to person in the marketing organization on DEI topics. This opened a door for me — the opportunity to help Molly Q. Ford, a leader and another Black woman who I admired and was using her platform to push the conversation around gender equality by creating our first-ever initiative including our Dreamforce Women’s Summit. She trusted me and gave me the opportunity to help with the content and planning of the event.
At this point, I was having a chat with one of my mentors, Meghan Gendelman, about my career. She pointed out that I was my best self and most inspired when I was working on DEI and I should consider it as a career. I said ‘but it’s not a job” and she said, “why can’t it be?” At that moment, I remembered a conversation I had with another leader, Mai Green, who had created her own role and team. Seeing that she had done it reminded me that it was possible. I said to Meghan “you’re right, let’s do it. Will you help me?”
Together we “white boarded” what my dream job would look like. It included the vision, the scope, key stakeholders, success metrics, and a plan for the first 90 days. I refined this, turned it into a pitch deck, and my mentor and manager at the time helped me schedule meetings with the right executives for buy-in. I will never forget seeing the email in writing announcing my new position — it was one of the best feelings I’ve experienced.”
“Many people can have an idea, but very few people actually execute on it. Use your skills, seek out the opportunity, and go for it, especially if the timing and business needs align.”
Find Mentors Who Really See You
“Mentorship was and continues to be, an important part of my career. A good mentor is someone who really sees you, your strengths and weaknesses, and brings you into new rooms and opportunities with them. It’s always more helpful if it’s someone who looks like you, but it doesn’t always have to be someone from your community — allies can have a huge impact in driving your career forward.”
Q: Who are the trailblazing women in your life?
My mom — she taught me that my potential is limitless and showed me how to kick down doors, be courageous, and challenge the status quo. Even in giving me the middle name Legend, she dared me to be as great as I can be.
I also want to acknowledge the community of Black women leaders at Salesforce who took me in, showed me the way, and continue to guide me and advocate for me at every step. Find the people who support you relentlessly and who you can be vulnerable and yourself with.
Q: What is the best piece of advice you have received and continue to carry with you?
I learned this from Jessica Ross, who always taught me to lean into the fire. Lean into what’s uncomfortable. If you can be that person who can address those fires that everyone can be afraid of, and move through that fire, then you’re going to come out stronger on the other side. It can be the fire within yourself, for example, negative criticisms, but you have to lean into it and go through it.
Lift as We Rise
Together, we can lift others as we rise. Perseverance, as well as allyship, will be crucial as you continue to define your career. Be flexible and remember that the journey isn’t always going to be a linear path — it's fluid, and in your control. Try new things, build your board of directors, and share your unique ideas to tap into your full potential and build momentum for your next opportunity.
At Salesforce, we are committed to advancing gender equality in the workplace and in society. Click here to view the recap of our third-annual gender equality summit, Trailblazing Women, where we heard from inspiring authors, business leaders, and activists. If you’re interested in a career at Salesforce, visit our careers page.