How I helped shape the future of work with Salesforce

by Joseph Choi

 
 

My fellow summer 2020 interns can probably all relate to the disappointing feeling of your internship going 100% remote.

The fully remote internship, not to mention the massive changes in our world this summer definitely made me feel uncertain, but it was also an opportunity to dream up bold solutions to the big challenges our world is facing.

As a Business Operations Intern serving the Technology, Marketing, and Product organization (13,000+ employees) at Salesforce this summer, I collaborated with executive leaders to write leadership strategies for remote teams, helped devise a global remote workforce plan, and channeled my passion for innovation and entrepreneurship by creating the 2020 Intern Pitch Competition.

My Journey to Salesforce

So, how did I get here?

I’m a rising senior at the University of Michigan studying Economics with a concentration in Data Analysis. Last summer, I interned at a digital media startup whose mission is to tell stories about emerging technology at the intersection of business, economy, and politics. I worked closely with the CEO to devise content and growth strategy, and I learned the ins and outs of how to grow a business through storytelling and marketing.

One thing I’m passionate about is advancing 21st century solutions to the 21st century challenges we’re facing as a nation, including the Fourth Industrial Revolution and other massive transformations in our society and economy. From the beginning of this year I ran the digital ad campaigns for Humanity Forward-endorsed 2020 congressional candidates, who inspire their grassroots supporters to fight for innovative solutions to the challenges of our changing world.

When I applied to Salesforce, I was looking for a role where I would be able to combine my love of storytelling with my passion for inspiring innovation. It didn’t take long to realize that my role as a Business Operations Futureforce Intern at Salesforce was the perfect platform to accomplish this mission.

Envisioning the Future of Work with Impactful Projects

I got to work with some really cool people this summer. Shout out to my BizOps team Butler Rondeno, Kathleen Duarte, Mark Carpowich, Tara Tseng, and Rachel Bayuk. They were unconditionally patient with my endless questions and supported me in so many big projects I was curious about participating in.

1. Making company emails actually fun to read

I quickly noticed in my very first week that Salesforce employees get a lot of emails. All these emails compete for employees’ valuable time, so it’s a challenge for executives to break through the noise to communicate important initiatives and tell inspiring stories. So when the Senior Editor of the org-wide company newsletter asked me to reinvent our content strategy, it became my mission to make company emails actually fun to read.

I started by analyzing and synthesizing user feedback, which confirmed my initial hypothesis: Salesforce employees wanted readable company updates, but also desired more in-depth personal stories from fellow members of the Ohana. I created a new content strategy to more inclusively uplift interesting stories from a diverse global audience, all while keeping readability as a priority. After pitching this strategy to the Senior Editor, we implemented it in the July issue of the newsletter which was sent to the whole organization!

2. Planning a global remote workforce

Before the pandemic, a lot of companies have wondered: “Does remote work, work?”, but were never able to fully test it. But because of the social distancing restrictions, many companies including Salesforce were forced into this remote workforce experiment this summer.

After a strong quarter, Salesforce executives started to reevaluate how we imagine our remote workforce. I had the privilege of working with a global team of executives to analyze real estate data to develop solutions including flex seating, socially-distanced office policies, and real estate planning. Most of these projects are confidential, but I can say that this was an incredible experience re-imagining the future of work at Salesforce with these leaders.

3. Establishing a vision for the leaders of the future of work

In addition to creating new business strategies, Salesforce executive leadership was deeply interested in enabling leaders to managing teams in the new normal. I was in charge of synthesizing input from 40+ executive leaders to write the Center of Excellence for the Vision section of the V2MOM for President & COO Bret Taylor’s organization.

What’s a V2MOM? In the words of CEO and Founder Marc Benioff, the V2MOM is “a management process that stands for Vision, Values, Methods, Obstacles, and Measures... that is used to guide every decision at Salesforce.”

Writing the Vision section for the document that would serve as a guide for the management practices of the distributed leadership team at Salesforce was a thrilling responsibility, to say the least. After listening in on executive calls, consulting with Salesforce leaders, and asking LOTS of questions, I wrote the vision for the new V2MOM that outlined the new company vision for leading hybrid teams, enabling technology agility, and maintaining a strong Ohana culture. The vision was published in the final version of the document.

Creating the first ever intern-led pitch competition

On the first day of my internship, the Futureforce team let us create social clubs similar to campus clubs in college. So I founded the Startups & Entrepreneurship Club which grew to over 100 members throughout the summer.

I’m an aspiring entrepreneur and I love the idea of enabling innovation from the ground-up. What better way to make this happen than to source fresh ideas from our interns in a business pitch competition? With the help of fellow intern Anthony Katwan, and with the support of the awesome Futureforce team, I created and planned the 2020 Intern Pitch Competition.
64 interns pitched their business ideas centered on the theme “What is the Future of Work at Salesforce?” I recruited executive leadership to judge the final round where the 5 finalist teams pitched in the company-wide live event. Mark Hawkins, Andrea Leszek, Meredith Schmidt, and Josh Alexander were generous enough to judge this final round and choose the winning pitch.

Check out this post by the winning team. (Shout out to Cristina, Neha, Kriti, and Sami!)

We also arranged a coffee chat for the winning team to pitch their business proposal to President & COO Bret Taylor, who gave us advice as aspiring entrepreneurs. This was such an unforgettable and surreal experience; I'm still processing it 2 weeks later.

Leadership and volunteering with Equality Groups

In my first week I was immediately blown away by how much effort Salesforce puts into promoting equality and inclusion with their dozens of active equality groups. One of these groups is Faithforce@Home, whose mission is to “empower employees to bring their authentic selves to work” through interfaith discussion and inclusion. I joined the leadership team as the Communications Chair where I planned and promoted events that sparked dialogue about how diverse members of the community are experiencing their faiths at home. With the help of my diverse leadership team, I learned so much about faith inclusion and how to bring my full authentic self to work every day.

Key takeaways from this summer

Enabling innovation is what makes me tick. I just love seeing new ideas come to life - whether it was planning the pitch competition, improving team processes, or creating strategy for the future of the workplace, I enjoyed every opportunity to innovate.

Admitting “I don’t know” can lead to powerful discoveries. Having a curious attitude about everything and knowing when to explore my own blind spots often led to opportunities to dive into high-impact projects.

Prioritization. Juggling multiple work projects with overlapping timelines, running my own initiatives with the Startups & Entrepreneurship Club, expanding my network at Salesforce, and owning a digital product on the side from conception to launch required ruthless prioritization. I learned to intentionally delegate tasks, build meaningful relationships, and evaluate the opportunity cost of each hour of the day.

What’s next for me?

I always try to keep busy with side projects! Right now I’m planning the launch of an app with a team of 9 developers, designers, and UX researchers I created this summer. It's called Shaped, a new dating app that creates genuine, faith-based connections by combining forum-style discussion with private messaging. I’ll also be working with Humanity Forward candidate David Kim to win his general election in CA-34 as the Director of Paid Media!

I hope to continue learning this fall and bring new skills and knowledge back to Salesforce full-time after I graduate from the University of Michigan in Spring 2021!

Thank you, everyone.

I’m so grateful for all the people I met this summer who made this experience unforgettable. Huge thank you to my manager, Butler, my team, Kathleen, Mark, Tara, and Rachel, my recruiter Ripan, the Futureforce team, the Faithforce@Home team, my fellow interns, and everyone that took the time to do virtual coffee chats with me. Hope to see you all soon!

You can learn more about opportunities available to interns and new grads at Salesforce on our Futureforce website.

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