• Women 2.0 HowTo Conference San Francisco, September 30 - October 1, 2014

From Individual Contributors To The COO, Women Make An Impact At Salesforce’s Girl Geek Dinner

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Women represent nearly every level of leadership at Salesforce, from business to technical roles, inspiring others to strive towards that goal.

By Courtney Mayeda (MBA, UCLA Anderson)

Upon entering the expansive One Spear Street, we were greeted by the many smiling faces of Salesforce’s Women in Technology group, sporting their nifty red t-shirts. The space offered not only drinks and delicious food, but also the opportunity to experience demos of the expansive Salesforce product offerings.

I learned that Salesforce can be used for virtually anything, including a job search or planning a wedding. After satiating our hunger and thirst, we were treated to a series of “lightning talks” by women leaders at Salesforce: Rajani, Jeanine, Susan, Mysti, Reena and Anna.

As demonstrated by the great diversity in this group of speakers (background, career path, etc), women represent nearly every level of leadership at Salesforce – a definite source of inspiration for us girl geeks. Also, in varying their topics, these women leaders illustrated how complex their business is, along with the many challenges they face. How do companies maintain and grow such extensive product offerings from the individual contributor level to executive management?

Leadership and communication are key. Mysti Berry, Principal Content Strategist, emphatically stated that over-communication just isn’t possible, and that the transition from individual contributor to manager can be eased if we understand these three lessons:

  1. Bid farewell to equality: Some people will treat you differently based on your rank – get used to it; everyone thinks differently so you need to adjust to how they communicate and act.
  2. It’s going to hurt for a while: It’s difficult when, as the manager, you’re no longer the expert in the room. When you don’t try to fix everything yourself, and trust in your team enough to delegate to them, you’ll achieve greater success.
  3. Your team is smarter than you are: Instead of giving your team an assignment and telling them exactly what to do, listen to their thoughts on how to solve a problem. Include them in the discussion; trust their abilities and communicate.

The importance of communication was also a key takeaway from Susan Kimberlin’s lightning talk about “Product Management as Translation”. Part of what makes a product manager’s role, and many other roles in technology, intriguing is the need to navigate through both the business and the technical aspects.

As someone with a linguistics background, Kimberlin indicated that “it’s not what people say, it’s what they mean.” While Vizzini (of Princess Bride fame) believes something is completely “inconceivable”, someone else sees the same situation as entirely plausible. Find out more about people’s backgrounds and work habits – this will guide you in better understanding what they actually mean. And make sure to “always be translating”…

Better communication breeds understanding, which leads to a better product and happier customers – the ultimate end goal. Salesforce’s Women in Technology group underscored this throughout the evening, and challenged the Girl Geeks to do the same in our organizations. Ready, set, communicate!

Photo credits: Bay Area Girl Geek Dinners on Twitter.

Women 2.0 readers: How do you achieve success in all aspects of the business, yet tie together a complex organization and product offering? Let us know in the comments!

About the guest blogger: Courtney Mayeda recently graduated from UCLA Anderson with her MBA in Technology Management/Marketing, and moved back to the Bay Area. Previously, she worked for Apple and Wells Fargo’s Online Sales and Marketing division, following graduation from Scripps College with her bachelor’s degree. Follow her on Twitter at @courtneymayeda.