How Our Corporate Culture Has Evolved Over Time

By Katharine Bierce | March 5, 2019 | Employee Stories, Volunteering

Celebrating the 20th Birthday of Salesforce

“In my 19 years at Salesforce and Salesforce.org, I have witnessed how strong values can bind a company together and how employees can truly drive purpose, vision and impact.”
–Rob Acker, CEO, Salesforce.org

Things have evolved a lot in CRM since Salesforce took CRM to the cloud in 1999. Photo by Katharine Bierce.As Peter Drucker once said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” With Salesforce having grown from a handful of employees to 36K+ in the last 20 years, one might wonder: Is the culture still the same? Do people still care about giving back? And why do so many employees stick around for 10 years or more?

Here are some stories from several employees at Salesforce.org who have been with the company a decade or more that illustrate what key elements of our culture have stayed the same, and what has evolved, since our founding.

Ebony Frelix Beckwith, Chief Philanthropy Officer and Executive Vice President of Philanthropy & Engagement at Salesforce.org

Ebony FrelixEbony leads the company’s strategic philanthropic work and its global employee community engagement activities.

Ebony shares: “What I love about Salesforce is our unwavering commitment to our core values, which have been the foundation of our company since day one. It’s especially apparent through our philanthropic work and our responsibility to give back to our communities.

This was true when I joined 10 years ago, and is even stronger today. I think one reason why we’ve been so successful in keeping true to our values and enabling our employees to give back is because it starts at the leadership level and trickles down to every employee.

As our company has grown, our commitment hasn’t changed, but our impact is even greater. We’ve been able to keep this momentum going and truly walk the walk of ensuring our business is a platform for change. I’m excited about what greater impact we’ll be able to have on our communities and the populations we serve in another 20 years!”

Learn more about pro bono volunteering and giving back at Salesforce.org.

Saradha Rajagopalan, Senior Member of Technical Staff, Quality Engineering, Salesforce.org

Saradha RajagopalanSaradha, a remote employee based in California, started at Salesforce in December 2004, not too long after the company went public. She was one of the last R&D members that Salesforce co-founder and CTO Parker Harris interviewed, making her employee #876. She shared: “It was like being in a startup where things change constantly and change is the only constant.”

After 7 years at Salesforce, Saradha joined the social enterprise at Salesforce.org in 2015. “The company, brand, and culture have made a lasting impact on my career and me personally,” she shares. “Being at Salesforce.org, a growing social enterprise, seems very similar to my early days at Salesforce. One thing that matters most in staying longer is the relationships we build over time. My tenure here has helped me better understand the breadth and depth of the platform as a whole and really helps think through various facets that ties up to deliver high quality software to our organization and hence the larger community.”

Salesforce employees dressed for a Diwali celebration
Salesforce employees dressed for a Diwali celebration. Photo courtesy of Saradha Rajagopalan

Saradha agrees with Ebony that the culture has been consistent over time: “We have done a good job of maintaining our core values by making everyone align with our values using our V2MOM system. Trust is one value we have always maintained over the years. Whether it’s at the level of lines of code, infrastructure, or the end user experience, everyone has a role to play in making our ecosystem trustworthy.”

Employees’ kids at a team picnic at Golden Gate Park. Photos courtesy of Saradha Rajagopalan
Employees’ kids at a team picnic at Golden Gate Park. Photo courtesy of Saradha Rajagopalan.

While the culture has stayed values-driven, of course, some aspects have changed…for the better! Saradha shares: “Some areas that have improved over time include an increase in volunteering and employee giving, work-life balance, and celebrating our successes.“

Thijs Bokkers, Principal Solution Engineer, Salesforce.org

Thijs BokkersBased in the Netherlands, Thijs joined Salesforce in 2008, almost 11 years ago. While he had previously worked in the CRM industry, prior to Salesforce, he never stayed at a company for more than 2.5 years.

At Salesforce, Thijs had the opportunity to grow in new roles, which he did every 2 to 2.5 years. “Salesforce allows you to learn the technology and the organization, but also plenty of opportunities to learn about yourself, too,” Thijs shares. “My heart told me I needed to make the switch to Salesforce.org; I still work with the technology I fell in love with, but now I get to make a difference for nonprofit and education institutions. I have enjoyed the last 10+ years, and am looking forward to the coming years, hoping that the culture will stay the same and our core values will stay in place, so we can keep having fun changing the world together.”

Thijs volunteers in Kenya, feeding a baby rhino
Thijs volunteers in Kenya, feeding a baby rhino

Even though the company has changed a lot over the years, with the number of employees growing by 10x since Thijs joined, he agrees that the Salesforce Ohana culture and core values are still intact. In his early years at Salesforce, Thijs started getting involved in volunteer work. He completed 7 days (56 hours) of Volunteer Time Off (VTO) almost every year, sometimes even surpassing 200 hours per year! His volunteer activities included going to Kenya twice to help nonprofits better use Salesforce.org Nonprofit Cloud. Thijs says, “It wasn’t just about me helping them, though – those nonprofits returned the favour to me by giving opportunities like being able to bottle feed an orphaned, blind baby rhino!”

What has changed? As Salesforce has grown, the organization as a whole has become more professional. Thijs notes: “While my role got narrower as new people joined, this allowed for more focus, which is a good thing!”

Daryl Spreiter, VP of Global Enablement at Salesforce.org

Daryl SpreiterFor Daryl, being at Salesforce.org for 5 years and at Salesforce in total for 13 years has given him a strong sense of identity.

“I know who I am, and what I can do, and how I contribute,” he said. “It’s also really helped in terms of my ability to influence people and help change the organization.”

The other benefits of being at one organization for over a decade is that he has been able to focus on his brand, both inside and outside of the company. “I love the fact that there have been significant changes in my career in these 13 years, and how I’ve been able to grow and develop my organizational influence and brand.”

In Daryl’s experience, the three values that we have maintained consistently in the 13 years he’s been here are Trust, Customer Success, and Innovation. Daryl comments: “It’s great that we have had those same three values today that we had 13, or even 20 years ago. As a trailblazer in the cloud community, those three things were hugely important.”

For Daryl, the most exciting change has been the introduction of Equality as a value. He says: “It’s something I take personally, and I take pride in, that we have this. I am also proud of the volunteer work I do at organizations like Year Up, Genesys Works, Peninsula College Fund, and the Oakland and San Francisco Unified school districts, to help close the opportunity divide and create new paths to success. That’s what Equality to me is all about. I love that it’s a core focus for us now.”

When Daryl started in 2007, there were about 2000 employees at Salesforce. Where things shifted for him was 5 years later, when the company grew to 15,000 employees and developed the executive team.

He shares: “We brought in new hires from other companies and in my opinion, our culture shifted those few years, and we lost being able to fit on the same floor, but that was just an inflection point in the company. What brought us back to who we are in spirit and culture is the Ohana that we developed at that time, around 2014. We started talking about Ohana culture and a few years ago we had a Trailhead theme on it, and suddenly we were a vibrant, exciting place to be.”

So many employees who leave Salesforce come back, that there’s a word for it: Boomerang.
Daryl says, “I’ve talked to many people that have left Salesforce and come back as ‘Boomerangs’ – and many of them say, ‘Don’t ever leave, it’s so different out there, find your path here.’ There are not a lot of companies that have really captured this kind of feeling and culture that we have.”

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