Bret Taylor: Could he be Salesforce’s next CEO?
Salesforce.com Inc is grooming its Chief Operating Officer Bret Taylor for a chief executive position to support the U.S. business software company’s co-founder and current CEO Marc Benioff, according to Reuters. The proposed promotion is rumoured to happen in upcoming months.
The software firm previously had two executive officers, but former co-CEO Keith Block stepped down last year.
Rising star within the Salesforce empire
Taylor joined Salesforce four years ago following the company’s acquisition of Quip, a word process app that Taylor had innovated.
Rising quickly within the ranks, Taylor had joined the C-Suite within a year, becoming president and Chief Product Officer, before being promoted to COO in December 2019, overseeing global product vision, engineering, security, marketing, and communications.
Already considered a rising star within Salesforce at this stage, there were rumours back in 2019 that Taylor was being groomed for the big role down the line.
During his four years at Salesforce, he is known to have taken the lead on many of the company’s biggest announcements at Dreamforce, the firm’s massive annual customer conference.
He also played an important role in Salesforce’s US$27.7 billion deal, the firm’s biggest-ever acquisition to buy workspace messaging platform Slack Technologies Inc and is also behind Salesforce’s new Work.com tools, which help organisations reopen their facilities safely.
Reputation as an innovator of products
Rather than coming from a sales background, as a software engineer, Taylor’s background is product-focused and he has an impressive track record of creating successful, innovative and iconic technologies and plenty of experiences at startups.
Prior to co-founding Quip, Taylor co-created Google Maps while at Google, and innovated social networking company FriendFeed where he was co-founder and CEO, before the latter being acquired in 2009 by Facebook.
Taylor spent three years at Facebook as Chief Technology Officer, following Facebook’s acquisition of FriendFeed in August 2009, and became the firm’s Chief Technology Officer. He is credited with creating the ‘Like’ button and with helping lead the firm through its IPO in 2012.
Prior to this, Taylor was at Google for four years, where he led more than 25 successful product launches, including Google Maps, Google Local, Google Web Toolkit, the Google Maps API and Google’s Developer product group. And in 2006, received the highest honour given to a Google Employee, the Founders’ Award, in recognition of his contributions.
Taylor is also a member of Twitter’s board of directors. He graduated from Stanford University in 2003 and lives in the Bay Area of San Francisco.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.