Designing the Designer Role: The behind-the-scenes story of how Salesforce helped Trailblazers elevate design

Former President Barack Obama with Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff at Dreamforce - IMA

At the top of a new year, we find ourselves looking at what’s to come. Well, I’m easing in by looking at what’s brought us here. For me, 2021 was memorable for a few reasons. It was the year we launched the new Salesforce Designer role and it was also my 10th (Koa) anniversary at Salesforce. Shaped by external and internal forces, design at Salesforce has come a very long way in the past decade. Heck, it’s come a long way in the last couple years. This is a story of how I saw – and had the privilege to contribute to – the growth of Salesforce Design’s culture and community. Ultimately, I realized that my greatest tools to drive change during a period of rapid growth weren’t what I expected.

Reflecting on my personal values, what’s helped guide me through this growth and navigate my career is practicing kindness, being useful, and facing my fears with courage.

Three principles designers can use to effect change

I encountered the following quote a few years ago at Dreamforce. It encapsulated what I had intuitively practiced for most of my life but didn’t have the language to communicate. As a curious designer and adventurer, what I would add is to also practice being courageous.

“If you sum up the things I try to impart to our daughters, it has been: ‘be kind and be useful.’ ”
– Former President Barack Obama with Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff at Dreamforce

These principles have guided me, as I work with our teams to launch new products, build a thriving community connected by design, and establish career paths that elevate design–such as the Salesforce Designer role. Launching this role has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career. Every day, I get to celebrate the careers and livelihoods of Trailblazers around the world. I hope you find inspiration in my personal story. Choosing to embrace courage and activate (not just advocate for) positive change has made all the difference.

Design and mountaineering require similar thinking. Here, a rock climber reflects on their principles.

What it looks like to lead with these principles

  • Be Kind: Listening to internal and external signals.
  • Be Useful: Building trust with your craft and sweat equity.
  • Be Courageous: Using a relationship-design-minded approach.

When I reflect on these principles and my journey, it reminds me of my passion for the mountains and climbing. Since childhood, I have been an avid explorer and mountaineer. It’s no surprise that I integrated lessons learned along the way into my career as a designer.

I’ve experienced what it’s like to move up glaciers and negotiate crevasses in oxygen-thin environments. Sometimes, I’ve done this while being linked to my team of mountain climbers by a safety rope. Dramatic back-drop aside, the dynamics of a rope team and a design team are similar. They’re both strategic and team-centered. You can’t push too hard, drag too slow, or veer off too far to the sides. You need to move at a pace, diligence, and persistence that the entire rope team is comfortable with. Traversing an ever-changing landscape requires teams to practice kindness, usefulness, and courage. Over time you will build trusted relationships with your rope team and peer rope teams.

Read the full story here.