Top 12 professional lessons from my 35 year old career | by...

Top 12 professional lessons from my 35 year old career | by Mark Hawkins, CFO, Salesforce.


My career is roughly 35 years in the making, and it’s been quite an adventure.

I have been in tech since the beginning of my career, with companies like HP, Dell, Logitech, and Autodesk; and have worked in incredible places including Colorado Springs, the United Kingdom, Austin, San Francisco, Tokyo and Shanghai. When I received the call from Salesforce two years ago, I knew this would be another exciting adventure with one of the world’s most admired companies and fastest-growing top 10 software company. I’ve been serving as our Chief Financial Officer ever since, and it’s been such an honor.

There have been many people over the years who have helped me learn and grow, and I’m passionate about paying it forward and helping others develop in their careers. That’s why I’m sharing the top 12 things I’ve learned along my journey — hopefully, some of these learnings will come in handy on your own career path.

1. Trust is #1

When you walk into a room, whether you’re in the office or elsewhere, you instantly know who you can trust — you just feel it. It completely affects the way you interact, and the way you perform. That’s why building trusted relationships is critical to your career. One way to approach it: imagine everything you say will be broadcast to the entire company. That really makes you think before you speak!

2. Dream A Little

…and don’t give up on those dreams! I had a very different dream for myself than others around me. I’m from a small town in Michigan, and most of my relatives still live in the state, close to where we grew up. Yet I decided to go in a different direction, and I’m so glad I did. Be true to who you are and what you want to do, and don’t be easily discouraged or let others lead you astray. If your dream is important to you, never give up on it!

3. The Company You Keep

Growing up, my mother always had the ability to point out the one friend who I shouldn’t be hanging out with. She would tell me: “It’s all about the company you keep.” It’s true. Surround yourself with world-class, productive people who want to make a positive impact on their companies and on their communities. Seek out people who you trust, and who you can learn from.

4. Respect People and Relationships

The relationships you cultivate are key to a successful career — and a successful life. Every day, you should do your job, serve your company, and show care and consideration for your colleagues. Developing and maintaining that emotional IQ is critical, and only good things will come out of it.

5. The Student — Master — Student Cycle

When you’re used to being an expert, it’s hard to become a beginner again. You have to push yourself to be vulnerable and uncomfortable in order to learn and develop. Every year, I choose two topics to learn about in the upcoming year — this year, I picked Cyber Security and Sustainability. We all need to constantly be learning in a world that’s constantly changing, so pursue topics that you are passionate about and take pride in your newfound knowledge!

6. The Power of Perspective

No matter how high you ascend on the career ladder, never let your ego get in the way of learning something new. Great ideas and advice can come from anyone, and listening will help you move forward. Personally, talking to new people in different industries and at different levels helps me develop my understanding so much more rapidly.

7. “You” Inc.

Run your career like you would run a company. What do successful companies do? They keep quality standards high, maintain a strong brand reputation, deliver great products and services and invest in research and development. Pay attention to your career — your “company” — and make decisions that will positively affect your brand long-term.

8. Who’s Driving?

After one of my sons took a driver training program, he said to me: “Dad, it’s okay if you’re in the front seat for now, but eventually I’d like you to get in the backseat … and then I’d like you to get out of the car!” Similarly, in your career, you must be intentional with your choices. Decide what your brand is, how you want to operate, and where you’re heading, and don’t let anyone else take the wheel.

9. Overcome Setbacks and Obstacles

Problems and challenges will always arise; it’s how you deal with them that matters. As a leader, I watch how people conduct themselves in high-pressure situations. To succeed, you need to be able to solve problems, stay positive, and rise up when you hit a hard spot.

10. Reputation Matters

It’s not about how people feel about you the day you start at a company; it’s about how they feel the day you leave. I believe this sentiment encapsulates everything we should be striving for in our careers. If we consistently deliver strong results, treat each other well, and interact cooperatively keeping our legacy in mind, we will all contribute to a successful and great workplace culture.

11. Oxygen First

In case of emergency on an airplane, we are instructed to put on our own oxygen masks before assisting those around us. The same is true in your career, and in your life. If you take care of yourself, your needs, and your priorities first, you will be in a great position to benefit your team, your company, and your family … they will receive the best you have to offer.

12. Success is Never Final

I’ve had the great pleasure to work at very special places at very special times … and none more special than Salesforce. But no matter what degree of success any company or person achieves, remember that it’s all about the future. Future possibilities excite us and motivate us to continue doing our best work. So stay grounded, stay humble, and keep moving towards what lies ahead.

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