Why did you join the Network Council?
“My predecessor Joris Schoonis left for Messagebird – a member of the Board by the way – and I was able to take over from him at Salesforce. We think it is important that someone from our management is involved with the Board. Then you can represent Salesforce in the entire width.”
Salesforce is an internationally operating company with 35,000 employees worldwide. You can count the largest companies in the world as your customers. What is the importance of the region for a company like yours?
“Commitment to the region is in line with our corporate philosophy: our business model, our charity model and our belief in ecosystems. We believe that organizations can strengthen each other. We do not deliver software to the customer and then leave again. We establish long-term relationships with our customers, helping them improve their business. When we were founded twenty years ago, we also decided that one percent of our time , to make our capital and our product available to society, to the region in which we operate. We try to get our business partners and our customers on board. The Amsterdam Metropolitan Area is of course also interesting for us from a business point of view, because many of our customers are located here. That’s why we moved from Utrecht to Amsterdam four years ago. We have found our place: in June we received the International Business Award , for a foreign company that makes a vital contribution to the region. ”
You will contribute to the activities around the TechConnect action program in the region. Why?
“There are 9,000 IT vacancies in the region, so that is a huge challenge. We ourselves are also constantly looking for IT professionals. On the other hand, there are groups underrepresented in our sector, groups that have difficulty finding a job. TechConnect has a laudable ambition, the program aims to train fifty thousand people within four years. We would like to contribute to this. We still have to fill in exactly what we are going to do, but I think we can certainly help fill in the curriculum. We are also considering a buddy system, in which our employees can support a TechConnect student. ”
Training these groups in particular also matches your diversity ambitions.
“That’s right. I strongly believe that you are more successful as a company if you have an inclusive culture. For example, we were prominently represented during Pride Week in Amsterdam. We had a boat during the Canal Parade, but were also involved in the substantive program. We also try to propagate those inclusive values in our ecosystem. For example, when we have a presentation at a customer, we always try to include a diverse team. I do think that diversity within the Board itself is still a point of attention: I would like the Council to also be a broad reflection of society.”
How do you notice the other challenges the Board is dealing with and how do you deal with them?
“We are growing fast, just like house prices in the city. Not everyone lives close to our office. That is why our people are allowed to work where it is most practical. Everyone who lives a bit further away has a work from home contract, we ensure that the facilities for this are Not everyone needs to be in the office at nine o’clock either: I myself am from the south and when I go to the office I only drive away after the traffic jam to not lose unnecessary time. We also try to extend this to our customers. We do not require consultants to work on-site at the customer for five days. With this policy we therefore contribute to reducing traffic movements in and around the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. ”
What do you think is the importance of the Board?
“The Amsterdam region has developed fantastically in recent years. But that does not happen automatically. If you want to continue to grow, to continue to innovate, you have to bind innovative companies to you and bring those companies into contact with each other. I therefore very important. On the other hand, I also think that the analytical side of the Board is important. We must continue to investigate what is going well, what can be improved. Which growth is desirable, which is not? How can we ensure that IT companies want to establish themselves not only in the Zuidas, but also in Zaanstad or Almere? These are issues for which there is no ready-made solution, but we do need to keep thinking about it. The Board makes us think as a company. We organize our annual conference for a few thousand relations in the RAI or in the Haarlemmermeer expo? What is the impact on the region? ”
You talked about the Salesforce charity model. Do you have examples of projects in the region resulting from this?
“All employees are allowed to shape this in their own way. My team includes, for example, someone who takes seniors on the road once a month in a van, elderly people who normally sit at home. I myself have sometimes helped students from the IJburgcollege with English. interviews and with my team we helped a care center relocate. Furthermore, during our conferences and events we like to offer a platform to organizations that we hold dear, such as Warchild and Tony Chocolonely. Our Salesforce Saturday is also a great example. hold regular meetings in cafes around the world on Saturdays for people wanting to get to know Salesforce, attracting a variety of people, from retirees wanting to understand what their kids are doing in IT to school dropouts and women considering a career switch. Some of those people even eventually find a job at Salesforce. ”
What else do you think the Board should focus on?
“I personally think the Board should perhaps stimulate even bolder discussions. For example about data centers. I understand that Amsterdam is now stepping on the brakes to prevent the security of energy supply from being jeopardized, but in the medium term it will be valuable if expansion of data center capacity becomes possible again. This can also help recruit high-tech companies. I find the book about the tourist issue The Untourist Guide to Amsterdam interesting. How do you ensure that a tourist not only comes to get something, but also to bring something? The business community may also be able to help with this. I don’t know exactly how, but I’d like to discuss this. ”