‘Salesforce has been reimagined for an AI world’

27 Jul 2023

Carolan Lennon. Image: Salesforce Ireland

Salesforce Ireland’s Carolan Lennon talks to us about her role as country leader and how the company has been utilising AI technology.

Carolan Lennon, country leader at enterprise software company Salesforce Ireland, says she has two key responsibilities in her role: customer success and employee success.

Lennon was appointed to her current position in July 2022 and is responsible for leading the company’s workforce in Ireland. Prior to joining Salesforce, Lennon served as CEO at telecommunications company Eir.

Lennon says that customer success is a key priority to both herself and the company. “Customers need a digital strategy for today that builds resilience for today’s climate – driving greater efficiency and productivity,” she says.

Lennon works to “formulate a vision and strategy” for Salesforce employees. “It is very important to me that with such a diverse workforce, we have the right environment and a big part of that is instilling the Salesforce values and culture among our staff.”

What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?

We have seen unprecedented pressures over the past few years – a global pandemic, war, labour and supply chain challenges, inflation. All of that brings unique business challenges.

So, while that is a challenge, it is also an opportunity as digital transformation is critical to navigating economic turbulence. Companies need to create incredible customer experiences across every interaction to stay competitive and we’re able to help with that.

‘This coming wave of generative AI will be more revolutionary than any technology innovation that’s come before’

What are the key sector opportunities you’re capitalising on?

We are going through an incredible time in our industry with breakthrough innovations around AI.

AI and automation are ushering in a new economic era, revolutionising how businesses interact with customers. AI is not a new area of focus for Salesforce. We launched Einstein, the first AI platform for customer relationship management (CRM), in 2016. Now every week Einstein powers over 1trn AI-powered predictions. This coming wave of generative AI will be more revolutionary than any technology innovation that’s come before.

Salesforce has been reimagined for an AI world and every company now needs an AI strategy. Across our products, sales, service, commerce and marketing, we have utilised AI technology that has helped us to continue to support this next wave of transformation.

We’re conscious that people want to see more from the platforms they’re using on a day-to-day basis and we have worked hard to continue to innovate, while still protecting our customers’ data and privacy.

What set you on the road to where you are now?

Well, I would definitely say that the road has not been straight.

Looking back, choosing to do a degree in technology rather than a business degree was probably a mistake, however I was determined to build a career in Ireland and I thought that was the right path to achieve that goal. It was when I realised that I enjoyed dealing with customers and learning about why a customer would or would not buy something, that my path started to point to where I am today.

My fork in the road was when I went back to university to study for an MBA full time. If I had never made that decision, I would never have moved into telecoms and I wouldn’t be at Salesforce today.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?

Leaving a permanent job to do an MBA at Trinity College Dublin was a risk. At the time it felt like I was giving up the very thing that I had worked hard towards, a successful job and career. That decision was really a game changer.

Leaving Vodafone for Eir was a similar risk. I knew at the time that I would be going into a major transformation, but Eir was great for reinforcing my connection to Ireland. Moving to Eir also aided my career massively. The move positioned me very well in terms of the things I wanted to achieve in my career long-term.

What one work skill do you wish you had?

I think the one skill I wish I had looking back is the skill to find the ‘right fit’. I’ve always been good at throwing myself into challenges and navigating change, but I wish I found the jobs that fit me best, faster.

Looking back now at the early years of my career and before I went back to do my MBA, I could have made career steps differently, but it wouldn’t have made me who I am today.

How do you get the best out of your team?

The best way to get the best out of people is to get them aligned around a common goal. I know it is a bit of a cliché but it also happens to be true. People who are aligned to values and goals are more energised and focused.

What’s the best piece of career advice you have ever received?

It was really simple from the woman who gave me my first big break, making me the marketing director at Vodafone Ireland. She presented me with a huge bunch of flowers and a card, wishing me well and said, “If you try to look for balance in your life every day, you’ll fail. Accept that some days it’s all about work, but make sure some days it’s all about the kids and some days it’s all about you. If you feel in equilibrium in your life and everything else that’s going on, great. But if you strive for this nirvana work-life balance, every day, every week, it’s not going to happen.”

She was absolutely right and I live by that now.

What books have you read that you would recommend?

Two books spring to mind immediately.

I loved Barbarians at the Gate by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar, I just thought it was an incredible book.

Years ago, I also read a book called Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t by James C Collins, which has really stuck in my mind since I read it.

What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?

Slack is our productivity platform and since joining Salesforce I’ve been amazed by its effectiveness, it is a central driver of productivity and communication. As a result, I rarely use email because I can use Slack for most of my internal communications and collaboration.

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