Today, on National Intern Day, Salesforce is excited to announce investments in four workforce development organizations — Year Up, Genesys Works, Enterprise for Youth and Futures and Options. These trailblazing nonprofits are committed to a future where every young adult has opportunities for meaningful work, including high-quality, paid internships.
Hiring the best talent doesn't mean you have to only recruit from top tier universities. Passionate, hard-working, eager individuals with grit and ambition can be found in places that our industry often overlooks. Below is the story of Jack Guo, a Year Up intern at Salesforce, who dropped out of high school at age 14 to join a gang, as told in his own words. The next ten years of his life were filled with ups and downs, but his journey led him to Salesforce in January 2019. I hope you will be as inspired by Jack as I am, and that you will share in my commitment to sourcing talent from diverse backgrounds. I can say with certainty that doing so has made my team stronger!
My name is Jack Guo and I am 24 years old. I currently work at Salesforce. I am a member of the Enterprise Sales Programs team. If you’re reading this story about my life, I welcome you. I appreciate the opportunity to share my experience growing up in San Francisco, the important life lessons I learned along the way, and how I eventually ended up at Salesforce.
Ten years ago, I would never have imagined getting here. Back then, I was a scared, depressed, vulnerable, and exploited young boy. I attended San Francisco public schools and, unfortunately, I never really learned much in school. I was influenced by the wrong people. I joined a gang at the age of 13 because I simply wanted to feel a sense of belonging and have a place where I felt protected. Because hindsight is 20/20, I now know that my troubles stemmed from not having positive role models in my life.
I dropped out of high school during my sophomore year. There were problems at home and I was financially unstable. I hit rock bottom when my best friend Victor was murdered. I knew Victor for about half my life. If I ever got married, he was sure to have been my Best Man. Victor was a victim of gang violence. He was just one block away from his home when a rival Vietnamese gang member spotted him and stabbed him. I fell into addiction and struggled with substance abuse. For two years, I was either high or drunk every day. I was 17 years old and had only 50 high school credits in my name— fewer credits than a typical high school freshman would have. At that point, I decided to give up on school. I mean...what was the point?
I got a job at a local Walgreens as a cashier/stocker. One day, a friendly customer asked me why I wasn’t in school at 11:30am on a Tuesday. As it turns out, this woman was a counselor at the Gateway to College Program, which helps young adults like me get a GED. With her help and encouragement, I managed to graduate from Gateway and earn my high school diploma.
After that, I stopped going to school— not because I was lazy, but because I didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do. So I did what most people do — I worked. I tried a variety of jobs over the next four years: retail, catering, hospitality, car repair, warehousing, logistics. I even worked at a startup called Munchery. Eventually, I found full-time work at the airport. All of these experiences helped mold me into the man I am today. I developed so much in that time. After all, who we are is simply the sum total of all of our previous experiences.
Exactly one year ago, I applied to a program called Year Up. It was my first time going back to school in nearly a decade. I took the program very seriously because I knew this experience was going to change my life. Joining Year Up was that boost I needed in my life. It offered mentorship, coaching, education, and business communication training. Most important to me, it provided opportunities to network. Year Up gave me a community. In a way, Year Up fulfilled that void that was left in me when I dropped out of high school.
So, what was the result? I got straight A’s, earned multiple achievement awards, and spearheaded several projects — all of which earned me the respect of my teachers, coaches and my learning community. I did this while working at SFO airport. Monday through Friday, I spent 8:00am to 3:00pm at Year Up, 5:00pm to 10:00pm at SFO, and then 10:00pm - midnight doing my homework. On weekends, I worked 2:00am - 11:00am both Saturday and Sunday. One piece of advice I learned from Year Up is that the program is not a “hand out;” it’s a “hand up.” If you want to achieve success, you should be prepared to grind like your life depends on it.
My first exposure to Salesforce was through the Future Executive Summit at Dreamforce. I am so thankful to Ebony Beckwith and Olivia Berkowitz for introducing me to the Salesforce ecosystem. I remember everything from that day— from Olivia introducing amazing guest speakers to the networking events to lunch. Ebony’s inspirational story, and a visit from our Co-CEO, Marc, were also not to be forgotten. My biggest takeaway from Dreamforce was the Salesforce culture. Everybody I spoke to told me personal stories about how Salesforce empowers them. I learned about the 1-1-1 model, which proves that business really can be a source for good. “The business of business is improving the state of the world,” Marc says. Deep in my heart, I knew I wanted to have my internship at Salesforce. I chose them, and then three months later, they chose me.
My first day at Salesforce was probably the most joyful experience of my life. My friend Ayazhan and I were both placed on the Enterprise Sales pipeline programs team. Olivia did an amazing job with our onboarding. We were even given Salesforce mentors. Our managers and mentors are great people who really care about us, and they push us to do better. Of the 45 Salesforce interns, Aya and I were the first two interns to earn Salesforce Ranger status on Trailhead. We did this within our first week here!
As interns, we provide deal support requests, which aid with intelligence gathering for our sales team. Examples include researching executives, preparing financial statements, and creating reports and dashboards to visualize key performance indicators to gain a holistic view of how our customers use their Salesforce instance. We focus on making our Account Executives successful by identifying which customers have more potential, are helping them with targeted programs delivered at the optimal time. It’s the responsibility of Sales Leadership and Account Executives to ensure the top line is shattered year-over-year. Simply put, I love what I do.
I don’t want this amazing experience to end. I’ve had the opportunity to meet and take a photo with our Co-CEO, Keith Block; I’ve eaten lunch with Bill Taylor, our SVP of Communications & Field Marketing; and I’ve sipped bubble tea with Ozlem Yuksel, VP of Global Sales Strategy. I cherish these intimate moments where I bonded with key executives, all of which have shown me that they care deeply for our Ohana. I’ve learned more about technology during the past 11 months than I have in my whole life. I have developed into a young professional with a reputable personal brand. If given the opportunity to stay at Salesforce, I promise to dedicate the coming years to nurturing, mentoring, investing in, and improving our Ohana. I promise to reinvest in my education by going back to school. By age 28, I will reach my goal of getting a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from UC Berkeley. Yes — I have big dreams!
I am actively seeking a role within the Customer Success group. Ozlem, Bill, and Aaron have all played an integral part in helping me get 1:1 meetings with Customer Success managers. While my future here is still up in the air, I remain excited for whatever is next.
If I am able to stay, I hope to someday form my own team here. I’d like to build what I call the “Consensus Cloud,” a product to leverage Hyperledger Fabric technology from block chain. I hope to gain the business and technical intelligence to build a modular, scalable, and secure foundation for enterprise block chain solutions. Ultimately, I aspire to become a Salesforce executive, and serve as a role model to my community.
Mahalo Nui Loa,