Editor’s note: The winner of the Chief Officer Awards Public Company COO Award announced June 17 is Brian Sandager of Cerner.
On June 17, WashingtonExec will be virtually celebrating the most impactful and innovative C-suite executives in government and industry. These chief officers work in technology, security, data, operations, finance, business and more, excelling on both sides of the government contracting sector. Our team of judges have chosen the finalists for the inaugural Chief Officer Awards, so before we announce the winners during the event, we wanted to get to know the finalists a bit better. This Q&A series highlights their careers, successes, proud professional moments and notable risks.
Kevin Paschuck is chief operating officer at Salesforce and a finalist in the Public Company COO Award category.
What key achievements did you have in 2019?
Instead of talking about myself, I think it is most rewarding when our customers are recognized for the work they are able to achieve with Salesforce. For instance, it was exciting to see that out of the 141 finalists on the FedScoop’s Best Bosses in Fed IT list last year, 123 were Salesforce customers and Salesforce Trailblazer at the Agriculture Department. Mia Jordan was among the inaugural winners of the GovExec Theodore Roosevelt Government Leadership Awards.
Customer awards and recognition like this speak volumes and are especially fulfilling because we know that Salesforce is an important part of what is making them successful in their missions.
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?
Salesforce is founded on four guiding principals: trust, customer success, innovation and equality. Those four values are core to how all of Salesforce operates. You see this in how we work with each other, how we work with and for our customers and how we engage our community.
You may have seen the large presence Salesforce had at D.C. Pride last year and D.C.’s MLK Day Parade earlier this year — that type of enthusiasm runs across the entire organization and are spearheaded, primarily, by our employee-led resource groups — we call them Equality Groups. I consider myself to be an ally and equality champion for all of our Equality Groups and, formally, serve as an Equality Group executive sponsor.
What are your primary focuses areas going forward, and why are those so important to the future of the nation?
My key priorities going forward align with what I’ve spent the majority of my career striving to do and that is to work with global governments, aerospace manufactures and government contractors to transform, modernize and deliver stronger mission performance for government agencies, particularly during a time where we are all focused on getting back to normal operations. As an executive, we have so many people counting on us for leadership to reopen safely and do it with a plan to accelerate growth.
At Salesforce, we have spent time talking with other business leaders as well as thought leaders like Dr. David Agus at USC, and Dr. Larry Brilliant and experts from hospitals like UCSF, about these challenges. What we’ve been able to formulate are some best practices; new ways of planning, managing and monitoring employee and workforce readiness; facilities preparedness; and emergency management response, all incorporated into a suite of applications, resources and content called Work.com.
In standing up this new solution set, I think we learned a lot of lessons about the importance of not just being able to quickly react to unforeseen market-shifting events but also building an element of predictability into our business that reduces the potential for broad disruption. We can do that by revisiting our digital transformation objectives and ensuring that, as a part of our standard business operations, we’re prioritizing things like agility, responsiveness, data visibility and mobility.
These are all key elements of operating models that we must adopt in order to guarantee continued innovation, productivity and most importantly, the safety and wellbeing of our employees, customers and communities in an altered economic climate.
How do you help shape the next generation of government leaders/industry leaders?
I find immense value in the power of personal connection. As an executive, I recognize that much of my success can be attributed to the contributions of those that I consider to be mentors of mine. As a matter of fact, I get to work alongside some folks that I would consider my personal heroes; specifically, people like Bud Langston, who served 30 years in the U.S. Navy and flew over 300 combat missions in Vietnam, Persian Gulf/Iraq and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross three times for combat actions as a naval aviator. I feel incredibly privileged to have the opportunity to glean from his experience and, as much as I can, I’d like to extend that same opportunity to those around me.
To that end, I’ve just started an internal vlog for all of our public sector employees called What’s Brewing with KP. It’s a bi-weekly virtual web series that I host with our social media manager. In addition to it being a lot of fun, it gives me an opportunity to connect with our employees in an open forum and, while we talk about the state of the business, I also take personal questions and bring the best thought leaders I can find — like Bud — to share on topics like leadership, professional development and skill building.
I love those types of opportunities because it allows for authentic conversations and I’ve found that it’s a great way to build community! In that same vein, I personally host small quarterly dinners for rising leaders in the organization, which allows me to get to know them better and creates another opportunity for informal mentorship.
Which rules do you think you should break more as a government/industry leader?
I don’t know if I’d say we should “break the rules” because today’s accepted rules are tomorrow’s opportunities for innovation. Given the speed of technological advancements, we don’t operate by many of the accepted rules that were common to the tech industry just a few years ago because our guiding principles have to shift relative to our current context.
Trust and innovation are core values at Salesforce and, while we serve as trusted advisers for our customer decision-makers, we also try to consistently challenge them to look beyond the status quo and push themselves in their mission capacities. As innovators, we encourage all of our customers, partners and employees to adopt the mindset of a “trailblazer”; we define trailblazers as pioneers, lifelong learners and, most importantly, a person who builds a better world for others.
This is part of the DNA of customer-centric leadership and, though it’s not the most conventional path, unconventional thinking is where growth happens.