IE University doesn’t just offer full degree programs, but through it’s Exponential Learning arm it offers several non-degree programs, including Executive Education programs such as the High Impact Leadership Program (HILP).  In a recent interview, IE’s Director for Europe and Central Asia Joël McConnell (JM) got the chance to connect with Mark Schuster (MS) to learn more about what brought him to both IE, and his current role at Salesforce in Zurich. Below is the transcript from the conversation that not only highlights how the HILP helped hone his leadership skillset, but it also inlcudes insights into how MS participates in community outreach projects at prestigious events like the World Economic Forum, and what Salesforce is doing with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

JM: Mark, you’ve had a career that many potential IE candidates aspire to.  Can you tell me about how you ended up in Switzerland, how you’ve built a career in the technology sector, and what kind of academic training you’ve completed to date?

MS: Thanks for your time Joel, and for the chance to share a little more on by background, professional activities, and experience studying at IE Business School.  I have always been very curious about technology and the vast benefits our society is deriving from it, so my current role is one I very much enjoy, and the training I completed at IE was helpful from the perspective of fine-tuning my leadership approach.

After my Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Political Science and German at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, I decided I wanted to make a move abroad where I could put my language skills to good use in my second home, Switzerland. As a dual national Switzerland has always been a very inspiring – and international – country in my eyes.  After a brief stint at a private bank (quite typical, I know!) I took a position at Microsoft where I could use my German, English and French as a Partner Account Manager. My fascination of the French language led me to my next position at DELL Computers in Geneva where I looked after the Microsoft portfolio. After DELL, I landed at a hot startup called VMware that went public. After my startup experience, I was able to build out my technology knowhow at NetApp, a premiere storage vendor. During my time at NetApp I completed an Executive MBA in International Management & Affairs at Kalaidos University in Zürich. With my new knowledge, I was asked by Salesforce to help build up the Enterprise Account Team in Switzerland. At the moment, I am now driving change as an Alliances & Channels Partner in our Zurich office.

JM: Mark, Salesforce provides financial support for continuing studies.  How did you come to choose the High Impact Leadership Program (HILP) at IE Business School? How would you compare the HILP experience with other courses you have done, and what were some of the highlights of your experience in Madrid?

MS: Salesforce looks after its employees by making sure that they are ready for the innovation by helping with the tuition fees for courses that are relevant to an employee’s assigned job responsibilities. I came to choose the High Impact Leadership course at IE since I had heard from my wife that Siegfried Hönle was a great lecturer on strengths, and particularly his use of positive psychology in work environments. Added to this, I was quite interested in Professor Juan Carlos Pastor’s approach to coaching, something that really opened my eyes to mistakes that I had been committing in the past and how to improve my leadership style.

Highlights of my experience in Madrid was making international acquaintances, getting to see an FC Real Madrid soccer game live at the 70,000-seat Santiago de Bernabéu stadium and of course challenging myself to find the best tapa bars!

JM: Salesforce is a global powerhouse in the technology sector, and specifically around Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions. But, with the relentless pace of innovation in the technology sector and all the talk of things like Artificial Intelligence (AI), what are a couple of concrete innovations coming at Salesforce that might be of interest to IE’s global alumni network?

MS: Salesforce is the customer success platform for over 180,000 businesses worldwide. Salesforce values include trust, innovation, customer success and equality. Salesforce started as a Customer Relationship Management tool, but it has grown to include e-commerce, digital marketing and field service to name a few of the products it has.

Built into the Salesforce Platform, Einstein is a layer of artificial intelligence that delivers predictions and recommendations based on your unique business processes and customer data. Use those insights to automate responses and actions, making your employees more productive, and your customers even happier.

Concrete innovations include AI being able to prioritize the leads and opportunities most likely to convert based on your history and past deals. Or what if your Marketing Department could deliver the right content, to the right audience, on the right channel, at exactly the right time with AI?

For all the IE Alumni living in Switzerland, we will have English and German sessions at the Salesforce Basecamp event on July 5th and registration can be completed here.

JMThe complexity of GDPR has a lot of compliance and legal officers concerned, and with technology companies being key targets for consumer activism and potential legal actions related to the use of personal data, what are 1 or 2 actionable ways that companies can start to proactively engage with the market, and better engage with consumers?

MS: GDPR has been a long time in the making, and in 2016 the EU gave businesses 2 years notice to start thinking about how they administer and use data of their clients.  And basically, GDPR has given the right to individuals to have companies delete, restrict, and have portability of data (data subjects also now have the right, in certain circumstances, to receive the personal data that they have provided to a Controller in a structured, commonly used and machine-readable format). Which is something consumers in Europe appear to want.

Recently at Deloitte-Salesforce GDPR roundtables in Zurich and Geneva, about 50% of the companies where not ready for this change in the way companies are able to use data.  However, I did meet a few Data Protection Officers who absolutely took it seriously as they are the ones who are responsible for how the data is being used and shown to their customers.  See this link for more on Salesforce’s insights on GDPR.

JM: And what about outside of work and professional development activities? You are a big tennis aficionado and have dedicated time to helping young people via Salesforce’s 1-1-1 Program.  Can you tell me a bit more about your involvement in Interclub, and the work you did at the World Economic Forum?

MS: Outside of work, I have been able to use Salesforce’s 1-1-1 philanthropic model to give back to my community. Be it at coding-focused volunteer events at the World Economic Forum (WEF) the past 2 years or even teaching young students at a Zurich school how to code, I get energized by helping others. At this year’s WEF, through a project called “Life Below Water,” students brought together environmental activism and coding while conducting experiments on water samples from the local lake. After completing the project, the students were able to explain the fundamentals of environmental protectionism, what the Life Below Water goals are and why they are important. You can see here for more on the project as well.

When not ‘coding’, I am also known to swing my tennis racquet at the local tennis club where I play on an interclub team in a regional league.