A Day in the Life: Cheryan Jacob (Senior Vice President and Head of Data, Infra, and Intelligence Platforms, Salesforce Marketing Cloud)

Cheryan Jacob

What has been your journey in tech so far?

I didn’t originally think of tech or software as a career path; I wanted to go into teaching. My educational background was in computer architecture, but I started my career in research, doing data analysis for embryonic stem cell research and environmental sciences in grad school. I ended up working as an engineer at a medical informatics company called Epic for about five years where I got much deeper into data, data analysis, and data platforms.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced moving into your current role?

One of the biggest challenges I face as a leader is acquiring adequate company knowledge and context for business decisions. Coming into a senior role as a new employee, I needed to develop an understanding of Salesforce as a company quickly. I have overcome this challenge by engaging in Salesforce events and conferences and by talking to peers who have a longer history with the company and deeper contextual knowledge about the business. I’m an engineer at heart, and technology is the easiest for me to grasp, so I’ve spent more time learning the business context within Salesforce.

Briefly describe your stack and workflow

This question is exciting and very close to my heart! We have one of the largest SQL estates on the planet and constantly push the limits of our infrastructure with the amount of the data that we ingest and the amount of workflows that we support. Salesforce Marketing Cloud supports our customers to send everything from abandoned shopping cart emails to banking notifications and promotional offers.

What does your typical day look like?

My team is mostly engineers and I believe that engineers work best together when solving problems. Usually I engage on a one-on-one basis to problem solve and see what I can offer in terms of mentoring, guidance, or technical help. I do this as often as I can, given the large size of my organization, along with having regular one-on-one meetings with my direct reports, skip levels, peers, and managers where we touch base and keep in sync. We also have a rhythm of business that includes weekly service health reviews where we look at fundamentals like capacity plans and availability metrics that are crucial to review regularly.

What’s the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is the ability to have an impact; not just technological impact but also the impact on the lives of others — Salesforce’s customers as well as our engineers. As a result of what we are building in Salesforce and Marketing Cloud, employees learn and grow and are inspired to take on larger roles.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?

The best piece of advice that I have learned is that sometimes it is okay to let go. Everything does not need to be perfect. In general, I am a perfectionist and letting go is hard.

What is your most useful resource (book, blog, newsletter)?

From a book perspective, I am more of a romantic. I love fantasy literature! I feel that fantasy, myth, and science fiction literature allows for us as humans to dream big, and it inspires me personally to approach life with vision and perspective for all that is possible. I have some fun arguments with my eight-year-old on DC comics versus Marvel and which superhero is better!

What’s one thing you’d like to learn, develop or work on in 2020- 2021?

One aspect that is top of mind for me, especially given the current state of the world, is how can I engage more with our communities and people and how can I have more influence on diversity and inclusion efforts. I would like to better use my own platform, role, and opportunity at Salesforce to set a better example. When approaching engineering challenges, I know how to solve them. I have a mental roadmap of how to approach the issue, break it down into parts, and tackle it accordingly.

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