Digitally Transforming Customer and Employee Experience On One Platform with Sarah Joyce Franklin, EVP & GM Platform, Trailhead & Developers at Salesforce


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Sarah Franklin’s career path was completely changed when a high school guidance counselor suggested she get into engineering. Fast forward to today, Sarah is the Executive Vice President & GM Platform, Trailhead & Developers at Salesforce and is still in love with technology. Sarah couldn’t be more proud to work at Salesforce, where she’s helping empower people around the world to learn tech all while continuing to build a platform that those same people can deliver innovation through.

Best Advice: Don’t be afraid and to pick some pilot projects and start learning because if you’re not going to be pushing the boundaries, you can guarantee your competitors are going to be beating you to the punch.

Key Takeaways:

  • Salesforce’s Customer 360 Platform has everything a company will need all in one
  • The role of the CIO is changing overnight
  • Digital transformation affects the more than the customer and employees

Sarah’s technology background

Looking back on her life, Sarah remembers that when she was younger there was not a lot of opportunity for women in tech, especially growing up in Virginia. As such, tech wasn’t front of mind for Sarah when she was young. It wasn’t until high school when a guidance counselor redirected Sarah’s career path for good. The guidance counselor recommended Sarah pursue engineering and she listened. She earned a degree in chemical engineering from Virginia Tech and was off on her career. 

When I learned Fortran and some programming languages and I really liked that, I made a decision. I moved from Virginia to California. I got a job in consulting and I just decided I wanted to work in emerging tech.

Current role as EVP & GM Platform, Trailhead & Developers at Salesforce

Similar to Sarah’s career in tech, her responsibilities and the scope of her roles have grown throughout her career. As the EVP & GM Platform, Trailhead & Developers at Salesforce, Sarah believes she has the best job in the business. Trailhead is Salesforce’s free online learning platform that gives the power to any individual to level up and garner skills in tech. Sarah highlights that no computer science degree is required to learn on Trailhead and to do things that have an impact on the world. Sarah has been a part of the Salesforce’s Trailhead platform since day one. And only one year after launch, the platform saw 50,000 consumers receive badges. Badges and points are the way to rise up the ranks on the platform. Four years later, Trailhead has seen tremendous growth. Now more than 16 million people have received badges on the platform.  

 The scope of my role is everything from empowering people around the world to learn tech, to building a platform that they can deliver innovation on. And it’s incredible.”

As an industry, it’s our responsibility to skill people up into these professions that we’re creating and to teach them how to use the technology that we’re building. That’s why I’m proud to work at Salesforce because we are a company that is behind these values of not just innovation, but also quality.

Defining digital transformation

It’s hard to think about digital transformation without getting overwhelmed. The phrase alone is daunting. Sarah believes technology leaders are dealing with legacy technology, finding talent, and time. Not only do these leaders have to meet or even transcend customer and business expectations, but they also need to innovate on top of everything else. This is where Sarah argues digital transformation is needed most, and that Salesforce has the ability to guide this digital transformation toward success. 

The way that we think of digital transformation is that you need to keep your mind open to what the possibilities are and not just translate what you’re doing today into a new medium, but really transform and ascend what you’re doing today into something transformative for your business.

Evolution of customer experience

Customer experience is evolving each and every day, but this evolution doesn’t seem to be moving as rapidly anywhere else as it is at Salesforce. Salesforce has many platforms for customers, but Sarah mentions that the future of Salesforce is to not have many platforms, but one platform, the Customer 360 Platform. “Not only do we have the platform, but the Customer 360 Platform has integrated A.I. It has integrated mobile and it has integrated learning and integrated Customer 360 data truth,” Sarah adds.  

For the most part, CIOs and technology leaders don’t have unlimited resources. They have fixed resources, limited time, and introducing new technologies to the overall company isn’t always easy. This is why companies of all shapes and sizes have trouble experimenting and testing new technologies like blockchain, A.I., and natural language processing. However, with Salesforce’s platform, all of these technologies are baked in and you’re able to build it without any code. 

I would encourage technology leaders to always be trying new things out and to experiment. Why our platform is so useful is because those technologies are baked in and you don’t have to hire a bunch of the experts and you can skill up your existing team to learn them on our platform.

The CIO of the future

The role of Chief Information Officer is completely changing as technology and companies continue to grow. CIOs have a balancing act to please their board, c-suite executives, the employees of the company, and also the customer.

It’s this balancing act that is causing CIOs to adapt or suffer the consequences. Sarah says to think of the customer and employee experience as a lovely bow. This bow allows you to think about how to weave the customer and employee experiences together. It has to be fluid and the more fluid you’re able to make this bow, the more your employees will know about your customers and your own overall company. Employees who know their customers are able to interact with them on a whole new level and employees who know their own company inside and out, are able to talk about it to other people in a way that makes sense. 

What we’ve actually seen with digital transformation is that you need to not just connect every customer, but you need to empower every employee and you need to deliver innovation to both of them at scale continuously.” 

Another thing that CIOs need to think about is sustainability. They need to be thinking about how are they going to be able to deliver innovation in a way that is considering our planet as also a stakeholder in what they’re doing. I’m super proud that our platform is something that a CIO can innovate on and say, ‘I’m delivering innovation on a net-zero carbon cloud.’”


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On this episode of IT Visionaries, Sarah Joyce Franklin, EVP & GM Platform, Trailhead & Developers at Salesforce discusses digital transformation, Salesforce’s Customer 360 Platform, and what the role of CIO will look like in the future.

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