TECHx managed to secure an exclusive interview with Petra Jenner, General Manager and Senior Vice President – Europe, Middle East, and Africa Emerging Markets, Salesforce, to discuss women’s role in the technology industry.
TECHx: Tell me a bit about your career. Did you always intend to pursue a career in tech?
Petra: Not at all! It was a coincidence through my tenure as a simultaneous interpreter for French at an IT organization that covered the foreign affairs and export industry. Through this experience, I was inspired by the innovation of this industry and the power that technology holds to have a positive impact on the future. Following this, I returned to studying to obtain a Master’s degree in IT and Business Economics.
Initially, I did not consider the technology sector, as it was a language that I did not understand. My expertise now carries over 25 years of experience in the IT industry, including 12 years as a top manager. My tenure with Salesforce began in July 2016 as a Vice President Innovation & Transformation Europe to now the General Manager and Senior Vice President – Europe, Middle East, and Africa. Prior to joining Salesforce, I spent seven years as Country CEO for Microsoft Austria and Switzerland.
TECHx: You’ve been in the IT industry for a long time, what do you think is the best part of being a woman in the tech industry?
Petra: When it comes to the IT industry, it is a very experience-led business, and customers are of high importance. For women, it comes more naturally and is of great interest to understand customer experiences, along with building, nurturing, and managing relationships successfully.
Our Salesforce Customer Success Management department has also highlighted how women play an important role in leading customer experiences. We have seen many strong women leaders who have strongly succeeded in the Customer Success Management department, and it is something the majority truly enjoy.
If you ask me, the technology sector is one of the best industries for women, as you are part of one of the most advanced industries and can also benefit from a great work-life balance and flexible working styles. It is easy to balance your private life – whether family or childcare – with business and also have a successful career.
TECHx: Technology moves so fast, how do you keep yourself up to date?
Petra: There is no doubt that technology is advancing at a rapid rate, and it is extremely important for business leaders to keep up to date. I have always been interested in what innovation the future holds, and how technology can complement global economic changes and solve business problems.
It is always important to understand what customers are thinking and demanding within the technology space. It is good to schedule a dedicated time slot for reading articles that are of interest to you – I also enjoy reading detailed journals from time to time. In addition, I am truly inspired by the blogs and podcasts by Peter Diamandis, who is a renowned US-based entrepreneur and futurologist.
I also schedule regular brainstorming meetings with my team to reflect on the new articles and trends that I come across. The Salesforce Trailhead is a great platform, for us offering multiple webinars on many different themes. If needed, I also discuss some topics with customers to see if they have a different perspective, and can also understand their requirements much better.
Technology is such an advanced and fast way of communicating with a high potential to resolve many problems in your daily routine – we just need to identify the best way forward to apply these solutions for our customers.
TECHx: As a woman leader in technology, what do you think we should be doing more to encourage more women to consider a career in tech?
Petra: Many women may view the technology sector as being too technical or difficult. So it is important, as industry leaders, to highlight the different aspects of a technology organization, and promote and educate women on the departments within the industry. We need to be more descriptive on the job roles.
For instance, it is not necessary to be interested in the design or solutions of technology, but there are wonderful roles in the marketing, sales, human resources, public relations, and communications departments.
Women may feel overwhelmed with the technical details and it is our role, as industry leaders, to help convey the prospects of the technology sector more simply. The technology industry is an exciting environment and a desired workplace where many women can grow professionally. Simplifying the language can also help when communicating with our customers, as our customers might not be technology experts, but are key decision-makers.
The technology industry is always on the hunt for female talent, from entry-level to even mid-level experience – and not necessarily within IT careers, as women bring a unique set of skills to the business. While we have many programs targeting the youth to work in the technology sector, we should be more vocal about recruiting mid-level and experienced women, and the benefits to their career.
One of my favorite sayings is: The technology that we implement is best described through the results we achieve, not through the words.