Inspirational Woman Charlotte Finn EMEA director SalesforceorgCharlotte supports employee volunteerism and directs funding to areas like STEM education as well as helping non-profit organisations access technology.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I worked my way up the corporate technology ladder but I didn’t join the non-profit sector until a couple of years ago after I spent time working in South Africa. Both the organisation I worked for and the social and economic situation in South Africa were very different to anything I had experienced previously in the UK. The lessons I learned whilst I was there made me realised I wanted to work for an ethical organisation and to follow my passion for ethics and governance. So, upon my return to the UK I shifted my career to do just that.

What advice would you give someone who wishes to move into a leadership position for the first time?

The best thing you can do is listen. It’s incredibly important to listen to what’s on the minds of your colleagues and customers and to get an idea of their goals and challenges. If you can help them to succeed, then you will succeed too.

I also believe it’s incredibly important to create a transparent work environment – something which Salesforce as a whole is great at delivering. As a leader, it’s your role to develop a team environment where people feel comfortable speaking openly and challenging each other. By having a positive, communicative environment you’ll be surrounded by people who want to work hard and be successful.

When faced with two equally-qualified candidates, how would you decide who should have the role?

People often say that this is a great problem to have but it doesn’t make the decision any easier – it’s horrible letting someone down when you know they’re just as capable as the other person. However there are a couple of steps I’ve taken in the past to help make that all important decision.

The first is to focus on the mission critical skills that are part of the job description. Although equally qualified, both candidates are likely to have a different balance of skills, meaning that after a closer look one candidate may be better suited to the role than the other, without detracting from the more poorly suited candidate’s individual skills. Secondly, gauge their enthusiasm. Which candidate appears more willing and prepared to move mountains to attend the interviews and find out more about the job and the team? It may soon become clear that one candidate is much keener than the other on the opportunity.

How do you manage your own boss?

Communication is key – you both need to understand how the other person works. If the relationship isn’t one of mutual respect and understanding then it just won’t be productive. Also, every boss is different so it’s important to understand which method of communication and discussion is the best for them.

This is one of the reasons why I think it’s important to meet on a regular basis. Not only does it help to strengthen your working relationship, but if any issues need to be discussed, it is much easier to sort them out in an open and honest way when you’re face-to-face with someone.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

I’m an early-riser and usually get up at around 5.45am. If I’m working abroad and staying in a hotel I’ll normally try and squeeze in a 5km run before the day properly starts. Or, if I’m at home, I’ll be busy getting my son ready for school.

A day out in the field could involve a meeting with a voluntary partner like the Red Cross, or visiting one of the projects. I absolutely love to work with local communities. For example, I’m heavily involved in the BizAcademy programme which works with youth from under-resourced and low-income communities who want to learn about entrepreneurship. There have been instances where kids have walked in at the start of the week without talking or making eye contact, only to walk out at the end having come up with a sterling business idea and the confidence to articulate that idea with a winning smile.

If I’m in the office, I’ll sit down with the team to review which organisations are getting what funding, and why. It’s incredibly important that any grant I approve has a clear programme associated with it, with agreed objectives, activities and target impact.

A typical evening could involve playing catch up on emails, spending time with my son, or hosting a gala event. We hosted one last year where, instead of giving away goody bags, Salesforce made a donation per attendee to CoderDojo.

What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles within their own organisations?

In today’s competitive market, simply being good at your job isn’t enough to help you get ahead in your career – you need to be visible. If key, senior people aren’t aware of you and your work then the reality is that you’ll miss out on getting involved in interesting projects – despite your capabilities and performance.

One thing that everyone can do is to speak up in meetings and put yourself forward for opportunities. It’s so important to find your voice as not only will it raise your profile, it will help to develop your self-confidence and get you feeling more comfortable at being the centre of attention. Women also need to challenge themselves more and remember that they don’t need to tick 100% of the boxes all the time.

Another tip is to find yourself a mentor. Mentors can offer invaluable advice on how you can get ahead in your career and get yourself noticed.

Do you think networking is important and if so, what 3 tips would you give to a newbie networker

Networking is incredibly important – you never know who you’re going to meet and how they may influence your career later down the line. If you’re new to networking I sympathise with the fact that it can be a daunting experience but hopefully these three tips will help you to be successful:

Do your research – Learn about the community you will be meeting by researching them on blogs, websites and through social media. Also, try and get a hold of the guest list in advance and make a note of who you’d like to meet at the event along with who they work for, what they do and their accomplishments. Doing this in advance will provide you with some great conversation fodder and will make you look really switched on.

Work the room – one of the biggest mistakes people make when they first attend a networking event is sticking to the same group of people for the entire duration. It’s much better to try and have several warm interactions than being monopolised by one person. If you do need to get away then do so politely by saying something along the lines of: “That sounds like a really interesting project, I’m sure you’ll be highly successful. Anyway I mustn’t keep you as I’m sure you want to circulate the room.”

Set yourself goals – your networking experience will be much more productive if you go into it knowing what you want to achieve. Whether it’s connecting with a new business prospect, developing a customer relationship or simply making new friends you’ll feel a lot more focused when you arrive.