Salesforce employee shares collaborative talents with Red Cross
This is another in a series of stories we are posting on this regional blog related to the American Red Cross response to the Kincade Fire disaster:
Two years ago, Chris Reese decided to shift gears, leaving the technology company that had employed him so he could pursue a better work-life balance. “I embarked on a year of service,” he said, smiling.
It was also a year that introduced Chris to the American Red Cross.
One of his first volunteer experiences was a Red Cross deployment to Irma, the hurricane that cut a destructive path through the Caribbean and Florida. A year later, he deployed to Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas.
In between those deployments, Chris supported himself financially by working as an independent contractor in another field of interest, interior design. But a chance conversation with a design client convinced Chris to consider a return to a job in the high-tech world. “She told me about Saleforce and its commitment to support and encourage its employees to do volunteer work,” he says.
So Chris sought employment with the San Francisco-based company; he was hired this past January.
For the 29-year-old, it’s been a perfect fit. “During my interview for a position at Salesforce, I asked if it would be possible for me to help with one national-level Red Cross deployment a year,” he says. “They said that would be no problem at all.”
He has also received paid leave from the company — called Volunteer Time Off — when he has occasionally responded to local disasters.
A little more than a week ago, Chris became a key volunteer at a disaster that — for him — was both national (in scale) and local. He joined approximately 350 other Red Cross workers to support the organization’s extensive North Bay relief efforts related to the Kincade Fire.
Observing Chris in his role last week as manager of a large shelter at the fairgrounds in Petaluma, it’s easy to see why he is successful as an enterprise account manager for Quip, the Salesforce division that specializes in collaboration software: He is a quick study, he is calm, and he is communicative.
While Chris’s Salesforce clients have benefitted from his steady hand, so too did the hundreds of Red Cross clients who called the shelter in Petaluma home after the fire’s evacuation orders expanded dramatically during the last weekend of October.
Chris was particularly adept at coordinating efforts with the many community partners that made that Red Cross shelter so helpful to so many people in their time of great need. And he seemed to have a special knack for knowing how to get the best out of the many volunteers he was working with.
“We’re here to support the clients, and that’s our No. 1 goal,” Chris said. “But as a manager, I also have a responsibility to try to help my fellow volunteers have a good experience. So to the extent possible, I want them to be working on a task they enjoy so that they will feel good about the experience.”
It’s a balanced approach, like the one that Chris has found so rewarding during his time at Salesforce. “The company really gets the importance of their employees rounding out their life with service. And when you feel better as a person, it makes you a better employee.”
“Salesforce has been an extraordinary supporter of the American Red Cross for more than 17 years,” says Joy Stanton, who has worked closely with the company as a member of this region’s Development Team. “Over that time, Salesforce has donated millions of dollars and more than 11,000 volunteer hours to advance the Red Cross mission.”
Their generosity has also come in the form of technical know-how. “When Hurricane Harvey hit the gulf coast two years ago, for example, Salesforce employee-volunteers created an application that helped the Red Cross to disperse $225 million in financial assistance to more than 500,000 households,” Joy says.
This past March, the company was named Humanitarian Company of the Year by this Red Cross region.