How an EMBA propelled marketer Nick Johnson from startup to Salesforce

By Susan Petty

Meet Nick Johnson – a director of marketing at Salesforce and a 2016 graduate of the Berkeley Haas EMBA program. Nick spoke with us about his Berkeley MBA, his career in marketing, and his recent shift from startup work to Salesforce.

Could you describe your role at Salesforce?

As a marketing director working in the Content and Corporate Messaging team, I'm responsible for Salesforce's Executive Thought Leadership program. It's a fascinating role: I'm helping to produce and share fascinating content with an executive-level audience about huge issues like artificial intelligence.

What did you do leading up to that position?

Prior to Salesforce, I developed, launched, and ran two business media startups: The Incite Group and Useful Social Media, which focused on how social media was increasingly changing the way companies and customers interacted. 

As social media moved from being a distinct responsibility within business to something embedded in many different roles, I began to focus more specifically on the world of marketing. I launched the Incite Group to cater to senior Fortune 500 marketing audiences, and to develop and market conferences, reports, and white papers for them.

During my time with the Incite Group, I was approached by the Financial Times to write a book. The somewhat ambitiously titled The Future of Marketing was published in mid-2015, just before I began my studies at Berkeley Haas.

How has earning an MBA been valuable in landing a position and working in marketing?

My Berkeley MBA has been enormously helpful in three ways: building my network, adding legitimacy to my resume, and helping me translate and augment my skillset. For network-building, I found the help of the Career Management Group to be enormously useful – particularly its ability to connect me with people working in-house at the companies I was targeting. That initial conversation is very useful in defining whether or not a role is suitable and it can help get your foot in the door.

Regarding legitimacy – I'd worked for startups before Salesforce, and they were not household names. Being able to say I was a Berkeley Haas alumnus has helped reinforce my application and has shown that I am able to 'cut it' beyond my experiences at Incite and USM.

Finally, I was fortunate to develop a wide range of skills at Incite and USM, including marketing, product development, and strategy. But all of these skills were within the same small-business ecosystem. My time at Haas has given me the ability and confidence to translate those skills to other environments.

What were some of the most valuable courses or aspects of your Berkeley Haas education?

I found our strategy courses – Global Strategy and Core Strategy – both fascinating and enormously useful. The frameworks we were taught continue to be really helpful in defining and resolving business problems.

Being far more of a poet than a quant, I found our quant-heavy classes challenging. However,  they were probably the most helpful of all. In a space like marketing, being data-driven is key: those quant-focused classes really helped me understand and use data more effectively.

Would you recommend the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program to people interested in marketing?

Absolutely. Not only is the course-quality exceptional and the teaching of high standard, but you build a really tight network with your 68 classmates. You start to understand business problems from a variety of angles and, in a world where traditional roles and responsibilities are increasingly outmoded, having the ability to work across organizational boundaries is critical. Haas has really helped me learn how to do that.

Want to hear more about the MBA program that's helped Nick with his career in marketing? 

Learn More About The Berkeley MBA for Executives Program

Posted on April 18, 2017
Themes: Marketing
Susan Petty
Susan is Director of Admissions for the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program. She has nearly twenty years of experience in marketing and advertising, having worked in several different industries including technology, travel, healthcare -- and many others from her media planning days at J. Walter Thompson where her clients included Chevron, Kaiser Permanente, Nestle, and Ford. She enjoys advising prospective students and guiding them through their personal MBA experience.