Speech: Cheryl Sanclemente, 2019 Emerging Leader Honoree

Benny Ebert-Zavos: Good evening Chicago and thank you for having me Plank Center. My name is Benny Ebert-Zavos, I work at Salesforce, the global leader and customer relationship management, where I focus on real estate communications. It so happens we have a tower right up the street at Wolf Point. Does anyone know it? Yes, good. I expect you to all send me photos of the building under construction after this. So I’ll stand by for that. So it’s an honor to be in front of so many PR professionals in one place. It’s almost like an overstaffed Technology Conference, dream forces and a weekend change, so I can say that. And boy, how nice does it feel not to be monitoring email or Twitter for just a brief moment, or Instagram?

My PR journey has been unique to say the least and I wouldn’t be standing here if it wasn’t for one very special individual. So I want to take a walk with all of you down memory lane. A few years ago, I was running business development and partnerships for a series a startup, when all of a sudden our latest round of funding didn’t come through. The next day, the lights were out and the company had been sold off for parts. You probably have heard this story if you’ve ever worked in startups. Rite of passage, they say. The sensible thing for mid 20 year old to do at this moment in time was to find stability. That’s what my parents encouraged me. So I joined Salesforce as real estate team in a back of house operations focused role. Let’s just say important for the business, not the most glamorous. Fast forward seven months and this person who barely knew me asked if I would join her PR team. “Wait, a role in PR?” I asked. “Yes, in PR.” I’d never worked in comms or PR in my life. I wasn’t an English major. I didn’t have the experience. Quite the risk for someone looking to take the stable route, but what made the difference was this very, very special individual to me, Cheryl SanClemente. There I was trying to understand what an embargo and on background meant. Don’t even get me started on what the wire is and how you put something on the wire. I was clueless.

Cheryl taught me PR 101 and 102 and was always there to answer my questions in stride, with upon sprinkled in here in there. She was a more importantly still is willing to take the leap and put her reputation on the line to groom those around her and elevate those around her. Cheryl has hotspot if you know that word. So much so that the definition should include her name right alongside it. You will see soon enough I promise you. She’s a force to be reckoned with. I kid you not. Not only is she well respected by those in the industry, but also throughout our organization. She handles the most challenging situations with true grace. I’ve never seen that I’ve ever seen all well dressed to the nines.

Shortly after I joined the team, Cheryl went on an earlier than expected maternity leave. There we were. My agency partner and I run in communications for Salesforce is global real estate portfolio solo. But through her leadership, the foundation was set. As Salesforce likes to say, trust is our number one value. Talk about embodying trust and putting it all of her faith in us. I had the biggest, fanciest shoes to fill. Here we are, three plus short years later, as San Francisco’s largest employer with the tallest office building west of Chicago. And to date across the globe, we’ve either announced or opened 10 plus towers in all corners of the globe with over 40,000 employees. If it wasn’t For Cheryl’s leadership, charisma, energy and spirit, none of these dominant skyline redefining projects would have been possible. What makes us even more impressive is that Cheryl also oversees our HR and our diversity and inclusion PR portfolios, three of the most visible at Salesforce, all while maintaining an active volunteer role and dress for success, raising the most adorable toddler Mateo, and, of course, alongside her husband, Josh is in attendance tonight. I’m still in all how you juggle all of this with such ease. With that, I’m proud to recognize my mentor, coach, confidant and most importantly, my friend Cheryl SanClemente, as this year’s Plank Center Emerging Leader Award recipient. Thanks to you Cheryl.

Cheryl Sanclemente: I get a present too. Good evening everyone. I’m very short, but you may not know it because I have a big personality. I do have a couple pieces of paper, Carla, don’t panic. I will stay within time. But just first of all I want to say Benny, it has been an absolute privilege to work alongside you and to watch you grow and I’m telling you, you are going places my friend, so thank you, that was more heartwarming than I expected. And Good evening, everyone. What an incredible room? I am so honored to be among such great PR greatness, current leaders and future leaders that I got to meet earlier today at the student roundtable. It is an absolute honor. Thank you to The Plank Center and to the entire board. This is a pretty dreamy, I have to say. I also want to quickly acknowledge my husband Josh, who flew in today to join me. Thank you for being such a great partner in crime and encouraging me to continue to stretch professionally despite having our toddler wreak havoc on our lives. And I also want to quickly acknowledge my parents who may be watching, who immigrated to this amazing country many years ago and landed in Queens, New York, where I was probably born and raised, and who instilled in me such a strong sense of integrity, discipline, and even a little bit of an inflated sense of confidence. But hey, that is what has gotten me this far. So thank you to them.

But we’re all here this evening to celebrate a really legendary woman, Betsy Plank, someone who I really wish I would have had the chance to have known or to at least have met, a true pioneer in our profession. And when I think of Betsy Plank and her incredible legacy, I think about all the individuals in this room that have benefited from her mentorship. And I too have benefited from incredible mentorship in my life. But I’ve also benefited from incredible sponsorship in my life and that’s what I wanted to talk to you about today.

I like to think of mentors as advisors who use their great experience and their education to help you build blueprints for your ambitions and give you advice and guidance. But an advisor is someone who can really unlock the door for you through direct endorsement. So I like to say mentors will give you a map to your destination, but sponsors can really unlock the door for you. And as a young female Latina who has worked in very competitive and cutthroat industries, Wall Street in New York City, through the financial crash, and when me too before me too, is me too, and now technology in San Fran Cisco, I know firsthand the game changing power of a sponsor. And I have had incredible sponsors advocate for main rooms that I didn’t have access to.

And so in closing, I just want to encourage all of the young leaders, particularly the ones I met today, to get comfortable with the idea of seeking both mentors and sponsors. And to the very talented and seasoned individuals in the room, I would love to encourage you to think about ways in which you can take mentorship to the next level and really sponsor for these individuals that may not have a voice in the room and use your positions of power and influence to directly endorse them. Thank you so much for having me. It is a true privilege and an honor and thank you again.