Attorney & Customer Marketing at Salesforce
Irena Kin- Prior to joining Salesforce in Customer Marketing, Irena was an Associate at an asbestos litigation firm in California. After switching gears by taking on a marketing role for a legal tech company- Irena realized her skill set in marketing and customer relationships. Now, in a versatile role, she works with various teams from accounting and events to IT.
This featured interview was conducted by Elena Deutsch*
Describe your legal background and your current role today.
The antithesis of a deposition!
My legal background was pretty brief, but very intense. I was an Associate at a plaintiff-side asbestos litigation firm in Oakland, California for about two years. I did all the things you would expect an Associate to do: drafting briefs, doing depositions, going to court, participating in the trial process, all that kind of stuff.
I left law after a lot of internal introspection. I started wondering if I liked the path I was on, and I wasn’t sure, so I started to learn more about what people do who are not doctors or lawyers. I tried to decipher what business titles mean - like what is a product or project manager? What is customer marketing?
One of the people I talked to was Julia Shapiro, the CEO and Founder of Hire an Esquire, a legal tech company that is revolutionizing legal staffing. She was helpful. She was also a former attorney and gave me a brief overview of the kind of roles in the business world that might be relevant to someone with my skill set. All I knew were the kind of things I liked to do in my legal role, and I didn’t know what the analog was outside the legal world. I needed someone to help ask questions like, “What part of your communication skill set do you want to expand? You like talking to people and fixing problems. Let’s look at what jobs in the business world those relate to.” That was a key conversation. A couple of months later, she had an opportunity for someone to take the lead on the marketing team. She very generously offered me the opportunity. It was incredible to have both her mentorship from a business perspective and her belief in me to trust that my legal skills and experience would be valuable to her startup- that was my pivot.
I am now at Salesforce in Customer Marketing. I highlight customer success stories in a variety of ways, whether through digital content or events. I find the most interesting stories of true innovation, problem solving, true trailblazers, and I get to interview those people and learn those stories and highlight them. It is so much fun. It is the antithesis of a deposition.
I’m also developing more customer relationships, so we can go on a marketing journey with these people. It’s relationship building, marketing, communication, writing – it’s a super cross-functional role. I’m working with marketing teams, accounting teams, campaigns, and events. I work broadly with teams across the company.
I work on the Salesforce Lightning Platform. The people I’m interviewing are in IT- they are developers and architects. They are the people behind the stories of the technology that we see. These are users of the platform and my team focuses on the builders that are the wizards behind the curtain. They are some of the most interesting people in their company. People come to them with problems, and they find solutions using technology.
What three words would you use to describe your role?
Cross-functional, advocate and storyteller. I see my role as advocating on behalf of the customer, and I think that’s one way my legal background has been helpful.
What inspired you to pursue your current career?
I wanted to be in a position to develop long term partnerships and relationships with people doing really cool things, and I wanted to tell their stories. I have the best job in the world because I get to find people who are doing really amazing things, become friends with them, and tell everyone how great they are! It’s fun!
Name one movie or song to describe your career.
Eye of the Tiger by Survivor.
How has your legal education/background shaped the way you perform in your current career?
A lot! It’s the lens that I view the world from now. Everything from how my actions will affect the people I’m working with, to how will they influence events down the road. Having that issue spotting lens and long-term mindset has been really helpful. The ability to put myself in the role of the steward of someone’s story or case – it helps me develop and deliver a better relationship. It engenders trust, which is great for long-term relationships. Also, the communication skills – I write a ton of emails and I make a lot of phone calls all day. It is very useful to have the ability to hone in on an issue and get my point across quickly and effectively.
I pitch opportunities to clients all the time and being able to explain the benefits persuasively is very helpful. I enjoyed writing briefs as an attorney and I still need to write in my current job, so I benefit from the practice I had in law school.
What lessons learned or unexpected challenges did you face in your current role?
One thing that has been really interesting is that my experience in litigation was much more of a one-woman sport. You bulldozed through the case on your own. You can lean on other attorneys to support you but mostly I was rockin’ solo. In this role, it is extremely collaborative, and being able to use influence internally and build a collaborative environment organically- that’s not a soft skill that’s valued in law school. In negotiation or settlements, you hone those skills. But in the litigation work I was doing, a lot of what I saw was the stereotype of the aggressive lawyer. In my current environment, the softer skills they don’t teach you in law school are critical to success.
You have to refine that skill set. That’s been a fun challenge for me.
What advice would you give to those career pivoting or pursuing a career beyond the practice of law?
That there’s life beyond law. And 99% of the fears that you’ve identified are not going to play out. There are exciting challenges in the career that you are eyeing that will make it worth the transition.
Before I switched it was fear of the unknown, a fear of failure, fear of making a wrong choice and fear that I had invested so much time and money and that I wouldn’t be able to make that back. And a fear that by leaving law, I was giving up on the on the goal that I had set for myself to become a “good attorney.”
All you see when you are in that pivot moment is the fear. You are not in the right vantage point to see the benefits.
If you are 70% sure that you don’t want to be heading in the direction that you are heading, then really you are 99% sure. That 29% differential is fear.
What is your personal motto, mantra or favorite quote?
They change as I grow both personally and professionally, but right now, I’m focused on: “The perfect is the enemy of the good.”
*We thank Elena Deutsch for conducting this in-person interview with Irena Kin on behalf of More Than Esquires Network (MTEN).
Irena Kin is a customer marketer and storyteller at Salesforce. A former attorney, Irena now uses her skills to discover stories of innovation and bring them to light. Though she hung up her litigator cape, she still enjoys giving back to the community through pro bono work.
Elena Deutsch is Executive & Career Coach and Owner of Women Interested in Leaving (big) Law (WILL). WILL offers career transformation services to women lawyers through a step-by-step process in finding clarity and action in leaving the law.