Even as an entrepreneur, Marc praises the value of internships. “I encourage every young person to pursue an internship if they can—to see how the real world works. Be open to any assignment. Throw yourself into your projects. Volunteer to do more. Seek out a mentor who can help you learn and grow as an entrepreneur,” says Frater Benioff.
Continuing to heed his professors’ advice, Marc graduated from USC in 1986 and started his career at Oracle Corporation. While this leap onto the corporate ladder seemed counter-intuitive for the young man who had previously shown such promise in making video games, it proved to be wildly successful as he advanced through the ranks at a blistering pace.
“I was at Oracle for 13 years. I had the opportunity to work in a variety of positions in sales, marketing and product development. When I was 26, I was named vice president. Being the youngest VP in the company’s history was exhilarating, but it was also a huge level of responsibility. I was leading larger teams, with responsibility for more people and products,” he recalls.
The new Salesforce Tower in San Francisco is one of the tallest office buildings west of Chicago at 1,070 feet.
But he cautions, “Moving up the ranks gives you a greater ability to shape the direction of the company. But, the higher you go, the more you risk becoming too removed from the day-to-day operations of a company.”
By 1996, Marc was the senior vice president at Oracle, but he found himself looking for something more: “I was successful professionally, but I had come to define success almost solely in terms of acquiring money and power. I felt something was missing in my life.”
Marc took a sabbatical. During this time, he and Arjun Gupta, who would later found Telesoft Partners, went to India, a story he shared with the USC Class of 2014.
“Something amazing happened. Arjun and I ended up in a little hut, a little hut in a little area of India in the south called Kerala in a little city called Trivandrum,” he recalls from that sunny stage. It was in this hut that he first met Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi.
He continues, “I was thinking of starting a new company, and she told me, ‘Don’t forget about all the people in the world who need you and how you can help them.’ For me, it was a spiritual awakening.”