Salesforce UK & Ireland CEO Zahra Bahrololoumi on investing in AI - How to be a CEO Podcast


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Just one in 10 people feel like they have the right digital skills to keep up with the growing use of AI in the workplace, according to a survey by Salesforce released in March 2023.

Two months later, in June 2023 the company announced it would invest $4 billion in its UK business over five years, and later revealed plans to build its first ‘AI centre’, based in London.

“The UK is a really important market for us as Salesforce, it's our second largest market globally”

“We made a very significant investment last year, so we announced a $4 billion pledge into the UK, which is enormous for us.”

“That's a big deal. That's a big signal that's, you know, reflecting our faith in the UK business.” CEO Zahra Bahrololoumi told the How to be a CEO podcast.

Zahra’s been named one of the best-known female leaders in the UK, and has witnessed vast changes to Salesforce since she was named CEO in 2021, particularly involving artificial intelligence.

“What I see today, it’s firmly at the top of every CEO’s agenda, and from an AI perspective, you know, I think that, as I say, it's mainstream.”

“But every single CEO I speak to, every boardroom we engage with, and board members that we engage with, AI is at the top of the agenda, and the level of spend being discussed and allocated is just extraordinary and unprecedented.”

“And to hit, you know, the number I think we were recently talking about was that AI investment is set to hit $200 billion by 2025, that's a big change.”

Following the company’s $4 billion commitment, Zahra has doubled down on efforts to boost digital skills in the UK.

“If I look at just the UK ecosystem for Salesforce, there are some big numbers that, you know, we have worked with the IDC to conclude, and I think we can see AI can generate and fuel something like $41 billion in economic benefit and create over, you know, 500,000 jobs in the UK by 2028.”

“So if you take that headline for granted and you assume that's true, then that begs the question: are we ready?”

“We have a growing digital skills crisis in the UK. When we looked at this more closely, I think it was something like one in 10 workers believe that they have AI skills, and then you compare that to how the skill related to AI is being ranked by businesses and's the number one skill.”

“So it's the number one skill, and yet only one in 10 people feel that they're ready, so that's where I think we need focused investment, you know, and a collective effort across government and across business.”

In this episode of How to be a CEO, Zahra also discusses her experience as a woman at the top of the tech industry, the importance of safely implementing AI models, and the benefits of being open to ‘upskilling’.

To hear the full conversation with Zahra, listen to this episode of the How To Be A CEO podcast, above, or alternatively find us on Apple, Spotify or wherever you stream your podcasts.