Thirty years ago we walked into our banks, 25 years ago we began banking at ATMs, five years ago we started banking online – and, today, we can bank on our phones.
It is those kinds of dramatic transformations that fascinate Sonoma Valley High School graduates David Havlek and Meredith Schmidt, both senior executives at Salesforce.
“Technology is transforming both our social lives and our work lives,” said Havlek. “It is transforming the world we live in and our career opportunities. Students today need to get ahead of the curve.”
Havlek, a 1983 SVHS grad, and Schmidt, class of 1993, are returning to Sonoma on April 26 for an SVHS Barn Talk, the lecture series put on by the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation to raise funds for the high school. Their topic will center on changes looming in tomorrow’s workforce, and its title is, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution in the Age of Equality.”
“The world is in a profound state of change,” says Havlek. “The job market is in flux and young people today need to be aware of how these changes will shape their professional lives. As the saying goes, you can shape your life or have it shape you.”
Havlek attended Prestwood Elementary and Altimira Middle schools before choosing SVHS. He attended Pepperdine University for a year before deciding to transfer to Purdue University to pursue a career in sports journalism.
“I wanted to get further away and to grow up a little bit,” he said. “It is good to get away from home.”
Purdue offered him the chance to start his MBA at age 20 and he jumped at the opportunity.
During his senior year at Sonoma Valley High, Havlek says that he got kicked out of every class at least once. Today, he is executive vice president and deputy CFO of a $12 billion company.
He and Meredith Schmidt hadn’t met before climbing the upper ranks of management at Salesforce side by side.
After SVHS, Schmidt attended Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.
“I studied accounting but after a few short years after college working at (the accounting firm) KPMG, I realized I didn’t want to be an accountant and I found myself more interested in the tech clients that I was working for,” she said.
When she made the move to join Salesforce, the company had fewer than 600 employees; 17 years later, it has 30,000 employees worldwide. More than 320 people in 10 locations now work for Schmidt, who serves as EVP of global revenue operations.
“It’s been an incredible journey,” she said, looking back at her career since high school.
Schmidt’s advice to current students is to challenge themselves to consider new majors, like data science or artificial intelligence, and to be on the innovative front of emerging fields.
“You have to get out of the bubble that is Sonoma and immerse yourself with as many different experiences and diverse people as you can,” Havlek said. “Ask questions, look for mentors,” Havlek added.
“The world, and its jobs, and our interactions, both socially and professionally are changing so fast,” said Schmidt. “The skills that kids today need is changing, and what they are studying and what they are learning is changing… or needs to.”
Schmidt feels strongly that the new age of equality starts with education.
Barn Talk April 26
Doors open for “The Fourth Industrial Revolution in the Age of Equality” at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 26. Speaking will be Meredith Havlek and fellow grad Meredith Schmidt, both SVHS ‘93, and currently with Salesforce.
The presentation and discussion will run from 6:30 to 8 p.m. General admission is $35, students are free. A pre-purchase dinner option is available from Park 121 Cafe & Grill for $15.
Tickets are available online at svgreatschools.org