A Q&A with Slack’s Sian Gooden

By Seth Robinson

As we move further into this brave new online world, we decided to speak with one of the experts.

BCom alum Sian Gooden is an Account Executive at Slack. Recently, she hosted the first of our FBE online skills workshops. Following on from the session, she shared some insights with us from her time working in the digital space.

What does a typical day at work look like for you?

There is no such thing as a typical day at work for me! I work with both new and existing Slack customers across the Asia Pacific region, supporting them to make their working lives simpler, more pleasant and more productive. One minute I might be speaking to the CIO of a tech company based in Australia and the next, the HR Manager of a school in India. I work alongside a Solutions Engineer and Customer Success Manager to manage an ongoing relationship with these customers to ensure Slack is addressing their business priorities and challenges. I spend the majority of my day speaking to existing or prospective customers, learning about updates to Slack's products and services, researching market trends, collaborating with my incredible team on Slack and, believe it or not, using lots of emojis to get work done!

The way we work has changed a lot (particularly in the last couple of weeks) – Do you have any predictions for things we might see in the future?

There are so many forces at play when we look at the way we work – from automation to the rise of customer expectations to the proliferation of software.

Sian Gooden
Sian Gooden, Account Executive at Slack

We're seeing more and more organisations adapting to these pressures by adopting agile principles that ensure the entire organisation has a shared sense of purpose, teams are empowered to get their work done, technology enables adaptability and decisions are made rapidly. This requires the capacity for an organisation to break down silos and bring all of its people, tools and data together. And this is where Slack comes in! We're seeing more and more organisations move away from their email inbox in favour of a tool that facilitates greater alignment and productivity.

In recent weeks, many organisations have had to upend their typical business processes and shift to remote working almost overnight. Many organisations have had a seamless transition thanks to their adoption of agile and flexible work principles while others have had to fast track a digital transformation journey and rapidly rollout new ways of working that ensure their staff can remain connected, at home. I think many organisations are learning what's possible due to the current situation. In future, I think we'll continue to see more and more organisations embrace agile ways of working, move away from email-based communication and adopt collaboration technology.

What are your favourite tools for working remotely?

Slack (obviously!) Internally, we don't use emails at all and increasingly we are even communicating and collaborating with our customers on Slack through the use of Shared Channels. We also partner with organisations like Zoom, GSuite and Salesforce – each with integrations into Slack, which means we don't have to jump back and forth between different tools all day – we can simply pull the relevant information from these tools into a Slack channel. Zoom is a great way to connect with customers and the ability to share screens means we can run through a proposal or a Slack demo with ease! We have even been using Zoom to host virtual team meetings and virtual office happy hours complete with rounds of trivia and games of Pictionary!

Online Slack session
Sian delivering an online WIL session.

Ultimately, it’s the capacity to actually get work done ­– efficiently and effectively – from wherever you may be that really makes Slack a valuable tool. Whether I need to start a video call, accept a meeting invite, log notes from a customer call, collaborate with a colleague about a customer, share relevant market information, log my annual leave, ask a question from our legal team or host a standup with the team – I can do all of it on Slack! I also think people underestimate just how powerful emojis can be in terms of both building culture (particularly with custom emojis) and enhancing productivity.

Do you have any advice for students preparing to enter the workforce?

Be a sponge! I think the most successful people I know adopt the mindset of a continuous learner. They never purport to know everything about everything and instead seek to learn from those around them, even those who have less experience on paper. So be curious, ask questions and don't be afraid to admit when you don't understand something.

The other piece of advice I would give is to be open to all possibilities. If I look back at my career, it is not at all what I had initially expected, but I am SO grateful for the experiences I've had across many sectors and wouldn't change a thing. I'm a really firm believer in setting goals, but I think if you are too rigid with your goals and have your eyes set squarely on one prize, you may miss the opportunities that pop up on the periphery. If I'd been hard set in my vision to become a journalist, I wouldn't be here, working for the fastest growing tech company in history, surrounded by the most humble and hardworking colleagues I've ever had the privilege to work alongside.

Are there specific skills you think students need to be building for the future?

Human skills are going to become increasingly critical. Thanks to automation, we know that by 2030 two-thirds of jobs in Australia will be soft-skill intensive. And this is what organisations are increasingly recruiting for. You can teach technical skills and expertise, but you can't teach curiosity, empathy, creativity, resilience and adaptability. The only constant is change. The future of work is unpredictable. And organisations are seeking a workforce that can embrace these changes.

Do you have any advice for current students to make the most of their studies at the University of Melbourne?

Soak up the experience and make the most of the opportunities you have in front of you- immerse yourself in your learning, take advantage of the ability that you have to diversify your skillset with short courses and electives and dive into all of the extra-curricular activities that you can! Make your university years a rich and diverse experience, don't let them pass you by. Join a student society. Take a short course. Get to know your peers. Your experiences beyond the classroom will help you build the human skills your future employers will be looking for!