Growing up in Brazil, Lidiane Jones gained an early love for technology despite having very little access to it. After being accepted into a computer programming workshop at age 12, Jones went home and begged her parents for a computer of her own. But with no money to buy one, Jones says her dad started saving money to buy different computer parts so that she could build one.
Now, as Slack’s current CEO, Jones, who will be stepping into a new role next year as the CEO of Bumble, says that experience is what put her on track for a tech career.
“Fast forward, I got a scholarship to go to school in the United States, and I knew from the moment I came here that I wanted to study computers,” the University of Michigan graduate said at the first-ever ChiefX conference. After college, Jones worked at Microsoft for 12 years, holding different product manager roles. Eventually, she stepped into the business side of tech, becoming an executive VP and general manager at Salesforce in 2020 before becoming Slack's CEO in January 2023.
“I've expanded my purview over the last few years and that was really my biggest pivot,” she says. “Some of my colleagues and friends were like, ‘You know you’re not going to be as technical, right?’ because there's a bit of a stigma about that. But I don’t think you have to be either/or. I still am very technical and I’ve spent a lot of time building our own Slack application just because I love it. So I think people can really shape who they are, and you don't have to fall into the stereotype of what people think is going to happen to you.”
Ignoring stereotypes has been key to Jones’s meteoric rise to success. She says her immigrant background has shaped much of who she is today as she’s had to be resourceful, flexible, creative, and empathetic throughout her career, all while working twice as hard to reach her goals.
“These things matter a lot in the workplace, and I've taken my journey with me into the leader that I am today,” she says. “Building a diverse set of employees and culture means that I am more empathetic to the experiences that they're bringing to the table, and that I'm excited and curious to listen. Quite honestly, it's an asset that some of us have had to overcome more obstacles to be who we are because it makes us twice as prepared as someone else who hasn't.”
Overcoming challenges has also given Jones a considerable level of confidence in her leadership capabilities, which is why she says she “never takes the safe route” when it comes to her career.
“At some point along my journey there was an inflection point where I started to really believe in myself,” she says. “And I think that's an important thing because when people believe they can do big things then they swing big every time. I’ll ask myself, ‘Can I have an impact? So why not me?’ And certainly, that's been how I look at some of the opportunities that I've had. Why not me to lead? I am very qualified.”
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