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Millenials are topic of the day at Marketing Department Panel Discussion

News + Events : Millenials are topic of the day at Marketing Department Panel Discussion


On November 16, 2011, the Marketing Department organized a panel discussion, “How to attract, train and retain millennials (twenty-somethings) as sales professionals,” at the SF State Downtown Campus, moderated by Marketing Professor Bruce Robertson.

The distinguished panel of speakers included Sarah Ciccarello, vice president customer marketing, Clif Bar & Company, Adam Kleinberg, CEO, Traction interactive advertising agency, Dave Santos, senior director of sales, Genentech, and Andy Scollan, director of sales development for North and Latin America,

The audience of 80 business professionals, College of Business alumni, and current students spanned several generations from millennials (Gen Y) to Gen X to Baby Boomers.

In his opening remarks, Professor Robertson raised a question about stereotypes people have about millennials: Are they the tattooed, technology-savvy generation accustomed to entitlement? Or are they the confident, connected generation open to change?

Sarah Ciccarello provided data that one third of Clif Bar’s 71-person sales force are millennials. Job perks millennials want include workplace flexibility, and the opportunity to “do well by doing good.” Additionally, their method to advance their career is to switch jobs often, which is a real retention challenge for the mid-sized company. Clif Bar has put in place a rock-climbing wall in its Emeryville office so employees can have fun while working. On-site child care, subsidies for buying hybrid cars, and a Bring Your Dog to Work policy are other job perks that appeal to millennials.

Based on Andy Scollan’s experience of hiring and managing entry-level salespeople at, millennials are team oriented and love multi-tasking.’s Foundation encourages employees to volunteer one percent of their work time to social and community causes. The company assigns mentors to entry-level millennials and provides frequent training opportunities to help millennials to gain more knowledge. To maximize retention, rewards are team-oriented and work teams are encouraged to participate together in volunteer projects. Quick promotions enable millennials to control their own growth and advancement.

Adam Kleinberg of Traction summarized eight characteristics of millennials: playfulness, digitally native, self-expressive, personalized, networked, impatient, multi-tasking, and self-centered. Traction has a drum set in its office and offers beer on tap to encourage a culture of playfulness and creativity.

Dave Santos pointed out that Genentech recruits salespeople with prior experience in pharma sales, and therefore their sales force currently is comprised mainly of Gen X and Baby Boomers. But Genentech has to ready itself to hire today’s millennials. In the future, Genentech needs to emphasize its corporate values, and use technology-based social networks to attract millennials. In order to retain millennials, Genentech will want to emphasize the meaningful work that millennial sales reps can do to positively impact patient’s lives, and to offer recognition beyond salary and job perks. They may also need to offer millennials flextime or compressed work schedules, telecommuting and job sharing options.

Individual speaker presentations were followed by a vibrant Q&A. One question raised asked what can SF State faculty do in their curriculum to better prepare millennials to face challenges in the business world? Adam Kleinberg’s response was, “Keep it real. It’s all about relationships in the business world”.

This validates the marketing department’s desire to offer more courses in the area of professional selling. This event was sponsored by Robert David, who has made a financial donation toward developing such a program. Proceeds from this event go towards building a program with this focus.

Are you interested in contributing through a financial donation? Do you wish to share your knowledge towards developing a program on professional selling? Contact Kathy O’Donnell, professor and chair of the marketing department, at

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