Employer: Lumavate

Job Title: VP, Enterprise Delivery

Degree Path: BS Computer Engineering, Purdue University

Hometown: Wheatland, IN

City: Carmel, IN

What led you to get into tech and customer success? What was your first job in tech?

Growing up, I always had the urge to take things apart and figure out how those things worked. With a passion for understanding how things worked, I went into engineering. As technology evolved and computers became an integral part of the future of engineering, naturally it drove me towards designing computer hardware and software.

After graduating from college, I pursued a consulting role with a company  where I did an internship, Indiana-based Advanced MicroElectronics. As a software consultant, I had the chance to work on different customer projects working with large corporations on custom software projects.

What has been your career path so far?

It has been a wild ride thus far! Starting at Aprimo back in 2000, I was given the opportunity to learn more about the software business by taking on different roles as needed. During that time, I served in roles including software engineering, support, technical consultant, and dev ops, I was confident when the time came to build my own company, I would be ready.

Shortly after Aprimo was acquired by Teradata in 2011, I left to co-found GreenSuite, which provided energy management software to utility companies. Running the product development & technical services portion of that business, led to an acquisition 2 years later (Yay!).

A short time later, I had the opportunity to run customer success for ReachForce in Austin, TX. Working at ReachForce allowed me to focus on the customer success discipline fully. However, after time in Texas, our young family decided it was not the right fit because we were Hoosiers (better yet Boilermakers) for life. Moving back to Indy sent me to Salesforce where I worked in software engineering for the Marketing Cloud. Having a great experience there, I then moved back into a start-up role moving back from engineering into customer success at Lumavate.

When you think of a day in your life, what are the main work activities you do or responsibilities you have?

Number one: setting expectations. When working with customers, it is crucial to set the proper expectations, even if they are not well received.

At a startup, my activities vary from day-to-day, including doing technical demos, gathering client requirements, enabling customers on the Lumavate platform, along with doing technical consulting work.

Help us picture your work environment.

I am typically in the office most days, however, I do travel to customer locations as needed. Working within the office allows me to interact with my team members and colleagues to learn, as well as get support when needed for a particular customer.

As a customer success professional, I am constantly interacting with others. Whether it is working with the team to solve customer-specific problems or working with a customer to help solve those problems, I am constantly interacting with others. Sometimes this requires meetings and calls, however creating a base relationship with a given customer can result in more effective communication which may not require as many calls and/or meetings, but rather a scheduled communication cadence.

What do you love about the work you do?

I like to solve problems and customer success is about solving problems. Listening to the needs of a customer and translating those into how to use technology to achieve the desired outcome is truly as satisfying as it is challenging.

Which personality traits, interests, and abilities are important or common for a person to succeed in and enjoy customer success jobs?

Great Customer Success Managers exhibit the following:

Empathy — In a customer success position, an individual needs to be able to understand different viewpoints to help align expectations across boundaries. Whether those boundaries are cross-functional within your customer’s organization or across internal team boundaries.

Emotional IQ — Sadly, sometimes outside circumstances come into play when working with teams to solve a problem. Those outside circumstances, which might negatively affect a project, need to be handled with professionalism and temperament to help dissolve the tension or negative effect.

Be a Good Listener — Listening is not easy, however, when maintaining customer relationships and driving towards the desired outcome, listening is crucial

Desire to Learn — Every customer is different and listening to understand the desired outcomes across customers requires a CSM to learn more about his/her customer to become a trusted advisor.

Which tools/technologies or technical skills are particularly important for a person to be proficient in for customer success jobs?

Depending on the company and the product/service being offered, the technical skills can vary. However, a customer success manager should be a product/service expert within the company. As a first line customer manager, your customer will look to you to be the “company expert,” everything from product to culture.

Which soft skills (aka general business skills or employability skills) are particularly important for a person to be proficient in for customer success jobs?

  • Empathy
  • Problem Solving
  • Negotiation
  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Project Management Skills

From your experience with new grads applying for and beginning jobs in customer success, are they missing any particular knowledge, skills, or experiences that hold them back? Please describe.

Experience. It is difficult to teach experience and until you get experience running projects and managing customer expectations, sometimes it may prove difficult to become a customer’s trusted advisor. Customer success is not about saying yes, it is about articulating the “no(s)”, which sometimes can be difficult without experience behind you.

Which resources, people, books, websites, etc. would you recommend to those who want to learn more or advance their skills in customer suceess?

I recommend attending the Indy Customer Success Meetup.

SuccessHacker: http://successhacker.com/
Sixteen Ventures: https://sixteenventures.com/
Customer Success Association:  https://www.customersuccessassociation.com
Customer Experience Association: https://www.cxpa.com

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What encouragement or advice would you offer to others considering customer success jobs or wanting to stand out amongst others?

Do not take things personally. Customer success management can be difficult at times and can require a “thick skin.” The great ones can manage emotions and be professional in times of crisis.

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