When I graduated from UCSB with a degree in Communication five years ago, I didn’t have a solid idea of “what I wanted to be.” However, thankfully, I’d learned from internships what I did NOT want to be:
- A cog in the wheel. Doing meaningful work is a primary motivator for me.
- An administrator of the “process side” of Human Resources— benefits, workers comp, admin, etc. I had learned this via two internships. Thanks, work experience!
Armed with an idea of what not to look for, which is huge, I thought that Marketing seemed like a viable route. I’d also been fortunate to be a part of UCSB’s Technology Management Program (TMP) which sparked my interest in the tech startup world. Between my Communication course work and TMP, I took classes like “high technology sales” which at the heart, was all about persuasion, New Venture creation, in which me and my team “pitched” a panel of VC investors, and “Conflict Resolution” which was the most practical class ever. I even spent my full 4th year working on a thesis on Social Identity Theory and Homelessness, in which I interviewed many house-less adults. This was a university highlight and I ramped up my empathy skills (the #1 skill I think you need in Support).
Through TMP directly, I settled on an internship in the “tech startup” scene that eventually grew into a full-time opportunity:
Marketing Intern @ RightScale
This gig was my first taste of the tech startup world and I quickly transitioned to:
Marketing Coordinator, then promoted to Marketing Specialist- Social Media & Community Programs @ RightScale
Through the evolution of my role, I consistently marketed to developers, managed social media accounts, and spent a lot of time relationship-building with our biggest customers and brand advocates. While I enjoyed content creation, lead generation, and analytical work, there was really nothing like hearing a customer rave about their favorite features and I even enjoyed the lows— hearing first-hand about confusion and pain points. Most of my time was spent on social media accounts and forums but I loved the in-person community management, hackathons, meet-ups, and building a Customer Ambassador program best.
I am still a marketer today (it’s definitely a piece of me) but everyone is doing content nowadays. Everyone is doing social media. Now, not everyone is doing it amazingly well, but it’s overall saturated and very hard to stick out unless you consistently produce top-notch campaigns. On the flip side, almost everyone does customer service poorly. I saw a great opportunity to be the best-of-the-best in this space and put in my application for a 50/50 hybrid role of Community Management (my roots), with Support (a new world that I thought my skills were very transferable to):
Senior Community Advocate @ Ning
I’m thankful for my time at Ning because it was my first time debugging complex problems myself. My manager set us up with many tools, typically reserved for developers. I learned about Terminal, the Command Line, Firebug, Jenkins, and others. We were truly a tech-empowered team and that is something I now try to emulate myself as a manager. It’s not necessarily about “cutting escalation to engineering,” but giving your team the tools they need to solve problems efficiently and removing blockers whenever possible.
Next up, my time at Threadflip, an online consignment startup which shut down in 2016:
Customer Experience @ Threadflip
This role was more about the opportunity to join an industry I was excited about (fashion resale). While I left this place with a few amazing friends, this was my first and only time cranking out massive ticket volumes like a machine. Again, it taught me what not to look for in my next role and I left this place having a strong opinion on why it’s important for Customer Service leaders to not only support their customers but their employees too. I also learned volumes about running Operations, supporting tangible goods, and the e-commerce business.
Now, to where I am today:
Customer Advocacy Manager @ Athos
While my stint in e-commerce didn’t go the way I’d hoped, I was still genuinely excited about the prospect of a career in Support, and learned of another hybrid Support/Community Manager role in another space I love— fitness! My career has taken a few turns along the way and today I get to support an iOS app, a software piece, hardware, and apparel with sensors inside; it’s all technically complex and new problems no one has ever tackled before.
Why I do it
A career in Support allows a massive opportunity to differentiate with smart, proactive, empathetic Support. You can also go beyond reacting to actual problem-solving by making the entire customer experience “your problem.”
Because #startuplife allows me to wear many hats, I’d go as far as saying my core competency is “relationship-building.” While sometimes it’s direct support, the heart of it all is:
- listening to needs & hopefully being able to address that with your amazing product
- preemptively addressing paint points
- improving customer experiences before the customer notices
- taking customers from new & confused to empowered, engaged advocates