I’m a proponent of soft skills. But without hard skills, it’s impossible to advance one’s tech career. Salesforce has created a plug-and-play ecosystem which enables anyone to pick up the hard skills to go along with their soft skills.
On top of this, Salesforce and its partner ecosystem continues to drive impactful projects worldwide.
Paul Greenberg, a longtime CRM analyst, has an insightful column here. Salesforce offers one of the safest career paths for change-makers beginning their careers in tech.
MD Anderson (MDA) leaves no rocks unturned. Specialists study cancer full time and embrace mind-body connection when treating patients. MDA offers a world-class integrated medicine program which includes Eastern perspectives and teachings. The mind needs treatment just like the body. Talks by gurus like this one are popular.
Houston is fortunate to have MDA.
There’s an obsession with pleasing my customers and clients. Family is the key stakeholder. But there’s one relationship which I’ve managed to ignore for a long time.
As someone who’s constantly adding more responsibilities (including taking care of ailing family members), I end up doing less to keep my own engine running. In this classic movie scene from “Office Space” I can relate with the character of Dr. Swanson.
Personal health is my job #1. It requires selfishness. My body is my most important client. I listen closely and fix issues before it’s too late. The world can wait.
We spend our lives improving performance @work, but do less to enhance our relationships in the workplace. Good article here. Great work alone doesn’t speak for itself.
Agree with Carla Harris that relationship currency accelerates professional advancement as much as performance. Some companies get it and have developed formal channels to cultivate this culture. This is a form of gurukula, an education/mentoring system traceable to ancient India. Still, many firms haven’t established a culture of mentorship and coaching. It’s never been easier to do this with tech innovators such as Torch.
For those who consider themselves to be individual outliers in a workplace, it’s even more essential to build relationships with decision-makers and influencers.
Japanese translation of “nostalgia”
Decision-making takes a backseat to the incessant pursuit of options. A single data-driven decision gets delayed because there are too many options; many news apps, too many candidates for president, many high quality restaurants, and too many software choices, and so on.
What happens when the pursuit of details to the order of perfection prevents the possibility of moving ahead with one solid choice? Usually, an unwanted delay at the expense of progress…It’s easier for me to decide from a sample size of three options, especially when I’m time-bound.
Houston is a decent city with lots to do. India, Japan, and BBQ on-demand…
I co-hosted a dialogue recently sponsored by Net Impact. Our group at the Table4Twelve program was diverse and represented a decent cross-section of who works in tech. Yet, I left feeling uneasy.
As someone who’s benefited from my ’model minority-ness’, I continue to ask myself what can I do to change the equation for others? It’s easy to hire and work with people who look just like me. Asian-Americans have a seat at most tables in the tech world. It’s easy to keep quiet and just make money. Very few of us went through civil rights struggles. I try to think outside of the box. As an American first and foremost, how do I give back to the landscape which has benefited me?
There’s a huge American population who’ve been disadvantaged for generations — unlike my Asian story. They went through Hell to get me the civil rights I take for granted today. Many underrepresented communities simply don’t have access to the education channels which enable careers in tech. In many cases, they were overlooked based on cognitive bias.
Overt prejudice is common, too. America elected a president who clearly does not like underrepresented minorities and recent immigrants. Yet, he likes the thriving Asian community. There are too many large companies and startups which I’ve worked for where African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans were not employed for whatever reason. We are in the 21st century. Shockingly, not a single employee looked the part in some of the most successful startups which I’ve dealt with. There were Asian and Indian faces in the room, but something didn’t feel right especially when I kept meeting customers of these same companies who came from underrepresented backgrounds.
A few companies looked like their customers, but most did not. Tech leaders set the tone and it’s clear that some don’t value diversity, including many executives from privileged Asian backgrounds. I think it’s a cardinal sin not to hire employees who look like your customers.
I have a perspective on how we got here. For many companies, the narrative of achieving ‘Diversity in Tech’ continues to happen organically. It’s not difficult to recruit South Asian immigrants and Asian-Americans for technical roles. The talent pipeline is significant within these tech-obsessed communities.
Another checkbox gets filled by women from Asian backgrounds who actively pursue STEM careers because of a cultural push from early childhood. Most Asians have STEM career paths woven into their DNA fabric. Any type of career outside the realm of tech, medicine, business, or law has generally been frowned upon by Asian families. I should know firsthand as the son of an IBM lifer.
As a result, ‘Diversity in Tech’ is largely an Asian immigrant story represented by over 20% of the workforce in large tech companies. Sensing opportunity, the talent pipeline from Asian communities grow, too. The tech industry is a growing pond where even the smallest fish can grow big and fast on diligence alone. The story repeats itself as Asian immigrants lock up green cards and start blazing trails for their children so that that they can overachieve— by winning spelling bees, achieving patents, becoming tech entrepreneurs, and so on. History has been made quickly by this close-knit, laser-beam focused population in the US.
A virtuous cycle gets fulfilled as American companies invest heavily in the homelands of where their Asian talent pool was born. For example, many Western companies have become top employers in India. My own experience dovetails this narrative after having been to India and Japan for work. Paths to success continue to regenerate from Asia. The East-West global pipeline was built over the last 30 years. Tech talent continues to flow back and forth.
Many tech leaders believe the diversity equation has already been solved because of the Asian narrative. The problem is that the tech industry has enabled a walled garden of Asian talent, not a place where other minority groups can easily set afoot. Gender diversity has improved given the strong emphasis of STEM in schools. However, efforts to increase underrepresented minorities have shown only marginal gains.
Based on the recent dialogue with Net Impact, I hope such conversations are mirrored in tech boardrooms across the country. How can we create successful narratives for minorities (who aren’t Asian)? How do we create similar tidal waves of opportunities for them? Shouldn’t your employee base look like your customers?
Currently reading this new book by Pico Iyer about his Japan musings, a country worth visiting if you haven’t been. This book is a well-crafted meditation on life, death, and mindful perseverance. Japan is well-chronicled in my blog. It’s interesting to see how much commonality there is amongst foreigners who’ve lived there.
I’ve had the fortune to meet Pico and his wife Hiroko. Our journeys don’t run parallel although we like the same Indian restaurant in Kyoto. This book feels like a continuation of The Lady and the Monk which was a hit for me when I first touched down in Japan and began living that life. Yet, Autumn Light reads like a final farewell. The Japan I knew was urban, fast-moving, and chock full of workaholics and alcoholics ricocheting across Tokyo. I’ve always wanted to live in rural Japan where time stood still. Many expats like me envied those who made a living far from Tokyo and Osaka, especially creative types like Pico Iyer and Alex Kerr (another Japan-based writer).
Instead, the Japanese countryside became a temporary refuge for me. The ultimate test of reflection is writing in noisy surroundings. Tokyo nearly made that impossible back then. Instagram delivers an equivalent distraction today. Getting to the beautiful countryside during Autumn season offered plentiful shortcuts without putting ink onto paper.
I regret not writing while I lived in Japan. Pico continues to write 30 years after his sojourn into Japan. Time seemingly stands still, yet everything slowly falls away in this excerpt.
Distraction reduces anxiety. March Madness can be a stress buster. My bracket usually gets busted in the 2nd week.
End-of-Season momentum is my favorite success criteria when I pick. The Longhorns aren’t in the mix this year. The ghost of all-time great Kevin Durant still lingers. Coach Strong is gone while Coach Smart is still around. Only 64 of 350+ teams get chosen. Texas wasn’t in the top 18% for basketball even after achieving the top operating revenue across the NCAA. Texas is known for football, anyway.
Keeping my fingers crossed for tiny Gonzaga.
(Shown after 3/20)
What if you had text-based access to peer counselors as issues came up at work? Work-related dilemmas often surface by texting. I recently learned about Empower Work, an independent nonprofit that offers text-based coaching. Free coaching is now available at your fingertips. There are obvious use cases. I also think this type of service can help with performance management and scaling one’s career.
Empower Work is seeking US-based volunteers who are savvy texters.
If your org is a heavy Salesforce user, myTrailhead will help increase user adoption.
I’ve met many leaders and founders of companies. The leader of a company sets the tone for social impact. The companies which care the most are the ones driven to make a difference. The companies created by selfish leaders eventually wilt or get sold. Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025.
Successful leaders survive by embracing conscious capitalism and a millennial workforce. The old ways of doing business simply won’t last. 😉
I spent this past week at MD Anderson (MDA) with a close relative of mine. I was overwhelmed by the hospitality, professionalism, and organization of this great hospital. The journey ahead won’t be easy, but I feel confident that this is the best place to win the battle against cancer. MDA listened to us and I’m confident they will deliver.
MDA patient satisfaction metrics: Link
Geekwire article: Link
“Seattle leaders have done a good job of saying, ‘we need to do stuff to make this city a great place to live for everyone and not just a great place to make money.’ I think that’s an underreported narrative about why Seattle is winning more and more as an economic center. It’s because we’re doing stuff at the margins to make it a place that works for families and works for transportation. The partnership between business and civic leaders and taxpayers is what will set up the next 20 years of growth.”
There are three attributes I really admire amongst my entrepreneur friends. Helping, hustling, and harvesting — move the needle for me.
#1 They are always helping even while selling. Helpers make the world go around. They volunteer and do things without asking. Helpers build trust quickly. Not surprisingly, helpers become top salespeople.
#2 Building something from scratch takes much hustling without fear. Hustlers in my network tend to be less formal, hit the streets, and talk to anyone with an open mind. They unlock and open doors. Steve Jobs was the original hustler before Silicon Valley became enamored with them. Hustlers thrive where playbooks don’t exist. Hustlers become your best friends when you need to get things done fast.
#3 Harvesting is a rare skill I see in my network. It can mean pursuing a business exit strategy, or it can mean gathering a crop of ideas. Harvesters build ideas and communities. They spark deeper conversations and connect with diverse leaders. They invest in and create communities which ignite innovation. Harvesters may not be investors seeking exits, but they still have a Midas touch — knowing where to gather a crop of ideas and package them for the market. As leaders, they create business categories, run conferences, and launch meetups, especially in areas where the dots need to be connected. This attribute is most popular in Silicon Valley.
I get asked a lot about tech careers. An industry focus remains essential while acquiring tech skills. You don’t want to become good at something you don’t enjoy, so make sure that your skills contribute to an industry which excites you. Blog about it. Organize events. Find willing mentors.
I began my consulting career in the financial services industry. Now, I focus on sectors doing impactful work. The values alignment is a starting point. Industry knowledge becomes the lynchpin. The learning never ends. A tribe which accelerates your growth should be your sticking point.
Re-tooling with Certs
Once the industry focus is clear, I recommend a certification-based approach. Decide if you’re going to become an information worker or a developer. Software development is different from the realm of tech certs. It’s a bit more challenging to achieve the programming skills summarized in this report. The information worker’s value increases based on the number of certs achieved which are validated by hands-on experience. You can always volunteer to work as an intern to prove your knowledge. Building a website like this one is not that difficult.
Never Ending Bucket List
I’ve had in-depth exposure to some certs and skimmed through others. Whether you are beginning your career or re-tooling to meet market demand, these certs are worth pursuing:
There’s a massive shortage of workers with relevant skills. A treasure trove of resources can help you gain mastery. I feel like I’m always behind even as an industry veteran. Technical certification assures relevance in most industries. Don’t leave home without at least one. 😁
Meet changemakers in this exciting SF workshop. Touchpoint mapping allows your org to visualize and improve experiences of sponsors, partners, recipients, and employees.
Where: WeWork, 1161 Mission, San Francisco, CA 94103
Who: Service Designers, CX/CS Professionals, CSR, and Social Impact Professionals
Sponsors: Customer Success for Good and Service Design Network SF (SDN-SF)
We are excited to invite you to this hands-on workshop by SDN-SF for corporate social responsibility (CSR) executives, nonprofit leaders, and social impact professionals.
Join rockstar facilitators Bernadette Geuy, Daphne Ogle, and Sophie Jasson-Holt as they map the partnership experience between CSR and social impact stakeholders. Let’s uncover opportunities for community engagement which maximize impact. If you are new to service design, this program will introduce touchpoint mapping, a new skill for your toolkit.
RSVP in this link (required): https://bit.ly/2FWWiE8
6:00 – 6:30 pm networking
6:30 – 8:00 pm workshop (Get ready to do stuff together)
8:00 – 8:30 pm final networking and wrap-up
“A spirit with a vision is a dream with a mission.”
Neil Peart (Rush)
Special thanks to Neetal Parekh for facilitating an amazing workshop. It was wonderful sharing the stage with Vijay Mehrotra, Andrea Spillman-Gajek and Rajesh Kadam — representing a broad cross-section of Silicon Valley. We owe a debt of gratitude to everyone who joined and shared stories about doing impactful work in education, nonprofits, startups and other sectors.
It’s possible to hit a career bullseye within customer success (CS) by focusing on social impact. The CS and CX communities have significant opportunities to roll out best practices and industry standards within the impact space.
Stay tuned for the new slack channel (attendees). Feel free to join the CSG Meetup community if this interests you. This is your platform for change.
Customer Success (CS) is one of the fastest growing job titles in the world. CS lives to achieve customer happiness across an organization. The CS team is empowered to make a difference. Social impact can become part of CS’s mission when business is great. Success means there’s less hand-holding and more party-throwing.
Success is a happy end user who’s willing to come to your conferences and learn more about your products. Success is when customers become partners and do the selling for you. Success means customers really like your solutions enough to solve problems which may not be business-related. The end game of success is giving back.
Most customers want to make the world a better place. Salesforce leads the pack, but others are not far behind in giving back and creating an active philanthropic ecosystem.
How can a CS leader give back? Here are some ways to achieve impact with your teams:
There are unique impact opportunities for CS in a good economy like ours where customer sentiment is especially strong. There’s an entire sector of CS professionals employed by cloud-based companies today who strive for social impact when delivering great technologies. The Customer Success for Good Meetup brings this community together.
The mission statement is often understated in an organization. It should become the daily mantra. All activities should spring from an apparent overall purpose. Roles and responsibilities should be crystal clear. Of course, career paths never go by the book. 😉
Some careers are self-explanatory such as finance, sales, and marketing. Others such as customer success (CS) need more definition. The customer success function (post-sales) can include on-boarding, customer experience, implementation services, project management, training, inside sales, and dedicated support. It’s the bane of an organization’s existence and also, the hardest to manage if not appropriately structured. My domain is customer success. It’s fun, but not for the faint of heart. A recent survey highlighted the challenges of stress in the workplace. This workplace survey did not cover specific professions like customer success. It’s interesting to see Seattle rank high for work-life balance.
The lack of clear goals contributes to burnout and turnover regardless of location. For example, it’s rare to meet someone with a “customer success” job title who has lasted more than 2 years at a single employer (senior executive or junior employee). Based on anecdotal evidence (i.e., deep ties to the customer success community), the customer success function is still evolving. Customer success is often viewed as an ugly stepchild and the perfect spot to pin blame if there are failures in customer dealings. It needs witness protection, or it gets sacrificed on the front lines. Thereby, high turnover is pervasive when top leadership doesn’t provide the necessary support.
Customer success should be a standalone division reporting to the CEO or COO. Things are well when the turnover is minimal in a customer success division. Things are great when the products actually work, and sales are booming — making the job easier. 👍 However, an overwhelming number of startups and large enterprises haven’t developed strong customer success organizations. Industry leaders in customer success put product gurus in these roles, not just warm bodies who look good and pick up the phone.
I began the Customer Success for Good meetup because I believe customer success should serve a much higher purpose: by on-boarding more stewards of the planet.
There are many industry verticals where customer success has become the lynchpin for impact. Most boardrooms try to evangelize a mission-driven purpose. They need to involve the voices of the customer.
It’s really hard without involving those on the front lines of building customer relationships. Customer success professionals partner and build solutions that solve business problems. The gap between profits and purpose can be filled when the CS mission includes resolving social and environmental issues. Every boardroom needs to align success with social impact.
Like the survey says, the stress won’t go away. However, I believe in leveraging the ‘greater purpose’ mantra with customers to strengthen the mission of customer success. Adherence to the mission statement is a good sign that your organization values its customer success workers and cares for the planet, too.
Clients prefer speed over everything else. They hire consultants equipped to deliver fast. As a consultant, I’ve been handed concise technology road-maps as well as hundred-page decks loaded with business requirements. Client readiness varies across industries. The key is to provide a playbook or checklist to your business stakeholders. This sets expectations, so that they are prepared for a rapid implementation and smooth on-boarding. Clients can also save costs by preparing requirements with their internal subject matter experts before the technology consultants arrive. The requirements phase of the project sets the tone. Success or failure starts here.
A few years back I was on an engagement with JP Morgan Chase. Their consumer-banking division had a strong presence in Columbus, Ohio. A major issue was impacting their business growth: only 25% of captured technology requirements made it into production. The requirements process was broken. Execution was a disaster. The lack of familiarity with the technologies being implemented affected the quality of documentation. Also, requirements were maintained in multiple formats across many systems. This spaghetti resulted in project failures and expensive re-work. Some business milestones were missed by multiple years. Everything was in Red.
My team focused on putting together a playbook for requirements gathering. The goal would be to align Business and IT stakeholders so that they adhered with the playbook guidelines. Requirements could not be drawn up on a napkin or stored on a spreadsheet. For example, user stories would have to be clearly written for a Salesforce Service Cloud implementation based on standardized templates. The online tool Jira was customized to capture user stories based on pre-baked templates. Excel spreadsheets were complementary and used to provide detailed inputs. Jira requirements were analyzed and fed into a Salesforce tool called the PMO toolkit. Proper nomenclature and numeration was established so traceability could be maintained between the PMO toolkit and Jira. Playbook scrum masters were added to teams across the bank.
The playbook mandated such rules not only for Salesforce projects, but for other systems, too. Hands-on training was provided for writing system requirements. The quality of technical writing has gone downhill in this age of social media and tech-speak. English is becoming a second language for everyone. A college degree doesn’t ensure that one can read their diploma. It’s well known that good documentation results in good code and fewer missed requirements.
Today, JP Morgan Chase has become successful in implementing large scale projects. I believe the playbook from several years ago made a difference.
Never underestimate the power of a playbook as you execute new projects.
What is the low hanging fruit when implementing or evaluating a customer success program? Can you deliver value to difficult customers without extraordinary effort or expense?
Some customers are very engaged. They provide constructive feedback to improve your features. They love hand-holding. They fully use your support capabilities and maintain continuous communication with your support desk. A few of these customers are your best friends. These advocates swear by your product and recommend it to their networks. You are fortunate to have customers like these.
Some customers are difficult. They dread logging into your product and believe it is the root cause of their daily strife. They troll away on social media and talk to your competitors. They won’t try to learn your product, while discouraging new users on their account. Some disenchanted customers partner with each other and make your life difficult at trade shows and meetups.
Whether your customers are advocates or detractors, they need the following basics. This is the low-hanging fruit based on experience.
It’s not too difficult to implement these 5 steps, especially if you are in the SaaS world. Low-hanging fruit should be made available to customers.
Feel free to ping me if you have questions.
Salesforce pioneered the concept of Customer Success. It grew into the ‘Customers for Life’ program and today employs hundreds of Customer Success professionals. Loyalty marketing guru Bryan Pearson shares more about this pioneering effort: Link_SFDC Customers-for-life
Today, Customer Success is an industry which keeps the SaaS world afloat. It needs the right doses of people, process and technology. Customer Success is not fully baked like other company functions such as the Finance department. Ultimately, data drives Customer Success. Analytics will make or break your customer success efforts.
Some of my insights here:
I often get asked what is customer success. The slides below highlight CS in simplest terms. There is substantial effort which goes into building a program and running a customer success operation post-sales.
Moving forward, I will cover CS in more detail as it pertains to people, process, technology and business strategy.