How to Get Into Customer Success & Grow
Imagine going to a conference and feeling absolutely moved by a solution you just learned about. When I say “moved” I mean piecing together what the email of the CEO might be and sending them a message. Somehow it lands in their inbox and they reply...the same night!
They invite you in for an interview 😱
You get the job on the spot 🤯
Oh, and the company is a $100M Series A startup.
This is the story of Georgia Harrison and how she got into Customer Success.
In this post, I‘m recapping an episode from the Women in Customer Success podcast with guest Georgia Harrison, the Director of Customer Success, EMEA at Braze.
Aside from a killer story of landing a job, Georgia is a true powerhouse. Within 4 years, she’s risen through 4 promotions at Braze. Like many of us, Georgia bounced around a bit until she finally found what she was passionate about. She started out working at a Marketing agency the moved to account management––which in retrospect was a Customer Success role. Now, her biggest challenge at Braze is learning how to lead managers.
The Women in Customer Success Podcast is a fairly new podcast hosted by Marija S.Pilley. It’s the first women-only podcast for Customer Success professionals, where remarkable ladies of Customer Success connect, inspire, and champion each other.
Let’s get into the 3 main takeaways of this episode:
Struggles of a first time CSM
4 promotions in 4 years
Asking for promotions & negotiating salary
Struggles of a first time CSM
Georgia admits that at first, her role as a CSM was totally overwhelming.
She was taken back by how technical the role was and terms like APIs and SDKs weren’t familiar to her. Luckily, she joined a company where she was able to learn, at a foundational level, what these concepts were and how they translated into the product and her work. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn these concepts on the ground floor. But the first 6 months were hard! If you’re someone who wants to get into CS, just know that there will be a lot for you to learn but remember that this is something you’re passionate about and want to invest in.
Another challenge for Georgia was articulating what it was that she was trying to learn. She recalls telling the CEO that she wanted to learn more about “tech” and his suggestion was to distill what “tech” meant for her. Did tech mean learning about mobile technology like SDKs? Was it tech from the perspective of server interactions and what that looks like? She discovered that finding someone who can help her understand what she doesn’t know and articulating that back to the company was useful.
4 promotions in 4 years
Georgia started as a CSM at Braze and every year, she was promoted.
The size of the team when she started (she was #2 in the region) was a big factor in those opportunities. She wasn’t really aware of it at the time but some useful advice she passes to other CSMs is that the size of the company you join is the runway for your opportunities. If you join a Success team that’s more established/larger, those opportunities would be less frequent.
Become a product expert
She learned the product inside out and this is something that has helped her. “Be the product expert, when someone mentions a feature, you should know exactly how it works.” This has given her the confidence to keep going in her career and was the reason behind making the jump from CSM to Senior CSM. Now, when she hires a new Success Manager, she puts them through rigorous training within customer support.
Build a strong book
Throughout the years, Georgia has built a solid book of clients. The reason why building a strong book is so important has nothing to do with revenue and everything to do with building strong relationships. Georgia knows that she can rely on these strong clients to give her honest feedback. They are true advocates of the product as well and are open about their CS experience.
Learn from the right people
When you’re stuck and need to learn specific concepts, the key is to understand who holds the knowledge you’re trying to tap into and that’s usually a few layers down. Always take your foundational learning to those people and be clear on where you got stuck. People are much more willing to help you when you bring them the steps you’ve gone through.
She got really lost with the concept of mentorship and she felt embarrassed to have to go to ask someone for help, it felt very formal.
She now uses a concept of building the board room which means assigning strengths––improver, expert, unlocker of time and resources––to people. the idea is that you start writing down who these people are in your life and these could be your micro mentors instead of having just one person you go to. This is a really good place to start and then from there, you may find that there’s one person you always go back to and that person can be your main mentor.
Asking for promotions & negotiating salaries
Marija points out that women don’t negotiate as much as men do and are likely to start their careers with a lower salary.
So how does Georgia ask for salary and/or promotions?
She doesn’t. When she shared this with a friend of hers, her friend, who is an attorney, was shocked. Georgia’s perspective on this has been that if you have a good relationship with her manager, then often you don’t have to ask because these things happened. Her friend’s perspective was different. As a manager herself, she always told her team to ask for a promotion when they are eligible.
In her experience, asking for a promotion and negotiating are skills and if we’re not practicing these skills every time you have an opportunity to practice it, then it’s not going to get refined and we’re not going to get any better at it. She wants her team to ask and to articulate why they should get it.
Georgia was so happy that Marija asked her this question because it forced her to look at salaries and promotions in a different perspective. This is now something she’s taking back to her team!
Your first role as a CSM can be overwhelming––your goal is to become a product expert and that takes time
Working at a smaller company can open up more promotion opportunities but there’s a lot of personal development and self-teaching that needs to be done
Asking for a raise/promotion is a skill we all need to practice and when we don’t, we never refine these crucial skills