Key topics in today’s conversation include:
The SaaS Ramp Podcast explores how tech leaders scale from product adoption to enterprise success. Learn more at www.saasrampmedia.com.
Pete Thornton 0:00
All right welcome everybody to back to The SaaS Ramp Podcast. I’m your host. We’ll go with my name is Podcast Pete. They used to call me that in a past life for a past podcast, so we’ll go with that one again. And with me today, a special guest, Paola Cordovez Cereceda. And she’s here from Unit21. But we’ll get back into it like all one step at a time, I promised I’d write these questions down. So welcome, Paula.
Paola Cordovez Cereceda 0:28
Hi, Pete. Thank you for having me. Super excited to be chatting with you.
Pete Thornton 0:30
Thanks so much for coming on. We’ve had some chats before. So this is not like the inaugural. So like, definitely just being like, hey, let’s record the next conversation we have. All right. So let’s bring everybody up to speed. Because I’m going to act like everybody already knows this. Paola, who do you work for?
Paola Cordovez Cereceda 0:46
A great question. I work for a company called Unit21. And I’ve been here for… I guess it’s been like a year and a couple months at this point.
Pete Thornton 0:54
Okay. Okay. Awesome. And then you mentioned Unit21, website being unit21.ai. What do you guys do?
Paola Cordovez Cereceda 1:01
We are a no-code tool. And we enable organizations to make data driven decisions. What that really means is, we operate in the financial crimes or financial environment, we have a lot of customers that use this for both fraud and compliance. And it’s really, basically workflows that allow you to identify suspicious activity. What I mean when I say no code is, I don’t like thinking about this. And I do not like saying it out loud. But the front environment moves incredibly fast. And criminal organizations are smarter than we want to think they are. And what you ultimately need is tools that adapt as fast as organizations like these adapt. So we have a basically, set of tools allow you to build your own workflows, of what is suspicious for you at each point in time, and how do you best iterate on it to find new types of financial crime as you move forward. And I talk about financial space. But ultimately, we operate in an environment of movements of people moving to assets, so anything that has people or transactions has a use case where we could fit in, from retail to social media to everything in between. So it’s a very exciting and fast growing space.
Pete Thornton 2:04
Yes, that certainly would be. Okay. Very cool on that one. Definitely something to come back to. Okay. So what do you do for them there then?
Paola Cordovez Cereceda 2:14
I am the Head of Customer Engagement. I basically oversee the entire post-sales organization. There are different teams within my Oregon, we looked specifically at implementation success on support. So it’s a different teams that support the customer throughout the journey. After you close a deal, once you start using the tool, what type of parts of the lifecycle logic do you go through and how to best support you through it, just to go very, very quickly through them. Implementation is a time-bound project, it’s basically getting you set up up and running on our tool, thing, data configuration, mapping, permissioning, and so on and so forth. This accessing really manages the start to finish or the entire journey of the customer. Everything from strategic alignment business reviews, what do you care about? How do we think about the future? To how do we optimize your processes? And what were your teams to get them better set up and smarter on identifying financial crimes. And then we also have a support team that really focuses on both solving queries as they come up and educating customers on how to solve things themselves. Within these teams, we also have an education specialist who focuses on our scaled content. And it’s both used internally for training and externally for our customer base.
Pete Thornton 3:21
Okay, okay. That’s awesome. And you oversee all of these teams?
Paola Cordovez Cereceda 3:25
Correct. There are directors who have direct reports and those directors report in to me so I’m really in charge of the strategy for customer base.
Pete Thornton 3:33
Okay, post-sale. And this is strictly post-sale, is that right? No pre-sales motion, no freemium?
Paola Cordovez Cereceda 3:39
Correct. No freemium, no pre-sales notion. We do work very closely with sales. And we are part of the sales process, kind of indirectly, because we want to make sure we have a social engineering team that really ensures that whatever is coming down the pipeline, we are set up to support. So we are in conversations where we’re what’s being closed were being worked on. But we really kept for gear once a contract closes.
Pete Thornton 4:01
Okay. Yeah. Fantastic. Okay, then then, I may have mentioned before but, for the sake of the audience, we do find that there are interesting journeys leading into both enablement and customer success. So would love to know about your journey to customer success.
Paola Cordovez Cereceda 4:20
Yeah, it’s a very interesting question. I always say that to whoever looking at my LinkedIn, my journey may make no sense. I actually really do believe it makes complete sense. I’ve been in tech for three years, I’ve been in success for three years. Really, my background is in public policy and economic development. I have a Master’s in Public Policy for a long time I worked in multilateral institutions, my past jobs have things like working with the UN on creating training programs for the employees around the world, all the way to when I was with the World Bank, and I was managing fiscal policy projects in the Middle East and West Africa. What I realized when I was in development, most of the work that I was doing the work itself was very interesting, but I wasn’t moving as To access they wanted to be moving. And I was really missing that challenge that comes with I now know startups, working in this very fast paced environment where you’re having to basically learn really fast and create processes. But what I was doing was actually success. It was identifying needs, people have having conversations, negotiate and convincing people or showing the value of adopting something that you were trying to do in the World Bank, it was, again, fiscal policy projects at the UN, it was adopting training programs, and then basically allowing them to use them effectively or onboard successfully, and then add more value to the teams going forward. Around 2018, I made a decision to change the tech, I was specifically looking at startups because what I wanted from what I had heard from friends in the industry was that it’s the place where you go really to build things from scratch, create processes, and learn a lot. And I really struggled to understand where I fit in. I would I remember having chats with recruiters who would say things like your background, so interesting, we don’t really know where you fit in. And I spent a lot of time looking at jobs. Every time I read at CSM job, my immediate response was, I’ve done all those things. They’re just sitting different words, because in the development world, you speak about those things differently. But the actual skill set was exactly what I had. And really, what drives me to work is people, it’s helping people be more efficient, helping things be more successful. So it just seemed to me like an easy transition. And I joined Airtable, three years ago, as a CSM, I was one of the I think we were less than 10, CSMs when I joined. Now they have 50 plus.
Pete Thornton 6:28
So interesting. Okay, so in your background, first of all, let’s like, unpack that just for a minute. The summary is un and World Bank beforehand. And so World Bank was in the financial sector, things like that. So there is there’s a corollary there, but it is a it is a left turn, it’s often a left turn. So let me take all the way back then because you have even more education that you may or may not use than I do. So is it two master’s degrees for you? Was that it? Was that what I saw?
Paola Cordovez Cereceda 6:55
I have two master’s degrees, one in project management and one in public policy. That’s correct.
Pete Thornton 6:59
So project management always gonna get to us, I suppose that just tell me about those like, because like tech is such a different thing. Like you end up with these folks who have like, hey, like, maybe they went to college, maybe they didn’t. But they started their business in college if these are the big ones. Anyway, the Elon Musk that just jumped straight out. And then Steve Jobs like, oh, yeah, read colleges. That’s, that’s good. One semester, I’ll be fine. And then they have this huge boom before 30 selling their first business and everything like that, it doesn’t have much to do with it. So are are you getting use from that? Like direct one to one linkage to your educational background?
Paola Cordovez Cereceda 7:32
I do think I really am. And let me walk you a little bit through how those two happens. So my Master’s in Public Policy was very much aligned with the career I wanted to have. back then. I wanted to be a diplomat, I actually was a diplomat for a while working for the World Bank and the UN, like we’ve discussed, and where I see my character going was in something in the public international sector, public policy was a degree that made the most sense for that. And really, public policy is a degree that adds a lot of value in terms of soft skills, right? It really allowed me to talk to anyone around the world be able to have right, the right conversations, be able to get points across be able to negotiate convince people, like I’ve said before, already add value. So I really think that when I think about the hard skills of the role, those may not be as applied, but everything around interacting with people and having the right conversations isn’t something that I use all the time. And I can tell you that a lot of people who went to grad school with me took into the courses I did would say similar things. So many of our classes were really just around people, what I decided to change attack, and I started interviewing, I really started more like testing the waters. And I would talk to recruiters and I already mentioned this, but they would say things like your background, so interesting. But we do not know what you do or how this fits in. And I realized that I had that skill set. But translating that skill set was very, very difficult. And even though I had some other skill set, it’s so different Pete working for a Multilateral agency, what I kind of imagined, it’s like working like really big tech companies. And he was working in a startup. So the questions they typically had was as simple as, do you know what agile is? How do you manage processes or projects? How do you work on time-bound things. So they’re all things that we all do in some way or the other, but it didn’t really have the framework. So the project management degree really came as a result of, I wanted to be really prepared to work in the tech industry. I know that I was short learning, I’ll say one, but also have some of that foundation that I felt like I was lacking. So I actually started doing my masters in project design project management. At the same time I was interviewing and then completed it while working in tech already.
Pete Thornton 9:26
Okay, so that’s very, very interesting. So you did get to leverage some of those skills and like you’ve got a couple of those moved into on and then you actually, you knew you wanted to go to tech and you snag that master’s degree enroute I guess?
Paola Cordovez Cereceda 9:42
Correct. I was working full time during the day and I was taking classes online in the afternoons and then our weekends. So it was quite a lift, but I really do think it was a what I needed to do and be it made me so much more certain than what I was doing. I do think that everyone gets impatient syndrome in some way or the other and knowing that I was learning things that I could have been directly applying to my job, everything from talking to engineers about agile prophecies and understanding language that I had never, never used in the past. It came in so handy. It was a glitch, but I think it was the right one and I do not regret it at all.
Pete Thornton 10:15
What about living in Bay area? So you’re in Bay Area now, is that correct? Just to make sure.
Paola Cordovez Cereceda 10:19
I am, correct.
Pete Thornton 10:20
Okay, but when I picture public policy, I think of DC when I picture financial services, I think of New York, as far as the United States goes. So were you living somewhere else? Or were you always in the Bay Area?
Paola Cordovez Cereceda 10:32
No, I was actually in DC. I relocated back in 2019. For Airtable. I actually was born and raised in Ecuador. I moved to the US in 2012. August 2012. My anniversary in the country is coming up. And I live for a long time between DC and Boston. So work in DC grad school in Boston. And then I had when I was with you, and it was in and out of New York often. I moved back I moved to the Bay Area in 2019. And it’s it was a very big change. It was also kind of scary because having lived on the East Coast for a long time. You hear how different people are on both coasts. I think the initial getting used to the environment was interesting. The first thing I did was realized I no longer need to pantsuits actually remember walking into like interview I add Airtable in like a pantsuit and ever was in the casual tag jeans and like a sweatshirt outfit. And I just remember feeling so overdressed. I was convinced that we’re all thinking it was insane. That was the first thing I dropped. I changed my wardrobe.
Pete Thornton 11:28
Did you drop it? Or did somebody tell you, “We don’t have a uniform here,” and like and tell you that “we have this other thing that’s actually a uniform as well. It’s just a casual uniform.”
Paola Cordovez Cereceda 11:39
No one really said anything but the contrast was obvious. And also working in development. There’s so much that goes into looking super perfect, like super corporate professional. There’s such a calmness that comes from just knowing that I worry about ever too close and I just do a really good work. Yeah, so I did it myself. It took me like a week and I was like no more pants. This is great. I do not want to wear them again.
Pete Thornton 12:02
Nice. Okay. So and then but you moved because Airtable said, hey, come out here, come to the headquarters.
Paola Cordovez Cereceda 12:10
They had two offices, one in New York, one in SF, I think the New York one back then was tiny must have been like 1012 people. I wanted to be in the Bay Area. I figured that if I wanted to learn about the tech environment, being at the center of it all was will make the most sense. And I made it more of a conscious time-bound. If it’s not the place for me, I’ll go back to the east coast. But I’ve been here for three years, and I have no intention of leaving right now.
Pete Thornton 12:32
I have a friend who moved from the east coast and in a Chattanooga has got world’s fastest internet. That’s why I’m here now, but like, but it’s not. It’s not it’s not Bay Area at all. It’s not Austin, Texas, either. It’s got a little startup scene. That’s a fantastic little startup scene. But anyway, he made a commitment to technology by moving to Mountain View, moving to Bay Area. And so unlike he went from a year where he had 15,000 in sales where he had 1.7 million in sales in about two years. And I just feel like some of that was the commitment not that he was in the bay area itself. But just that he was felt that strongly about it. So I was kind of like seeing is that some one of the pieces in this intentional journey that you’ve created of moving actually out to the Bay Area? Which it sounds like it somewhat was.
Paola Cordovez Cereceda 13:16
It absolutely was. The piece of advice that I’ve given to people who have asked me about moving to Tech really is go where the action is, you can always relocate. If you don’t like it, you can always relocate when the time is right. But it’s not even just about like mp4 Airtable. It’s not even just about being here to work for table. It’s the environment you’re exposed to. It’s conversations you get to have it’s many people from all these different industries. It’s learning things I never learned before. And even talking to my parents, for example, it’s even sharing stories like the first time I saw a self-driving car driving past me and I had this moment of like, I felt like I was in DC or the Presidential motorcade will go by right, like, wow, this is exactly what I was expecting to see. And it’s so interesting. So the learning opportunities that come from just being aware the action is I, I don’t doubt you can maybe learn them elsewhere. But it’s not going to be as fast as it will be in San Francisco or in the Bay Area.
Pete Thornton 14:06
Yeah, kind of like immersion. Like it’s actually happening. It’s interesting to go back a little bit like and do that because everybody’s remote now and maybe it’s trickling back in but still such a remote world. But I do have one more question because you could actually give a pre and post from like just then and being new in a sector to now. Your onboarding, your personal onboarding journey, then being in an office. How different do you think it would be starting a new job, new technology sector, everything if they didn’t say, hey, come to the Bay Area, and they didn’t say, hey, come to the office? What would that journey look like versus what it was in 2018?
Paola Cordovez Cereceda 14:44
Yeah, I will start by saying that I’m a huge fan of remote work, and I really enjoy being able to work from wherever I want right now. But going back to value the value that you get from being in the place you cannot get while you’re remote. I remember sitting in the office my first week I I remember I had a salesperson across from me one of the best salespeople I’ve ever worked with, as solutions engineer who’s to this day, one of my close friends to my right. And then CSMs on My Sites, basically, the amount of learning I would just do from sitting there quietly listening to the conversations, everything from negotiations, difficult conversations, you don’t get that rarely. And yeah, we have tools that allow you to record conversations and listen to them. But they would hop off the phone, and I would just turn to them and say, Hey, can you walk me through why you ask this? And not that? Or can you explain to me why they, how you expect them to respond differently? Or what would you have done differently, there’s a level of learning that just comes from that kind of not just exposure to your own role by cross-functional exposure, then you don’t really get as easily when you’re not in an office environment that I don’t yet know how we can replace speaking about. I did onboard into my second job, that job, I’m currently having an internal one remotely. And I thought the onboarding was really smooth, but you do miss out on those kind of natural organic learning opportunities, or even just building that trust with your peers week one where, when you’re remote, it just takes so much more time.
Pete Thornton 16:06
100%. Yeah, I had a manager who, wisely our onboarding, our new hire ramp was truly that he would just rearrange the desks, you’d like new pods, new people, new pods. And that was my first enablement job was when I would get put near all the new people every single time until I was like, hey, is this a job unto itself? Is it? Let’s be real.
Paola Cordovez Cereceda 16:25
And speaking even more to that, when during the time I was at our table, I think we changed desks, configurations, maybe three time anyone’s based on IT company was growing really fast. We had electric dish with space or teams, we’re basically moving to other parts of the floor that we had. Same, same concept, right? Like, every time I switched a desk, I was exposed to new people that hadn’t talked before, maybe wasn’t as close to when I was just learning from how they were doing things, everything from how to work with different kinds of people who have different work, work, preferences, or different ways of being in the office to, again, overhearing conversations where I was like, Oh, I love how that was framed. I’m gonna use it for myself, I, I always say this, but when you look at how I am a CSM and how I talk to customers, I really do believe I just took what I heard from the best systems that I know. And he made it my own. So it’s what Emily used to say to customers when she talked about the tool and what Michele used to say to customers, when she would have to convince them of adopting something new that we really believe can make a difference for them. And I just made them part of my own schpeel basically.
Pete Thornton 17:25
Totally, yeah, it’s a great, great way to do it. I love that I do miss that from time to time. Just definitely do. Although like take advantage which can so many pros and cons. It’s a different podcast, but I always have to.
So obviously interesting background, and then your Airtable and Unit21 now. What’s the journey in between? And there are different roles there, too. Certainly different roles. You’re in a leadership position now. That was a customer success manager position.
Paola Cordovez Cereceda 17:49
Correct. I joined Airtable as a CSM, it was my first job in tech. And I always say that Airtable was kind of like a boot camp for CS because I was there I believe it was around the seventh employee and I left it with around 250. So not just saw the growth in the company, but different customer sizes, having a bigger book of business working with more complex international customers. I was a CSM for two years, I love my job. I to this day think that for starting my career in CS, it was the best thing that could have happened to me, unit 21. However, very immediately when we started having conversations became a leadership opportunity. And you and I have talked about this in the past, when I joined our team, I was around the 70s Higher. There were always people before me that had the good old days stories of first days intact, taking calls and a stairwell and like fun, kind of scrappy having to build things as you went, I really wanted that. And when I joined our table, I said that the next time I change companies was going to be a company that was a smaller size. So I think part of it, you had to reach out, we started chatting a bit over a year ago. And really when I tried to mature it was a combination of the product, the leadership, the people that I met, and then knowing that the scope of my role were really be building everything again, from scratch, like I was going to be part of not just being part of the girl that I was gonna I was going to be building the good old days. And that I don’t think it’s something that comes often in a company that you believe in so much. And I do think that way. You have opportunity, you take it.
Pete Thornton 19:14
Okay. Okay, cool. So now that I know, so because I got the degrees, I was a teacher and things like that a lot of these things are intentional. But then and so since, and I’m the same way. Is there a funding round? Were you like, hey, I need them to be precede post series A approaching Series B. Was there a thing you were looking at? Or was it truly like they reached out and you’re like, oh, that’s an interesting opportunity. Tell me more. Do you have stairwells crowded with people? Was it based on this dream that you had? Or was it were there milestones you were actually looking for?
Paola Cordovez Cereceda 19:47
Yeah, I was looking for a lot of different things. First, and I really talked about this really briefly, but I’m not American. So as a non-American, thinking about funding rounds, it’s extremely important not just because he can comes down to financial stability, but also because you’re looking at viability to stay in the country, right? When you’re working with different visas, you want to make sure that you can be part of a place where it’s not just a belief in the company, but also believe that they will be around into for six years, right? I was looking at kind of looking at opportunities here and there, and I wasn’t really considering anywhere, I wasn’t sure I saw the impact of the product or didn’t see it as Mr. Critical enough that I was convinced it would have a long-lasting, like impact in the world or in the world itself, I decided to narrow it down to serious a serious, serious Acers be preceded, especially for people with a visa can be a little bit risky, I do think it can be really high reward, but it wasn’t yet ready to make that big change. So was looking at Sears answers the funny enough, I signed up and wanted to see her as a and I started the day after they close their serious speed. So I was kind of perfectly in between, I was also looking at places where I would want to work with people around me. And I know a lot of people think about this. But I do believe that regardless of how fantastic your job is, you will always have days where you do not want to do it, where it’s really hard, where you’re exhausted, where the amount of things you have to do feel very stressful. And what really gets you going is am I working with the best people that I have around me to really solve problems and where we not just care about each other and like each other, but no, we’re doing our best work. So there’s a level of accountability that I was looking for. So what I was I was interviewing companies, I would always ask to be put in contact with employees and just get there. How do you feel? What is your experience? What will you change about it? And I was also looking, again, for leadership I could believe in and investors I could believe in. So are people that I really respect taking a bet on this company that makes me believe that they know what they’re doing and this may be a leap worth taking.
Pete Thornton 21:44
That’s interesting, too. This is the second time I’ve actually heard that piece. Somebody ended up at Postman and I said, hey, new hire. Great. How do you end up here he goes, actually, I went to this specific venture capital firms website. And I ping 10 of these companies, Postman was one of them. I was like, oh, that’s actually really smart. He’s like, because that’s the one I respect the most of any of them. So anytime they put that many millions at risk, I say, That’s my bet. And I’m like, oh, it’s like the real estate thing where they are plunking down, like, I will buy anything in a one-mile radius of a Starbucks. They have done all of their research, I will buy a home there. So or whatever. And so that’s super interesting. Do you want to shout out any VCs right now? Is there something that you’re like particularly interested in? Or you’re like, hey, a that’s a very noteworthy or respectable institution?
Paola Cordovez Cereceda 22:34
Well, whatever main investors is target global, and I’m a huge fan of diary level, it was one of the names that immediately made me be like, this is probably something worth looking at. But really my advice for people here is look at what you believe in it, what kind of people you believe in, like, whatever BC person leader that is, they’re probably making really smart decisions. And I’m not saying you need to follow those decisions. But I do use those to inform what I’m doing.
Pete Thornton 22:58
Truly, truly. Doing it day in and day out like it’s a business for them and obviously putting things at risk based on their decision. So yeah, that’s cool. Okay, so VCs, like Tiger global, and others only give money, because when they do, especially at a series B funding, I’ve noticed this over and over. It’s like, it’s almost the crux of saturated podcasts. It’s like, hey, product adoption is here, you get a series B given to you. And it’s almost like you’re the product is proven. Now go scale the people product process. And so that’s where oftentimes you’ll drop in the customer success leader, another sales leader, and it’s off to the races. So would you give us the context for like hyper-growth at Unit21? What’s happening there? How fast is it going? Is it a 50% year-over-year, headcount, ARR-type ascent? 100%? Like, what is it? What’s happening over there with you all?
Paola Cordovez Cereceda 23:52
Yeah, we are growing incredibly fast. When I joined, I believe I signed when there were about 20 people I joined with there were about 35 people and there were 140 I’ve only been here for a bit over a year and a month so that the growth in headcount has been insane. Actually, when I joined, we had just signed the lease in our new office and the office had so much space and I remember thinking wow, this is massive. When the whole company is here now we do not fit in. It’s insane to think about we basically outgrown office in the span of a year. In terms of revenue last year, I believe with three EPs and revenue, we’re expecting the same kind of girl flow this year. And it’s really not just peed a headcount and revenue growth. It’s everything. processes that we had a year ago look entirely different. Now we build, we build the first customer health score when I joined, now we’re in our third iteration, the more we learn, right, so it’s really around seeing how the work was back then and how the work is now and even though I even though I know we’re still in this growth stage, it’s miles apart. How much better and faster you get to doing things as you scale?
Pete Thornton 24:50
Yeah, that is unbelievable. So like 30 to 140 employees in the year three extra revenue and then processes like these processes, how fast they turn out. People like to look at things on a quarterly basis. Even in this like new hire ramp team that we have put together, we serve about 20 teams with a new hire rent team. So we have a monthly maintenance and improvement cadence with a Slack channel tied to each team that they asynchronously put in their maintenance requests. And we have a backstop every month to come to get with them gather additional contact, and make sure we’ve made those updates and change it. And we don’t put people’s like names and things like we do all the best practices to make sure that it will actually last a quarter. And it never does, it lasts a month. And so like that’s that day, and that’s just on like new hire pieces and the things that we’re trying to operationalize that have already been created. So we have another team that creates them. So yes, just sitting on this front lines and understanding plus you’re having the conversation with customers. So you’re needing create these and update these because otherwise your next conversation is with another human being because we’ve invested in you. And so you want to make sure that that’s correct as well. What’s the level of pressure there? Like, how does that work? I know you sought it out. But like, what are the challenges that kind of come from hyper-growth?
Paola Cordovez Cereceda 26:04
Yeah, working in a hyper-growth company is incredibly rewarding. It’s also incredibly stressful. And I’m never gonna sugarcoat that. I do not think hyper-growth starts up for everyone, I think the level of stress the level of ownership, you have to take the level of growth mindset that you need to always have, and also a level of just knowing how to manage with things as a comp, there are never two problems are the same. All problems are priority. And everything’s happening at the same time. The way I really think about Unit One is I have had to really learn. I already said this Airtable was like a blueprint for CES, you don’t want to be in a boot camp for making decisions. Because when you have 17,000 things to do at any point in time. And they’re all important, which one is more important than the others, I’ve had to learn a lot about how to lead people and make decisions and have difficult conversations. That’s all part really of the job. So I do think that being making a decision to join a company like this is understanding that some days will be very difficult. But when you solve problems, and you look back and you say, Wow, we did that, that’s incredibly rewarding. And I don’t think a lot of companies really have that. We went through this insane promises, and everything was better. In the end, everything that we’re looking at, since I joined has been everything from what roles do we need. And we didn’t know we needed for a bit of context. When I joined Pete the success or oh, this is because of our naval engagement or was actually just Success and Support and success CSM for actually doing implementation. As we started growing, we split it apart into implementation and success, right. It’s a time-bound team that is focused on, like getting customers out, and their teams that focus on strategy. As we started seeing customers growing as a platform where we started realizing that we also needed tooling internally to make decision, right, we used to be able to, we used to just have conversations that we still do with every single customer where you think about what do they need, right? When you’re a smaller company, you do have this tendency to build everything a customer want. As we’re scaling, we have to start thinking about what is the relationship between success and product? How do we make the best decisions that we can? And what are things that we do need for robot? What our continued growth? And what are the things that are just about recent in conversations, or the incorrect fit at the time, I’ve done everything from new BI tools, now I’m able to take a look at customer behavior on the platform and really, really use that to inform what makes a good customer and on the inverse, what makes a bad customer like what is a poor utilization of our platform. So if I see signs of physical interruptions of behavior, we can take action about them. I could talk about this for ages. But ultimately, being in a role like this really is about being able to pick up on the signs and make decisions when you do not have all the information in front of you. So you’re kind of making an educated guess on what is the best thing we can be doing right now.
Pete Thornton 28:41
Sure. Okay. So like the roles needed to like, continue progress forward, I have seen that your friend and mine, my boss, Sanjeev zodia. So he’s has currently 110 direct reports, not direct I should that shouldn’t be like that. But there’s, there’s I had his 1414 on one of his 14 direct reports. And then 110 come complete there. So spanning out roles all the time spinning them up finding the right leaders, hiring, recruiting, ramping, and then tooling needed, I brought on three tools he said thumbs up to three tools. Last year, like last year alone, it’s just like, we’re in a content management system learning management system, and a call recording. So so those are those are in and implement. I’m one of his 14 Everybody got tooling. So that’s a that’s just a massive piece. And then and then product design. So that whole Voice of the Customer piece, like that whole thing of like not only like hearing what they say, but also interpreting it into the product roadmap, and that runs through customer success. It’s so unbelievable, like the breadth of customer success is what just boggles my mind. Because the sales like sales is like there is so much pressure there. There’s black, there’s white, like did you make your number, whether it’s monthly or quarterly, did the deal come through? It may just roll into the next week but that wasn’t good enough, and there’s obvious So is there like live by the sword die by the sword kind of mentality, and then the customer success, there’s everything else. And it just all rolls and bleeds over into that you have to have such range to be able to execute that appropriately. And so anyway, that’s where those challenges just seem to, like, grow and grow and grow up. Top challenge, and I guess we’re gonna have to give this like a timeframe like I’m trying to think of like, because it goes so quickly, as we’ve already noted. What’s the top challenge in the coming quarter? How about that. Thinking of Q3 if you’re on a normal fiscal year, starting next month, what’s top challenge?
Paola Cordovez Cereceda 30:35
Yeah, really good question. Because I also think, Pete, you and I have talked about this a lot in our other conversation. For really, we’re at this point where we know how people operate, we understand output, we know what’s needed. Well, we, we don’t want to do it externally. What we need to do now is a German, wasn’t it internally. So we’re definitely hiring. We have been hiring fast for the past year, we’re currently in the process of rethinking what roles we need. But as part of that rethinking, there’s also the conversation of what does it take to make someone successful in this company, and to make sure that they have all the context that they need to be able to do their jobs? Well, I don’t think that everyone really thinks about the concept of enablement in itself. But are, we say at what point the company to bring in enablement and by right now, to me is incredibly important. We’ve already were talking about this before a conversation, right? But I’m really looking at how do I serve customers more effectively, without having to use the same number of resources that I currently am, we brought in an education specialist a few months ago to really help us ramp that out. And now we’re looking at do we need an LMS? Our point do we move to a scaled approach to learning so customers can get all the information that they want, and internally actually think it’s more important, because I’m putting people in front of customers who are dealing with actual human beings and their processes and their value? And we need them to I need to know that they are as prepared for these conversations as they can. So really top of mind for me right now is with my current resources, how do I make them as efficient as I can, and by bringing the right enabling folks to onboard, train on new product launches, ensure that you we can answer all questions that we’re not just part of experts, but we understand industry changes. So that’s really where a lot of my time is currently on.
Pete Thornton 32:10
What you’re talking about, oh, it warms my heart. That’s my all day every day. But it really does take a leader who actually understands that need and can like can verbalize it, it’s discovery, it’s always discovery. So once the pain is associated to a problem, and it is articulated or written, then it’s just like, it will happen at that point. It’s just kind of operationalizing. That so that’s, that’s very, very solid. But the challenge because because it posed me we had the challenge there is there is a specific, there’s a function specific outcome to each role that you want to see successful. So hey, do you have digital? Do you understand how to calendar your time off or whatever? Like through that? Maybe the eighth like HR? Or did you have your tools provision for you, these are important things in the first week, but they don’t go from like day one to job done. It’s not doing the outcomes management on the front end understanding like what things like guide you to success and then backing those in from models in the company like sitting them next to your Emily’s my Josh’s, those people from early days on like virtual calls, like like being able to have the customer calls recorded and, and walked through and things like that. So but it will happen because that’s probably the next step. And it seems to happen somewhere in between B and C, like somewhere in there. It just gets so overwhelming that they go, Oh no, let’s, let’s build this function and figure that out. But with customer success, it’s different than sales. Like it’s just so wide. It’s like, what’s the priority in order of these maybe from enterprise-scale, CS, et cetera, all the way back through, again, Sanji has 14 teams, so we just work on one at a time, rolling up to AU.
Paola Cordovez Cereceda 33:47
Even going outside of, oh, we’re working word out here is even going outside of success. Specifically, part of the complexity of this is that even though the whole company needs enablement, it’s done a different times for different teams. Right. So we spend the past quarter building our first couple iterations of what our onboarding looks like for success, implementation and support specifically, now we’re repurposing some of that for the wider company. I told that from conferences. We’re basically using that for new hires. But what we need right now is different enablement that what engineering or product need, I actually can’t speak on their behalf. But I do believe that the need for us is a lot more pressing. So I cannot wait for a company-wide initiative to do onboarding, I just need to focus on what do I do for my specific order to be to scale faster? And then how to repurpose that for the rest of the company. And that’s always a trade-off that you’re making, making? It’s like, do I wait for the whole company or for HR or for people ops to get to basically take the lead on this page right time? Or do we start do I start doing what I need for my organization? I lean towards the latter. Part of being a startup is building processes of being scrappy. We’re doing what we can, we’ll look for the right people to help us build this, and then it’ll be fantastic because when we have something we’re proud of, we can repurpose it with a wider org.
Pete Thornton 34:14
Yeah, and I don’t know if it’s because of the software space, but it’s beyond just being agile. It’s like how can you remain agile? How can you work this and create it and then if there’s something you can pass on, you can pass it on, as opposed to the old waterfall structure of like, everybody has to get their ducks in a row before we can all be—
Paola Cordovez Cereceda 35:15
At the exact same time. If you’re waiting at startup for everyone to get their ducks in a row, you’re gonna be waiting for a very long time.
Pete Thornton 35:21
Ooh, you will be. You will be. Okay. I mainly have to skip to this because like, we could go one by one for like, they’ll get a revision, but I do this. I’m like, Oh, it’s 25 minutes, 25 minutes. And then I’m like, we’re at 36. So not to be overly logistical. But if you had a tip, and let’s make it maybe like role specific, so another customer success leader, could be a manager could be director, VP, head of what would be a tip or tips that you would recommend for this role in a company such as yours, because we’ll just have to narrow it down to that scope, I guess.
Paola Cordovez Cereceda 35:55
The main thing that comes to mind is something that I actually heard from one of my mentors, way back when, which is no one really knows everything about a role. And you will undoubtedly getting FullStory syndrome. Surround yourself with smart people that are able to give you the right advice. And other heads of success, people in cross-functional, tangential roles that will have an impact people that you respect that can give you the right advice. What I do right now is whenever I have to tackle a new problem that I have never tackled in the past, I pick up the phone and I call them and I say Have you ever encountered x, and then they share their experience in the US that have shaped what I’m doing. So you’re not expected to know everything, you are expected to be resourceful and find the right people to surround yourself with.
Pete Thornton 36:36
So that’s a great tip because and the reason it’s great is not because it’s like a good sound bite. The reason is because you live that tip. Because anytime that I speak to like will make mentioned so like this is my boss, he is the head of customer success here at postman’s NGC Soda. This is a friend of ours. And so whenever we bring up your name, he’s like she just does, she’ll just do it. So like help like that is such it’s good to have the good network. And it’s good to ask that question. But it’s the taking action on whatever you’ve just heard, like you operationalize these things within 24 hours, you must have something you do when you write it, you must clear your desk by the end of the day or something like that. And like go ahead and plug it on the calendar, like there’s some, there’s some mechanism you have after you hear these things, or just a value you associated internally, that makes you actually take action on those things. And that keeps those people in that network those smart people like, great, I’ll tell you more because it’s so pleasant to see it like carrying forward. So anyway, kudos to you on that one. Because that’s the main thing that we ever say. Like, yeah, she already did it. She like she rocked that thing. She’s ready for the next.
Paola Cordovez Cereceda 37:41
I really appreciate that. And the other thing I’ll say is if you do have mentors and people that you go out to go with an agenda, just sitting down and saying, I want to pick your brain in general, it’s not going to move the needle, because I can tell you 17,000, South 1000 things I do not know which one of those will be impactful. So when you’re taking time of someone who’s very busy, and it has a big job to do go with a purpose, and something you want to take out of your conversations so that you know you’re optimizing your time.
Pete Thornton 38:06
Yeah, that’s a great tip too because you to these people, you are very, very busy and like and have so much going on. So it’s like which piece do you want to pick? Because there are other 17 files that are open in their head, the tabs, they’re all working on other things at the same time. So it’s ADHD at it’s like most satisfactory, I guess it was working well. Okay, so speaking of thank you so much for your time. Wonderful conversation, as always, I’m sure one of many, but we did catch this one on a recording. So that’s great.
Paola Cordovez Cereceda 38:37
We did it and I’m glad we did, Pete. This was honestly wonderful, so thank you for chatting with me.
Pete Thornton 38:43