44: Careers in Support with Mike Redbord

44: Careers in Support with Mike Redbord

Mike Redbord and I talk about how support can be a great springboard to any part of the business, or how you can double down and make it home.


I’d love your thoughts on this episode! Comment below, and like/love/share/support if you found this inspiring, thought-provoking, or useful!

Charlotte Ward 0:13
Hello, and welcome to Episode 44 of the customer support leaders podcast. I’m Charlotte Ward. The theme for this week is careers in support. So stay tuned for five leaders talking about that very topic. Today I’d like to welcome back Mike Redbord. Mike, the topic for this week is careers in support.

Mike Redbord 0:38
I love this topic because if you’re anything like me, you never meant to work in support. You kind of just like, found themselves doing customer work one day and I can totally relate with that, because that’s how my career went too. A lot of people wind up there and then you sort of ask yourself like, Oh, is this like where I should be? Is this what I ought to be doing? Where could this lead and I think there’s a lot of Questions and often on answer questions around what it means to work in support.

Charlotte Ward 1:03
Yeah, yeah, I totally agree. So what does it mean to you to work in support?

Mike Redbord 1:08
So to me, like support and customer work in general, is kind of like the liberal arts education of industry, right. And I think that you see everything and if you work in support, you know what I mean. Right, you see, the good You see, the bad you understand the customer, you understand the product, you see how, you know that one decision some executive made maybe a few months ago has finally flowed through to the customer experience and you can kind of pin together all these disparate points of view. And support is like an awesome basis for moving your career anywhere you want. It could be you know, to double down and spend, you know, a decade or a career in support, it could be to use it as a bit of a stepping stone or could be to you know, move into a leadership position because you really love the you know, the team around you in addition to the customers in front of you. So, I view it as just like this awesome foundation support is and I think that if more support People even thought like that, I think it would do some real, real good for all of us. Because I think there’s a tonne of optimism to be had around the support role.

Charlotte Ward 2:08
And speaking of someone who has built a career in support, like you, I think that it does provide you with such a great opportunity to pull together so many strands, and you can really make of it what you want. I really agree with that. How intentional Do you think you can or should be about that?

Mike Redbord 2:24
This is different for different people. Right. And, you know, when I was running a team of a few hundred folks in support, you’d have some people that from before they were even hired, they said, I want to be a product manager. And the way that I’m going to get there is I’m going to do support for x period of time, I’m going to get these skills, then you have people like me, who just sort of tend to say yes to stuff. And, and I think there’s a really big spectrum there. So for listeners who are, you know, sitting in a support job thinking, Okay, what does it all mean? I would say Look around you for the opportunities and try to create a bit of a map in terms of what the adjacencies are like, what are the skills that you are developing and what could be a way to build on those.

Charlotte Ward 3:00
Right. That makes sense. I think that if you have that laser focus, that’s great, right? Because you can in support, you can take a step in almost any direction in the business. I mean, is there a part of the business that you feel you can’t get to naturally from support? It feels like any business that’s got any element of customer-centricity about it can use support folks in most areas? I would think.

Mike Redbord 3:24
yeah, as you’re asking the question, I was just milling through our, you know, I think there’s some that are a little bit more proximate than others, like, you know, customer success or something, it’s probably a bit more proximate and something like finance, maybe a little farther, but as I’m saying that I can think of two people that at HubSpot moved from support to FPnA and you know, they spend their days with their noses in spreadsheets. I think that the customer experience and the knowledge of that can enrich pretty much any role if your company is truly customer-centric. If you’re a support person looking to make a move into something that maybe isn’t a super close adjacency is your company the kind of place that values your experience and your knowledge of the customer

Charlotte Ward 4:03
As a leader, then how do you manage that outflow of great people into other areas of the business?

Mike Redbord 4:09
Honestly, this is one of the greatest joys, but also most difficult, kind of both emotionally and operationally parts of the job. So you look at your team, you know, and you say, wow, I got like these five amazing people that are just like the pillar of the team. In a lot of teams. It’s often the case that those five pillars the five best people are basically going to attrit at some rate. And the question is, as a leader, do I want them to attrit within my organisation? Or do I want them to attrit to somewhere else? I’ve seen lots of organisations where there’s no up or out it’s just out or stuck in support. And that’s, you know, that really makes me sad, because I think there is a better way.

Charlotte Ward 4:46
Yeah. So do you think you need quite a defined structure to be able to build that progression and keep those folks internal to the business or do you think it can be more fluid It feels like it’s more necessary in bigger organisations, I mean, even as I’m saying this, I’m kind of answering my own question. I can see you nodding, do you think it needs to be so formal in small businesses?

Mike Redbord 5:08
I think it’s very hard to formalise it in small businesses, because the business is not predictable. When it’s small, right? You don’t know when your next you know, CSM role is going to open up maybe and you don’t know when your next engineer, you know, your next entry-level engineering job is going to open up. And you know, timing can be poor or something else. And so, I find that once a, once a support team hits about, you know, 25 people, that’s probably the right time to start to wrap a little bit of structure around it, to ask yourself the question of like, okay, we have these people on the team, if we kind of look at their skills, you know, what, what are they good at? And what are their adjacencies? And what is the nature of the organisation that I as a leader am building and how can I channel that energy? Like further on into the business? Right, and that could be within support or elsewhere?

Charlotte Ward 5:53
Yeah, so you’re almost overlaying the career paths over your existing team, and looking at The possibilities based on the people you have rather than trying to force them into boxes.

Mike Redbord 6:05
Totally. And I think that there’s an element of career placement or recruitment, that really good support managers have so that when they do have a rep who’s like getting pretty senior, how can we build that bridge together and the manager has the foresight and the tools and the structure to put it together to sort of, you know, help and elevate that person’s career. When that comes together. It’s absolutely amazing because it’s just a it’s a win for the business. It’s a win for the support person and frankly, should be a win for the manager to that should be like a, you know, kudos to that person. And it’s just like a really nice moment when the pieces do actually synthesise like that.

Charlotte Ward 6:40
That’s it for today, go to customersupportleaders.com/44, for the show notes, and I’ll see you next time.


Transcribed by https://otter.ai


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