Kristina King talks about how she has created an environment where her staff can stay and grow.
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Charlotte Ward 0:13
Hello, and welcome to Episode 45 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 Kristina King. Kristina, thank you for joining me again today. The topic for this week is support as a career. And I would love to know what your views are on that and what you guys are doing.
Kristina King 0:46
Sounds great. Yeah. Thank you, Charlotte for asking that question. This has been on the forefront of my mind for a long time, even before I moved into leadership. So I initially started in support as a tier-one brand new to tech, I had experience doing a number of other things, but not actually working in a software company. And I worked on a very small team at that time. And the goal at that point seemed to be get out of support. You know, I quickly had a co-worker move into DevOps, the next co-worker moved into solutions architecture. And then the last one moved into professional services all in the same company, mind you, and so then I’m like, wow, okay, I’m the only one that was on this team three months ago, it became clear as I progressed, it made sense to have stability in support. And I think a lot of us do consider it as a jumping-off point. And so for instance, the people team or the HR team, whenever you call it might not have a plan for support. And we definitely found that to be the case. And so it’s like, well, if we want something to happen in terms of making this a valid career choice, then we need to do that ourselves. And so we started that process a couple of years ago. And what we determined was engineering teams often have a good model for this. And because our job at times it can mirror what they do the product, we support is super technical. So it’s, it’s, it’s a good foil for engineering, I’m not sure about, you know, if you have more a higher volume, if it would make the same sense. So that’s an exercise that we went through last year, and I’m happy to, you know, toiled over these definitions. And I sent them to review to my entire team and I said, How does this sound to you because it’s for you, we want to invest in your career here. We want you to stay we want you to feel valued. And so, how do these work? How did these look to you and the definitions ended up getting made official, our people team approve them and so will I. And a lot of people will see, well, maybe I’ll just be in support for a year. And then I’ll move into engineering. Well, no, I have, you know, some absolute rock stars on my team who’ve been doing this for 23456 years. And then that’s just on my team, but before, you know, working at Jama, they were doing this for years and other, you know, companies and, and so starting there with defining possibilities for growth, and saying, Well, what makes what separates a mid-level from a senior support engineer,
Charlotte Ward 3:36
Yeah, providing it some structure. And so, in terms of what those definitions looked like were you primarily concentrating on the technical skills.
Kristina King 3:46
No, definitely not actually. And that’s an interesting point too, because I feel like it’s easier to identify the technical skills as a means to expanding you know, some of these opportunities But if somebody is a really, really, really good tier one technical, you know, support engineer and they really like doing it, there’s no reason to try to force them into a more technical path. So if they’re really good with customers, we need those people. So a lot of it is actually more about leadership that they show within the team, but not, oh, I want to be a manager or I want to be a supervisor over these people. But do you take initiative in terms of helping our customers? Are you proactive rather than reactive? Like, we need to integrate documentation about this, we need to improve this process. We need to do that. So the people who come to me with these suggestions, it’s like, I want to I’m invested in this. They’re invested. So yeah, they deserve to be rewarded. But a lot of it is, you know, how proactive Are you but also, what do you do for your peers? And it’s really hard to measure of course. It’s very difficult.
Charlotte Ward 5:00
Yeah, difficult to codify but also to level in the structure that you’re talking about. So what’s an example of something that isn’t representative of a technical knowledge level, but that you have managed to find some progression in?
Kristina King 5:14
Yeah. So I would, I would use one of the people on my team is a good example. He’s definitely expanded his technical skillset, but he is the most patient, stable. He’s, I am telling him this all the time. I’m like, you are rock. He considers this a valid career path. He enjoys what he’s doing, you know, before he was like laying bricks, and he was in the military. So this is something completely different and new to him. And he’s, you know, he’s really enjoying it. And whenever we get new interns, they gravitate towards his energy. And so for me, that’s really speaking about this internal leadership quality he has. He has absolutely no desire to manage people or tell people what to do. And for me, that’s a big thing. Like, are you actively up levelling your peers? You know, it’s not about what you yourself individually contribute. It’s more than that. It’s also what are you contributing to the team? Yeah, yeah.
Charlotte Ward 6:14
And so to the business, right?
Kristina King 6:16
Yeah, exactly to the team ergo to business and then the rest of the business can understand why we’re promoting these people.
Charlotte Ward 6:22
Yeah, and actually having that structure, simply having a structure informs your team that there is a path of progression and helps them understand that this is a place where they can stay and grow. That’s it for today. Go to customersupportleaders.com/45 for the show notes, and I’ll see you next time.
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