This week, I’m delighted to catch up with the dynamic Diana Potter!
Diana is Head of Customer Support at Qwilr, the SaaS platform that helps you create business documents for the web. Diana has been at Qwilr for nearly three years, and in leadership for about ten years altogether.
Hi Diana! It’s so great to get the opportunity to chat with you today! Let’s get stuck right in with your early career; can you tell me how you got into CS in the first place?
Once upon a time, I started off as a developer. I took a job that was part development part working with customers (custom development) and eventually ended up covering for a project manager colleague who was out and….it was like rays of like beaming down. I found I really loved working with customers and helping to solve their problems. That was 14 years ago and I’ve been here ever since!
And how did that transition to leadership for you?
It was more of a sliding into that position slowly by benefit of being an early hire. And as I’ve switched jobs over the last 8 or so years I’ve stayed in leadership positions.
Getting my bearings was a challenge at first. Going from being an IC to leading other ICs is hard. I have a tendency to take jobs at startups so I’ll start off as an IC and then switch to building out the team and every single time it’s the toughest challenge.
You get used to being able to point at metrics and say “look at all I did!” and suddenly your metrics are how well your team is doing. Both how well they do their job and how happy they are with the company. It’s less easy to show metrics for and you can lose that sense of accomplishment until you start to grasp how things have changed.
What do those metrics look like for your team now? What do you actively measure?
We look a lot of general KPIs like response time, CSAT, etc. But we also do individual ticket QA and that’s a unit of measurement as well. Lastly, everyone on the team works on projects and the success of those projects reflects on the team and the individual.
Metrics are necessary. You need quantitative ways to measure things. You just shouldn’t overlook qualitative too.
After so many varied leadership roles, what’s your view on what makes a good CS leader?
Empathy. Organization. Being a good coach (not mentor, but coach). Being able to look at the big picture and then explain it in every small way.
That’s an important distinction, between mentor and coach. How would you define the difference in your own mind?
It’s a tricky one. I see a mentor as someone who is there to guide and help. Sometimes holding people responsible for doing things, but more there to help than anything. A coach pushes people. You’re there to help, absolutely, but you’re also there to tell them frankly where they need to improve then do everything in your power to help them. And a coach is also there to celebrate their accomplishments.
What about facilitating personal development in your team?
We have regular conversations about skills they want to improve on, new things they want to learn. And also just talk regularly about where they want to go in their career. Then from there I try and give as much opportunity as possible to push in those directions.
How about your own learnings? Has anything in particular stood out for you?
The hardest thing I ever had to learn was how to deal with issues. To be a good manager you have to be willing to have both good and hard discussions, and getting good at the hard discussions took time.
How do you foster your own personal development?
Books, conferences, and just talking to fellow leaders. The Ask A Manager blog is my best resource. It’s helped me grow so much.
I have to ask… how do you like to sign off?
I’m a “cheers” person.
Thanks so much, and cheers, Diana! The pain of that shift from IC to lead is one I think we can all appreciate! It takes guts to subject yourself to it repeatedly!
Watch this space for another CS Leader interview very soon!