This week I spoke to the dynamic Sam O’Daniel!
Sam is Helpdesk Manager at Articulate, a subscription for creators of e-learning development courses. He’s been there for just 7 months, but in leadership for 8 years altogether.
Hi Sam! Thanks so much for telling me your CS Leadership story! How did you get into support?
My first real support role was for a company that made touchscreens for home control (Like Lutron, Crestron, etc) but I was supporting customers a few years before as part of my duties working in a Mac retail store.
And where did the transition to leadership happen?
I had frequently worked in single Individual Contributor (IC) roles at small companies, and joined a startup with less than 100 employees in 2012. Within the year we were at 175 and continuing to grow, so we hired another tech who I managed, and then another tech a bit later. I attained my master’s in Organizational Leadership from the University of Denver in 2011, where I learned a lot about leadership and strategy, which has helped me along the way.
I was ready for the move to a leadership position, but I still had a lot to learn in practice. We mostly worked as teammates, although I was technically their manager. This wasn’t challenging in itself, but did show me how better to delineate between manager and co-worker. I think like a lot of people, when I was young, I thought leadership was telling people what to do. True leadership involves a lot of listening, and very little of giving orders.
What do you think makes for a good CS Leader?
Patience, listening skills, an even temper. And of course, empathy and compassion! I’ve also come to realise that you need time to do leadership/management things – it’s ok to still work on IC-type tasks, but you’ll need more time for upper-level tasks than you think.
How about the team? What is the key factor in their success?
It comes down to solving people’s problems and leaving them happy. I’m not necessarily a fan of metrics, at least the ones like time on-call or number of tickets solved, where they’re used to hold people accountable but don’t really measure the quality of work.
Developing their skills is really important, too. I like to find my team members’ interests, what they’re interested in learning and doing, and help them grow along those lines in their career and within the company. If they’re so inclined, that is. Some just want to provide good service and do their jobs well without many aspirations, which is also a valid career path.
How do you build your own skills?
I read a lot and listen to other leaders. I like to read/hear about other experiences in leadership, the successes & failures. I don’t mind advocating for my own development with my employers – if they’re not invested in my growth, then maybe I should find a company who is.
Support Driven is great – so much experience and so much kindness.
Do you have any customer stories you’d like to share?
Years ago, in computer retail, the worst was people telling us they’d sue for lost wages/time/etc. I’m not sure how many followed through, and I understand they were just frustrated, but those things were quite far out of our hands.
And finally… how do you sign off?
“Thanks” – Because every opportunity to connect with someone is a gift.
It truly is! Thankyou for the gift of your time, Sam!
Come back next week for another CS Leadership story!