I'm Akhila, and this is what I learned in my first year as a VP of Customer Successhttps://jobs.lever.co/ethena/

In March 2021, I landed the job that I had been working towards for eight years. I started as the VP of Customer Success at Ethena, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to join this fast-growing, female-founded startup (and partly terrified of my imposter syndrome taking over). One year later, I know I’ve made one of the better decisions of my life. Here are a few things I learned along the way!

Takeaway #1 Leading with vulnerability works

Previous to this role, I had read the Brené Brown series, worked with epic career coaches, and taken the infamous MBA “touchy feely” class, but it wasn’t until I started at Ethena that I recognized the value of sharing my fears upfront with my leadership team and revealing the baggage I brought with me. Providing context on why I may be hesitant about some decisions and allowing my team to listen, provide feedback, and adjust accordingly has enabled me to put some old suitcases in storage or give them away all together.

For example, a few months into the role I had to explain to the executive team why we were receiving our first enterprise churn notice. It felt like a huge deal to me because I was still establishing credibilty and I was nervous that the team would feel like it was my "fault". In a previous experience, a customer churn felt like the accountability pie fell on the CS team. This self-talk could easily create a spiral.

Rather than drag out the process, I explained the churn and how vulnerable I felt about sharing this news. I was immediately comforted by their surprise that I felt I would be blamed. We jumped into discussing how we could have all approached the situation differently and how I could be supported for future discussions. It felt heart-warming to know that this team would have my back and these conversations do not have to feel intimidating.

Takeaway #2 You’re never too experienced for feedback

Prior to one of our first big customer renewals, Ethena’s CEO, Roxanne, suggested that she and I roleplay the QBR in advance, so she could provide feedback. I’ll admit, my ego was pinched by this because I felt executing QBRs was my bread, butter, and jam. If I couldn’t do this one thing well, then how could I be effective in my role? This thinking quickly fell short when Roxanne provided invaluable recommendations on how to reframe several of the value propositions and objection handling based on what she knew already about our buyer. Thoroughly humbled by this experience, I’ve since proactively shared all critical QBRs in advance to several team members for feedback on how to ensure we create the right impact for our customers every renewal.

Takeaway #3 Customer success can actually be a company-wide effort

I’ve heard many companies talk about creating a culture of “customer obsession,” “customers first,” or some generic tagline about why customers matter most. But when it comes down to helping the CS team do the right thing for the customer, ensuring that each team at the org has accountability is key. Recently, I shared a plan to tackle four problem areas that, once solved, would help scale our CS program as our product, team, and company continue to evolve, with the emphasis that our team remain a proactive engagement and growth team rather than one that fills product gaps. Within 24 hours, five different functional leaders commented on my plan and provided thoughtful suggestions on how their teams can help in the short-term and long-term. Within two weeks, we’d begun executing on the short-term ideas and had roadmap items in place and ongoing R&D to develop the long-term plan. I'm lucky enough to have a team that has a genuine interest in the future of our CS team, and with their help, we'll ensure it stays that way for a long time.

We’re growing our team here at Ethena and I love to stay in touch with passionate customer-focused individuals. Please check our jobs page or reach me on LinkedIn for a chat!

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You're the coolest! I always learn so much from you!