Culture at Braze

Bridging the Gap Between the Actual and the Possible: My Customer Success Journey

Ashley Wilkinson By Ashley Wilkinson Jan 29, 2021

On the Braze Customer Success team, our central goal is finding a way to help bridge the gap between the actual and the possible for our 1,000+ customers. In practice, this can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people—and it’s those differences that make the Customer Success team so special. All of the Customer Success Managers (CSMs) here have taken such different paths to get where we are today, but we share a vision and a focus on helping our customers create exceptional experiences for their customers.

With that in mind, let’s take a moment to walk you through my journey and how I ended up here, helping brands reach their customer engagement goals.

From “What’s a Customer Success Manager?” to “Success Director at Braze”

I first heard the term “Customer Success Manager” back in 2014, when I was approached by a US-based tech company interested in my tech background and account management/client services experience. And because I’d only ever worked at startups at that point, I relished the opportunity to speak with the recruiter.

After studying economics—but deciding against a career in finance—I’d left university in the middle of the last economic crisis, and felt especially lucky to have found an industry that genuinely interested me. Plus, it happened to be going through a period of monumental growth at a time when most of my friends were still struggling to find work in their chosen fields.

In my early roles, I focused on helping brands with their social media campaigns, advertising, and apps. I loved the customers I worked with and got a thrill being so hands-on with their marketing efforts. (It was also pretty exciting watching startups go through acquisitions.) I was surrounded by super-smart people, had way more autonomy than people I knew who had gone on to graduate roles, enjoyed huge variety in my work, and got to experience a fast-moving industry that seemed to generate exciting innovations almost every day. And during my time in the startup world, I learned a few things about myself:

  • I’m particularly motivated when I have a broad set of tasks to focus on and can mix and match my time as needed.
  • I thrive in fast-paced environments—and at startups, rapid decision-making and service delivery was often the difference between winning work and losing it. (Today, I still ask myself “Why not now?” when presented with a challenge or work that needs to be done.)
  • I love working with people—internal or external—and get a lot of satisfaction from understanding needs and requirements and then delivering on them.
  • I love working with technology and helping people understand how it can improve their lives and ways of working. (I’ll never forget the first FaceTime from my Nan during a meeting—yes, I answered—or the first API call I coached a customer through.)

Anyway, back to that phone call in 2014. The recruiter talked me through the company’s history and then got round to the job itself. He asked me to bear with him, explaining that it was an American company and the role hadn’t been seen much in the UK. What role? Why, “Customer Success Manager,” of course! I almost laughed; it was hard enough to explain what I did to my Nan without what felt at the time like a silly American-ism. But I restrained myself—I didn’t want to let a job title get in the way of a good opportunity.

It was the right instinct. The deeper into the role I got, the more I realized that the lessons I’d learned at startups had prepared me for the mutli-faceted nature of Customer Success management. By becoming a CSM, I was able to move beyond just delivering a service and become a true partner to my customer, supporting real innovation and positively impacting business outcomes.

The jump to Braze was the next step in my journey. From the reviews on G2Crowd that specifically called out the Customer Success organization, I knew I was joining a world-class team. And I’m thankful that all those lessons from my startup years ended up aligning perfectly with what I love about my job at Braze.

As Braze CSMs, we wear many hats: One day you’re running a workshop with CSM managers on user onboarding best practices and the next you’re discussing next year’s marketing strategy with a customer’s C-Suite. The work is always different and fast-paced—after all, our customers move quickly and expect us to do so as well—and you need to thrive in this kind of environment to succeed. That said, it’s just as important for CSMs to be able to understand their customers’ needs and show empathy; building strong relationships and setting down a solid process with them goes a long way toward driving better outcomes. Finally, domain knowledge is essential. You need it to build credibility with customers and to be able to give them the guidance they seek, so genuine interest in the field is key.

It’s not for everybody, but it was a perfect fit for me. Fast-forward seven years from that fateful phone call and I’m now a Success Director at Braze, incredibly proud to be part of this profession, and very thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to work with the best in the business. (And yes, I even found a way to describe what I do to my Nan.)

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re coming from a consulting background, client services, tech support, or already have experience in a Customer Success role, Braze assesses future candidates across three core pillars: Domain knowledge in connection with digital marketing, technical knowledge, and an understanding of Success Management principles. That said, you don’t have to have all three to be an exceptional candidate and we’ve often found success hiring candidates who come in with completely different skills that they can bring to the team—in fact, this openness to other experiences and skill sets plays a big part in making our Success organization great.

If my story strikes a chord for you and you have work experiences that gave you skills that make sense for a CSM role, please reach out. We’re happy to discuss your career path or talk about open roles at Braze.

Ashley Wilkinson

Ashley Wilkinson

Ashley is a Director of Customer Success in EMEA at Braze. With over 12 years experience at a mix of tech startups and SAAS giants, he’s passionate about driving great outcomes for his customers and team, as well as cooking perfect roast potatoes.

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