This week I had the pleasure to speak with Jessica Weisz who is the CCO of the innovative idea management software company, SoapBox.
Jessica is a classical business person with B.Comm from McGill, and MBA from Richard Ivey School of Business.
On top of her amazing resume, she is an original 416er who is a first generation Canadian (parents immigrated from Hungary during the 1956 revolution). Her dad and grandparents are holocaust survivors and have been a powerful influence on her life and personal drive.
I am ecstatic that Jessica took a time out to give some insight on her career!
Can you explain what soapbox does?
SoapBox is a software platform that transforms how organizations achieve results by improving collaboration across typical organizational barriers that plague progress. It connects leaders and front-line employees, different functional teams and geographically distributed teams around feedback loops focused on solving key business priorities.
What sets it apart from its competitors?
What sets us apart from our competitors is that we are easy to use (i.e., we look and feel like something employees would use in their personal lives), our customer success focus (i.e., we ensure each person using our software gets value) and our attention to human motivation as the key to progress in the organization.
That being said, each day is like being at school at SoapBox. I learn something new about how to grow a business, lead a team, and serve clients that I wasn’t prepared for the day prior.
Can you explain your role at SoapBox? What is your day-to-day like?
I am the Chief Customer Officer and my focus is ensuring our customers get value from their SoapBox program.
I lead a collaborative team that guides our customers from initial sale to renewal and growth. Together, we take care of technical support, account management, customer marketing, and strategic program design. Results of top-tier NPS, 100% renewal and 150% revenue retention let me know we’re doing something right.
Day-to-day, my life can often be bananas. It includes an early am catching up on emails, scrum with the team at 9:30 and then diving into a series of meetings with clients or sessions with my team to help them with their toughest problems. Like most people with busy calendars, I’m usually eating a snack or lunch in front of someone else and always apologizing for it. I have to carve out time outside the office or in the evenings to focus in on creative or more cerebral activities. I love the varied nature of the day and the fact that I’m always working with others and truthfully I thrive in a hectic fast paced environment.
What type of training did you need to complete to be in the career field you’re in now?
Although I have a business background, I feel that it is the experience I had in each of my roles that prepared me for the next. The role I have at SoapBox draws on all the skills and tools I’ve built in each of my previous jobs.
What type of female would you recommend going into your field?
Male or female, I would say for a role in customer success you need to enjoy serving others. Our job is to make others successful and capture the value of our product and so I’m always thinking about how to enable others to achieve their goals. To do so, you require an ability to build trusting relationships, identify the needs of customers, and communicate and influence their behaviours.
And, if you’re doing customer success in a startup, you’ll need to be comfortable with risk, able to make decisions on the fly and with limited information, be a builder always looking for opportunities to grow, and be okay with rolling up your sleeves to get the work done.
What changes/shifts have you seen happen in your industry?
Tech is constantly evolving at a micro level. The biggest macro change was earlier this year when the valuation of major tech companies (e.g., Twitter) took a hit and this led to general shift in the funding market for all tech companies. The bar to raise additional venture capital funding is harder and so we as a business need to be an A+ player.
Connected to this is the challenge startups are having at retaining talent. With the tightening of the financial markets, there is less money to spend on perks (see story on Dropbox cutting employee benefits). The challenge is now how to retain and engage a highly motivated and talented workforce without the ping pong tables and fancy espresso machines. That is something we at SoapBox think a lot about for our own employees and see our product as helping with for our own clients.
What do you do each day to progress your career? Any habits or routines you follow to ensure personal and professional success?
My routines include an early am at the gym. I go every other day and find it a good way to energize and focus (plus if I don’t get it in before the day fully starts, it doesn’t happen at all). The other things I hold sacred are my healthy breakfast smoothie, frequent journaling to get my thoughts down, and my to-do list of both personal and work stuff to get the weight of my tasks out of my head.
Mental health is just as important so I journal, spend time with family and close friends (often talking about things on my mind and getting their support) and then call in my therapist on important things or for a general mental health check-up.
Professionally, the most valuable for me has been my network and maintaining relationships with people who energize me and I can learn from. Breakfast chats and catch-ups over coffee are important for me to keep learning, growing and plugged in to what is happening around me.
What are some aspects of your job that people might not consider before entering it as a career?
Customer Success is quite nascent as careers go. I think the key thing is being aware that you will likely need to carve your own path and be creative on how to effectively execute your mandate. No one, yet, has written the book on Customer Success so there is no standard career or way to be successful in it.
Who are your career role models?
My career role model is my mother. She built a small successful business that she ran by herself while raising my brother and me. She is the best sales woman I know and delivers exceptional customer experience.
Is there a strong female representation in your field?
Yes, for tech, there are a lot of women in Customer Success as it is a service oriented role. Compared to other industries, though, there are less women in tech, as is often talked about in the media.
My belief of why there are less women in certain roles is less to do with the individuals themselves and more to do with the systems and norms that we all work within. Traditionally, women bear the majority of work in raising children. And the reality, raising children is time consuming. If they take on more demanding roles – be it CEO at a bank or a fast growing tech company – then someone needs to step in to support with the other half of their responsibilities.
And so it is a shift we need as society to expect men to be a 50% partner at home as well as work and to not criticize women when they want to take on more outside of the home (see an undertone in the latest comments about Sophie Trudeau’s request for more help at home). In my ideal world, men, just as women, would be asked “who’s taking care of the kids” at a dinner work function. As well, men, just as women, would be judged equally by how good a parent they are as well as corporate leader.
How has social media impacted your career?
I see social media as a tool to either get messages out to a broader audience or stay in touch with important people in my network. Nothing, though, will ever replace sitting across someone and having a live discussion. That is where ideas really flourish.
Do you have any websites that you utilize for productivity or professional development?
I like the Chrome plug in Momentum. When I open a new tab my to-do list pops up along with a beautiful landscape picture they change up daily. I’m playing with a automatic calendar booking app instead of the back and forth scheduling emails I go through with clients.
Personally, I really like the Headspace meditation app. Andy Puddicombe, a Brit, went off to become a Tibetan Buddhist Monk and then 10 years later returned to make an app that combined the principles he had learned with the modern app elements like gamification.
What advice would you give to someone in their earlier 20’s who has just come to Toronto to start a career?
Don’t stress so much about where you will be in the future because chances are your vision will be very different from what it actually turns out to be. I had very concrete expectations of what I desired and I think that kept me in situations I did not thrive in for too long because I believed they were right.
I now see careers like dress shopping. You have to try on a bunch to see which one accentuates your assets. And over time, things go out of style and you morph. My prom dress doesn’t suit me anymore and neither does working at big corporate. Stressing about trying to fit in is futile.
I prefer shopping for new clothes instead 🙂