At NewCampus, we love telling stories of personal transformation from our learners. We spoke to John Lester Aguirre, Senior Lead Customer Success Manager at Sprout Solutions, about his learning experience with NewCampus and reflections on leading customer success and dealing with people from all walks of life in the HR tech space.
Question: Tell us a bit about your story, from your days as an implementation consultant to becoming customer success lead at Sprout Solutions.
I graduated majoring in computer management and accounting, so it was really tough for me to get the job in line with what I studied. I started it as a customer service representative, taking inbound calls from employees in the US, being employed by a comprehensive global provider of cloud-based Human Capital Management solutions. I can definitely say that working in a call centre is hands down one of the hardest jobs out there, from dealing with stressful situations, high call volumes and often rude callers.
I was able to hone my critical thinking and analytical skills and, at the same time, proper time management. This is also the time when I discovered that when you work with passion, you get to drive excellence. You will always be eager to help and serve customers to the best of your ability, even going the extra mile. I would say that this actually is something that has been very essential in my current role as a customer success lead.
Question: What was it like transitioning from a technical role to being a people leader delivering customer success? What are some underrated skills or qualities that connecting managers might not realise they need until they’re in the situation of leading teams?
As an individual contributor before, I have only been focused on my own KPIs. I have always tried to perfect all my stats and do everything in my power to deliver the best.
I'd say that one thing a manager should learn is the art of delegation. It's going to be difficult, but building the trust that your team and your colleagues need would be able to deliver the same, if not betterresults. Also, by delegating, I've actually just learned this very recently through NewCampus, you get to empower your team. It builds their trust. It keeps them motivated and lets them develop their skills as well to become leaders in the future.
Question: What are some unique challenges and joys of leading customer success at larger companies? How do relationships become more complex?
It has always been my joy to see people grow into becoming the best versions of their professional selves. Even in my previous company, [I enjoyed] guiding newbies and making sure that they get to be equipped with the right knowledge, the right attitude to face clients in their day to day situations, resolve issues, [handle] escalations and build healthy relationships with clients. This is something that has been bringing joy to me ever since. It may start as a challenge, I'd say, but definitely, it will turn into a huge fulfilment for you in the future.
You're going to be dealing with people from different walks of life, different backgrounds but it also would help you hone your interpersonal skills. At the same time, [you’ll] be better at collaborating with different people and adjusting the way you approach them. You get to be better in personal and professional settings.
Question: What other management training courses have you attended to overcome some of these challenges? How is the NewCampus experience different?
I actually have already attended management training courses before, but they have been focused on consultative skills and transformational leadership. I'd say that with NewCampus, what's different is, apart from the learnings from the theories and actual experiences with different people from different industries and countries, you also get to apply those theories right away. After role-playing, you get to be both the receiver and the doer, allowing you to make some tweaks in terms of your approach and while gathering feedback from others on how you can be better and do better, especially in your interactions in your company.
What I also like about the approach of NewCampus is you have some time in the week to apply your learnings with direct reports of your choosing. So there's this role-playing with your cohorts, and at the same time, you also get to apply those learnings right away with your direct reports.
It has been a struggle for my direct reports to give feedback, negative feedback specifically. They would say, "You're doing okay", "I have nothing to say" or something like that. With NewCampus, I was able to get the right questions to ask, probe, and drill down to get what I needed from them.
I would also say that the reflection statements at the end of the workshop, putting them together in a heartbeat and reading the reflection statements of your cohort members, was really good because you also get to see different points of view.
Question: What would you say to other hypergrowth employers who would like to develop their leadership talent but are uncertain whether it’s worth their time or resources?
Investing in your own people is never a bad decision. Empowering your employees, especially your managers, will definitely yield excellent results for the company. It's only logical that by improving your skills and, the skills of employees, especially in terms of customer service, they're also going to be better at their jobs, which means more business for the company.
Some companies do not provide training to their managers because it's expensive. It's costly, but looking at it, you're going to be improving your employees' skills. Without training, you’ll risk losing them, which means you're going to be investing in recruitment and training new people again. That is even more costly than investing in the people that you currently have.
Question: Are there any ideas you’d like to work on or habits you’d like to cultivate for 2022?
I want to be a lot better at my job. I've only been a people manager for around a year. I've always been an individual contributor so it was an adjustment for me and I'm definitely working on a lot of things. From what I've learned from NewCampus, I'm definitely working on putting more structure to my 1-on-1s with my direct reports. I also would say that doing away with the sandwich method was definitely a struggle when providing feedback. It's really a conscious effort, I would say, but it's better now compared to what I've been doing before.
I'm looking forward to more workshops, office hour sessions and collaborations within the NewCampus community.
Fun Fact: John Lester’s an avid K-drama fan. He also loves to travel and we're sure he's clocking up frequent flyer miles. We're pretty jealous of his travel snaps! Have a peek below 👀