Prachi Shah, as a Woman in Tech Sales tell us a bit about yourself and your career so far? Any highlights?
I have been in the tech industry for over 2 decades now. I grew up in a tier two city in India, did my masters in computers there and then relocated to Bangalore, the Silicon Valley of India. I have always been eager to make my mark as a women leader in the IT industry. Started career as a software engineer, and organically progressed into leadership roles.
I have worked with large system providers across the globe through my career, and every role presented an opportunity to learn and grow as a professional. Between 2004 till 2014, I was working and living in different countries across Europe, mainly as a solution architect, helping telecom providers roll out IT software to manage their operations. In 2014, relocated to Singapore, and had an opportunity to work and lead teams in APJ & Middle east through HP, Ericsson, Software AG and now Syncron.
Currently I am working as VP Customer Success at Syncron, responsible to lead the Customer Success function globally with a mission to drive higher net retention rate for the company, and higher NPS rate for the customers.
Your role at Software AG sounds very interesting as you helped build the whole customer success arm there, whilst the company itself was undergoing a lot of change. How did you find that?
I definitely wouldn’t say it was easy. The most difficult part was driving the transformation and establishing the new ways of working. It was important for me to look at the bigger picture and understand how CS would sit in the organisation and work in hand with the different elements of the organisation.
For example, you need to define what emails you want to be looped into and find the right balance between customer support and success. The most important part was establishing the collaboration framework followed by driving the change for people to understand when to introduce customer success to the customer.
I always needed to define customer success as a practice and the best practices across the team and invest time in the playbooks and how to invest in a new customer. We spent quite a bit of time automating the process to make sure it was standardised and delivered the best experience for customers.
We had a lot of support from management for the process and to showcase to the wider organisation how customer success was functioning and helping and working with the sales or service functions as well. It wasn’t easy however looking back I feel very fulfilled and I think by the end it was great to see people championing and relying on customer success.
If you were starting again in creating a customer success team and function what in hindsight would you have wanted to know before starting?
I would say don’t wait for the end state, start with something and keep on evolving. You will probably never have an end state, you will always keep moving and modifying. Focus more on people. Anyone can set up a new team and roll out a new platform. The most difficult part is showing everyone the importance of customer success and what people get out of it. Having a sales person see the importance of collaborating with customer success is really important and increases engagement with the function and brings in more value. Celebrating small wins will take you a long way.
Prachi, In this current market, do you think there is a higher emphasis on success to retain and grow topline revenue?
I think there has always been focus on topline revenue, the economic world as of today is evolving. There was a stage where there was a huge focus on the topline and a lot of startups were getting lots of funding. We are now at a stage where companies are looking at lots of different outcomes which vary across different companies. People are becoming more aware of what value they get out of companies.
In the last two decades I have seen a shift to companies focusing on delivering experience based outcomes to customers. If customers get this value, revenue tends to follow behind and create organic growth. Within organisations companies are focused on different fronts across different functions and I believe that if you treat people right and focus on value for your customers everything will fall in place and the topline revenue will follow.
How do you feel about the state of tech in relation to diversity, as an ambassador for DEI, what do you think are the main things companies or individuals can do to positively impact diversity in the industry?
That’s a very good question and I am so passionate about this topic. As a Woman in Tech Sales, I feel personally that companies have come a long way in the last few years about understanding diversity and inclusion.
I think whilst companies now do understand diversity more, there are always opportunities to do more for it. There is still a lot to do. What I do at Syncron is give more platforms to people to share what they feel. Every company should adopt an approach where they have DEI ambassadors in every region who are approachable so people feel comfortable in speaking about what matters to them. Not every employee is comfortable in going to HR, if you have someone specially focused and trained on the topics it would definitely help.
It’s basic but on an individual level we have to continue to focus on recognising and removing biases. You need to have discussions to create awareness within organisations to eliminate unconscious biases.
I also believe having an environment where positive or constructive criticism is important. Everyone needs to discuss what is working, what’s not working and how to improve. I’ve found that this is often best done anonymously as it encourages everyone to be candid and freely express themselves.
Your career spanned from solution architecture to customer success. We’ve found that solutions are quite male dominated, and as a company supporting Women in Tech Sales we’d love to address this. How did you find this?
It was, I remember all the key engagements I’ve worked on. I have been the only woman on the customer side. It is definitely a fact in my opinion. I have experienced it first hand. For me I have been blessed with having supportive and encouraging male allies who recognise and appreciate my skills.
I think that customer success is a great place for women. It resonates with me and all the skills that women have. As a CSM you are always multitasking and showing empathy, driving conversation, understanding where the customers priorities lie and negotiating. I did a presentation last year in the Women in Tech forum about why CS is a great space for women (not to say it is not a great place for men to) but it always comes down to the skills and attitude and if you have that you can be successful.
It’s important that women have the opportunity. In my experience, I think that part of the reason that tech is so heavily male dominated is because it is quite intense in terms of hours and as a woman if you don’t have enough support at work and at home it’s just not possible. I myself have been very blessed. The work from home culture has really turned the tables. What matters is what you deliver, not the times you work. Providing that culture to people is important to give space to women to make it work.
And finally, Prachi, What have you been reading or watching recently?
I love reading HBR articles about leadership, diversity and employee engagement. I recently read on on engaging your team when working remotely which really resonates with me at the moment working from Singapore whilst most of my team is in Europe. I also follow Nick Mehta religiously. One book I would like to recommend is The Customer Success Economy by Nick Mehta.
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To read stories of inspiring Women in Tech Sales click here.