Welcome back to another episode of Support Breakfast!
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No breakfast updates on the Support Brekkie podcast this week, as this is a shorter, special edition. Instead, there’s a special report from Conor about his experience at SUPCONF East!
Learnings from SUPCONF East
It takes a huge amount of effort to create a conference like SUPCONF. While the preparation for the second SUPCONF (which took place in November 2016 in New York) started just after the first SUPCONF in San Francisco in May, the community itself was years in the making. Support Driven has been a staple part of my days since early 2015, and gives me a lively community during my daytimes. Lisa has already written extremely well about the London-based breakfast club that we organise, which is one of the consistent highlights of my week.
The result of a well-established community was that the conference included an amazing group of interesting people, and many wonderful conversations. One of the best parts of the conference was that, after each of the high-quality, well-rehearsed and well-delivered talks, there was a specific question posed, and we were expected to discuss with our neighbours. Such a tiny idea, but a perfectly-placed way to critically assess the ideas in each talk, and get the perspective of a diverse group of people.
All of the talks were pretty great, but there were four in particular that struck a cord and got me thinking.
Margot Da Cunha’s (Wistia) talk on in-person visits to customers and 1:1 videos, and Chris Hardie’s (Automattic) talk on switching from transactional to partnership relationships both reinforced ideas that I feel like I was already working through.
Margot talked about the value of meeting with customers, and developing emotional connections by looking them right in the eye and hearing them out. In Expensify, we’ve been doing this for a while; in fact, this was the reason that I was in New York during SUPCONF week. It’s been an amazing way to make progress with customers, and to develop a level of trust between us. It allows us to understand their context better, and continually drive the product forward. 1:1 videos (hosted on Wistia, of course) have also allowed me to discuss complex parts of the product without the overhead of getting on a conference call with a customer.
Chris’ talk on moving from transactions to partnerships was also really interesting; he compared the language and cultures of both types of relationships, and gave examples of how Automattic’s VIP team have moved towards partnership as a model. One example was moving from the idea of the customer always being right, to you and your customer being partners in finding a successful outcome. I feel like I have been doing this, but that it’s extremely valuable to have these concepts reinforced. If you’re interested in more, I’ve written in more detail about Chris’ talk in a previous post.
The two talks I feel like I learned the most from were Camille Acey’s (Greenhouse) talk on how to choose the opportunities you take, and Ben MacAskill’s (SmugMug) talk on his 12-year career at SmugMug.
Camille’s talk was very insightful: if you’re ever looking for a group of people who will say “yes” when you ask them to do something, you’re not likely to find a better crowd than the SUPCONF attendees. Yet, saying “yes” to everything is not a path to success. Overwhelming yourself can lead to neglecting your regular duties and dropping the ball, and can result in burnout. Camille’s personal experiences of saying “yes” too many times, and how she now uses a variety of criteria to evaluate her opportunities, were a useful focus on when and why you should say “yes”. She uses the questions of time, growth, safety and fun as gauges for when she should or should not take an opportunity.
Overall, Camille’s talk felt like a good reminder that you can say “no” to opportunities. I feel like I’m getting better at this, and these pointers will help to keep me focussed on the best opportunities that I can take.
Ben, well, Ben. First of all, Ben works for SmugMug, a company that keeps your memories safe.
Sidenote: if you haven’t listened to the Reply All episode about Picturelife’s demise and SmugMug’s efforts to save millions of photos, go listen to it now.
Ben has worn many hats in the time that he’s worked for SmugMug, and most recently became VP of Operations. That’s a far cry from where he started, as the only person supporting customers. I don’t think I can really describe the talk, so when it’s available on video, watch it. For now, just know that there were three specific points that rang true for me:
- The journey is the reward (if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, it’s only going to get more difficult)
- It’s okay to be happy where you are (you don’t need to be constantly changing)
- Solve the problems that you encounter (if something is causing trouble, fix it)
I feel like there’s not much point in me describing much more than that, so just watch the talk when it’s available, if just for the amazing photos (and his costumes!).
So, there you go. Beyond the talks themselves, there was a live recording of the wonderful Supports Ops Hangout. I got to meet Carolyn, Chase Clemons, Chase Livingston and Jeff. They are all just as friendly, intelligent and wonderful as on the podcast. There was also a GIF Battle. I came third. I genuinely feel a sense of accomplishment at having taken part; I’m usually pretty nervous about that sort of public performance, and would never have volunteered if I hadn’t had a few drinks when Scott asked me to participate.
Overall, it was two days of inspiration and excitement. Beg, borrow or steal to go to the next SUPCONF (Spring 2017, in Seattle). It’ll be worth it.
See you next time!