Well hello friend, it’s time for episode 11! If this is your first episode of the Support Breakfast podcast, you can find us on Soundcloud, iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play Music (new!), or whatever podcatcher you use (just search for “Support Breakfast”).
The topic for this episode is how your career can progress over time.
Conor hosts this week’s podcast, and he had avocado with tomatoes, and sliced fresh pineapple and fresh mango (not in the same dish!) for breakfast. Kiwi Sarah had Huel and coffee for breakfast, and Dave had scrambled eggs on toast and full-strength coffee. Lisa and Nomad Sarah were both off for this week, but hopefully had breakfast.
Nothing in the mailbag this week, but if you have questions about customer support, then email us via email@example.com and we may address that in a future episode.
In our real-life support experiences, Kiwi Sarah talks about this week’s London support breakfast.
So – on to the topic of the week!
Kiwi Sarah leads the topic this week, and starts with the question: how does your company evaluate support and performance? Both Buffer and Expensify have weekly 1:1 conversations with team leads. Buffer and Timely both use OKRs for keeping track of longer-term progress. Buffer have recently introduced an idea of more “senior” heroes, how you can move towards that sort of role, and the expectations around what that means.
Conor mentions that Expensify does 360 reviews every 6-months, which focus on growth for individuals and teams, and are his favourite conversations. Conor also mentions that there are some metrics for performance, but that the primary focus of these are to help each individual to understand how they’re spending their time.
Kiwi Sarah talks about how switching from UserVoice to HelpScout impacted on measurement: they switched from a transactional perspective of measurement, to a more qualitative understanding of the engagement a customer is having. Timely’s OKRs are also not tied directly to compensation. Kiwi Sarah also has a personal development fund, which can be used for conferences and courses.
Conor talks about how he has excussed (translation: discussed extensively) his ambitions, goals, dreams and what he wants to develop with his team leads and his director, and that this then gives him ways to identify opportunities within or outside of Expensify, and to self-direct progress towards those goals.
Kiwi Sarah talks about the challenges of being somewhat isolated from the party, by having such a huge time difference between her and her team lead and colleagues. Conor mentions that having weekly 1:1s with the rest of his team was a key element of making sure he wasn’t flying solo when he was the only person based in London. Conor recommends reading David Lynch of Intercom’s recently post about how to make the most out of 1:1s for both participants.
Outside of queue smashing, Dave talks about how Buffer doesn’t see burnout or exhaustion as a normal thing. He’s currently working on doing better internal and external documentation for issues relating to payment failures in Stripe. Kiwi Sarah mentions that this internal documentation is key for maintaining quality over time. Conor just read Ben McCormack’s post about keeping slack in your support team, to keep being engaged and reduce burnout. Conor’s workload is slightly different to other support roles, and includes a lot of diversity of focus. Outside of customer conversations and projects, he’s currently working on documenting and teaching advanced troubleshooting skills, and how this knowledge can then be spread to Coaches around the world.
Kiwi Sarah’s currently project focus is on taking ownership of Timely’s help documentation, and making sure it’s all up-to-date. They do a tips newsletter, and Kiwi Sarah learned something really interested from their designer – you’ll have to listen to find out what it is.
Conor’s learned from the last round of 360s that he needs to do a better job of documenting and following-on from the ambitions and goals that are set from 360s. With no surprise, Dave mentions that OKRs are internally transparent within Buffer, and that this vulnerability is extremely valuable in helping you to support your colleagues. In the 3 years that he’s been at Buffer, he’s been doing broadly the same role, and has an existential crisis about this around 6 months ago. However, the good news is that he recognised that this is what he finds deeply satisfying. He compares this with structure within teaching and within the Scouts.
Conor talks about specialisation within Expensify, and what that means and how that plays out. There’s an interesting pattern whereby people specialise into an area, and then make it radically better, and then bring it back to the general team. He recently read three blog posts about parting ways (specifically, Leo and Sunil parting ways from Buffer), that were really constructively and positively written (1, 2 and 3).
Kiwi Sarah poses the question: who is responsible for identifying your goals, and tracking progress? Conor feels that leads and managers are responsible for making sure that you investigate people’s ambitions and dreams, and that once they’re identified, the individual is the person to take steps towards progress. He feels like the role of a lead or manager is to identify roadblocks that are preventing people from achieving, and get those out of the way. Dave talks about how you need to be really comfortable with your lead, so you’re safe to talk about progressing, and eventually leaving to make progress.
We have a few recommended learnings for career progression:
- Conor suggests you go to SUPConf in Seattle – it’s the best way to level yourself up and provide more value to your company. The theme this year is relationships.
- Conor also would suggest you take a look at the videos from SUPConf NYC, which are $50, and are money well-spent. The conference topic was “Support as a Career”.
- Kiwi Sarah vaguely recommends a talk by Eva from Typeform. We can’t find it online, sorry friends. Eva, if you’re listening, let us know how we can share this.
- Dave recommends that an ex-Bufferoo has a book coming out soon called Headway
- Kiwi Sarah would like to read Grit by Angela Duckworth
- Join us for support breakfast in London! Find more on Twitter, and tell us when suits you.
- Conor’s recommendation this week is to step away from your phone for a few hours. Go take a walk, have some space, and be with yourself when you can.
Have a topic you’d like to hear us get into? An awesome cat gif? (Puppy gifs also welcome!) Email us firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a great week!