Adam Avramescu: [00:00:00] Mark. All right. 

Dave Derington: [00:00:03] All right. Let’s kick this off. All right, I’ll take speaker one. Great. Sounds good. Okay. It looks like my audio is okay. Yeah.

Congratulations. You’ve decided to invest in a customer education team, and now you need someone to lead it. But who do you turn to? Do you promote your rockstar CSM or a support rep? Do you bring in an experienced education services leader? What skills are you looking for? These are big questions with big answers.

So let’s dive in on today’s CELab.

Adam Avramescu: [00:00:47] It’s October 11th, 2018, and welcome to episode four of CELab, the customer education lab, where we explore how to build customer education programs, experiment with new approaches and exterminate the myths and bad advice that stopped growth dead in its tracks. I’m Adam from, 

Dave Derington: [00:01:04] Dave Derington. 

Adam Avramescu: [00:01:06] All right.

Let’s let’s dive into it. 

Dave Derington: [00:01:09] All right. So let’s start from the beginning. So always said, when you’re investing in a customer education team, the person that leads that team obviously makes a huge difference in the vision, the strategy and the execution. So tell me more about your thoughts on this. 

Adam Avramescu: [00:01:26] Yeah, Dave, you and I have both been on our own as leaders of new customer education programs.

We’ve talked to a lot of other people who are, and a lot of times this can last for months before you even make your first hire. So you need to be able to lead and do at the same time. 

Dave Derington: [00:01:41] Yeah. even for teams that already have practitioners, right? Sometimes a new leader comes in to grow a team like you’ve been there and I’ve been there and they need to set that vision.

But not only that you’ve got to win trust, and then you’ve got to really drive, do the hard work to drive and forge that path forward. 

Adam Avramescu: [00:02:00] Yeah, I think so, too. And a lot of the time when I talk to customer success and services leaders who are starting customer education teams, they don’t always have a lot of perspective on who the best hire is.

So they look at different experience levels. They look at people with different strengths, different backgrounds. Yeah. So I don’t know. Ha how do you think we should approach this? 

Dave Derington: [00:02:19] Let’s break this down. Do you bring in a more experienced leader to start this all off or do you really want to promote that rockstar CSM?

So let’s go with this hypothesis, Adam, what do you think your first hire for a customer education leader should be someone who has already proven themselves as a customer education. Yeah. 

Adam Avramescu: [00:02:37] Ooh, I like that one. Let’s test it out. 

Dave Derington: [00:02:41] All right. Where do we begin? Which are the pros and cons. 

Adam Avramescu: [00:02:43] Yeah. let’s start with maybe the pros and cons of promoting someone from within.

So this is something we see a ton, right? The accidental customer education leader. This is the 

Dave Derington: [00:02:53] accidental, 

Adam Avramescu: [00:02:54] there’s a book, the accidental instructional designer by I believe Cammy Bean, and CLO magazine recently published the accidental CLO. So I think in customer education, we’re seeing the accidental customer education leader and that’s the CSM or the implementation specialist who just ends up taking on training the most in their job.

And so someone asks them to become the customer education leader. And so if you’re the support rep who does the most documentation. You might have a promotion in store and especially in startups where programs are more ad hoc, this is common. What do you think the pros are of promoting that person into the leader role?

Dave Derington: [00:03:30] Dave? So I can think of a few, let’s start off with the top. that person who becomes that first hire should obviously know the business. I call him a Smee, not the captain hook, our SMI, but the subject matter expert, they should know the business subject matter and the customers and, they should have a clear idea of how customers are going to get value.

From that product. Now that’s a hard one, right? Oh, you have to know the pitch and you have to understand what the product does and you have to see the bigger picture to be able to do that. let me, I’ll just knock down a couple more and then maybe you tackle the cons. So I also think that, the person should have my favorite word, passion for interacting with, and educating customers.

And usually the person that we find picking that up, let us do some are good at this. they’re good at working with people. And then finally, I would say, and this is a big one. I’ve got a, probably a story on here, but you shouldn’t really have any preconceived notions about. The way it should be right.

The way that we do customer education. And we’re going to talk about that shortly, but you know what our best practices versus what are first principles and you’re coming into this goal, do you don’t have a network? where are we at on that? So what do you think about cons? 

Adam Avramescu: [00:04:46] So I think, a moment ago you said the person should know the business.

They should have a clear idea of how customers get value. And if you’re really going to hire someone from. Internal in your business. If you’re going to promote someone into a customer education role, first of all, you got to make sure that should is actually a yes, because a lot of the times, even if someone is really passionate about working with customers, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they completely know the business and the subject matter and the customers.

But I think that when you look at the cons, it might even go beyond that sometimes. When you work with a subject matter expert who does know all that information, a lot of the time they end up having the curse of knowledge. Yeah. Have you ever heard of 

Dave Derington: [00:05:28] yes, but explain.

Adam Avramescu: [00:05:31] So the cursive knowledge, I think this has been published about widely, but the place that I read about it first was in a book called, made to stick by the Heath brothers, Dan and Chip Heath. And they talk about the fact that when you are an expert on something. It’s really hard to describe what it was like to learn about that in the first place.

So you have all that subject matter, locked in your head, you know exactly how it all fits together, but that doesn’t make you very good at helping new people, especially customers learn about. Got it. Yes. So that’s really hard sometimes. if they do have a clear idea of how the product works or what the subject matter is, the other thing I’d say, is that just because you have all that knowledge in your head, It doesn’t mean that you’re good at training or developing content.

Those are skills. And to build those skills, it requires experience and it requires practice. So if you bring on someone who’s really passionate and has subject matter expertise, but doesn’t necessarily have those skills, are you just throwing them into the deep end? Yeah, that’s a good, 

Dave Derington: [00:06:33] that’s a really good point.

So when you say skills, do you mean that such a person needs to have a background and maybe teaching background or they’ve gone to, what is it, Toastmasters or something like that and practice this stuff. 

Adam Avramescu: [00:06:47] Now you’re talking about teaching and presentation, and I think those are just a couple of the skills that someone who’s really skilled in customer education has.

You probably also need to know some instructional design so that the content that you produce is effective and actually helping people learn, you need to be able to facilitate courses, not just present. if you’re going to be doing a lot of classroom training or even a virtual classroom, so there’s a ton of skills that someone just walking into this role cold probably won’t even know about.

Dave Derington: [00:07:15] That’s a lot. 

Adam Avramescu: [00:07:15] Yeah, that’s good. And that’s part of why, you said best practices versus first principles, a person who walks into this role. just from having been a subject matter expert or being really passionate, there are figuring out a lot of this stuff from first principles, they’re reasoning their way into it.

They say, Oh, this seems like a good idea. And they’re not taking in established best practices, which is a blessing and a curse at the same time. It’s a blessing because sometimes if you just ask, what are other companies doing? What’s the quote unquote, best practice. We’re making our signature air quotes here, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to work for your business, but it’s a curse because it does mean that you’re not necessarily going to know what are the most effective ways to facilitate or to design content.

So on and so forth. 

Dave Derington: [00:08:01] Yeah, that’s good stuff. Here’s something. So you’ve already talked about, okay, I’ve got the curse of knowledge and I’ve seen this. And I remember working with a ton of individuals throughout my career who are just God-like in their skills, but then you get them down to the room and the, they wouldn’t say a jerk, but they know this and they can’t understand why you don’t.

What about that? Next thing? Like, how’s that role grow? where is that person going to go? 

Adam Avramescu: [00:08:21] Yeah. Yeah. that’s a good question. You’ve probably seen some of this too, so maybe we can talk about it. a lot of the times when I see people who. Come into this role from having been a CSM or having been a support rep, it’s just going to take them a lot longer to grow with the program.

So that’s not to say that you shouldn’t promote someone into that role. if they have the energy and the passion and the drive to, overcome, I think some of that, I don’t know if we should use this word, but some of that ignorance about the broader subject. That’s a good word 

Dave Derington: [00:08:52] can be a bad word, but yeah.

Adam Avramescu: [00:08:54] Good. Yeah. I don’t know. what do you think about that? 

Dave Derington: [00:08:56] I think that if, they say ignorance is bliss sometimes, but it’s not that if you’re passionate enough to want to do this, I would think, and I know from first principles that you need to be reading and learning and interacting, that’s.

If there’s stuff that’s works out there. your let’s say let’s use that candidate. You’re a CSM, you’ve got a lot of the skills already, but you may not have other skills like instructional design or facilitation of a cast or a webinar. So I think you need to be hungry. 

Adam Avramescu: [00:09:23] Yeah, absolutely. And then in terms of growing with the program, you also need to start moving from the thing that you’re really good at tactically to being able to make strategic decisions.

Because if you’re the head of customer education, you’re not just really good at training customers. You’re probably also starting to make decisions about. What LMS do I implement? Do I even implement an LMS? How do we single source content, all sorts of weird questions like that you’ve probably never come across in your CSM role.


Dave Derington: [00:09:47] that’s probably, that’s really true. And I think it’s true for all of us that you’re always, when you’re growing and I’ve been there. I, grew up, I started as an educator, but I continued to grow and build out that the thing that I was constantly learning and I was hungry to try new things and learn.

So that’s Sage advice. 

Adam Avramescu: [00:10:02] we’ve both been there. we’ve been that person. so not to say you shouldn’t promote that person into the role, but David, if you were that person walking in as a CSM who just became the accidental head of education, what advice would you w what advice would you want to be given?


Dave Derington: [00:10:17] my goodness. That’s, that’s huge. And I’ve seen this Adam happen a lot, CSMs are actually really good at the things that you said. things that I said before, I think they know the subject, they understand a lot, But a lot of the times I see that role in particular start to flounder a little bit is that I had they’ve come in.

They’ve never done this before, so you’re going to need to go out and find the others, find your people, the communities, we in the customer education community. I think CEDMA. So as an organization, that’s pretty good. The customer 

Adam Avramescu: [00:10:48] education management association, 

Dave Derington: [00:10:51] I think you’re going to a conference there free soon.

Adam Avramescu: [00:10:53] Maybe we’ll do a special episode of that. 

Dave Derington: [00:10:55] great call. Let’s make it, let’s make that happen, but said most a good place to go. There’s tons of materials. TSIA you’ve mentioned that a couple of 

Adam Avramescu: [00:11:02] technology services industry association. 

Dave Derington: [00:11:04] Yep. you’re. You’re spitting out my activism’s acronyms. I love it.

and then just getting out and reading and finding books, I have a couple or three books on my desk, I, you could do other things too, Your own research. you could talk to other companies. The one thing that I find really inspiring is that we have a network that we’re involved in and we’re talking to customer education folks all the time and learning new things from them and sharing ideas and asking questions.

You got to get engaged, you don’t be isolated, whatever you do, however you get into the role. Even if you’re a seasoned professional, the world is changing on is hardcore. So learn, 

Adam Avramescu: [00:11:38] connect. Yeah. find the others. We like to hang out in a Slack channel called a customer education heroes.

That’s a CED hero. Thoughts. if you want to come find us there. Yeah. I’ve been talking to other companies. That’s a great point too. when I first started at Optimizely, that was one of the reasons why I wanted to start the customer education. Meetup in the Bay area was because we had such a hard time finding other people who are doing this.

So we didn’t know what the best practices were at the time. There weren’t a lot of customer education programs. And the other thing I’d say is make yourself a starter pack. If you have never, I learned about instructional design about facilitation, about customer education strategy, start amassing those resources, whether it’s books or blogs or other resources in the community, so that you can start to self-teach a little bit.

Dave Derington: [00:12:27] Yeah. And that’s a really, a hallmark of a, an education leader is in education. You’re always learning. If you’re not learning, you’re not doing education. So it’s super huge. 

Adam Avramescu: [00:12:37] we’ll come back to that. The traits of a great customer education leader, but first, how about bringing in an outsider? What if you want to hire from the outside for your first customer education hire Dave?

Dave Derington: [00:12:47] let’s talk about this. Cause I think we both been there as well. Like a lot of times if you built a customer education program too, Maturity. then you might be a good candidate, in coming in and working in a new company and building out that program. you’re doing it, I’m doing it and let’s go back and forth a little bit on some of the pros and cons.

I’ll start off with one. Okay. Let’s talk pros. I like the ping pong. the person we talked about this before. That person that you’re bringing in, if you’re bringing in an outsider better. And so I’m going to say this damn well, have a vision and a perspective on what to build. I’m sorry. I’m like 

Adam Avramescu: [00:13:28] adamant about, we’re going to have to bleep that Dave.

Dave Derington: [00:13:32] Nope, 

Adam Avramescu: [00:13:33] it’s important. 

Dave Derington: [00:13:34] but no, you have to have an understanding of where the direction that you’re going and be impassioned and, know what to build and how to build it. Otherwise, I would assert that, and I’ve seen this in other places. a team might be just flailing, they’re throwing stuff against the wall, but they don’t have any idea of like how it all fits together.

And they may not have a leader. That’s something I’m very strong, strongly and passionate. Yeah. 

Adam Avramescu: [00:13:57] Or you just get stuck in that ad hoc hell that we called it ad hoc tries on a different episode where you’re just flailing around you’re reacting to whatever the initiative of the day is.

And you don’t really have a lot of data to stand up for yourself. if you are a more experienced leader. I also think that when you bring in a more experienced customer education leader, Usually you find someone who’s a little better about speaking the language of education and the language of the business, because you, if you’ve worked in more business environments and you’ve worked with more leaders, it gives you a little bit more perspective.

And so I think there’s been a lot of debate. I was actually just having a conversation with, Christine Souza, who used to be the head of education at dynamics and several other companies. And we were debating this a little bit where. Should you as a customer education leader, be really hyper obsessed with speaking the language of the business, or should you be really good at telling the story of what education does to your other business leaders?

And I think you have to be able to do a little bit of 

Dave Derington: [00:14:59] both. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. that’s hard though, Adam, and I think it’s a, maybe this is a corollary question is like w what part of an individual’s career would you find them becoming a really great education customer education leader? And I would step in to say, from my personal experience, I didn’t set out to go down this path.

It just came to me. It was like a calling. And I had been in science and technology. I love computers, and I found, I love to. Train. And then I found myself as an adjunct. this is a part-time gig teaching about subjects I didn’t even know about and learning about, but at the same time, I was had the parallel track of my day job in business.

So I knew how to talk business. I knew how to talk money. I knew I talked to management and, knew how to do education and that there was peanut butter jelly time, 

Adam Avramescu: [00:15:46] for sure. if you’re interviewing someone who has led a customer education team before. I think a couple of things you can ask them about are number one, how they set vision and strategy.

because even if they’re not doing a practical activity for your company, because they probably haven’t learned that much about your company yet. they might still be able to show you some of the ways that they’ve pitched customer education to their own executives and previous roles. And I think another thing that you can get out yeah.

That might help figure that out a little more is. What metrics do they use to communicate the value of customer education? Are they going after the very traditional education services metrics like the bookings margin revenue, or are they finding other ways to really tell the story of how customer education affects customers more broadly?

Dave Derington: [00:16:34] like overall affecting adoption numbers and time to value and other measures, you might find more in a customer success profile. 

Adam Avramescu: [00:16:42] And it depends where you’re hiring your customer education leader to sit in. If they’re reporting to customer success and those are the metrics they care about, then that’s going to look inherently different than if customer education sits within services or a different 

Dave Derington: [00:16:53] team.

Yeah. Got it. And so I guess if we will wrap the pros up, we would say, I put a plus one on this. And, if I would vote that, I would say that a more experienced leader can often make a better hire doesn’t mean that they should, you shouldn’t promote somebody within, but if you really need to get going now and you’d understand it, I would assert that’s what you need.

Adam Avramescu: [00:17:12] Yeah. And I think sometimes they can win when you are ready to bring in customer education person. Number two. They can probably make a better hire because they have some of that credibility around their vision and their strategy. and meanwhile, they probably have the tactics to be able to execute.

Yes. All right. So we’re biased, but we think there are some pros there. How about the cons Dave? 

Dave Derington: [00:17:31] Yeah, let’s start paring this down. here’s one, and I’ve seen this in other places. Let’s say you’re a startup and startup can mean a lot of different things. You could be two people, you could be a thousand people and still be called a startup.

I would assert that you should avoid people who do not want to get their hands sturdy, meaning you have, hiring a manager or senior manager or director or senior director. They’re going to just lead, but they’re not going to build, good early stage leaders are also builders. It doesn’t mean that you bring somebody in, who doesn’t have the manager experience.

It means you bring somebody in, who can also. Get pork, shoulders, soldier side-by-side with the team and get things done. What do you think? 

Adam Avramescu: [00:18:12] Yeah, if your customer education team is already 10 plus people, 2030, you’ve got a big P&L then bringing in someone who doesn’t necessarily want to get their hands dirty, but really wants to deal with strategy might be the perfect hire for you.

But if you are at that early stage and still have a lot of building to do, I completely agree. And I also think it’s important to make sure that the experience that the person brings. Matches your business model, either your current or your future? Ideally, both. Because again, going back to those education services, metrics, bookings, margin, measuring butts in seats, that doesn’t necessarily mean that if you’re hiring as a customer success professional, your customer education leader might need a different set of experience or a different perspective about how they’re looking at the business, because they’re going to need to drive different metrics.

And they’re gonna need to tell the story in a different way. And that might even apply to, to technical expertise. 

Dave Derington: [00:19:06] Totally. technical expertise is huge. These there’s a lot of SaaS apps. I know that  is particularly, I wouldn’t say it’s. Complicated or too hard to learn. There’s just a lot to it.

And it presumes a certain understanding of knowledge. So now, if you had another product that was just a pretty simple, straightforward tool, right? I’m not going to single anything out, but you might not need somebody as technical and you need somebody that’s more personally 

Adam Avramescu: [00:19:34] for sure. Yeah. Looking at that mix and how it actually matches the product and what they’re going to be training to customers.

It affects their perspective. Yeah, totally. Yeah. What about the way that they’re building the, sorry, building the program and hiring the team that’s changed over the past few years, right? 

Dave Derington: [00:19:52] Yeah, I think so. even five, 10 years ago, did it not look quite a bit different? what have your been your experiences in that space, 

Adam Avramescu: [00:20:00] 10 years ago?

10 years ago, I was just getting started, but five years ago, at least it was pretty common if you were starting a customer education team, just because the technology wasn’t necessarily in place. And because the way that, training services teams worked was a little different. The first hire that you would want to make a lot of the time was a training admin, someone to really run your systems, do your scheduling.

All of that stuff. And the fact of the matter is that a lot of that has changed in the past few years. So if you’re not running a program that is completely reliant on instructor led training, and if you’re working with different technologies, for instance, I see a lot of customer education programs now trying to center their practice around e-learning and around in product education.

And someone who is reasoning from first principles, Might come in and start to build a program around that. And their first hire might be someone who is more focused on user experience. Whereas if you’re bringing in someone who is really steeped in the education services model, they’re really going to need to adapt to your business if you are born in the cloud.

And if you are running a program, that’s not really, instructor led. 

Dave Derington: [00:21:11] Yeah, there’s a lot we can pair in into that. I could even say when I started at , it was a little bit different from Gainsight my last gig in that they needed to get that on demand. That e-learning content up quick because there was none of it at the time.

there was documentation, but then. I could pivot to more instructor led, but it really depends on what you’re posed with. how you’re doing stuff. And I guess to wrap that up, pros cons all included. If you’re that person, you really need to sit down, let’s say you’re being brought in from outside and you’re in that interview process, in that interview process.

And then after that hiring process, when you plan the gig, You got to spend a lot of your time listening and you got to spend a lot of your time looking at the business and understanding what its needs are. And if you ever, if you’ve not ever done SaaS before and again, this, cast is not exclusive to the SaaS market.

It’s just a really good model to work with. Or like you said, born in the cloud, none of the business born in the cloud or B2B or B2C, you’ve got to sit down and listen and learn before you can firm up what your vision is actually going to be talk with the exact figure out what you’re going to do and where you’re going.

Adam Avramescu: [00:22:15] Yeah. bring your experience, but also be really willing to be curious and creative. Totally. Yeah. we alluded to this a moment ago, but let’s talk about what skills or talents you should be looking for when you make that first. Customer education higher, because I think when you’re hiring customer education leader, number one, everyone has different talents.

Or I describe it as superpowers and customer education leaders are naturally going to bring different ones to the table. So why don’t we a ping pong again? What’s your best bet for your first hire? What skills are you looking 

Dave Derington: [00:22:48] for? Yeah, the first and one of my favorite ones is curiosity. why do I say this?

let me scroll back and talk about two people I had on one of my teams. I’m naturally curious, I’m a scientist by education. I’m always gonna say, what if can I do this? Can I do better? That’s just my person persona. and I had two hires at different times and one of them was so inquisitive and Intrigued by what can be done and go off and just do things and come back and say, Hey, look what I made and, spare time or no, that was really cool and exciting to see because the I, the light bulb went on and then I had another one that was more like, just tell me what to do now. For me starting out the, just tell me what to do.

Thing doesn’t work so well because we need ingenuity, creativity, that curiosity, it all comes back to the same thing. W you know what, if I press this button, what happens if I do this thing? That’s super important to me, what do think? 

Adam Avramescu: [00:23:42] Yeah, I agree. It’s not as important if they’re the person who’s most knowledgeable about your product or about your business, but the curiosity is going to go a long way.

And I think maybe one that goes along with that I’d add to the list is customer empathy, because everything you build ultimately is going to be for your customer. So it doesn’t really matter how much, orthodoxy you’ve been steeped in as far as learning and development or instructional design, if you’re not able to build with your customer in mind and you’re not going out and actually talking to those customers and designing for them, I don’t think your program is going to be tremendously successful.

What do you think about 

Dave Derington: [00:24:17] that? Yeah. What do you think? I’ll tell you one experience that I had I thought was going on. I’m interested to see what you say. one of the first things that I did at Gainsight when I was starting to build out a program, as I started to do, user surveys, not just email, like I got up on the phone with 20 people and I talked to them about their challenges and their successes in all ranges of their life cycle, whether they’re at the beginning of their journey or at the end.

And, Oh my God, I learned so much. That. And they said, and actually I made this really cool report at the end of it. And I took that back to my leadership team and they go, what? And they looked at all these different metrics and indices and stuff, and they’re like, wow, it looks like you have your journey in front of you.

So that, because we tapped into the customer empathy about how to use the product. I agree with you. 

Adam Avramescu: [00:25:01] Yeah. That’s a great one, actually, I’m thinking about it. I was probably on the other end of that when I started at Optimizely, I think I was a much more. Traditional instructional designer or more traditional learning and development type of professional.

And so I came in with a lot of ideas about how to create content and what was instructionally sound. But I was really lucky to be working with people who were, user experience professionals, Because optimized really was about optimizing. The experience that customers were having on the web. And because I was lucky enough to be able to work with a team of customer success professionals and marketing professionals who were really oriented around gathering data, talking to the customer, figuring out what does or doesn’t work.

I was forced to question a lot of my principles from day one and actually try to get some customer data and research, whether that was doing customer interviews or doing heat mapping to figure out where they were dropping off in an experience. or actually AB testing content. 

Dave Derington: [00:26:03] That’s a great story.

And it sounds like we came in from a different perspectives, which is pretty darn cool. 

Adam Avramescu: [00:26:09] Yeah. And everyone does right. 

Dave Derington: [00:26:12] that’s why we’re, that’s why we’re working together. And hopefully we’re working with our community, but let’s go further. So I think we have a couple more points. let’s talk storytelling, and this is where I think you made the point before about the language of the business and the language of education.

And. It’s I think it’s really important to be able to speak both. if I talk to business people, you’re talking about terms with your leadership team, like EBITDA and all that other, I’m not going to say boring stuff, but it’s the mechanics of the business. One of the things that drive the business, the bottom line drives the business.

And often a lot of times, so you gotta be able to be attuned to that. And in sync with that and adapt, like if somebody says, look, you need to really start worrying about margins and stuff. Okay. I’ll do that. If that comes to it. the other hand, you also need to know education and that means, at a bare minimum, you were talking in instructional design, which is.

A great asset to have under your belt. what are the outcomes? What are the objectives? What is somebody supposed to learn? And how do I quantify that? So those kinds of things are, you tell a story and you’re weaving back and forth between, business objectives because that customer and the other end has a business and they have goals, but you also need to compel them and excite them in.

And make them intrigued with stories about the actual product that you’re telling use cases, things like that. And that tells an interesting narrative because if you’re meeting them in the middle, like I know it as we’ve been doing this a lot, I need a verse out a use case to an individual, get them excited about them.

One of the great ones we had was, Hey, a customer was trying to automate an RFP process and deliver a project into the hands of a project manager while it was taking them 40 hours a week to do this at the end of the process where they, use our product, it’s saved, it saved them all that time.

And it was a zero from 40 hours a week and that story hit it resonated. And that’s, you’re talking about business and then you’re delivering with education. 

Adam Avramescu: [00:27:59] Yeah. I liked that a lot. I, you mentioned storytelling and that’s also making me think a little bit about just being data-driven and having the resourcefulness to be able to look at different forms of data.

both are our storytelling point and our customer empathy point made me think of that because I really think that whether you’re bringing in a. Customer education professional. Who’s a little more seasoned or whether you’re promoting someone from within a lot of us in this field have a bit of an inferiority complex and I’ll tell them, I’ll tell you why.

Like I think with someone who just gets promoted into customer education for the first time, it’s obvious. Like they, they probably feel a little bit of imposter syndrome. They haven’t found their people. they don’t know all that there is to know in this area because it’s, Oh my gosh. Now I’m a customer education professional.

What do I do? But the weird thing is the exact same thing happens. I think for more seasoned education services professionals, we’ll walk into these conferences together and we’ll see, a trend like customer success starting to emerge and all of a sudden. We feel like, Oh my gosh, we need to prove our value in this new world.

And again, this is what I was talking to Christine Souza about, just a couple of days ago. Oh, we need to prove our value in the world of customer success. maybe, but we should also have the confidence to understand how, what we do inherently fits in and adds value in a world like customer success or marketing or whatever it is.

Dave Derington: [00:29:23] Totally. It’s a good point. 

Adam Avramescu: [00:29:25] how about the hard skills? Like what about content development or tech skills or facilitation? How do those fit in? 

Dave Derington: [00:29:32] What do you mean? hiring somebody, right? That context? 

Adam Avramescu: [00:29:35] yeah. if you’re bringing in your first customer education leader, we talked about a lot of soft skills, but what about the hard skills that they actually have?

Cause you’re not going to find that purple squirrel who can 

Dave Derington: [00:29:44] do all. You’re not, you might get lucky, but we presume that you will not, you really need to sit down and this is probably a homework assignment for you. Sit down with a piece of paper. Now, if if you’re listening in, on this podcast and you’re that new individual, or you’re a hiring manager, looking at hiring a customer education professional, what’s critical.

If you have a really difficult product to learn, or we’re talking, it’s a Coobernetti’s or I don’t know something that you’re going to be teaching developers. most likely you’re going to need someone who’s pretty technical yet. That is seasoned with the undertone of, they need to actually be able to do, be empathetic to customers and care because sometimes I find that working with somebody who’s a really awesome, like you were talking about this before.

They were really awesome and they know so much on the same time. They have a hard time relating because they haven’t struggled or they did 30 years ago. So technology is, is a big one. If you need to prioritize that, to be able to address something that’s particularly complicated. Great. If you’re an S if you’re going to be doing a lot of live training, Instructor led virtual instructor led you’d better have facilitation skills, right?

You better be able to come in and say, and I’ll give you an example of this. I think casting on Twitch right now, that’s a, an is an experiment. It doesn’t happen a lot. Amazon AWS is doing it, but Twitch compels you to understand a lot more. things about how to facilitate and do a stream. So you’re switching between different scenes.

You’re basically like doing live video production. I might be showing me, and then I might be showing a background. Then I might be showing my desktop. I may be showing something else. And there’s a lot of stuff going on at the same time, you’ve got to be responding to people in chat. You would do this in a platform like go to training or maybe even, go to meeting blue jeans, whatever you’re at, but it’s on steroids.

And that it actually, it takes me back to when I was an adjunct. At a university, all the skills I had in the classroom management stuff is exactly what I’m doing again. So those are a couple of my ideas. What do you, what else do you have? 

Adam Avramescu: [00:31:36] Yeah, I guess same thing for me. I’ve walked into opportunities where.

There really is a need for scale. And fundamentally I think content is my superpower. that’s what gets me excited at the beginning of the day. And that’s what keeps me going at the end of the day. And so if I have the ability to really focus on a good content driven user experience, that’s going to be the best match for me coming in as an early customer education leader.

And I know that’s very different from what some businesses need. Some businesses want someone to really come in and facilitate a lot of trainings for enterprise customers. but who you hire, because not everyone is going to have all the skills you need. It’s really about finding a match for that superpower.

Dave Derington: [00:32:19] Yeah. That’s a hundred percent true. Yeah. Really good stuff. Anything else that you’d want to tap on with that? 

Adam Avramescu: [00:32:26] No. I think your idea to take out a piece of paper and start writing some of this down, maybe that can take us into our call to action. But first I think we have a letter in the mailbag. 

Dave Derington: [00:32:39] We do.

Let me read it today. I love this one. 

Adam Avramescu: [00:32:42] Welcome. You’ve got mail. I’m going to keep doing that every time. I know we have a soundbite for it, but I’m just going to 

Dave Derington: [00:32:47] keep doing that. I don’t think we’ll use it. That’s more fun. Okay. Michelle, from Atoka asks a few months ago, I made a hire on my team and they’re not working out.

They interviewed really well. They seem to be a good fit. Now I’ve got someone who can’t either train or develop training materials. So what do I do? What would be your thoughts on that? 

Adam Avramescu: [00:33:12] Oh, that’s yeah. that’s such a hard one. Okay. So I think there’s two issues to think about. First of all, what do you do with this hire with this person?

And then, maybe zooming out of it a little bit. What do you do? What do you learn for your future hires? so the first question I would ask is have you given this person direct feedback about their skills versus the needs of your department? So it’s one thing to say that. They interviewed well, but they’re not a good fit because they can’t train in, they can’t develop training material, but it’s another thing to be able to actually give some specific feedback, right?

If you’ve shadowed their trainings or reviewed their content, then you can actually tell them where the mismatch is. So that’s one of the first things I look at it. 

Dave Derington: [00:33:52] So one-on-ones regularly 

Adam Avramescu: [00:33:54] one-on-ones regular. and not just that, but shadowing or being a part of their content process.

Because if you’re not doing that, you’re not giving specific feedback about what they’re doing, because it might be that, if you’re not actually seeing them do these things, then you can actually give them the feedback that will help them improve. I don’t want to jump right to let this person go.

And I think a lot of the times as managers, there’s a framework called radical candor. And this is by Kim Scott. And I definitely recommend checking it out there basically as a four quadrants as. There usually are in these models, but one quadrant is, do you care personally about the person, but quadrant two is basically a spectrum of, are you willing to give this person very candid and direct feedback?

And a lot of the time what we do as managers is we are afraid to give really direct feedback because we’re worried we’ll be in this quadrant of obnoxious aggression where we’re giving really tough feedback, but we don’t care about the person. Yeah. And as it turns out, that’s actually not what most of us do.

What most of us do is, what she calls ruinous empathy, 

Dave Derington: [00:35:02] where 

Adam Avramescu: [00:35:02] we might count. That’s a person, but actually giving direct feedback. And I don’t think you have to be able to do both. You do have to be able to do both. You have to care personally and give direct feedback. And in my opinion, you can’t do that.

You can’t have that hard conversation unless you can actually see what they’re doing and give them very direct feedback. Oh, it very specific things and tie that to the bigger picture. What do you think, Dave? 

Dave Derington: [00:35:29] I think this is exceptional and I like about this question. This is a hard question, and I’ve had to deal with this in and, having to have that hard swallow moment with, with an employee that you do care about is brutal.

and I remember I did a, I’m a huge fanatic of one-on-ones. I do them all the time and. you sit down and be like, I really need you to be doing this. And this is how to do this. And let me shadow you and coach you. And, once you’ve gone through all those and exhausted all of that, and you have an individual that, maybe it’s just motivation or, maybe it’s just not a right fit.

And then it comes down to them. when they recognize that you’ve put all, put your heart into it, you’ve done everything you can. And it just isn’t working out. That’s that hard conversation moment saying here’s the things that I’ve done and I’ve even done like a success plan.

Where I said, okay, I would like you to do this. I’d like you to do it this way. if you get stuck, come ask me. but let people, I kind of work through it, but then that shadowing thing you talked about, that’s actually, that’s a requirement in, especially in live training where I would, if I have somebody that’s junior, that’s just starting out.

I will do it with them and take them. pieces, start off with them taking a couple pieces at first and eventually I’m backing off as a leader and allowing them to do all of it when I feel competent with them. yeah, that’s just my feedback. that it’s you can’t afford, we can’t afford, especially at the startup level to have somebody that’s not performing up to par and then defining what that par is often.

A challenge in and of itself because we’re talking startup again, startup things are changing all the time. And when I was at Gainsight, we felt like a three-month stint was like a year, probably somewhat true in the startup industry. So things are changing. Radically. People are coming and going new customers.

Everything’s going crazy. You got to be able to adapt. So what do you think, what do you think about next hires? 

Adam Avramescu: [00:37:12] Yeah. So when you’re actually thinking about that next hire. How do you actually make sure that you’re not going to bring in someone who just interviews well, but can’t actually do the job.

I think that one obvious one is just to have a practical activity as part of the interview to test the skills. So I’ve done this a few ways. If the person’s going to be more of a facilitator, then we have them come in and facilitate, either on a topic that’s related to our business or on a topic that they’re particularly passionate about.

I’ve done it both ways. I don’t think there’s one that’s better than the other. I’m sure someone will disagree. if it’s for content, I’ll usually do something like having them prepare a sub one minute, either video or e-learning that’s related to a relevant project. So again, it’s bite-size right.

It doesn’t take that long to do something that’s sub one minute, but it will give you a taste of how they approach the work, how much they think about it. Can they quickly engage you, are their visual skills up to par, so on and so forth. 

Dave Derington: [00:38:07] that’s exceptional. So basically you’re doing a performance based type screening, right?

Adam Avramescu: [00:38:13] Yeah. And we do this at the end of the process, So they’ve already been in for the onsite interview. we want to make sure that it’s still a good candidate experience because I don’t want to waste your time any more than, you would want to waste mine. So we do it at the end.


Dave Derington: [00:38:26] Yeah, that’s great. it’s I remember I was interviewing for one job. I had to present my master’s thesis at the interview, which is brutal. So I like that you have a bite-sized pieces, don’t kill the person and make them over commit to, days and days of stuff, but something bites.

Adam Avramescu: [00:38:41] Yeah. I think with the on-site interview, you’re looking at communication. You’re looking at good, examples based in scenarios that they have done. You’re really trying to explore some of those. scenario based questions, but then you actually still want to see, can they do it? Yes. All right. So to summarize, Dave, you had a good pull out your pencil activity a moment ago, so let’s segue into this week’s call to action.

Dave Derington: [00:39:06] Cool. So pull out that pencil, here are the things that we really would like to encourage you to do again, let’s go back and look through from the top and maybe it can ping pong this again, sit down and think about. Who you want to hire? a first question that would naturally come to mind would be, are you going to choose to promote from within, so if you’re a manager listening to this cast right now, you have somebody that’s pretty good.

They’re really technical. Do pros and cons. do you think they’re going to scale with the company? Do you think that they’re a good fit for it? So they have the cut spa of being able to be a great. Presenter or a great instructor and designer. that’s one of the first things I do think about that person that you’re trying to hire.

Adam Avramescu: [00:39:45] I’ve never hired for chutzpah before, but 

Dave Derington: [00:39:48] I like that word. 

Adam Avramescu: [00:39:49] Yeah. It’s got a nice hotspot. Okay. So I think, going along with that, once you have an idea of what the role is really start to zero in on. What are the requirements or what are the ideal skills or superpowers for someone in that role?

And you’re not going to have perfect information, but this is going to help you make a better decision about whether you have someone internally, who’s going to be able to do the job well, or whether you may need to look outside, because if you know what that skillset is, and what’s probably going to be needed most in your program.

It’s going to start making that decision a lot easier as time goes on. So I would definitely put together a little matrix of what are the skills that are going to be needed. And ideally, where do I want to see this person’s talents or superpowers, 

Dave Derington: [00:40:36] And you may be working with an HR team that does this, and then you’d have things like, you know what we just discussed.

Curiosity, customer empathy, storing testing. I’m sorry, storytelling, business acumen, understanding of the education industry. Do they have facilitation skills? Do they, are they a good technologist? and do they have an instructional design background? That’s just a quick run through of all those.

Can you think of anything else? 

Adam Avramescu: [00:40:57] Yeah, we might have to put up a sample template on 

Dave Derington: [00:41:01] Totally. I think that’s a great idea. There’s a lot 

Adam Avramescu: [00:41:04] in there. Yeah. I think those are pretty actionable and we can put up a template actually to make it even more actionable for our listeners.

Dave Derington: [00:41:12] Fantastic. So let’s wrap this up at, we’re at about the 45 minute Mark on a nice long podcast. 

Adam Avramescu: [00:41:19] You know how I love long podcasts. So if you want to learn more, we have a podcast website, as I just said, it’s That’s just They make that now, there, you can find our show notes, other material, and Hey, finding your people is really important.

So if you found value in this podcast, Share with your friends, your peers, your pets, your network, to help find the others. I’m a @avramescu on Twitter. And 

Dave Derington: [00:41:45] I’m @davederington, also on Twitter and to our audience. Thanks again for joining us. Adam, I having a good time on this, right? And we hope you go out, educate experiment, and find your feet 

Adam Avramescu: [00:41:57] with chutzpah.

Thanks for listening.

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