MyMentor Spotlight: Holly Bradfield
Holly Bradfield is a Customer Success Manager (CSM) based in London. Holly is currently working in a high-growth technology start-up with family in Abersychan, South Wales.
Navigating a change in career...
Prior to beginning my career in Customer Success, I worked in the House of Commons for just under 5 years as a Caseworker for various Government ministers. Alongside this, I worked as an elected Town Councillor representing an area of 3,000 people in my hometown and completed a degree in Politics at King’s College London.
As an outsider looking in, it would be a safe bet to say my career - and any subsequent roles - would probably continue in the public sector, in the thick of Whitehall and its myriad of departments. However, having worked in politics during Brexit and Covid, I grew frustrated by the bureaucracy and lack of autonomy, so I started to look for a new career which complimented my skills and responsibilities as a Caseworker.
That’s when I stumbled upon Customer Success, which is a relatively new industry typically found in the technology and SaaS sectors. Indeed, according to the software company Gainsight, the need for Customer Success departments only really became apparent to companies from 2013, so the ‘blueprint’ and responsibilities of an employee in this industry is still ultimately evolving.
Its central aim, however, is to align the client and vendor goals through mutually beneficial outcomes, driving the client to renew its subscription with the vendor rather than leaving for a competitor. A Customer Success Manager (CSM), therefore, is responsible for building client relationships, solving their complex problems, and supporting them to achieve their specific goals, all in the hope that the client concludes that they’ve received enough return on investment to renew their contract with the vendor.
My previous role as a Caseworker and a Town Councillor also involved relationship building and creative problem solving, so I could clearly see where my skills and experience could complement a career in Customer Success. However, I had two big reservations. One, I didn’t have any actual experience in the position, so my perception of the responsibilities could be very different on the ground. Second, as an emerging industry, roles in Customer Success were still being thrashed out. I would come off one interview, for example, where the hiring manager would describe the CSM role as an aggressive outbound Sales job, whilst another would characterise it as customer support.
Eventually, I landed a CSM position in a high-growth technology company, so armed with excitement and vigour, I waved a cheerful “toodaloo!” to my colleagues in the House of Commons.
‘Nut’ having a clue...
My enthusiasm, however, was unfortunately ill-fated. In my first few weeks of onboarding, my hiring manager took some time away from the business due to unforeseen circumstances, and there wasn’t anyone to replace them. I was left with clients to support with a vacuum of unanswered questions. What on earth are KPIs? I thought they were a brand of nuts you often found in pubs and beer gardens… ?! I’ve got so many clients - who do I prioritise? How do I hit my renewal targets and ensure my clients don’t churn?
Leveraging the GlobalWelsh network...
That’s where GlobalWelsh came in. I had been a Pathfinder member for a couple of months and noted that they had a MyMentor scheme to connect the global Welsh diaspora to learn and grow from one another. I signed up and was placed with a mentor, Amber, who was a Senior CSM with over 4 years’ experience in the technology sector.
Amber and I were introduced and we had our first Zoom meeting to see if there was a spark, and found that we got on easily and shared anecdotes about client relations and our Welsh families. Alongside that, I learned that Amber lived in France so it was interesting to hear more about their culture and how this influences her business relationships.
We kept things simple and agreed to meet every two weeks for around half an hour each time. I would send over a proposed agenda and Amber who suggested thoughtful ‘homework’ for me to complete and review during our subsequent sessions. Over a three month period, these sessions reduced to a monthly basis and now we chat as and when we have a specific topic or question.
My MyMentor experience...
The benefits of mentoring have been both immediate and long-lasting. Having explained my current work situation to Amber, she was quickly reassuring and explained how I could tackle the small things first before focussing on the more dizzying commercial targets. Given Amber’s experience, she also identified which clients I should focus my efforts on and recommended ways to refocus clients that were at risk of churning.
In addition, we spoke about leveraging my natural talents in my CSM role. Amber kindly recommended a course to help me understand my innate strengths and weaknesses and how I can translate these into my day-to-day conversations with clients. My accounts were also international, varying from the US to South Africa and France, so Amber suggested ways to converse with them which was most amiable to their culture to help strengthen the relationship.
The most profound, lasting change has been my increase in confidence. In the absence of my line manager, my mentor was a continuous support throughout my onboarding process and she helped me to see things from a different perspective. Initially, I was very nervous at meetings with C-Suite Execs, but Amber helped me to realise that I have every right to be there and recommended tactics to help calm me during these conversations.
Overall, the GlobalWelsh MyMentor scheme has been invaluable. As we both had roots in Wales, Amber and I shared a commonality from day one which helped to grow and cement our relationship.
To anyone who is feeling nervous about joining MyMentor or is not sure what they can offer, I would urge you to take the leap! You never know what doors may open. It's a fantastic way to help fulfil GlobalWelsh’s mission to enrich the lives of Welsh people across the world, open opportunities and help us prosper.
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