How We Chart Career Paths in Customer Success at Appian
Helping Customer Service professionals grow their careers is what makes Russ Bailey feel like he is making a difference. He was recently recognized with the Appian Pillar Award, which spotlights those who put Appian’s cultural values into practice.
The core Appian values are:
- Work to impact (not completion)
- Constructive Dissent (with resolution)
Winners receive a personalized prize and for Russ, it was a trip to Barcelona, Spain. We asked Russ about his work helping others grow their careers at Appian, and how he enjoyed his well-earned trip to Barcelona.
Meet Russ Bailey, the Director of Service Innovation Portfolio, Customer Success
What motivates you about your work as a Director in Customer Success?
At Appian, we’re always innovating and experimenting with new service offerings for customers. Our smart teams have plenty of new creative ideas, so we need a structured way to test and improve these ideas before we incorporate them into our portfolio. New innovations need to be desirable for customers, feasible with our resources, and viable to our business. Success for us is not when customers' expectations are met, but when we expand their understanding of what they can achieve with Appian.
Evolving our services is crucial to our future success. If you’re not evolving, you’re dying. Working with a team that’s dedicated to identifying and testing these new ideas motivates me. Evolving our services is crucial to our future success.
How have you helped Customer Success professionals navigate their career growth at Appian?
We created a tool called the Customer Success (CS) Career Compass, which has really helped people set practical goals to help them advance their careers. The Career Compass lays out the specific skills that we expect from each consulting role in our department, at each level.
That might just sound like a typical career leveling framework, but here’s what makes it special: This was not just a “top down” group of managers who came up with a list of skills and titles. We actually crowdsourced the creation of this framework with everyone in our organization. We wanted to establish a consistent, shared language that defines what we expect from each other as a community of practice. The Career Compass outlines specific examples that we expect across areas such as technical design skills and project leadership skills, from Associate Consultants to Managers.
So, when a team member pulls up the Career Compass, they can look at themselves in the mirror and self-assess:
- Which skills have I demonstrated?
- Which do I need to work on?
- What are the steps to help me get to the next level?
From there, they’ll start a conversation with their advisor or manager and set practical and achievable targets that advance their career. I’m gratified to have helped establish this framework way back in 2017 and to see the impact it has had on helping people grow their careers in Customer Success. It still structures and guides our career development conversations today.
In the Pillar Award presentation Bob Kramer, Founder and General Manager, said “a lot of the superstars in the department started out on teams that Russ was leading.” That meant a lot to me. To be able to grow other people and help them in their successful career trajectory is an incredibly gratifying feeling.
What were the highlights from your trip to Barcelona that you got to take as the Pillar Award winner?
The famous cathedral and Gaudi buildings were excellent. My son and I timed our trip so we could be there for La Merce, which is a multi-day folk festival celebrating the city's founding through the Procession of the Giants (puppets dancing to klezmer music), the Fire Run (a parade with serious street-level fireworks), and teams building human towers (just exactly what it says).
Add in half a dozen incredible art museums, a hike at Montserrat, a day trip to the museum and the estate of Salvador Dali, and spectacular food all ten days.
I’ve always wanted to go to Barcelona and I’ve mentioned that to a few co-workers, so receiving this trip as part of the prize felt special and personal. Here are a few of my favorite photos from the trip!
Casa Batllo, one of the famous buildings designed by architect Antoni Gaudi.
The Fire Run, a parade with serious street-level fireworks, was part of La Merce, a multi-day folk festival celebrating the city's founding.
What makes you stay at Appian long-term?
The best thing about working at Appian is the quality of the people here – but in a way, that can also be the most challenging thing. When you're working with people who are so impressive, ambitious, creative, and smart, that means you also have to be impressive, ambitious, creative, and smart. I love the challenge of that. And on most days, I believe I live up to it.
Learn about another Appian Pillar Award winner Terri McCormick, who won an adventure-filled trip where she hiked and snorkeled with turtles in the US Virgin Island National Park.