Growing Your Career in Technical Support: 4 Tips for Getting Hired at Elastic from Support Director Heidi Sager
Heidi Sager loves math, but she also loves working with people.
She always has, which is why she enjoyed her part-time job working at the IT department of the University of Colorado while she was studying electrical engineering. (She'd started in computer science, but explains that it "wasn't for her" and switched her major.) She helped students and professors with word processors, basic programming, and software checkout, and took a full-time job after graduation as a UNIX system administrator.
"I'm definitely not the kind of person who could be heads down coding all day or, you know, in a lab all day long," says Heidi, who is currently a Support Director at Elastic. "I really like personal interaction and helping people solve their problems."
The technical challenges and interpersonal opportunities of tech support were perfect for Heidi, who became a support manager relatively early in her career after a battlefield promotion. "Someone thought it was something I might be good at, and it turned out they were right!" she says.
At Elastic, Heidi explains that her number-one responsibility is making sure that their team of support engineers has everything they need to be able to support Elastic's customers. "We clear roadblocks and things for them so that they can do what they're best at," she says. Second to that is her responsibility to evolve the business of support at Elastic. "We're developing tools and changing processes and procedures to make sure that we're as efficient and scalable as possible," Heidi explains.
Heidi is also responsible for hiring support engineers for her team. She's hosting a PowerToFly event on January 27 at noon EST to connect with other women in tech and talk more about open roles on her team (if you'd like to be considered for an invite, you can email us at email@example.com!). Ahead of the event, we sat down with Heidi to learn more about what support at Elastic looks like, what she's hiring for, and what she loves to see (and not see!) in candidates.
Support at Elastic is a team sport
Her team works with internal teams like sales, while also interfacing directly with external customers, and it's Elastic's human-first approach that Heidi appreciates when it comes to customer interaction. "I've been at places where the customer's always right, regardless. And I've been at other places where it's 'we do the right thing' regardless of what that means," she says. "At Elastic, we're very much on the 'do the right thing' side, which is awesome."
That means that the support team often works together to solve issues. "There's going to be times when you make mistakes; everybody's human. As long as you did it with the right intent, that's all that matters. Somebody's got your back and they'll help you navigate, whatever that means," explains Heidi.
Heidi loves to bring new engineers on the team. It's when she really gets to see teamwork in action. "They always start off a bit nervous," she says, "asking a lot of questions and feeling like they are being a drain on the team. But then comes a point when somebody really senior asks a question and the new person is the one to answer it. It's the best! Not everyone can know everything. And we're very open to asking for help."
The team approach is supported by a culture of feedback. Heidi's engineers have regular 1:1s with their managers and every week, her team publishes all of the customer satisfaction surveys they've received for the company. "It goes out to the entire organization. All the details, good or bad, and what we're doing about it. It's great. Sometimes we mess up and we own that. We apologize and try to do better. Sometimes there's a product gap or a product defect or something that needs to be addressed. Sometimes the customer is just not aligned with what we can deliver," she says.
Along with regular check-ins and feedback on how they're doing in their day-to-day responsibilities, Heidi also hosts quarterly conversations focused on her team's broader career and personal goals. She's developed many career paths within and outside of her team and helps each engineer find the path that's right for them. Those paths include becoming support developers who work on the internal tools her team uses, like an automated case assignment feature; managers on her team and others; consultants and trainers for customers; marketers; solutions architects who travel with the sales team to demo products; or developers and engineers on other teams.
For Heidi, the support team is the best long-term place to be. "It's new all the time. We have new products, and new services that are coming to us. Every customer uses our software a little bit differently, too. It keeps it interesting and not repetitive day after day," says Heidi. "I think most of the folks that enjoy support are problem solvers. They just love how it feels when you can solve that problem and move on to the next and do it all over again."
What Elastic is looking for: 3 paths, 5 key skills, and 4 dos and don'ts to keep in mind
There are a few archetypes of people that Heidi sees finding great success in support:
- Developers who want more human interaction. Should we just call this the Heidi path?
- Customer support professionals. "Some people with a support background decide they really want to focus on the technical side; maybe they've gone back to school for some technical certificate or degree, but they still want to use their soft skills and customer support skills," explains Heidi.
- Managers who want to be "responsible for [their] own destiny." Heidi explains that she's had people who explored technical management but realized that they wanted to stay more of an individual contributor, and really ended up enjoying the support engineer role.
And regardless of what track they're on or where exactly they come from, there are a few things Heidi looks for in applicants:
- Potential over specifics. Don't have deep knowledge of the Elastic Stack? That's fine. You can learn. Though Heidi does suggest looking into the free download of Elastic's software and digging in a bit before your interview. "We love when we folks that come in can ask questions or explain what was challenging; it shows great initiative."
- A base of technical know-how. You don't need to be a developer, but you do need to have been in a technical environment before. "If you have an understanding of how distributed systems work, that's great," says Heidi.
- Strong communication skills. Written is more important than verbal, since the team communicates through tickets, but both matter. "You need the ability to communicate to various levels of customers—very technical to not technical at all—and convey a message, ask the right questions, and be able to interpret the answers."
- Conflict management skills. While sometimes Heidi's team works with customers who are planning ahead and need some help, oftentimes they're called in for crises when something's not working. "There can be heated situations, so the ability to diffuse that and talk through it is key," says Heidi.
- Follow-through. "If you say you're going to do something, like get back to [a customer] in a couple of hours, you need to get back to them in a couple of hours," Heidi says.
Heidi also has a few dos and don'ts for applicants to keep in mind:
- Do: Review Elastic's Source Code. "It's the guiding principles for how we do the things that we do; it's what's most important to us," explains Heidi.
- Don't: Skip doing your homework. "My number one frustration is someone who is there for a job, but not for the specific job. When someone really doesn't know what Elastic is about or what our software does, even at a high level, I don't love that," says Heidi.
- Do: Be yourself. "I love when somebody is really, truly being themselves, when you can see that they're showing you what they're all about and not trying to fit a certain mold. We really don't want a hundred of the exact same person," says Heidi.
- Don't: Disqualify yourself. "Don't assume that we're looking for someone who has been running the Elastic Stack for five years and knows everything there is to know about it. There's a lot more in support then than just that technical side and we're open and excited to bring in junior people all the way up to senior people," says Heidi.
💎 Are CallRail's engineering teams the right fit for you? Watch the video to the end to find out!
📼 Engineering teams at CallRail encourage collaboration, communication, and empathy. Ayana Reddick, Senior Software Engineer at CallRail, shares what they are looking for in candidates and tells you why you’ll thrive there.
📼Engineering teams want candidates who have a growth mindset, love to learn, and are really good at communication. They also value team members who are excited about solving problems and working collaboratively. If you think you have what it takes, don't hesitate to apply.
📼At CallRail, engineering teams use Ruby on Rails for their backend, Angular on their frontend, and PostgreSQL for persistent data. They also use Jira for creating and tracking tickets, GitHub for their version control, and AWS for many cloud tools. Get familiar with these resources if you want to join them!
Engineering Teams And Diversity - Company’s Culture
CallRail seeks to hire from underrepresented groups. They pride themselves in selecting from a pool of very diverse candidates. They value the work that people do over their resumes. They encourage people to take their authentic selves to work. And they strive to create a supportive and welcoming environment. For this, they have Employee Resource Groups, that give voice to, provide safe spaces for, and educate the company at large. Some of their ERGs include the Rainbow Coalition, Black and Brown, Women Circle, and more.
🧑💼 Are you interested in joining CallRail? They have open positions! To learn more, click here.
Get to Know Ayana Reddick
If you are interested in a career at CallRail, you can connect with Ayana on LinkedIn. Don’t forget to mention this video!
More About CallRail
CallRail is here to bring complete visibility to the marketers who rely on quality inbound leads to measure success. Their customers live in a results-driven world, and giving them a clear view of their digital marketing efforts is the priority for CallRail. They see the opportunities in surfacing and connecting data from calls, forms, and beyond—helping their customers get to better outcomes.
We all have our favorite websites– the ones we frequent, bookmark, and recommend to others. You might even enjoy some website features so much that you’ve found yourself wondering why they aren’t more popular. Or maybe you’ve experienced times where you were frustrated with a website and wished you could add features or even design your own!
If you’ve ever found yourself intrigued at the prospect of designing and developing your own websites, then a career as a web developer might be just for you!
As a web developer you would be responsible for coding, designing, optimizing, and maintaining websites. Today, there are over 1.7 billion websites in the world and, in turn, the demand for web developers is on the rise. In order to figure out what kind of web development work best suits you let’s start with an introduction to the three main roles in web development that you can choose from.
The Three Types of Web Development Jobs
Front-End Web Development: The Creative Side
In addition to programming skills, front-end developers need to be detail oriented, creative, willing to keep up with the latest trends in web development, cyber security conscious, and geared toward user-friendly designs. The median salary for a front-end developer can reach well into the $90,000 to $100,000 range.
Back-End Web Development: The Logical Counterpart
While a house can be beautifully decorated, it’s incomplete without a solid foundation and efficient infrastructure. Similarly, a well-designed website depends on logical and functional code to power the features of that website. Back-end web development is code-heavy and focused on the specifics of how a website works. If you enjoy the analytical challenge of creating the behind-the-scenes code that powers a website, then back-end development is for you.
Full-Stack Web Development: A Little Bit of Everything
A full-stack developer is essentially the Jack (or Jill)-of-all-trades in web development. Full-stack developers need to be knowledgeable about both front-end and back-end roles. This does not necessarily imply that you would need to be an expert in both roles, but you should fully understand the different applications and synergies they each imply. In order to work in this position, you will need to know the programming languages used by front-end and back-end developers. In addition to these languages, full-stack developers also specialize in databases, storage, HTTP, REST, and web architecture.
Full-stack developers are often required to act as liaisons between front-end and back-end developers. Full-stack developers need to be both problem solvers and great communicators. The end goal for a full-stack developer is to ensure that the user’s experience is seamless, both on the front-end and on the back-end. In return, you can expect to earn a median salary of $100,000 – $115,000 a year for this role.
Taking the Next Step
Web development is both in-demand and lucrative! All three roles described above contribute to specific aspects of web development and the scope of each one can be customized to the industries and positions you feel best suit you. Regardless of which role you choose, all of them need a foundation in programming.
To gain the programming skills needed in each role, you can enroll in courses or learn independently. Coding bootcamps are a great way to boost your skillset quickly and efficiently.
Click here for some of our highly rated programming bootcamp options! Make sure to check out the discounts available to PowerToFly members.
“In my early twenties, I wasn’t the best at saving money. So, when I got the job at Nike and found out a financial coach was offered to me — for free! — I thought, ‘It’s time to be an adult. I should use this service to help me learn how to buy stock, tell me what I’m doing right with my money and where I can improve.’”
That’s Ashlee Bobb, Nike Media and Influencer Relations Manager, on the free, unlimited access to financial coaching offered to every U.S. Nike employee through EY Navigate™. EY coaches are trained on Nike’s benefits and programs, so Ashlee was able to work with her coach on a budget and savings plan utilizing Nike’s 401k match and Employee Stock Purchase Plan – all in one 45-minute session. She left the meeting feeling confident about what her next paycheck would look like and how her money would work for her.
“The EY coaches are really willing to come on the journey with you,” Bobb says, adding that hers was willing to work with the fact that, hey, she’s not going to give up take out, but still wants to save for the future. “The cool thing is I can see how this financial guidance could help me down the road when I decide to get married, buy a house, have a kid. Every Nike employee should take advantage.”Sound like the kind of company you want to be a part of? Check out our open roles on jobs.nike.com
Erika Morrison is a naturally passionate and encouraging leader. From leading her family in giving back to their community, to coaching adolescents in track and cheer, to managing her team at Light & Wonder during the pandemic, her experience is rich with lessons to share with up-and-coming leaders.
“I believe in motivation, positivity, inspiring, finding the good in everything, everybody,” she says. In addition to 30+ years in the tech field, Erika is a wife, a mother of two, an avid exercise lover, and has even been a small-business owner.
We sat down with Erika to hear about the experiences that have led her to her current role as a Software Engineering Manager at Light & Wonder, as well as three practical ways to lead with purpose.
Seeing Potential in Others
Erika has always been fascinated by the world of technology. Growing up, she loved cassette tapes, DVD players, phones, and whatever other gadgets she could get her hands on. When her dad brought home a PC Junior, it didn’t take long before she started programming on it. She designed her own trivia game, using what she learned in her middle school programming classes. “I was typing the questions in and programming the answers. I had a blast writing it and showing it to my family. I remember I wanted to show everyone what I made. That was my first real desire to get into programming.”
Erika followed that instinct into college where she majored in Business Administration and minored in Computer Science. The kickstart to her tech career came when she landed a computer operating job while still in school. She comments, “I was originally applying for a secretarial position at this company. But someone looked at my studies and experience and saw potential in me. I didn't think I was ready for that because I was still so young, I was still in school.”
Erika went on to work as a programmer analyst and software engineer for multiple major Casino based companies. During this time, she even started and ran a local event-planning business, which fine-tuned her skills in successful customer service.
Then, someone saw potential in Erika again. A former coworker reached out and offered her a leadership position with the company that would become Light & Wonder. Erika took on the role of Software Engineering Manager and says “it’s been opportunity after opportunity ever since.”
Managing Through the Pandemic
Erika believes that the best way to lead a team is to really get to know its members. “A lot of leading is knowing the people on your team,” she explains. “Know what each person needs — What may work for one person may not work for someone else. We have to take a little bit of who they are into consideration when attempting to motivate, to coach, to inspire because we're not all motivated by the same things.”
Prior to the pandemic, Erika and her team worked together in the office, which gave her the opportunity to do so. Once the pandemic hit, however, she had to pivot to incorporating virtual meetings to be able to generate that intimacy. She organizes bi-monthly check-ins with her team members where she intentionally asks for their individual preferences on communication and feedback.
“I have one-on-ones with each of my staff every two weeks. We go over the issues that they've had and then any questions or concerns or anything that they want to chat about. Sometimes it's business and sometimes it's personal. But, I feel like taking that extra time out just to have those conversations is extremely important.”
She also cohosts weekly remote Friday cocktail hours to cultivate her team’s relationships and check in on their mental health. “During the Friday cocktail hours, we would relax, ask some questions, or play some games. And it was nice to have that interaction again and connect with the team. It also allowed me to check in on everyone's mental health and make sure that if there was anything that we could do, we were here.”
Inspired to Encourage the Team
Erika is inspired by the example of her past and current mentors and their vision for her professional trajectory. She acknowledges that it was thanks to key people who saw her potential that she has been able to have these experiences. Erika’s own personal drive and passion for encouraging and uplifting others have led her to love her leadership position.
As a manager, Erika seeks the highest level of respect and excellence for her customers, while creating an encouraging work environment for her team. “I want to make sure that my team has everything that they need in order to succeed and get their jobs done the way they want to. I want them to have the level of success that they want.”
Erika ensures that her team members feel their significant contribution to the company and how they are serving with purpose. “We need to feel like we are part of something significant,” she says. “That’s my goal as a leader and for my team.”
3 Ways to Lead with Purpose:
Drawing from her experiences as a tech leader, business owner, coach, and community volunteer, she gives us three practical ways to lead with purpose in whatever context.
- Understand the “why”. “It’s extremely important to know the why of your company. Once you understand it from the company’s perspective, you can communicate it clearly to the team. And once you get that down, you’re able to help build a strong path for them to follow so that both “why’s” are in alignment. Knowing the why of your individual team members allows you to better manage, assist, and build a relationship with them.”
- Build consistency. “I think it’s very important that we are consistent and don't deviate from the why and the task at hand. Building consistency with others motivates and inspires people to give their best, even when we don’t feel like it. When dealing with a change or a huge transition, it’s extremely important to stick to the why’s, the steps we’re taking, and the right attitude."
- Remain positive. “You have to find positivity in everything because no matter what, it could always be worse. We can always find the negative things, but there are also always positive things. As a leader, I need to be empathetic, kind, and encouraging no matter what. It’s extremely important that I’m positive and involve my team members in the process.”