How Hopin’s CCO Knew a Startup Environment Was Right For Her—and Two Questions to See If It’s Right for You
If there's a thread that connects all the different facets of Rosie Roca's life, it's the power of bringing people together.
From how she was raised, to how she got her first job, to the decision to leave enterprise software to take on her current role as the Chief Customer Officer at fast-growing events technology platform Hopin, a focus on community has helped to guide Rosie's decisions.
We sat down with Rosie to talk about her career, her new role at Hopin, and what advice she has for people who think that their ideal community might be at a startup.
Drawing from experience
Growing up in Havana, Cuba and moving to the United States when she was 12, Rosie's first values were drawn from the community she was raised by. "I was surrounded by really hard-working folks that just forged paths ahead of them no matter what obstacles were in the way," she says. "It's really transformed how I think about challenges and it gave me a framework, from a grit and perseverance perspective, that I carry with me."
Her interest in how other communities worked and were run led her to study government at Harvard. "Growing up in a country like Cuba, you come away with a different understanding or appreciation for government structures and political systems," she says. "I was fascinated by the differences between my native country and the U.S., and what you see around the world."
As an undergraduate, she traveled to the United Kingdom and Spain, and studied abroad in France, working toward an international law degree. "I tested that notion, which I encourage everyone [to do]," she says. "I took a law school class my senior year of college. I absolutely loved the discussion and didn't enjoy everything else about it!"
It was at a conference about sports that Rosie found her first job. (The irony of the importance that well-run events have had on her career is not lost on the Hopin leader!) Rosie listened to the keynote speaker talk about how passionate she was about her work and happened to sit next to her at lunch after her talk.
"We hit it off," explains Rosie. The keynote speaker also happened to be looking for someone to help her with a marketing-research role, including interviewing customers about their experience. Rosie was the perfect fit.
Her role drew on the research skills she'd honed as an undergrad, and Rosie loved the community she found at work. The company, Kraft Sports Group, ran the New England Patriots and Gillette Stadium, and Rosie spent her days interviewing fans and customers of major events. "We were helping the business better understand the voice of the customer," she says.
Finding success in customer success
Rosie found herself interested in how technology could drive the future of the fan experience and community, and how marketing would be transformed around that technology. She went to Stanford for her MBA to learn more about those areas.
One professor stuck with her. His point? "'At the end of the day, no matter what role you go into, you're going to have to learn how to sell. How to sell your ideas, how to bring along hearts and minds, how to think about selling a product or a service,'" says Rosie. She liked the idea of selling, but didn't have much experience in it, so she took on a role at an early stage startup RelateIQ, which later became part of Salesforce, on their customer success team.
"It was early days in customer success," she says. "The strength I had, coming from my background, was that I had no fear in picking up the phone, understanding insights, and helping the business to react from an operational perspective."
Once again, Rosie found herself in a position where she worked closely with a community, this time one made up of Salesforce customers. She worked to understand their goals and frustrations, to support them, and help create better products for them.
"The foundational aspiration [of customer success] is to really understand how a business connects to its customers to support them in achieving their goals," she says. "What made me successful in that opportunity and every one after that was to stay focused on the user."
Rosie rose through the ranks, from manager to director to SVP, and was enjoying the challenge of setting a vision and getting a team aligned behind it. But she wanted to try doing that from scratch somewhere new. Somewhere like a startup.
When Rosie first heard about Hopin, it seemed like a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
"It is a totally new and exciting space to build a company, build a team, and build partnerships with customers in a whole new way, at a time when this type of technology is so needed," she says. "Ultimately, what drove my decision to join Hopin was the team of really talented folks, all passionate about the customer experience and the events industry,working together to create an iconic company."
What's most impressive to Rosie now, six months into her role, is the speed at which the business is growing and evolving. "It's unlike anything I've ever seen from an execution perspective," she says. "A week in prior roles is maybe a day at Hopin, which is a testament to our stage and to the type of culture that we have."
How can you know if Hopin—or another fast-growing startup—is the right next place for your career? Rosie has two key pieces of advice:
1. Make sure you're excited about the problem they're solving, and all the challenges that will come after it.
"Be super clear around your purpose and the challenges that motivate you and will push you into that uncomfortable zone, which is where we do a lot of our learning," she says. For her, at Hopin, that means not just building new event experiences for our customers, but also helping to redefine what overall customer success looks like.
2. Know who you'd be working with and learning from, and be comfortable with that.
Rosie comes at this part from two angles: First, who are you working for? Is your manager someone who can motivate people? "At Hopin, our CEO Johnny has the capability to drive execution and build team culture so quickly," she says. "He's been able to motivate hundreds of people in a year to do something that no one else has ever done before. I'm really learning from him and am thrilled to continue."
The second part? "Who are you going into the trenches with?" asks Rosie. Is it a team of people that you feel like you can trust and enjoy spending time with? That's been the case at Hopin, she adds: "They're so positive and optimistic and ambitious, with an incredibly impressive level of talent and execution."
Staying connected with her community
As busy as she gets, Rosie always makes time for one weekly (if not daily) ritual: reviewing the Slack channel dedicated to shouting out Hopin employees who are going above and beyond. "I go to that channel and just scroll and read about the camaraderie and the support that we have across the entire organization," she says. "You can't help but feel like, 'Holy cow, this is an incredible team, and everyone is really supporting each other in every way that they can.'"If the Hopin team sounds like one you'd like to be a part of, check out their open roles.
Well over a year ago—before the pandemic shuttered their offices and sent everyone into a semi-permanent state of work-from-home—Robin Garcia-Amaya was sitting across from her boss, Gainsight CEO Nick Mehta, in his office, when he asked her what role Gainsight should play in the world of social impact.
"He said, 'Given the inflection point that Gainsight is at as a business, how can we contribute to a better social and economic environment?'" remembers Robin.
As a Vice President and Head of Communications, as well as Nick's Chief of Staff, Robin knew this was her ball to take and run with, and she was excited by the challenge.
"I knew there was a unique opportunity to bring together something I care about, something the business needs, and quite frankly, something that any industry striving to be innovative in the future needs," she says.
Shortly thereafter, "Head of Global Corporate Philanthropy" was added to Robin's title, and a few months after that, Gainsight's CS YOU program was born.
A project co-sponsored by educational technology company SV Academy, the program's mission is to create opportunities for underrepresented minorities in Customer Success, first by training them and then by placing them in CS Associate roles at partner companies.
We sat down with Robin to learn more about how CS YOU works, why now was the right time to launch it, and what responsibility tech companies have to shape the industries they're creating.
Recognizing the potential to transform
Gainsight considers itself to be the Customer Success company. Their mission is "to be living proof that you can win in business while being human first." But Robin and her team recognized that their industry wasn't designed so that everyone can win. Customer Success is overwhelmingly white, with only 1% of CS manager roles held by Black people and 7% by Latinx people. "So we have a long way to go," says Robin.
Unequal representation is an issue in many fields, but an especially problematic one in Customer Success, which seeks to serve customers from all backgrounds. The pandemic made that point especially clear to the Gainsight team.
"We had already begun considering our Philanthropic efforts and how they might parallel with Gainsight's mission when the pandemic hit. As a first step, we offered free Customer Success training via our Pulse+ platform to anyone whose career was impacted by COVID-19. This was a start, but not comprehensive enough to tackle the skills gap many people face when entering a new industry," explains Robin. She, and her team, understood the need to identify, train, place, and mentor entry-level talent. And that this combination would benefit marginalized communities struggling to find entry into a growing field and the companies hiring them. "A more inclusive pool of talent, contributes to a better bottom line - it's the right thing to do, makes for a more innovative industry and is, quite literally, good for business," says Robin.
So Gainsight set out to do just that.
CS YOU is a 15-month program that includes four weeks of training (valued at $10,000), an eight-week paid internship (where interns will make $10,000 and hopefully be offered a full-time placement after successful completion, with an average starting salary of $65,000) with one of Gainsight's 40-plus partner companies, and up to a year of coaching and mentoring after placement.
"CS YOU invests in the entire lifecycle of talent, from identifying, to training and placement, and then offers a full year of mentoring and coaching after full time placement," explains Robin.
The program's goal is to achieve $100 million in wage expansion for underrepresented minorities in the next three years. (If you'd like to apply, you can do so here.)
When the right thing to do is also the smart thing to do
Gainsight has invested significant time and money into CS YOU, but not because they're expecting any kind of fiscal return. "We serve as the connection point between SV Academy and the Customer Success industry to facilitate the partnership for companies looking to bring on diverse entry-level talent. The dollars raised never touch Gainsight and instead end up in the pockets of the beneficiaries—exactly where they should," explains Robin.
That doesn't mean that philanthropy isn't a sound business decision, though. Just the opposite. Per Robin, a company that invests in their community might see better employee retention, higher client satisfaction, and even more positive investor sentiment.
"There's a concept of return on philanthropy. The idea that strategic giving can increase business performance and profits" says Robin. "Investors recognize philanthropic investment as a future performance signal, customers and prospects expect companies to place roughly equal weight on business interest and society, and employees want opportunities to give and a sense of purpose. There's a sense of social reciprocity—where a social norm of responding to a positive action with another positive action is established."
That's especially true lately, notes Robin, as individuals and companies realize just how important it is to speak their values in the face of mounting racism and xenophobia. "The pandemic and the largest civil rights movement we've seen in recent history has shifted the climate," she says.
Gainsight has a particularly good opportunity to respond to the current environment and work to improve the diversity in their industry by investing in creating the training and pathing around entry-level CS roles, but Robin highlights that every company could be—and should be—doing something similar for their community. That's especially important for those companies that are forging new ground and determining what the shape of a new industry will look like.
"The challenge to any company who considers themselves a thought leader or category creator is a responsibility to make sure [your industry is] inclusive, and to ensure that as your community evolves, it does so in a direction that benefits all people," says Robin.
Building and managing CS YOU has allowed Gainsight to combine their DEI mission, company values, and commitment to their community and produce tangible results. They've already raised over one million dollars of sponsorship and launched their first cohort of associates, and are looking forward to continuing to expand their reach.
Robin and her team know that the program's successes are ultimately not for any one company's benefit, including their own, but rather part of driving towards a more inclusive industry. "The DEI equation is so much bigger than Gainsight," says Robin. "The world is incredibly diverse and we know, with the help of our partners, we can make a meaningful contribution to ensuring our industry better represents a place where everyone can win."
Attention sales and customer success professionals! Watch the recording of our recent event with women leaders and male allies behind Slack, the collaboration platform that's the hub of the digital office, and discover what makes the company so successful.
This invite-only networking event included a keynote address, panel discussion, live audience Q&A, and interactive breakout sessions that provided a chance to speak directly to the Slack team.
Speakers from Slack included:
- Kim Beinborn, Head of Customer Success, AMER Central
- Mike Gong, Engagement Manager- Customer Success Go-to-Market
- Chandana Kaza, Technical Architect
- Kelly Bray, Sr. Director, Customer Success Scaled & Strategic Programs
Did you know that more than 8,400 global brands use Okta, including Slack, Twilio, Teach for America, Major League Baseball, JetBlue, and T-Mobile? As a cloud-native company with a geographically-dispersed team and remote workforce, the company is improving productivity and security for a growing remote client base.
PowerToFly and Okta's women leaders and allies connected with attendees during our recent virtual event which featured a keynote address, panel discussion, and live audience Q&A.
Speakers from Okta included:
- Royze Adolfo, Head of Deal Strategy and Operations
- Lauren Bayly, Enterprise Account Executive
- Ann Marie Isleib, Senior Vice President, US Named Sales
- Allison Lai, Director, Corporate Sales
- Jaime Mehl, Senior Director, Sales Development
- Curtis Moore, Director, Named Accounts