You’re thinking ahead about your future career in tech. You’re already settled on being a Customer Success Manager. You have the skills and enjoy working with people. But hold on. What about what happens a few years in? What does the pathway look like after you’ve demonstrated that you’re good at what you do? That’s what I hope to show you in this blog.
You can stay either “on” the path or “off” the path. By that, I mean that you can keep CSMing, or explore pathways elsewhere within your organization. The great thing about being a CSM is that it lends itself quite well to lateral or sideways moves. Reason for this is that it’s naturally quite cross-functional, that is, you work with different departments to build the best possible customer experience. I’ll give an intro into a few of these other departments and how they might appeal to you.
On the path
- Senior: if you’re in a larger organization, or even a smaller one that’s hiring more CSMs, being the senior one that shows the newbies the ropes is going to be the most natural progression if you just keep at it. This is also known as being an Individual Contributor (IC).
- Operations: this is an alternative IC role that’s fast emerging as one that more mature organizations have. Basically, it’s about building systems to assist with the tracking of CSM data so that it’s easier to see if CSM initiatives are working. If you have an analytical mind, like working with data and are good with systems like Excel, this could be a path that you take.
- Leader: if you’re good at managing people, then the alternative pathway is to manage a team of CSMs. You might need management/leadership training, but the key here is that you’re able to help your team perform better.
Off the path
- Sales: sales and customer success are like two peas in a pod. Salespeople get customers through the funnel and hand them over the customers to receive the white glove treatment. When it comes to critical intervals like after the first year, CSMs then work together with sales to renew and expand the customers so they pay the organization more money. Maybe you’ve found that you care less about helping the customer use the software and have more of a knack of getting to the right people and demoing the product. Sales careers are also very people focused and can be very lucrative, not only earning a high base salary but also commissions/bonuses as a result of hitting targets.
- UX Design: UX Design is a key discipline that examines the customer journeys and focuses on building digital experiences that make said customer journeys smoother. If you’ve ever downloaded a new app and felt that it was pretty slick and easy to use, that’s often the result of a strong UX Design. This is likely to need a certification, but if you have shown interest in this area and can build a case for management to cover the cost, it’s an area worth exploring.
- Product Management: product management is another potential vertical worth exploring. It’s about looking at the internal and external environment of a digital product and finding out how to build it to be as best as it can be. Internal environment is to do with managing the often conflicting priorities and limited resources to build the product, whereas external environment relates to what’s in the market now, where trends are heading and how to build what will make users keep using you into the future. Also a multidisciplinary role and known as being the “CEO of the product” it’s a great role that itself has great growth trajectories in a SaaS organization.
These are only a few of the directions you can take your career if you’re working as a CSM in a SaaS company. You might do something else entirely different. Safe to say, if you excel as a CSM, you should have no worries about where your career will go. On the path or off, you have options as long as keep your eyes open to opportunities.