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Blog How a female engineer and computational linguistics professional has shaped my thinking on recruiting for a culture of customer centricity

If you’ve been following my blogs, you may have read that I run an initiative called Campfire where we bring people around a table every week to share stories about why we came to Narrative Science, why we stay at Narrative Science, and all the insane experiences we have being people out in the world interacting with other companies.

We just wrapped up our third round of Campfire. One of the things that really stood out to me from the conversations this month was how important it is to have all the people in your company all bought in on the same vision. Then, all marching in lock-step to deliver an incredible customer experience, because at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is the customer’s perception of how it felt when they interacted with your brand.

When you really break it down, that ties directly to the culture you create for your people, how that culture translates to a healthy product organization, how much ownership engineers and product designers feel over what they build, and how much accountability they feel to the ultimate end users, how that lends itself to a customer-centric GTM function and how that translates to a truly empathetic client delivery, client support and client success organization.

I know this isn’t anything new to literally anyone in business, but by virtue of the fact that ALL of us (including you, reader!) have had really bad, dare I say, shitty experiences, being customers of other companies (I’m sure you have an example about a bad air travel experience, for example). Even if it’s not new, a lot of companies don’t constantly hit refresh on their customer-centricity initiatives and ask themselves, “how do customers perceive their interactions with our brand?”

At Narrative Science, one person who thinks about this often is Tea Geckle, a badass software engineer on our Lexio team. In addition to her day job, she makes a concerted effort to advance the DEI conversation at all levels of the organization, goes out of her way to squash bugs when she sees them (software bugs, that is), and teaches a linguistics course to Narrative Scientists so we can better understand and appreciate the complexity and nuance of language (we are a data storytelling company after all).

I’d been dying to get to know Tea better and so Campfire offered the perfect opportunity and I took advantage of the opportunity to ask her to sit down with me to talk about her journey to Narrative Science and life at Narrative Science. I was blown away.

Tea’s career journey has taken many twists and turns, but at Narrative Science she has found a home and a career that is so tightly aligned with who she is as a person, we have been able to optimize for her strengths and her passions and truly tap into her zone of genius in many ways.

After sitting down and learning about her journey, reflecting on my own journey and then wishing that every company I had joined in the past had interviews like this of their people and their journeys, I thought to myself, why keep this for only me? Why not share Tea’s journey with the world? And why not do it in a way that helps people at other companies think about their recruiting efforts and how to recruit for customer-centricity. So on the topic of creating a culture that is inherently customer centric, here are a few takeaways from my conversation with Tea that can hopefully inform how you think about recruiting people who will make your culture more customer-centric.

EVERYONE is in client service.  

Ask the people you interview to talk about the best experience they ever had as a customer and the worst. Then ask how they connect that story to the bigger picture around their future role with your company: who would be the customers of their work, how could the stories they just told inform and influence how they treat their customers?

In fact, ask the people that you work with these same questions! To my earlier point, we are all in client service because the decisions that are made upstream or downstream of the customer impact the customer’s perception of the experience they have with your company.  It’s important to have an open dialogue with everyone at your company and everyone that wants to join your company about how they contribute to the client experience and how to make them feel ownership for making it the absolute best in class.

Tea’s career journey began in publishing. After some horrendous experiences in client services she left the industry and made a career pivot – she’s now extremely focused on how she can deliver incredible client experiences so she never puts someone like her previous-self in that same position (as someone in Customer Success, thank you, Tea!). This particular experience has informed key initiatives that Tea now drives on the DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) committee and leads, in the linguistics program she runs.

Interns come in different flavors.  

The list can include high schoolers, college grads, veterans, career pivoters and full time parents. Everyone starts somewhere. Internships are great opportunities to start your professional life or pivot your career path.

Tea came to Narrative Science as an intern after leaving her previous industry and wanting a fresh start. Luckily for us she was a talented coder and a great fit for our culture. She accepted a full time offer after her internship ended and has been rocking it ever since.

Create a recruiting pipeline that allows people, like Tea, to get their foot in the door and prove their value can result in incredible outcomes and extremely talented employees.  When you stop thinking of interns as bright eyed-bushy-tailed college grads and start thinking of them as someone who can bring value to your organization and is willing to work like hell to prove it… you could open the floodgates for a new team of creative problem solvers to enter and drive massive value and change in your organization.

Everyone at your company should have a passionate vision of the impact your tech and services will have in the future

If someone wants to join your company, it’s because your tech/service represents something they think is at a minimum interesting, but more importantly, valuable and addresses a need in the market they have thought of. What is their dream use case for your tech? How would it have changed their lives? How do they think it could change the lives of other people who they care about? What future is possible when they come onboard with your company? It may take years and years to get there, but what is their personal connection to building a bright future for your company?

For Tea, data storytelling’s future potential is to write more digestible academic papers, promoting more reading/understanding/use of these deeply interesting areas of research that are currently going underutilized.

For me, data storytelling’s future potential is providing personalized patient reports to busy doctors about the patient’s record in a really digestible format so Docs can provide a more consistent and cohesive patient care schedule over time and therefore clearly identify and understand when there is a deviation from the status quo for a patient so they can get the treatment they need to have better outcomes more quickly.

Click here to see a video of Stef’s interview with Tea

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