Unless you are just really, really lucky.
About ten months or so ago I took a position at Rackspace, in their Cloud Computing Division. A LOT has changed in that division in that amount of time. It has grown like crazy – both in the customer base and the headcount. We’ve brought on some new roles, both technical and in management. I went from being the Director of Software Development to the Director of Customer Development.
I’m in a better place now – for me AND for Rackspace. Why? Because I’ve always been a customer guy. I’ve always talked to more customers than almost anyone else I have worked with. Why? I just love it. I love hearing what customers are thinking, what they wish for, how we can make them more successful.
And I absolutely love to help. I really get paid by helping people – meaning it is every bit as important to me as money. I need money to eat – I need to help customers to truly live. I know that sounds corny as hell. But it is true. A painter needs to paint. A customer guy needs to help customers.
So why is Rackspace a great company to work for? For me, the most important thing is that NOBODY argues with anyone who is trying to care for a customer. It is just a given that if you are working a customer issue, you are doing the absolute most important thing you could be doing at that given moment. This isn’t BS, or a marketing gimmick – I’ve worked in companies where it was. At Rackspace it is ingrained in what everyone does every day. And since I spend a LOT of my time working customer issues, it is nice to know that the entire company is behind me – everyone wants me to succeed. Everyone wants to win that customer satisfaction battle. It is NOT BS. It is what we strive to do.
I also love how Rackspace has let me experiment – even to lead them, in some ways. Our Mosso Twitter account is extremely popular with customers, competitors and prospective customers. You have a question at 9am on Sunday morning, it is very likely going to be answered quickly on Twitter – either by us, or by our cast of customers that love helping each other out.
I wanted to do something big at SxSW – and Rackspace made it happen. I am NOT taking credit for that – it took a LOT of people to make that happen. But the fact that we went from virtually no presence at SxSW last year to one of the best events at SxSW is amazing to me. Our turnout was huge and the response to our “Mediterranean themed” party was wonderful. If you have an idea, it won’t get swept under the rug here – people listen.
I’ve had some challenges at Rackspace – I’ve slipped a bit here and there while trying to find my footing. I’ve had to prove myself and have had to prove things TO myself. It hasn’t been a cake-walk. But it has been a walk worth taking.
My senior leadership team has listened to me bitch, and whine, and moan, and perhaps even throw a temper tantrum or two. But they stuck with me. They believed that I added value and they, along with me, were convinced that we just needed to figure out the “where and how”. Finding the right position is always difficult. Finding it for someone like me, who is considerably difficult to work with, is a challenge. I am pretty demanding. Mostly of myself, but also very much so of my employer. I need real work to do – meaningful work that actually benefits customers… or I quickly lose interest. Rackspace has worked hard with me to find that place. That place that makes sense for both of us.
So Rack and I get along pretty well – we are both demanding. We both expect customers to just be taken care of. We expect to challenge and question each other – we expect to learn from each other. And honestly, I am not sure we will ever be completely comfortable with each other (perhaps it is best if we never are). But I think we both benefit from the challenge of finding how to work together – and to do so in the best way for our customers.
And finally, Rackspace is a very human company, which I appreciate a great deal. Just a few weeks ago we lost our first Racker – in almost ten years the first active Racker passed away – in an auto accident. I won’t go into details because it is a personal thing for Rackers, and his family. But Rackspace stepped forward and did more than the right things. For Rackers, and the family members. Today I wear a wristband that speaks to that fact.
I don’t care where you host your website. But if you are a customer advocate, and you want to work someplace where that trait is well-regarded – then look at Rackspace. They really are Fanatical about their customers – and we love employees that push us to make that true, to keep it true, and to make it better every day. We can always improve.
And I am living proof that Rackspace is always looking for new ways, new people, and new methods of thinking to make that a reality.
I am a Racker. And I am quite happy about it.