Women In Tech: Tameka Hughes, Sr. Customer Success Manager
According to Girls Who Code, 74% of young girls express interest in STEM fields but only 26% of computing jobs are held by women. In our Women in Tech series, we dig into what drives some of our most driven employees to lead successful tech careers.
Although Spring has technically arrived, the grey clouds, fierce winds, and longing for warmer days weigh heavily on those in the office —but Tameka is bright as ever, settling in with her usual warm smile you’d see on any day of the week here at CallRail. Her presence and aura exude exactly what you’d hope to find in a Customer Success professional: helpful, inviting, supportive, and relatable.
After we settle in, I’m eager to pick her brain about her journey. With University of Alabama stickers plastered on her laptop, she opens with a candid “Roll Tide!” explaining how her time there has led her here.
“Believe it or not, my major was Finance. I got a minor in Computing Technology and Applications to get a better understanding of technology within finance. I was interested in finance at the time, and I wanted to go into accounting. But after doing both and finishing out my degree, I decided that that wasn’t really what I wanted to do.”
Her initial interest in finance alone is a feat within itself—given that she is a woman, let alone a woman of color. Tameka’s drive to reach above and beyond the stereotypical professional aspirations was instilled in her from the beginning. She goes on to explain that the best advice that she’s ever received, and strives to live by each day, is to not be afraid to “step up and step out.” Those words come from her husband, who she named as her biggest cheerleader, always reminding her to never settle. Her zeal for cracking away at a challenge flows from her very words. Breaking stereotypes, barriers, and glass ceilings is rooted deep.
“You can’t be afraid to do what you want to do. Early on in my career, I wanted to play it safe. If I stuck it out and kept doing what I was doing, where would I be now? The same job I was in when I came out of college. Probably very unhappy. That advice is what kept me moving. It pushed me to go get my Master’s. It pushed me to start my career in tech. It kept me moving.”
She explains that every position she’s ever held involved some sort of customer-facing interaction. Even her extracurricular activities while in school designated her as the leader, feeding into her passions for public speaking. These all drew on her passions for talking to people, helping them, and leading –– and accounting didn’t exactly line up with those passions. So she stepped up and stepped out.
“I realized that I didn’t have to stay in a position just because I’m in it. I can do more. I’m the type of person that doesn’t mind starting over, and that’s what got me into tech. The opportunity was there, it was something of interest, so I went for it.
“I had worked in a start-up culture before, but not one that moves as quickly as this one. I had no idea about call tracking. It was totally new! I was learning software and really breaking into the tech world. This experience has been absolutely amazing and I honestly don’t know why I didn’t get into tech sooner.”
The customer success realm is often overlooked and even dismissed within the technology sphere. Many would say that it’s no different from customer support. Some say their work isn’t beneficial to a company. Others would even go as far to say that customer success professionals cannot claim to ‘work in tech.’ But, any time spent with Tameka would prove them otherwise—she’s a savvy tech pro.
Tech isn’t all about the countless hours spent coding. There are many pieces to the technology puzzle. Customer success professionals must know the ins and outs of their product just as well as the people who built it. Furthermore, they’re advocates.
Especially within the software world, customer success professionals carry the valuable insights into customer needs that inform the product building process. On top of that, women bring a unique perspective to the technology playing field. As Melinda Gates said, “If we don’t have women in the tech space, we won’t even be asking ourselves some of the right questions.”
As a woman of color myself, I was interested in this opportunity to connect with her on her sentiments regarding the push for diversity and inclusion in the tech space. She notes the fervent excitement that furrows within when we receive word of new team members. More often than not, waves of new employees include incredibly diverse backgrounds. “It’s especially exciting to see black women step into these leadership roles, engineering roles, you name it.” We both shared how rewarding it is to be working in an organization that’s consciously contributing to this shift.
“It’s exciting to cheer it on, and it’s also kind of disheartening that it’s taken this long to get here and for people to be so accepting of it. I think we still have a ways to go, but we can’t stop celebrating and making those moves. We have to keep doing it and celebrating ourselves and others doing it.”
Each day, Tameka is working to make our customers’ experience with our software as seamless and helpful as possible. She explains that while customer success and customer support are similar, they do carry core differences. “Customer success is proactive, and customer support is reactive.” Tameka is able to get a deep understanding of how the customer is using CallRail, and work with them to identify which plan of action and sets of features would best help them meet their goals.
She also goes on to explain that, unlike here at CallRail, customer success can hold a sales focus. She says that blending those lines isn’t always in the best interest of the customer.
“Customer Success should focus on the customer feeling like they have an advocate. It’s easier to try and get to know the customer when you’re not trying to talk them into spending money. So, that’s what we try to focus on: that they understand that we’re their advocates. We want what you’ve already purchased to work for you, the way you want it to.”
I asked her to think back and try to identify the most pivotal moment of her career journey or her ‘Aha Moment.’
“I think I’m in that process right now,” she starts. “I’ve had a lot of moments that I felt were pivotal and were pushing me in a certain direction, so I can’t say that there is just one that was my ‘Aha Moment’ because I’ve had a lot of ‘Aha Moments.’
Her experience in making the decision to pursue her Master’s in International Business is one of her ‘Aha Moments,’ she says. “Being able to travel and actually see the business side of other countries was big for me.” It molded her understanding of people outside of her daily realm into one she’s able to effectively use every day.
“The clients I work with currently in Customer Success aren’t all here in Atlanta. They’re all over the world. I was on a 10 o’clock call just last night with a client in the Philippines. So the educational background was a good piece of it. But the experience was the factor that really put it over the top.”
With her deep passion for leadership, and the CallRail team bustling with growth, more opportunities for Tameka to “step up and step out” are sure to present themselves.
“I’m always looking to do more, and I see the next ‘Aha Moment’ on the horizon as CallRail continues to grow.”
Want to work alongside driven tech pros like Tameka? We’re hiring. Drop us a note.