Individual Contributor or Leadership Career Path?

bwilliams10 Member Posts: 2 Navigator
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edited August 2023 in CS Conversations
Hi GGR community! As a CSM, I've been an IC for the my entire career in Customer Success. As I am looking to progress in my career, I am debating what path I want to go through. I love helping others achieve their goals and coaching them towards those positive outcomes, both customers and my team whenever I have the opportunity. 

When considering your career growth and trajectory, what are some of the things that should be considered for making the decision to stay as an individual contributor or go into leadership?


  • Jeffrey Kushmerek
    Jeffrey Kushmerek Member Posts: 98 Expert
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    Hi there!
    I think that you sound like a great manager, but there are some things to think about:

    - Are you ok with doing less tactical work?
    - Does the idea of doing 5+ reviews a year enthuse you depress you?
    - Are you ok with potentially having to let somebody go?

    If the answer to these are yes, you are a manager! If they are no, then you can still be a leader or mentor, but perhaps not a manager
  • Rachel Provan
    Rachel Provan Member Posts: 17 Thought Leader
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    Hi!  It sounds like you might be leaning toward management since you enjoy coaching.  

    I will say this - management is an entirely different experience than being an IC.  You no longer have direct control over outcomes, you need to be able to influence the outcomes of others. (Which can be learned, it's just a different skill.)

    If you enjoy strategy and coaching people, management is a great track.  BUT - you have to be ok with being in a LOT of meetings.  

    Other IC roles out there are:

    CS Ops 
    Community Manager
    Product Marketing
    Enterprise CSM

    I gave a presentation on this a while ago and have attached it here, in case it's any help.  Feel free to reach out if you have any questions.
  • bwilliams10
    bwilliams10 Member Posts: 2 Navigator
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    @Jeffrey Kushmerek and @Rachel Provan Thank you for your insight. You both definitely gave me great points to think about. Also Rachel, thank you for the document you shared. This is a great resource!
  • Clay Telfer
    Clay Telfer Member Posts: 6 Navigator
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    Every job will always have problems, so make sure you pick a job where you don't hate those problems. Jeffrey and Rachel already listed some good examples: there are very difficult conversations about how people need to improve (or about how they're being let go), you have less direct control, all that.

    I'll add one thing that was a big adjustment for me is that, as you climb the management ranks, the things you're working on have longer and longer timeframes. The results can also be fuzzier, too. As an example, I once spent six months on a project to see if we could improve retention by ensuring certain customer experiences, and the end result was that those experiences didn't improve retention at all. That didn't feel very good, but my boss pointed out that I needed to reframe my thinking. The best outcome was learning that we could improve retention with these experiences, but it was still a good outcome just to learn that it wouldn't work, and that we needed to focus our efforts elsewhere.

    That was a lot harder for me to view as a "win" than expanding a customer or having the best churn numbers of the quarter, so there was definitely a big adjustment period, but I just love the strategy and coaching so much that it was worth the adjustment for me!