Why getting a job in tech support puts you on the fast track to a promotion

by Kelly O'Halloran
March 23, 2017

For people who might lack the technical skills needed for more advanced roles, tech support can be a great entry point to a career with a fast-growing company in Austin. 

Workers in tech support gain invaluable skills about the product and user experience that often lead to fast-track promotions. We caught up with three Austin tech companies that offer growth opportunities to their support teams — and a few employees who made the leap themselves.

 

Adam Ferenzi, BigCommerce's director of client success, said the company has seen team members grow from tech support roles to any number of departments, including engineering, product, account management, content and more.

When a candidate has shown potential, he said promotions typically occur within 12 to 18 months — though that time may be less or more depending on the person. 

Ferenzi said BigCommerce encourages and enables professional growth from the support team for several reasons, citing that these team members tend to know the product better than just about anyone and also develop a deep knowledge of industry trends based on conversations with customers. He also stressed the importance of a genuine desire to help customers succeed.

"When you couple that mindset with the product and tech knowledge gained by doing the job, then enter a new role in engineering, product, or another part of the organization, it's a recipe for continued success," said Ferenzi. 

Alyss Noland
Developer Advocate

Alyss Noland was promoted from support to developer advocate at BigCommerce. When she originally joined the support team, she said it was very important to her that there was opportunity for upward mobility. 

Why did you want a role in tech support?

I came from a company where I was doing internal IT (unofficially). A coworker from my former company sent me BigCommerce's hiring event flier, and I've always felt I had a knack for computers. It's a role I could put those skills to use where a degree wasn't required, but it still had a lot of potential for future job prospects. 

What is your current role? 

I started at BigCommerce as a technical support representative and have since moved from enterprise technical support to sales engineer, and I am presently the developer advocate. I spent a year in support where I was able to improve my front end development and troubleshooting skills while learning to understand (and address) the complex needs of businesses. 

Today, as a developer advocate, I work to make our platform better to work with for external developers. This has heavily utilized experience gained during previous roles at BigCommerce.

What did you learn/what skills did you gain from working in tech support?

Any support role necessitates emotional intelligence. People aren't calling you because they're having a good day. It helped me in business communication to say, "That sounds frustrating. Help me understand what's going on.”

I had dabbled in HTML/CSS, but working as tech support for BigCommerce, I learned more up-to-date front end skills like HTML5, CSS3, and basic JavaScript/JQuery. There was a bit of UX understanding I garnered along the way since you're frequently having different people ask you to make the same changes. 

APIs! Oh, man. I had heard of APIs, but I didn't really understand what they were. While I was in tech support, I learned not only what they are but also how to interact with them. If I hadn't learned that, I don't know if I would've landed in the role I'm in today. 

 

Nick Daines, WP Engine's VP of customer experience, said the company has had many individuals in support roles take on new responsibilities in various departments, including research and development, tech ops, recruiting and sales engineering.

"Many parts of our business require you to understand how other parts of the business works," said Daines, noting the cross-department collaboration by the support team. "This makes support reps great candidates for promotions to those groups in the future."

Regardless of upward career potential, Daines said candidates can look forward to enjoying the work. 

"First and foremost, [potential candidates] will love working for WP Engine because everyone has your back, leadership is inspiring and committed to radical transparency, diversity is valued and it’s exciting to be a part of a high-growth company that powers one of the most important things for business today — their website."

Clyde Melendez joined WP Engine as tech support following his time in the military — and has since been promoted to manager of the tech support team.

Why did you want a role in tech support?

During my time in the military, I found a passion for electronics, computers and pretty much anything technical. I knew when I got out that I wanted to turn this passion into a career with longevity, and that is why I looked into opportunities in technical support, to build that foundation of knowledge.

Was it important to you that you had the chance to move up?

When I was looking for a career in technical support it was important for me to join a company that would have the opportunity for me to grow and learn. I was so excited to find a company that believed in growing their employees as much as I did — so much so that it’s an integral part of the company’s core values and culture: “Where the Best Get Better.”

What did you learn/what skills did you gain from working in tech support?

While working in technical support I gained many skills that make me the manager that I am today, all the way from problem-solving skills to the teamwork that’s helped drive a lot of our accomplishments. I’d have to say that my experiences with directly helping our customers has given me perspective about how things we do daily impact their lives. This experience fuels our belief in another one of our core values: “Being Customer Inspired.”

 

 

Justin Clark, Volusion's customer experience manager, said he's seen so many promotions come from their support team that he couldn't even think of a department that didn't count on contributions from a team member who started in customer experience — including their very first customer rep, Kevin Sproles, Volusion's founder. 

"Tech support knows how to work with all types of people from developers, to mom and pops," said Clark. "Due to that, they develop fantastic listening and deductive skills that they use daily. Who wouldn’t want someone like that on their team?" 

When hiring for his team, Clark said he looks for three things in people: patience, the ability to speak clearly and strong analytical thinking skills. 

"We need people that can convey their thoughts, clearly, to the diverse group of customers we have," said Clark. 

Cade Hammond, now a T3 engineer, started at Volusion as a Tier 1 e-commerce support specialist in customer experience. 

Why did you pursue a role in tech support?

I've spent a few years away from programming and needed a way to ease back into it. Tech support was a great way to learn about the Volusion platform while I waited for a position in engineering to come up. Now that it has, I feel a lot more confident going into this new role.

Was it important to you that you had the chance to move up?

Yes! Without that prospect, I would not have taken the e-commerce support specialist position.

What did you learn/what skills did you gain from working in tech support?

I feel like I learned a lot about Volusion (the software), but even more about how Volusion (the company) works as far as troubleshooting and other procedures go. 

 
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