Support Star Interview: Angus Klein

Angus Klein

Continuing the series started in September with Deepak Chawla and continued in October with Dana Polyak, we welcome this month Angus Klein, VP of Global Support at Cloudera.

Angus is a California native with a BS in Journalism from San Jose State, where he was elected as Executive Editor of the daily newspaper. He continued his studies in Bath, England and at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. His first job was teaching elementary school before moving to the technology field, building service-oriented-oriented organizations in the data networking, data storage, security and data analysis fields.

Before Cloudera, Angus worked at DataDomain, where he embraced the challenge of doubling the install base every 9 months! At Cloudera, his 240-head support organization serves a customer demographic largely composed developers and sys admins who use a platform that brings together 35 components, two-thirds of which are open source — so there’s not a dull moment.

FT: One thing that’s interesting about your organization is it’s very decentralized. How did you make this decision and how do you make sure that individuals scattered all around the world can work together and deliver a good experience to your customers?

Angus Klein: Decentralizing didn’t come naturally at all. In fact, my lens on this is that it was far too Angus-centralized up until a few years ago. Scaling through other leaders is a critical skill to constantly develop. I hire for subject matter expertise. As such, I am surrounded by people who have incisive intelligence, employ much critical thinking and they have informed opinions. I would be a fool not to listen to them and empower them.

FT: How do you measure success for support organizations?

AK: We make sense out of Support Success as three parts of a triangle, all equally important if the goal is long-term sustained service delivery in a hyper growth business where enterprise customers have ever increading needs.

FT: Apart from the decision to build a decentralized organization, what other innovative decision would you like to share with us? How is it working out for you?

AK: Some very smart folks on our team are currently doing a POC [proof of concept] that seeks to combat the negative consequences of organic growth of the team. The size and complexity of our platform drives chaos that we need to adjust for (remember that we need to support 35 components, 24×7, and the average support engineer can only know 2-3 components very well) . The POC organizes the team into smaller workgroups that can collaborate on issues and help the support engineers learn and grow their skill set.

FT: Without stressing you out, what keeps you up at night? What do you worry about?

AK: I worry about our employees, our customers and our business. Support is a more strategic function in our subscription business. Getting service delivery down is key.

FT: Is there something you learned or saw done earlier in your career that you now completely reject? What was it and what made you change your mind?

AK: I reject conceptual thoughts that the communicator of that thought cannot draw a map to real execution. At that point the utility is lost. As leaders we need to be able to straddle strategy and execution through others. If the idea doesn’t have a map to operational execution, it’s a waste of time. This is part of the reason I enjoy working with FT Works.

FT: Thank you! One more question: When you look at the support field today, what do you wish more organizations would do or try?

AK: I think Support is in a unique position because we see in a very tangible way and on a daily basis how customers must exert effort into getting things to work. We owe the business better optics into those dynamics and then we need to require shared intent with Engineering and Product Management to improve that level of customer effort. You would be mistaken to hear what I just said as a complaint by an overwhelmed Support leader. This is a business issue. I believe customer success is literally synonymous with our business success.

FT: Thank you very much, Angus!


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