For this month’s interview, I welcome Kimthu Doan of OSIsoft. Kimthu has worked in Support for 20 years including Technical Support operations, delivery and customer success. She started as a software developer and support engineer for a telecom company (PacTel) supporting a cellular coverage prediction software. Having lived through three acquisitions, she gained the experience of adapting into larger and larger companies (PeopleSoft and Oracle) and later used those change-management skills to help other companies that were acquired by the companies she worked for.
She joined OSIsoft two years ago. OSIsoft is a 37-year old family-owned company in the Bay Area that provides an enterprise infrastructure for managing time-series data in manufacturing environments. Their products help customers manage their assets, mitigate risks, comply with regulations, and drive innovation.
She started as the Director of Global Technical Support, managing Technical Support and Managed Services. She now also manages the Customer Success Managers and Global Customer Care, which handles business requests and sales orders. The group is 300 professionals altogether.
Kimthu says that her progression illustrates the upward mobility that employees can achieve at OSIsoft and how they can contribute their skills and experience to serve our customers and the business. And in an engineering company, she has a special interest in encouraging women to pursue a career in engineering. (“We are hiring!”, she says.)
FT: One thing that’s interesting about your organization is that you hire a lot of engineers right out of school and you train them to be excellent support engineers. What made you embrace this decision and how do you make sure that you hire the right people?
Kimthu Doan: I am supportive of this hiring strategy, which was in place before I started at OSIsoft to execute our founder’s philosophy, because new graduates are eager to learn and innovate, and they have a natural interest in technology. About 5% of our new hires have prior experience in industrial engineering, process engineering, and support, and they also are very successful.
For new graduates, we recruit from top universities and we require a minimum GPA. We use a structured recruiting process that starts with a phone screen by our Recruiting team, then a phone interview prior to in-person interviews. We hire into TS with a long-term plan for the individual’s career within OSIsoft so we look for competencies needed in every role, specifically:
- Taking ownership and accountability
- Self-motivation and initiative
- Growth mindset
- Integrity, trustworthy, and sincerity
All new hires attend a week of orientation where they learn about the company’s history, tenets and culture, our customers, product strategy, and departmental overviews – and they get to meet our founder and the executive team.
After that, Support offers a comprehensive boot camp to prepare new hires to deliver support remotely and onsite. It contains in-depth training about products, troubleshooting, and tools and processes. You [Francoise] have been a great trainer of the Customer Service skills workshop that is a part of the new-hire training. Finally, we provide weeks of shadowing with more experienced engineers.
With that, we develop engineers who have empathy for customers, who are product experts, and who facilitate collaboration internally to help customers.
FT: Apart from hiring engineers, what other innovative decision would you like to share with us? How is it working out for you?
KT: As we transition from a small to a medium-size company, we need to transform without losing our tenets and values, and to organize without bureaucracy. As an example, this is what we have done to streamline staff rotations last year.
In North America where we have large team and specialized roles, we used to rotate support engineers and field engineers several weeks at a time to cross-train them and add flexibility to accommodate customer requests. This required a lot of coordination between the two teams. We switched to an on-demand model so that the support engineers rotate whenever a service request is confirmed. This has increased employee satisfaction, removed downtime, and dramatically reduced coordination demands.
FT: How do you measure success for support organizations?
KT: Customer satisfaction is a given to understand how customers perceive our services. That said, there are many underlying components that drive it, notably time to resolution and engineers’ expertise. Similarly to other companies, we want to maintain if not increase high customer satisfaction while improving internal efficiencies, utilization and innovation. Our support satisfaction rating has been at 4.7/5.0 for the past couple of years.
FT: Without stressing you out, what keeps you up at night? What do you worry about?
KT: Two things have always been on my mind.
- Managing change through a consensus environment. I often ask myself how I can manage change at speed while allowing everyone to feel part of the decision. I play a role of coach, guide, or mentor as much as I can to facilitate change and decision-making.
- I am working on motivating and retaining my young workforce, based on our hiring philosophy and our goal to hire for the company,
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?
KT: Not so much of rejecting but changing my approach to acknowledge and compliment team members more frequently, not just for big accomplishments.
FT: When you look at the support field today, what do you wish more organizations would do or try?
KT: Find ways to relate and include the contributions of support team members into the big picture. Show how support impacts our customers’ business outcomes and the company’s bottom line one issue, one installation, or one training class as a time.
FT: Thank you very much, Kimthu!