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How I Became A Customer Success Manager

14th June 2022

The Post: Head of Customer Success, IRP Commerce

The Post Holder: David Dickson

In his role as a Customer Success Manager David Dickson helps to make businesses more profitable.

Brief outline of your career to date

My first job after my Higher National Diploma (HND) in computing was with Opus Retail Solutions in Belfast. I worked there as an IT support engineer, after two years I moved onto Export Technologies. Initially it was a support role but this progressed to managing deployment and then progressed to an account manager. After my initial couple of years, I went to work for a couple of direct-to-consumer brands as an e-commerce manager, one of which was See.Sense. In 2018 I took up a post with IRP Commerce as Deployment Manager and this progressed to Head of Customer Success and managing the relationships and strategies for our key merchants.

What was your favourite subject at school?

Either maths or ICT but I will probably have to go with ICT as I got slightly better grades.

How did you get into your line of work?

I always focused on things I enjoyed doing and at school I enjoyed maths and ICT. I didn’t get the grades I needed to go to my university of choice so I decided to go to Belfast Met and study an HND in computing. Alongside this, I was working part-time in retail, I really enjoyed the customer focused element. After my HND an IT support role came up with an EPOS software company in Belfast, as part of the role I completed my level 5 Diploma in Leadership and Management as part of a Parity Graduate programme. This role combined the things I enjoyed from the retail world and my HND in computing I stayed there for around two years before moving into the e-commerce sector and I have had a variety of software/agency side roles as well as client facing roles, such as an e-commerce manager for a number of retail brands.

Is this what you always wanted to do?

Growing up I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to be and for me it was always focusing on the things I enjoyed as well as using my skills to help a business succeed.

Was there any particular essential qualifications or experience needed?

Around the time I was completing my HND and starting to look for a graduate role, it was quite a common requirement for tech companies to require a 2.1 computing degree. With any jobs relating to the tech sector a background in IT or maths is beneficial. 

Are there alternative routes into the job?

There are a lot more routes into the tech sector now with lots of companies now running apprenticeships or graduate schemes that allow people to gain the skills but also benefit from learning on the job. I think this is a great step forward and allows for people coming through an alternative option from the traditional university route.

What are the main personal skills your job requires?

Listening, communication and curiosity are some of the most important skills that my job requires. These skills are required when working with merchants on a daily basis. At IRP we work with various small and medium sized merchants, so being able to listen to their challenges and advise on the best solution. Being able to clearly communicate ensures actions are carried out and being curious is important as there are so many different factors to succeed in e-commerce you have to be continually learning and questioning to ensure the best options are chosen.

What does a typical day entail?

No two days are the same. One thing I like to do every morning is get up and take our dog Rex for a walk. Post-Covid, IRP Commerce has introduced a hybrid working model so I spend part of my week in the office and part of it working from home depending on what I have on. A typical day would be a mixture of merchant meetings and internal meetings as well as having core times to work on business challenges to help our merchants increase their profits. It is easy to get stuck responding to emails so I have started blocking out two set periods a day to keep on top of my inbox.

What are the best and most challenging aspects of your job?

I get to work with lots of exciting businesses across the UK and Ireland who are looking for hyper-growth. Working with these businesses you get to learn so much, and I also get to share my experience and knowledge with these businesses to help them achieve their goals. As retail businesses scale there are a common set of challenges but as with everything, there are always multiple solutions. Making the right decisions is critical to a business succeeding.

Why is what you do important?

The core measurement of my role is helping to make businesses more profitable, this is achieved through a combination of the IRP Commerce Cloud trading platform and consulting to ensure they have a clear strategy in place that will help them hit their business objective. If a business is more profitable they are able to grow and increase staff which in turn is helping the overall economy.

How has Covid-19 impacted on your business/role ?

Covid-19 impacted e-commerce businesses in a number of ways. For e-commerce businesses there was a huge surge of trade now taking place online as retail shops were closed, this resulted in our merchants having an increase in the number of orders they were receiving on a daily basis. Prior to Covid-19 I would have met with merchants quite a bit but this all stopped and Zoom took over. At the start it was a bit strange but then it became the norm.

What adjustments have you had to make?

I would have always had a to-do list each day of high priority items but with everything going online it was very easy to have days full of videos calls from 9am to 5pm. I learnt that it was very important to build in structure to my day and have blocks of time for meetings but also blocks of time to do work that progresses the CSM function forward.

What advice would you give anyone looking to follow a similar career path?

Try to focus on the things you enjoy, work hard and keep learning. The world moves at a fast pace and it is important you move with it.

If you weren’t doing this what else would you do?

That is a hard question as I do something I really enjoy every day but possibly if I had of went the university route I may have ended up in software development.

What is the one piece of advice would you give yourself on your first day?

If something breaks it isn’t the end of the world

Describe your ideal day off?

Typically, my alarm goes off at 6:45am and I take Rex out for first walk of this day, this is helpful for getting my 10k steps in. I would then head out cycling with friends for three or four hours in total with a nice coffee stop at the half-way point. Then back home for lunch and if the sun is out in the evening I’d head down to the dog park for a chilled-out evening.

What is the key to any successful job search?

Preparation is the key to a successful job search. I think it is important to sit down and work out what you want out of your job and what kind of companies align with this. Once you have this you can ensure you find a fulfilling job that you will enjoy.

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