Monday Guest Elena Cocco-Y3-W10

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Get to know Elena Cocco

By: Mohammed Alqaq   |  March 04, 2024   |  Year 3  –  Week 10/2024

Hello CS Middle East Fam!
I’m Elena Cocco, a CS leader with a special interest in Women in Leadership, advocating for Customer Outcomes, nurturing Career Progression, and orchestrating projects that traverse diverse languages and cultures.

I’m Italian and based in the charming Amsterdam in The Netherlands, where I relocated after living in the UK, Australia, and Ireland (I think I’ll stop now).
I’m the Director of Customer Success for Europe for SafetyCulture, operating in the dynamic realm of Tech SaaS.


When I’m not working, you can find me trying tasty foods from around the world (Italian food still at the top of my chart – not sorry), hiking or reading a book, the weirder the better!

We asked Elena to take us through a journey telling us about her career path, how she spends her workday, what advice she can share with someone starting as a customer success manager, and many other questions.

Enjoy reading this interview  

Table of Contents

Tell us about your career path?

Like many people in Customer Success, I have a customer-oriented background. Like many people, I didn’t really aspire to be a CSM when I was little, but sure I’m happy I’ve found my calling.

I have a master’s degree in Cultural Anthropology, I guess my curiosity for People and their stories was already strong back then,

I started my career in Tech in a Customer Support capacity, then transitioned to Project Management and Account Management. All these roles helped me shape my approach to customer success, which is very outcome and experience-based: ultimately I’m successful if my customer is successful, and if we can also have some fun in the process that’s a plus.

I’ve been a Customer Success Manager for a while, at a time when we didn’t have much role specialisation, so I earned a variety of motions, from Pre-Sales to Onboarding, Adoption, and the occasional reactive Support tasks.
My progression was quite traditional: I transitioned to a Senior CSM role before tapping into leadership and pivoting that way.

As the Director for Europe, my current objective is to drive our Customer Success strategy across the continental European countries, It is quite an exciting project!

How did you join Customer Success?

When I joined SafetyCulture, the company’s approach to Customer Success was very different from what we have today and I had the unique opportunity to grow into the role and help shape the function from within.
I was promoted to Customer Success Manager when the company was going through a hyper-growth phase, and we had very different challenges and objectives back then, for example, we didn’t need to worry about churns or contractions that much!

Then the pandemic hit, and I started having CS almost as a hobby: I joined all the groups, led many virtual events, had many meaningful chats with CS folks all over the world, and really elevated my understanding and knowledge.
Now that the landscape has changed significantly, I’m glad I was there to observe and help drive the change.

How would you describe the ideal CSM candidate?

Like in many other environments, diversity is the key.
With such a variety of customers, businesses, and types of CS organizations, I think successful companies are aware of their hiring strategy and aim to attract the right people at the right time.

In Tech, we consistently see the demand for highly specialised roles but it’s worth remembering that the average lifespan of a skill is 5 years, so I’d recommend any candidate to really have a continuous growth mindset as well as a solid foundation of soft skills.

More broadly, CS is a customer-facing role (duh!) so companies will always look at transferable skills such as curiosity, problem-solving attitude, effective communication, the ability to articulate value, and most importantly a genuine willingness to see others succeed (customers and teammates alike!).

Of course, being on top of most used technology is a must (AI, anyone?).

What one piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out as a Customer Success Manager?

Question why you want to be a Customer Success Manager, and once you find your why then leverage your strengths! In Customer Success, there is room for uniqueness and diversity: not 2 customers are the same!


In Customer Success, there is room for uniqueness and diversity: not 2 customers are the same!

Can you take us on a journey describing what your workday looks like?

This is going to sound very clichè but really every day is different!

Let me describe a common one though: I wake up early (I’m not a 5 am club member, I’m just aging), have my many coffees at home then walk or cycle to the office.

Our European team is mostly office-based, so we can do some informal catch-up or a huddle while getting (another) coffee. Then I have a peek at some reports, check some messages on Slack, and finally open my calendar.

I rely a lot on my calendar and I like dropping everything in there, time blocking works quite well for me and it also gives my team an idea of my priorities for the day.

(Top tip: always leave a 5/10 mins buffer between meetings and use the “focus time” option if you use Google Calendar, for example).

I’m in a unique position where my tasks span the full range from being very specific and granular, like reviewing an account plan with one of the CSMs, to broad and high level, such as redesigning the dashboards and metrics.
I make sure to message my team quite consistently and send bullet-point summaries of important news and I’m definitely guilty of sending way too many gifs.

Add to the mix the calls with leaders from other regions/functions, customer events, coaching, hiring, and hearing people speaking 5 different languages around me, and you can get an idea of how vibrant and busy my day can get.

What makes you feel inspired or motivated?

I get a genuine kick from seing my team or my customer progress and grow.. My happiest memories at work are all of shared successes and I still get very emotional when I can announce a promotion!

What’s one thing that people are generally surprised to find out about you?

I can whistle with my fingers, like REALLY LOUD.

Who do you look up to the most? 

Professionally, I’m a big fan of some Women in Customer Success out there, like Daphne Costa Lopez and Marija Skobe-Pilley. I’m working to get to the same level of clarity and ability to communicate.

What are your top 3 priorities now?

These are my top 3 priorities:

  • Have a well-oiled European Customer Success machine in SafetyCulture

  • Settle in my new life in a new city in a new country

  • Learn how to pronounce “Gelijkwaardig” in Dutch (ok, not a priority, but deffo a challenge)

What advice would you give to Customer Success Managers to grow and develop their careers?

You won’t do it in isolation. Aim to learn as much as you can about Product, Sales, Marketing and how your work impacts the whole Customer Journey.
Find a mentor early in your career and don’t be afraid to switch your network often.
Also: (career) growth is not linear and you’re not your job, so don’t pursue a title for the sake of it.

What’s your favorite book, and why?

Terra, by the Italian author Stefano Benni. I’m not sure how good the translations are, but the Italian version is just the perfect mix of fantasy, comedy, and the occasional emotional moment.

» Check out the 10 Books a CSM should read to advance and improve their skills.

Have you had your “I’ve made it” moment yet?

Weirdly, no. I’ve had many “YAY’ moments, but I guess I’m more about the journey than the destination.

What should I have asked you but didn’t? 

If I’m in favor of CSMs carrying a $$ quote. (joking, I’m happy you didn’t ask as it would have taken ages for me to answer)

Where can people go to find out more about you?

Connect with me on LinkedIn and if you’re in Amsterdam we can also meet for a coffee!

Thank you, Elena, for sharing your knowledge and for the opportunity to know you more.

Do you have a Customer Success Leader, Expert, or Influencer you would like to know more about?