Monday Guest Ken Aponte-Y3-W26

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Get to know Ken Aponte

By: Mohammed Alqaq   |  June 24, 2024   |  Year 3  –  Week 26/2024

Hello, my name is Ken Aponte. I live here with my family in the thriving technology oasis of Austin, Texas, USA. Thank you for inviting me to this process. I am honored to be included with such esteemed leaders in the customer success space.

Helping customers transform their business and achieve success has been my passion for a very long time. I could certainly talk on the topic all day long given the chance. I love getting involved in conversations on LinkedIn. Sharing ideas and learning from others is another passion of mine.


We asked Ken to take us through a journey telling us about his career path, how he spends his workday, what advice he 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?

My path to customer success has been a long winding one. After a brief stint in the military, I got my degree in Electrical Engineering. This was my first foray into providing technical solutions that our customers could use to solve their business problems and desires.

I knew throughout my time at both Motorola and Nvidia that I wanted to get even closer to the customer. To hasten the transition into the business side of the house I got my MBA from the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University.

From there I moved to NYC and spent several years as a Management Consultant helping Fortune 500 companies execute some of their biggest business transformation programs. That was when I knew I loved working with customers on solving their business problems.

How did you join Customer Success?

My journey into the realm of Customer Success can be traced back to my tenure as a Management Consultant. My blend of Technology and Business background gave me the confidence to succeed in this field.

Relocating to Austin, Texas, with its vibrant technology landscape, I discovered a market teeming with young companies in need of assistance in boosting retention and expansion in the competitive SaaS industry. Recognizing the opportunity, I knew I possessed the necessary tools to help these companies thrive.

How would you describe the ideal CSM candidate?

The ideal CSM candidate shares a lot of the same traits that defined my journey above. You have to have the ability to work with customers to understand what problems they are trying to solve and then help them execute the change needed to solve them.

One other trait is paramount. The ideal CSM has to be able to challenge their customers to think differently and to challenge their assumptions. A CSM, in this sense, is a true consultant. Customers are looking for business partners focused on their success.

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

If I were to give ONE piece of advice it would be, “learn to listen.” I’ve seen early career CSMs talk TO their customers rather than talk WITH them. It’s a learned behavior. Early in your career you are eager to prove your worth and may take a generally aggressive approach to engagements with customers.

A master of this craft is one that can listen, learn, and then lean in with strategic and tactical advice.


Learn to listen.

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

My early morning is always focused on my family and my health. After getting the kids prepped for their day and out the door, I spend time on a quick workout to get my blood flowing to my brain. That time centered on my body gives me some amount of reflective time to plan out my day.

The next thing I do is check in on my team and my customers (emails, slack, adoption scores, issues, and risks). I compare this to whatever action plan I’ve laid out prior. Issues and risks that cause a deviation from the plan put me on a course of mitigation. Otherwise, I fall into program manager mode -what do I or my team need to accomplish to continue along the plan we laid out for our customers and our teams?

What makes you feel inspired or motivated?

The successes of others serve as a benchmark against which I can measure my own progress. They help me set higher goals and challenge myself to reach new heights.

I am inspired by the stories of entrepreneurs who started with nothing and built billion-dollar companies, of athletes who overcame seemingly insurmountable odds to achieve their dreams, and of artists who created masterpieces that have stood the test of time.

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

In my late teens and early 20s, I had the honor of serving in the military. It was an experience that profoundly shaped me, and it feels like it happened in a different lifetime. Society often associates individuals who have served in the military with rigid and tough exteriors, but my journey in the military honed a different side of me.

Contrary to the stereotypical portrayal of military personnel, I discovered a hidden depth within myself. Discipline and order played a crucial role, but they were not the sole defining characteristics of my military experience. Amid the rigors of training and deployments, I found a wellspring of empathy and compassion.

Who do you look up to the most? 

My wife is an extraordinary individual who commands my utmost admiration and respect. She is a certified public accountant (CPA) with a successful advisory business while simultaneously fulfilling the demanding role of the primary caregiver for our three lovely children. Her ability to skillfully balance her professional endeavors and personal responsibilities is truly remarkable.

Throughout her career, my wife has consistently demonstrated exceptional acumen and a remarkable talent for financial analysis. Her expertise in taxation, auditing, and business advisory services has earned her a reputation for excellence in the field. Despite the challenges and time commitments associated with running her own practice, she always prioritizes the well-being and needs of our family.

What are your top 3 priorities now?

These are my top 3 priorities:

  • Finding compelling work once my current advisory work is done at Adobe

  • Accelerating the continuous learning cycle -reading more, networking more, listening more.

  • Planning a fun and impactful summer for my wife and kids

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

I would advise anyone just starting as a CSM to learn as much as they can from their peers. There is an abundance of webinars, workshops, books, and conversations about customer success (on LinkedIn and other forums, for instance). Connect and network with others in the industry who have done this all before, not because you need to copy what they’ve done, but to lay a foundation on which you can build.

Don’t shy away from technology and the implications of things like AI. While CSMs don’t need to be deep technical experts, they need to understand how technology is used to solve business problems.

What’s your favorite book, and why?

It’s hard to narrow it down to just one book. I just finished reading Revenue Architecture by Jacco van der Kooij. It’s a comprehensive textbook that provides a scientific and data-driven approach to driving sustainable revenue growth for recurring revenue businesses. These are all topics that should be important for any contemporary CS leader. As an Engineer, I tend to think in frameworks and I love that the book introduces a practical one for achieving peak operational efficiency in recurring revenue businesses. Consider this a must-read for any CSM aspiring to one day lead a team.

» 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?

Although I cannot recall a specific “IT moment”, I am proud of several significant business achievements. Notably, I have been involved in four successful acquisitions or exits.

These accomplishments affirm my efforts in delivering customer lifetime value and creating enterprise value. These companies became attractive to larger entities due to the solid customer-focused foundation my teams and I built.

What should I have asked you but didn’t? 

Nothing I can think of. I appreciate your line of questions.

Where can people go to find out more about you?

I spent a good portion of my free time on LinkedIn. I try to read as much as I can from leaders in the space and I tend to lean and participate in the interesting value-adding conversations that occur there. I’d be happy to connect on Linkedin, feel free to reach out:

Thank you, Ken, 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?