Hello, I am Marco Carrubba.
As somebody who believes in the power of differences, I have been living and traveling in different parts of the world and have been feeding my personal and professional growth on the ability to understand and accept the multifaceted world, treasuring the many different points of view that people experience.
Italian, living in London, I lead one of the teams in the Customer Success Unit at Microsoft in the United Kingdom, looking after seven different industries and looking after a few dozens local and global clients.
When I’m not working with my team or helping our customers decode the complexity of our products and our organization, I spend my time looking after my creative side: I am a street photographer and I love to freeze time and explore cultures and behaviors of people around the world.
We asked Marco 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
Tell us about your career path?
If you look at my career path from outside, it may look quite consistently planned: the main characteristic of my career journey is that I have used change as my mantra, by exploring different roles in different companies in different disciplines in different countries.
In reality, it is not really that much of a planned journey – I have been making it up step by step: behind the scenes, there’s been a lot of dead ends and turnarounds, a lot of experimentation, a lot of mistakes and one-way roads, a lot of changes and resets.
However, I believe that this is a very healthy journey for me. It is not much about invalidating the previous step, rather a constant exercise of adding up from the previous step, which enabled me to develop a very varied experience in my career. This is probably the main reason why I am into Customer Success today.
I managed to couple this discipline with my passion for leadership and these days I really enjoy talking strategy all day, nurturing the growth of my people, and looking after the success of my organization and clients.
How did you join Customer Success?
I have always been exposed to customer interactions since day one, dealing with the success of the customers without even this wonderful discipline of customer success being on the planet.
Things started to shape up in the community and then one day I was lucky enough to be called upon to join a company and at the same time step up into a leadership role to drive a team in customer success.
That was the moment where I could reuse all my previous experiences in many disciplines and roles, most of which had been customer-facing together with my desire and ambition to lead a team of professionals.
I was lucky to have this team scattered across different countries and so their multicultural aspect was very dear to me and it enabled me to channel my passion for cultural learning and for diversity into something tangible that could be the basis of a very special experience for me and the team.
How would you describe the ideal CSM candidate?
I consider two very important aspects about the ideal Customer Success Manager.
Firstly, I’m really looking at those individuals that have developed a positive attitude, that are willing to help the others and that have ultimately nurtured a journey to expand their emotional intelligence so they can be enhanced empathetic humans. I strongly believe that these traits can be developed and extended, but I would expect a basic attitude and an interest and intention towards improving these.
With the above, the nuances of a complex relationship can masterfully be managed, so that a healthy positive long term relationship can be successfully established and maintained.
Moreover, the individual will join a community of peers and the interactions and integration with such a community are fundamental to the success of that person and the team as a whole in their ability to make customers and the company they work for successful.
Secondly, I feel that any new hire needs to necessarily be a cultural addition to the team.
I always do an exercise of defining what are the dimensions of diversity that are needed to carry out our job – these may differ depending on the company, the product, the market and the industry just to name a few. Once I know what I am looking for, I take a picture of where the team stands in terms of completeness for all those dimensions, and then I identify needs which ultimately represent gaps of attention.
Should I have candidates that are equally potential optimal new hires, I look at those gap needs and I prefer the individual who can increase the diversity of the team.
I ultimately aim at having a wider representation of different dimensions, so the team is richer and also I have a wider choice to present in front of the customers – for example, if I know that there is a customer that shows a specific dimension of diversity, say a neurodiverse person, then I can propose a correspondent person from my side and expect that the relationship can be smoother.
Here’s some more on this concept.
About this second topic, int is important that candidates can be their true themselves during the interviewing process, to ensure opportunities to enrich the team can be identified more easily.
There is an ongoing conversation on skills as well – provided a person is curious and happy to learn new things, I can then teach those skills in a continuous fashion: any good foundation will be amazing, but I am not looking for a “know it all” person, rather a “learn it all”. 😊
What one piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out as a Customer Success Manager?
Customer Success Management is a very complex role, where an obvious solution is usually not at hand. Sometimes, it is hard.
Your success audience will try to maybe force things on you, or be lost whilst they are under pressure or will come and ask you crazy things, just because they have a hidden agenda or simply have a changing landscape to navigate (think about inconsistent economic climate)
Thinking positively and creatively to solve those challenges will help, as well as not giving up in tough times or even when a solution seems to be at hand.
In its essence, this role is a bit like running your own business (do what you know, learn what you don’t and delegate what can be accelerated by others) where success is your ultimate end product – for the customer company, the individuals at the customer, your company, your team, yourself!
Learn to be by the recipient’s side, understand what they need, become a partner, permeate their team and behave like one of them.. so you can better master your leadership for success.
SO my advice is to learn how to be a leader. A positive leader. 🙂
Do what you know, learn what you don’t and delegate what can be accelerated by others.
Can you take us on a journey describing what your workday looks like?
My job is a mix of execution and strategic thinking. The execution is mainly dictated by the rhythm of my calendar. I then use the same calendar to preserve some slots to me and my strategic thinking, so I can actually slow down and think rather than execute.
In the execution motion most of the times is about internal interactions – both processes and people. Sometimes, it touches my customers directly.
Strategy is about making the execution efficient and flawless.
The companies I have worked for have consistently been complex, with so many people behind the scenes and orchestrating so many (to be improved) processes. It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to simplify the complexity of those companies on behalf of the customers and my people.
I also leave some time for unforeseen things and I’m always available to jump on a conversation with customers or my team, when they need it.
What makes you feel inspired or motivated?
Firstly, I treasure the role that leadership plays in the fabric of what I can achieve daily.
Execution and strategy as described in the previous question are both connected and fueled by the ability to communicate and inspire people: this is where leadership plays a major role to unleash that unique effect which makes everything work beautifully.
Secondly, I love the opportunity to help people grow. And possibly to change their lives. Being able to create an environment that nurtures growth at all levels is very fulfilling. This is both about providing psychological safety in a team as well as praising learning and open mindedness.
Lastly, I love to work for a company that can create tools and ways for people to work in new, more meaningful ways. Think about the recent developments around artificial intelligence, what an excitement this is! Not just about the technology per se, but the potential for which we’re going to change the way we will work.
What’s one thing that people are generally surprised to find out about you?
I’m generally regarded as an extroverted person. I think I can agree with that, however people are generally surprised to find out that I also need my time alone. I need to be alone every now and then, even in social happenings, to slow down, process and treasure the changes in me for everything happening around me.
Who do you look up to the most?
I treasure an extended network of connections and friends and mentors, which I constantly grow across disciplines and walks of life. When I need guidance or simply somebody to share an idea with, these amazing individuals never disappoint me: I value their opinions and comment and I always end up with something different from my original thinking.
What are your top 3 priorities now?
Professionally speaking, my first priority is to spend more time on strategic thinking. I believe that I can provide a lot of contributions to the growth of my organization, so I’m trying to find opportunities to influence and define new ways of working, where processes and tools simplification can be nurtured where possible so that everyone can find a better use of their time. This will eventually improve the experience of my colleagues and my customers for a better experience
A second priority for me is to decode how the new wave of generative AI can be of help in everything that we do in our team and with our customers. Everybody is talking about generative AI, and there’s a reason: it will be a fundamental change the way we work. Personally, I want to be at the forefront of this conversation to ensure that, as a team and also a seasoned professional, we can jump on this new way from the start and enjoy the benefits that these new technologies can bring.
Thirdly, I am looking for an improved work-life balance. This is the secret for sustaining a successful and happy future!
What advice would you give to Customer Success Managers to grow and develop their careers?
I think the biggest suggestion that I could give to any aspiring customer success manager, or any early in career in any profession to be honest, is to leverage and enjoy the beauty of a diverse network of people. Intentionally know as many diverse people as you can and see how their different thinking can be. And with diversity, I mean culturally, professionally, socially, different roles, walks of life, ages, studies, and attitudes.
This I guarantee will be instrumental to your personal growth and healthy career journey.
One thing that is fundamental here is to have an open mind and leverage that different point of view to change your ideas and habits. It’s kind of the same process that you would go through when you move to a different country: appreciate the differences in culture and the way things are done differently in a country and make those that are inspiration your own.
A second piece of advice is that every time you decide for a change – be it a new role, a change of company, a change of industry, or a move abroad – before you sign that offer letter, make sure the product/service/company is something you are (or can be) passionate about, the customers are someone you are delighted to serve and the team you want to join are folks you want to belong to.
Lastly – be open to career changes, don’t fight them. Accept them, understand them. Respect them. Look for stimuli that are different, they can teach you a lot. You can always change again if a career move turns out to be suboptimal. Career is a slow, erratic, life-lasting journey.🙂
What’s your favorite book, and why?
One book to read really, really enjoyed reading is The Culture Map by Erin Meyer. It is about how culture can influence the way we function and the way we interact in very fundamental ways.
Think about how you give and receive feedback. Think about how you perceive authority. Think about how you follow-up on commitments. Think about reading the room or “feeling the air”.
These are strongly dependent on your ethnicity and the place and culture you were raised in. Being able to decode how the others function and how you function related to the others is a fundamental skill to develop to navigate relationships, build the empathy muscle, and ultimately how you can be useful and helpful with making audiences successful.
» 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?
I am lucky to be in an environment with a lot of psychological safety at work and one of the focal points in everything we do is seeking for impact. Not only the personal impact that we can have, also the impact we have on others and most importantly the impact that others have on us.
This means that I am entitled and very confident in my ability to ask for help. I am not scared of being ignorant, provided I am willing to learn. Because of this, I have seen my growth increasing enormously.
I thrive in a genuine growth mindset, and I feel “I’ve made it” beyond the point of stagnant learning: the sky is the limit! 🙂
What should I have asked you but didn’t?
You should have asked if I authored any of the above with some kind of Generative AI. Which is actually a very good idea, I wonder if I should have done this.
Let me ask a synthetic friend:
Phew! So glad my friend says I honestly did good 😊
Where can people go to find out more about you?
My social presence and footprint are quite explicit, so just look for me with your favorite chat prompt (not search! 😊).
If you want a starting point, look at my personal website or engage with me on LinkedIn.
If you are lucky enough, you could even bump into me at your local meetup or conference!
Thank you, Marco, 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?