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Servant Leadership = Service Excellence

There are many things for a new employee of CTERA to be struck by during that first year as a new team member.  The brilliance of the developers and product teams, the thought leadership of the executive team, and even the skill and resourcefulness of the documentation department.

But, NOTHING has been more impactful, inspirational, encouraging, and quite frankly, enjoyable, than becoming part of a team whose fundamentals are built upon true servant leadership.  From the top down, Services at CTERA is built on teamwork and mutual support.

No member is ever alone, and in a DevOps company where the success of a new deployment or support case can drift far away from CTERA-defined technology and onto customer infrastructure like AD, identity, networking, hypervisors, or cloud providers, each team member’s ability to deliver success to our customer is girded by a team of powerful minds who’s charity of intellect and willingness to support each other culminates into a truly world-class service experience.

I can only speak for myself, but starting out in CTERA Engineering can be an incredibly intimidating and humbling experience.  Each day brings the realization of how much more there is to know, to keep up with, and to experience, before you can hope to reach the same level of capability and competence consistently exuded by the team members around you.  It’s been a rewarding exercise in patience and persistent absorption.

I can safely say, that none of this would have succeeded if it weren’t for the direct and indirect support of team management and the example they set for others to do the same.  It can be easy for those who have been promoted to positions of authority to withdraw from the day-to-day, to disconnect from the micro and focus only on the macro, but CTERA seems to have built a culture where team leadership has only enhanced their accountability to every team member and by extension, our customers.

In support roles, we have all been in many situations that have demanded everything we have and more to forge a resolution.  Emergencies rarely wait for a convenient time to occur, but to witness and participate in the flurry of suggestions and knowledge sharing that are ignited by a team member’s after-hours request for assistance will bring a tear to the eye of even the most seasoned veteran, it’s the best of humanity on display.

Picture of Voltron

Voltron Image Credit: Richie S from Brooklyn, NY, United States, CC BY 2.0

Alone, our individual limitations are observable, whether self-imposed or not, but together we’re able to form an engineering “Voltron” that I’ve witnessed bring every challenge into submission not only with a collective aptitude, but with the elevated technical leadership we provide customers at levels well above the CTERA platform.  This can only be done through skillful empathy, understanding your business objectives as if they were our own, and helping execute a plan to achieve them successfully.

The key to all of this is in intellectual humility and the continuous learning mindset it begets.  Have you ever witnessed a sysadmin with too much confidence or ego?  That is a 4 stack steamer heading through an iceberg field at full speed, the tragedy is all but preordained.  Such a personality type at CTERA would demonstrate a compatibility mismatch I’d liken to trying to jam a Nintendo cartridge into a Playstation, and for this, I am thankful.

Ideas, thoughts, and solutions are always provided with the undertone of “this is the best answer I have, based on my current experience and understanding” which ALWAYS enables the evolution of understanding and the real-time improvement of every team member.  There is no fear of being wrong that prevents contribution and collaboration because there are no insecure egos to maintain.  Our leaders have provided a psychologically safe space that is conducive to continuous learning, and as you see the more tenured members learn alongside you, the construct of a hierarchy abates to reveal a “we’re all in this together” mindset.

Picture of a Sherpa

Image Credit: Niklassletteland, CC BY-SA 3.0

In any organization, no team has a greater ability to influence customer satisfaction than services.  We’re often referred to as “the tip of the spear” but I can’t help but see a more accurate analogy as the “Sherpa” of the customer experience.  Our goals are aligned, our fates intertwined, and if we can provide a broad set of experience, strategy, and work ethic, the peak can be put in reach of any customer willing to work towards a common goal.

Equal in importance to our customer service, is our ability and opportunity to represent customer needs back to our product teams.  This relationship is facilitated by an incredible escalation team that has deep knowledge of how things work, translates bugs and RFE’s into actionable tasks, and powers the engine of the continuous evolution of our platform.  Seeing customer needs be emphatically championed in daily meetings is a thing to behold.

I’m genuinely grateful for the mentorship I’ve received on my team, across CTERA as an organization, and for leadership for cultivating the type of environment that I have little doubt will be seen as the core of our future success as a company.  My CTERA experience and direct observation have indeed reinforced the equation that servant leadership = service excellence.

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