Career Path: Evren and Ozlem Yilmazer, Customer Success Directors at Mendix
In a twist on our Career Path series, we connected with Mendix’s Customer Success Directors, twin sisters Ozlem and Evren Yilmazer, to learn about their extraordinary career paths, and find out what a typical day in the life looks like.
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Where did you grow up? What did your parents do for work?
Evren: Oz and I have had an incredibly diverse upbringing. We grew up on three different continents going to elementary school in Algeria (North Africa), middle school in New Jersey and high school in Turkey. Looking back, this experience of moving around and engaging in different cultures set the foundation for some very important life skills; being flexible, adaptable and able to get along and work with many different people.
Ozlem: Our father is a university professor in Chemical Engineering and our mother was a school librarian. They instilled in us a love of reading, learning, and general curiosity. Come to think of it, we come from a long line of teachers and academics; our aunts, uncles and one grandparent are all teachers.
Where did you go to college? What did you study and what were some of your initial jobs out of school?
Evren: We both attended the University of Massachusetts, Amherst for our undergraduate degree majoring in International Business Management and Economics. We then attended Bentley University for our Masters in Computer Information Systems.
Ozlem: Early on, Ev and I realized that we were in charge of our own career and had to write the script for what we wanted to achieve. Some of our early jobs were in Banking/Finance and we then used our Master’s in CIS to shift to working within FinTech. Early on we also worked for several consulting firms as this was a great way to gain experience both in terms of functional competence but also the experience of working within different corporate cultures.
What has attributed to your success thus far and has helped propel you to the positions you have now?
Evren: Self-awareness is key. We find that it’s important to be true to who you are. The perfect career for us is one at the intersection of our skills, values, and interests (which not surprisingly are the same).
Ozlem: We both have been intentional about understanding our strengths and moving towards careers that make the most of these strengths. This way we are able to grow and develop areas where we already naturally excel. In addition, I would add perseverance, resilience, and adaptability. We believe that regardless of challenges we WILL find a way to make things happen!
Can you share the high-level responsibilities of your current positions as Co-Customer Success Directors at Mendix? What is it like sharing that position normally reserved for one person?
Evren: As Customer Success Directors, Oz and I manage the North American Enterprise customers at Mendix. Our primary goal is to ensure that our customers get the value from our products and services. This is a critical role as the value a customer receives is directly related to whether or not they will remain a customer, expand their use of products/services and be a positive reference for Mendix.
Ozlem: We like to think of ourselves as the Primary Care Physician for our customer. In essence, we are responsible for the overall health of the customer/account. We need to have a broad level understanding of the “health risks” / challenges that exist at an account. In recognizing the overall health of the customer/account we may suggest that they seek a “specialist” which can mean assigning someone from our Expert/Professional services team to assist the customer with building an application, etc. or working with Product Management on areas where our product needs improvement before letting a salesperson reach out to the customer for additional sales. At the end of the day bringing together all of these other functions to get a full read on customer health is a key part of what we do. We then assess whether they are receiving the value of their investment and as trusted advisors, we guide our customers through their journey to recognize this value.
Any tips for someone considering a career in Customer Success?
Evren: What has worked well for us in Customer Success has been our background related to the following key areas:
1. Our extensive consulting experience working in project delivery gave us great insight into the true challenges that our customers face
2. Our experience in account management gave us the skills necessary to manage customer expectations and long-term success.
3. Our experience in sales provided us with an understanding of sales strategies, account growth and cultivation of a revenue mindset
Ozlem: Be a strategic thinker. Constantly look at the big picture to understand the vision of your customer and how your product/services fit in. Anticipate ways for your customer to get value from each interaction.
How did you two end up sharing the same career path? Did either of you think your careers would go down the same path?
Evren: Initially it was definitely a hope of ours that we would work for the same company but we weren’t sure it would actually happen. Our first job out of college we applied through the University Career Services; 8 students were selected to join and we were 2 of the 8. We had graduated at the top of our class, #1 and #2 in the UMASS School of Management (we won’t tell you who was 1 and who was 2!).
Ozlem: One of our strengths is definitely networking and maintaining relationships with former colleagues and friends. Each position after our first was through networking and we were able to at times successfully “sell ourselves” into roles where only one position may have existed at a company but they chose to create two roles to hire us both! We find that working together has been a great experience. We continually share ideas and push each other to grow and learn.
Day in the Lives
Coffee, tea, or nothing?
Evren: Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon!
What time do you get into the office?
Evren: We are both morning people and like to be in the office before 8.
Ozlem: Best to start early and structure our day before everyone else comes in.
What are three things that motivate you in your role?
Evren / Ozlem:
1. Getting customers to an “Aha” moment when they realize the value of Mendix and how it can improve their business
2. Impacting change at our customers across varied industries
3. The cross-collaboration amongst all departments to collectively guide our customers on their digital journey
Every day is different, but can you outline what a typical day looks like for you?
Evren: Come in before 8 and check/filter emails while eating breakfast (usually almond butter on toast and coffee). The day usually involves several meetings. In our roles in Customer Success, as we own the full relationship with our customers, there are often many people we need to meet with. Some of our days are spent on external/customer meetings working with our customers to understand where they are with their use of Mendix, ensuring that they are getting the full value of the platform. We also spend time in internal meetings as there is a lot of collaboration required amongst departments to ensure the best customer experience. This could be meeting with Product Development, Expert Services, Marketing, etc.
Ozlem: I’ll add that in addition to what Ev mentioned we also travel to our customers visiting them in person to meet with executives to understand a customer’s accomplishments, work with them to measure/document business outcomes/value and plan next steps in their Mendix journey.
What time do you head out of the office?
Ozlem: Since we commute together, I also head out at 5.
Do you log back in at night or do you shut it down completely?
Evren / Ozlem: We shut it down. Naturally, if there is something that needs immediate attention we would attend to it but we believe in a balanced life.
Ozlem: Stepping away from work and recharging definitely gives you a clear mind to be able to tackle your days more productively.
Any productivity hacks?
Evren: Definitely start with the most “value add” activities first! As we are both morning people, our brains work best first thing and it’s important for us to do these value-add items with a fresh mind.
Ozlem: In line with what Ev said, prioritization is key. We understand what is most important and make sure those items are prioritized. We are also both extremely organized. Each morning we go through emails quickly following the concept of (Do, Delete, Delegate) so that each item is quickly read and we either “Delete (move it to a folder if it’s informational), Delegate to someone else if it’s better handled by someone else or “Do” it if it requires our attention. This combination of “big picture” thinking along with our organizational skills allows us to manage numerous customers and understand where they are in their use of Mendix.
What are the 3 apps that you can’t live without?
Evren: Waze (it’s a necessity for commuting!), WhatsApp (to communicate with family in Turkey), Libby (library app to read books)
What professional accomplishment are you proudest of?
Evren: We can both honestly say that our proudest professional accomplishment has been taking the role of Customer Success Directors at Mendix. This is twofold. As mentioned in an earlier question the role itself is the perfect fit, taking advantage of our strengths where we are given the opportunity on a daily basis to shine and bring out our best.
Ozlem: The second thing to note here is that what makes the role even more special is that Mendix is such an amazing place to work. To work for a cutting-edge technology company that values its customers and employees is the icing on the cake. Feeling valued, appreciated and acknowledged for the experience we bring and working in an environment and corporate culture where you are supported, empowered and listened to is invaluable.
Who do you admire or call upon for professional advice?
Evren: Our graduate school professor and great friend, Professor Bill Schiano!
Ozlem: Bill has been a guiding force for us throughout our career. His first influence was steering us towards Business Analysis rather than Development in our graduate school days and he has been a guiding force ever since!
Images courtesy of Mendix