We recently chatted with Yuval Illouz, Director of Customer Success at Keywee. We talked about his career progression at Keywee, managing customers like The New York Times and National Geographic, and his advice for new grads.
Hey Yuval. Tell us about what you do at Keywee.
I’ve been at Keywee for about two and a half years. Today I’m Director of Customer Success (CS), leading the Israeli CS team which is currently 15 people strong and expected to grow to 20 this quarter! (check out what Yuval’s hiring for here)
What do you like the most about your role?
I get to the office and despite having a full schedule, I still don’t know what my day’s going to end up like. The statement “dynamic company” is not just a cliche, it’s really what happens at Keywee. I’m not talking about super-crazy unexpected stuff, but you need to be able to deal with a lot of challenges with the team and with customers. That’s what I love, and this is the real challenge; balancing everything that’s happening simultaneously.
What’s been your career progression at Keywee?
I studied psychology in college, and wasn’t in tech before. I saw a Keywee hiring post on Facebook and applied. As part of the interview process I had to complete an Excel exercise – and I had never used Excel before. So I spent a few days really diving deep into Excel, learning pivot tables and vlookups, and really liked it.
I started at Keywee as a junior CSM (Customer Success Manager), when the company was about 20 people in total, and the CS team was four people.
I got to manage big customers pretty quickly – like National Geographic, The New York Times, and Conde Nast. At first, working with these iconic brands was very hard and challenging, but also really interesting. After eight months I got promoted to senior CSM, which meant owning a few strategic accounts.
I also started managing the training process for new CSMs, building a new training and onboarding program.
What sort of training did you do yourself when you started at Keywee?
When I joined, I got some training but it wasn’t very structured. I had an amazing mentor (Ido), and lots of what I learned came from him and my manager. I was also paired with a senior CSM and had daily meetings with her, where I would just ask a ton of questions. In general, I set up time with every person at Keywee who I thought could teach me something. So definitely a lot of self-guided learning.
Because the company was growing fast, I found myself managing a lot of customers very quickly. Initially I was really scared to talk to customers, and I did all my calls with my manager. After four months, we set a goal for me to be more independent on calls, but I was still asking my manager to lead them. One day, my manager said “good luck” and just walked out of the room as we were about to start a customer call with seven people. Since then, I’ve been leading all of my calls.
What did you learn at Keywee?
Wow, an entire world of knowledge.
I haven’t stopped learning for a day. Every day brings a new challenge.
Initially, I learned content marketing, then time management (how to deal with tons of simultaneous tasks and urgent customer requests), then managing customers and accounts.
The learning process involves a lot of trial & error. Fortunately Keywee has a supportive environment that lets people make mistakes, and teaches them how not repeat the same mistake.
Nowadays, a lot of what I’m learning is around people management. How to train and teach people, set goals, transfer best practices.
I managed people before Keywee, but here our thinking is much more long-term.
I’ve learned things like giving tasks, delegating, following up and following through, not giving up on the important in favor of the urgent, being friendly yet demanding – not too friendly.
When comparing yourself now to the Yuval who started at Keywee four years ago, what are the main differences?
Back when I started I didn’t know anything about working for a tech company, time management, task management, working with customers. My confidence level was much lower – can I even do it? Can I communicate with customers effectively?
Today, I sometimes do eight customer calls in one afternoon. When I just started doing calls, it would take me 30-60 minutes to prepare for each call. Today I feel very comfortable with campaign and customer management, and my prep time went down substantially as a result.
What has been your most exciting moment at Keywee?
Becoming the account manager for The New York Times after about a year at Keywee. I felt all the hard work I put into this account from day one was recognized. Since then, the account has significantly grown and developed – both from Keywee’s technical standpoint as well as our joint work together.
What kind of people would succeed in your role at Keywee?
Folks who are hungry, with high work ethic, and a desire to develop, learn, and succeed. People who plan for the long-term, not optimizing for the here and now.
What advice would you give someone who’s just graduating from college / university and looking to break into tech or digital media?
You should research every company you apply to and try to understand the company, the product, and the role. Even if two roles have the same title, they can mean different things at different companies. For example, “Customer Success Manager” or “Account Manager” can be very number-driven and focused on data analysis in one company, and a much more customer-facing, relationship role in another company.
As an interviewer, I really enjoy it when a candidate comes in and knows what Keywee does, and a bit about the role. When they don’t know anything, that’s a red flag.
As Yuval mentioned, we’re hiring and expanding our customer success team, and looking to hire new college / university graduates for our training program, Keywee Greenhouse. Check it out and apply!