Recently selected as one of the Top 100 Customer Success Strategists by industry peers, Subha Shrinivasan, Vice President of Customer Success Unified Cloud BU, Rakuten Symphony, has established herself as a rising leader in telecom. We caught up with Subha to learn more about her career journey to date and the challenges she has set for her future.
Tell us about your career journey that brought you to Rakuten Symphony.
I’m from South India and I’m a computer science graduate. For the first 10 years of my career, I worked as a UNIX kernel developer on a team of almost all men. Though the job was challenging, it proved to be a solid foundation for everything that followed. From the outset, I was very particular about building a broad spectrum of expertise, so I kept pivoting roles, including product management, customer delivery, captive centers, M&A and technical account management. In my last position before joining Robin.io (now a part of Rakuten Symphony), I served as the Business Unit Head for the Data Center and Services BU under the Engineering and R&D division of HCL Technologies.
In 2019, I got the opportunity to take up a global leadership role in the U.S. to operate right outside of where our customers were located. That, and previous diverse experience, provided extraordinary insights into running a business and managing customer expectations. Customer success became my identity. I have been called multiple names – Shock absorber, warrior, firefighter, etc. I have enjoyed donning all those titles!
"When you are offered a seat on a rocket ship, do not ask what seat, just get on! A leadership role in Rakuten Symphony is like that."
Sheryl Sandberg once said: "When you are offered a seat on a rocket ship, do not ask what seat, just get on!" A leadership role in Rakuten Symphony is like that — every role is a dream role!
That said, we, as a customer success team, carry a crucial responsibility to deliver on the promises made during the sales cycle. We help customers see the value in our products and services and work with us for the long haul. You know, walk the talk stuff.
Our responsibilities include customer onboarding, product delivery, professional services, and support for all UCBU (cloud native) products across telco and enterprise customers. We measure our success as achievements in retention of customer, revenue and fostering growth.
The most exciting part of this role is 90% of the time, we also work with other business units of Rakuten. This gives us an end-to-end view of the product spectrum in which our company operates.
What does a day in the life of Subha look like?
If I had to draw a parallel, it would be the thrill of riding a race car with unexpected twists and turns and finally ending the day at the finish line. Every day is like that! This is because Rakuten Symphony is growing at such a fast pace globally while also innovating simultaneously.
A day usually comprises of working with our customers and deploying Rakuten Symphony products in their network, integrating their applications on our platform, consulting on solutions, pre-sales and most importantly, support! We also spend a significant amount of time conducting reviews and taking customer feedback.
Support is one area that can make our day unpredictable. Suppose any critical incidents are reported on our customer sites. We as a team drop everything else and work on it until it gets resolved.
What excites you most about the team you are on or the industry you are working in?
The vision that Rakuten Symphony is anchored by: the “why.”
It is an absolute honor to be part of a company that is working, along with others in the industry, to bring internet connection to one third of the planet by leveraging transformative technologies. The benefits of connectivity go beyond communication. It brings both economic and social benefits to the human population.
Before Rakuten acquired Robin.io, my role involved working with Rakuten Mobile as our primary customer. I was thrilled when the first launch of 5G happened in October 2020, and we were all together in a conference room watching the announcement. Imagine helping each customer accomplish such a milestone as part of your day job. And working on cutting-edge technology to achieve that is just icing on the cake!
"I firmly believe that you can achieve anything you want if you take the right action and maintain focus."
Do you have any personal mantra or quote which keeps you going?
My favorite quote is by J.K. Rowling: “Anything is possible if you have enough nerve.” I firmly believe that you can achieve anything you want if you take the right action and maintain focus.
When it comes to work and life, I usually take every opportunity I feel strongly about and then go all the way to see it to the end. I always ask myself this question: If not you, who? I enjoy taking risks and then figuring out answers along the way.
I live by 3 rules: hard work, adaptability and extreme ownership.
What are your hobbies outside work? Are there any podcasts, books or shows you are currently enjoying?
I’m always reading books. In my browser window, I have a tab open for Kindle (maybe it's time to get a Kobo?) at all times. And when I am walking, I am always on audible – that is about 2-3 hours a day. I only read two genres, business management or human psychology.
Right now I am reading 3 books – "Zero to IPO," "AntiFragile" and "Read People Like a Book."
I also love to create content. I run a website called csmsecrets.com, where I write blogs and publish podcasts and e-books. It is a growing community of about 1,000+ followers worldwide. I regularly interview founders and leadership executives on what they do to retain/grow customers.
And third, I help my family-owned cafe business (board games and table top) in India with marketing and overall management. It helps me understand what makes customers endorse and stick to brands. I love to travel and explore food and people in other parts of the world
Any personal or professional goals you have set for the near future?
On the work front, I am working on scaling my team globally to work closely with customers right where they are. Building a local presence close to where customers operate and developing top-class talent is #1 on my list of priorities. We want to keep our ears to the ground.
Second, Rakuten Symphony is a company that was formed by multiple smaller companies with some fantastic products. Building end-to-end knowledge of the product lines is my second priority now that we have all come together.
On the personal front, I am working on publishing an audiobook that I have written; I want to get it published by the end of the year.