Marshall is on the The Motley Fool’s IT team, which helps Fools out with their hardware and software needs.
By Marshall Mabie
Fools love to compete. And we love to learn.
A lot of us are big sports fans – I am born and raised in the DC Metro area, so I have a certain amount of passion for the local sports teams. When perusing the Washington Post recently, I came across this article by Barry Svrluga, describing the duties and mindset of the Washington Nationals’ support team. It really hit home.
Now, we don’t support million-dollar athletes, but we do support the best financial analysts in the business. And the best Customer Services team. And the best events and facilities staff. We don’t have any Prima Donnas, which is also nice. But our expectations of our service level is very similar to that of the Nat’s support crew – we always want to put our Fools in the best place for them to perform to their expectations.
Competition and learning seem like they are probably pretty helpful in the professional sports arena. We use these principles too, though maybe in a slightly different way.
Competitive is a core value of the Fool, and we constantly challenge ourselves to take care of our Fools better. Much like players asking each other about how they are treated by their respective organizations, we want to make sure that if anyone asks a Fool how their staff is, they can reply that their needs are over-met. It helps us keep Fools, but also helps us attract new ones.
And you can’t be competitive if you don’t learn about not just others, but yourself. Internal surveys, feedback meetings, and honest self-assessment is as important to us as comparing the latest software suite versions.
When it comes down to it, the details really aren’t that important – it’s about attitude. Our job is preparing a highly-skilled performer to do the best they can do. We don’t move luggage, but we do fine-tune our Fools so that they can take care of our customers with the same care.
By Marshall Mabie
Not sure that it’s a secret, but it may come as a surprise to many folks that the most important skill in the tech industry isn’t tech skill – it’s prioritization. I’ve worked in tech for 15 years, so that’s the lens I see it through, but I wonder if maybe that is true throughout business skills of any kind.
My name is Marshall, and I’m a member of the Fool’s desktop support team – if any employees are having any technical issues, it my team’s job to fix it. And again, tech skill isn’t our first tool.
It is prioritization.
Our list of importance is simple:
Customer: The first and most important issue we focus on is making sure the folks who pay us get their money’s worth – the site is at their beck and call, and they have the strongest customer service ready to help them with any issue, tech or not. Our amazing Member Services team takes care of most of that, but as they have the most direct conversations with our members, the tech team makes sure we take care of the Member Services team’s requests.
Company: Okay, we are taking care of the people who pay us for our services. Now we need to make sure the company is in good shape to continue to make good on those promises. We keep our data secure and give our analysts and writers the easiest way to analyze that data.
The last two are intertwined: “The strength of the wolf is the pack, and the strength of the pack is the wolf”
Fools/Customers/Users: Different companies use different terms for the in-house fellow employees they fix issues for. At the Fool, unsurprisingly, we call them Fools. Whatever their designation, in the words of Monsieur Spock, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.” Our aim is to always address the issues that affect the highest number of Fools. For example, if email is down, that’s a huge issue. Information is not being shared as well as it could be, thereby affecting the business’ ability to serve our customers’ needs. So, yeah, that’s an all-hands-on-deck issue. Importantly, even if we are not directly involved in the solving of the issue, it is very important that we are visible and approachable – we are there to let you customers know what is being done, and to address any concerns.
It is our job to provide concise, accurate information for our internal users – if something is down, given the facts, they can re-arrange their time to continue to be effective. And no baloney! Admit mistakes, explain them, and educate as to what will be done to provide not just continuous service, but what will be improved upon. Admitting a mistake isn’t always easy, but coming clean creates a much stronger sense of trust with your constituents. They know that you aren’t hiding anything. That creates more confidence than any duck-and-cover strategy.
Finally, the individual user. They make the company run. Mostly, they have small problems, like broken mice, software licensing, etc. Sometimes they have big issues – and prioritization again takes over here. It’s easy as a techie to get too deep into how to fix a problem. It’s Sherlockian, the thrill of the hunt. It’s also pointless, because it is not our job to hunt down the obscure issue. Our job is to make sure our user/customer is able to do their job – we examine any issue through the Return On Investment filter – how much work is it going to take us to get this user back to the place they want to be? If that’s too high, get them a new machine and research the issue when you have some spare cycles. Just make sure your user is on their feet and doing what they are paid to be doing.
Ultimately, our job is judging the tech blockers of the company, and continuously considering the needs of our customers. And prioritizing is one of the best weapons in our arsenal.
- Take care of who pays your company, because they are the company’s lifeblood. Treat them well.
- Make sure the company can take care of those expectations. Think long-term.
- Take care of the people who make up your company, and make sure the individuals in your company have no blockers to do what they are charged to do.
It can be hard to keep this in mind in the midst of the day-to-day, and keeping an eye on the big picture while responding to the immediate can be tough. Focusing on prioritization can be a useful tool in your process.
This opportunity will close to new applicants on Friday February 21st
… a skilled technical individual (web developer, web engineer, or software developer)
… a high-performing problem solver with strong collaborative skills
… someone who wants to love their job
… ready to spend four months embedded in one of our small, fast-moving tech teams of three to seven people
… a multimedia financial powerhouse that is growing our technical capability
… Glassdoor.com’s “Best Medium-Sized Company to Work For in the U.S.”
… Business Insider’s “Best Media Company to Work For”, and included in Washingtonian magazine’s “50 Great Places to Work” and Washington Business Journal’s “Best Places to Work”
… working hard on exciting technologies, with remarkable coworkers, towards a meaningful purpose – and enjoying it
Interested? Read more about Techspandex.
Are you a college or grad student looking for an amazing summer internship? We’re currently looking for talented, curious, motivated students who want to spend this summer at The Fool! This is an 8-week paid internship where you’ll get to work on great projects with great people…and you’ll never have to wear a tie (unless you lose a bet or something). You’ll work in our Alexandria, VA, office, located just outside of Washington, DC.
If you’re interested in investing, writing, international studies, web analytics, software development, or retention marketing, we want to learn more about you! Find out more about our specific internship openings and submit your application by January 31, 2014.
Want to learn more? Some of last year’s interns were happy to share their Foolish experience!
Desks on wheels! Giant inflatable pool toys! You never know what you’ll encounter when you walk through our tech department. VP of Software Development Tom Conner takes you on a tour.
Take a peek inside Motley Fool HQ, then head over to http://DevSpandex.fool.com for more info about our DevSpandex program. Or, if you already recognize this as the great opportunity that it is, why wait? Apply now.
In the wake of layoffs at LivingSocial, The Fool’s vice president of software development, Tom Conner, discusses what The Fool learned about sustainable growth in 2001. We bounced back from a tough economic climate to evolve into a thriving company! Come join us by applying to our DevSpandex Learning Tribunal Program for budding software developers.