Shirin Poeplinghaus is a senior customer trainer at Zendesk
Shirin Poeplinghaus, senior customer trainer, Zendesk. Image: Zendesk

‘I use presentation and communication skills on a daily basis’

2 May 2018

While many people might assume technical skills are the most important asset when applying to a top tech company, your soft skills could be what sets you apart.

Zendesk is a global tech company that provides a cloud-based helpdesk solution to its customers. Its software is used by more than 200,000 organisations worldwide.

With this in mind, it could be forgivable to think that hard, technical skills are paramount to work at Zendesk. Indeed, the company does hire developers, engineers and other technical staff that would require experience in Scala or Java.

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However, a common thread that runs throughout the business is excellent customer service. Therefore, soft skills such as communication and presentation are essential.

Shirin Poeplinghaus is a senior customer trainer at Zendesk. Here, she talks about what her role is like and the important skills she needs.

What is your role within Zendesk?

Senior customer trainer.

If there is such a thing, can you describe a typical day in the job?

A typical day in the office for me is delivering one of our Zendesk product trainings online to a crowd of different customers who are usually based in the EMEA region.

They log in using a training software, I share my screen with them for my presentation and showing demonstrations, and they get to interact with me and ask questions through a chat.

I also work with customers on a one-to-one basis. This often requires me to travel to the customer’s office and provide them with a training that is customised and tailored to their use case and the Zendesk products that they are implementing.

Usually, my job is made up of 30-60pc travel.

What types of project do you work on?

Apart from the trainings I deliver and prepare for, I also onboard our new customer trainers that join the team. I am responsible for them learning all about our training organisation, how to use our product, and how to train and help our customers.

I have onboarded new members of our team in San Francisco, London, Paris and Melbourne – and we’re still hiring.

We also regularly run large-scale training events where we present Zendesk product training to large audiences (40 to 100 attendees). They regularly run in the US and in EMEA, and I was able to travel to New York and Atlanta last year to present there with the other trainers from my team.

For the first time, we will be holding a Zendesk Training Day in Singapore and in Melbourne in August of this year, and I am super-excited to get the chance to work with Zendeskians and customers from all over the world.

What skills do you use on a daily basis?

On a daily basis, I use presentation and communication skills and my Zendesk-specific product knowledge.

I also need to be very organised to be able to stay on top of my schedule in combination with being flexible. Things always get shuffled around and last-minute requests need to be accommodated.

What is the hardest part of your working day?

The majority of my team is based in different offices in the US, with some based in EMEA and APAC as well. The time difference makes communication challenging and I sometimes have to be flexible with my working hours to accommodate meetings, calls etc.

Over the last two years in my job, I have definitely learned to be very self-sufficient and manage myself with little guidance.

Travelling a lot also can be hard; I am away from home, my friends and my everyday life a lot. However, I thoroughly enjoy my job, and the elements that make it hard is a challenge for me to make the best of it every single day.

Do you have any productivity tips that help you through the working day?

At the beginning of each week, I try to plan for the next days ahead and add slots to my calendar of what I need to work on. Thorough planning helps me to stay on top of my schedule and responsibilities so that I don’t feel overwhelmed, and that also helps me to stay productive.

Also, accepting that sometimes things don’t go as planned is a major part in using my time wisely. I usually allow a couple of minutes to feel sorry for myself and then get back to work and come up with a new plan.

Coffee also plays a major role in my productivity.

When you first started this job, what were you most surprised to learn was important in the role?

I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. I had previously worked in a similar job, also as part of a global team.

How has this role changed as this sector has grown and evolved?

Since I started, we have moved from offering Zendesk Support as a product to an omnichannel company. Many offerings have evolved and changed, and I am training on a much larger range of tools, channels and integrations.

Our offering of trainings has also expanded and they make my role much more diverse than what it was more than two years ago when I started.

What do you enjoy most about the job?

I enjoy every day working with a wonderful team of smart, awesome and funny people with many different cultural backgrounds. I know that I am extremely lucky to be part of a team where communication is open, feedback is encouraged and we value each other’s opinion.

Another great thing is getting to help our customers to be successful with Zendesk and help them build better relationships with their customers.

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