From Tragedy to Triumph | Tanya's Journey Through Loss and Career Transformation

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Tanya Strauss | BJT31 - Main
[00:00:00] A Personal Tragedy: Turning Pain into Power
[00:00:00] Tanya: when I was 19 years old, I had been living abroad and, studying abroad. And the day after I came home from that trip, my father died in a car accident. I was driving. I hadn't driven in a long time and, I swerved to miss a squirrel and my dad died almost.
[00:00:16] Tanya: Um, it was a horrifically tragic time of my life. and so the story that I wrote, which I called the unthinkable was about the experience of. Learning to, observe the gifts that life gives you, even in, times of tragedy or, in, in times of, trauma.
[00:00:38] Tanya: and that loss was substantial, but, I feel like. The transition for me, the psychological transition for me was about flipping it around and looking at it as first of all, getting to a place of acceptance, there's nothing that can be done to change that experience, but also to look at it through the lens of what has that [00:01:00] given me, and,and focusing a lot on gratitude of what I have today.
[00:01:04] Introduction to the Podcast: Beyond the Job Title
[00:01:04] Cesar: Hey friends, this is our host Cesar Romero, and you are listening to beyond the job title podcast. Where we share the journeys of successful. Underrepresented founders, executives and professionals in tech. Whether you're seeking inspiration, mentorship, or actionable strategies to advance your career. Our podcasts is your go to resource. In this episode, I had the opportunity to catch up with my good friend, Tanya Strauss. She's a customer. success executive. And her journey. Through a personal tragedy career breaks. And I returned to the tech industry. Is inspirational. After a six year hiatus. Dedicated to full-time parenting becoming a health coach. Tanya then leap. Back into the tech world landing in the field of customer success. we discuss the challenges of reentering the [00:02:00] workforce. The strategies that help her succeed. And how her background in wellness unexpectedly became her edge in tech. This episode is a must listen for anyone facing career transitions. seeking mentorship. Or simply looking for a dose of motivation. Tanya story is a powerful reminder that with courage. And a willingness to step outside your comfort zone. Growth is possible. I hope you enjoyed this episode as much as we enjoyed recording it. And if you find it valuable, please consider sharing it. with your network. Together we can inspire and empower underrepresented professionals in the tech industry. Thank you for your continuous report. And make sure to subscribe so that you don't miss out on any future episodes. And that is one of the best ways to support the podcast. And now let's go beyond the job title with Tanya Strauss.
[00:02:53] Journey into Tech: The Transition from Full-Time Parent to Health Coach
[00:02:53] Cesar: Tanya, thank you so much for coming on the podcast at beyond the job title. We like to dive deeper [00:03:00] into the career journeys of underrepresented professionals in tech. And today, we're going to do exactly that, just, unpack a little bit of your journey into tech, into customer success and share with the audience, some of the,
[00:03:14] Cesar: Ideas, challenges, and strategies that, they can take from your journey.
[00:03:19] The Decision to Take a Career Break: Balancing Parenthood and Professional Life
[00:03:19] Cesar: And I wanted to start off with, you took a, I think it was a six year break, right? before jumping into customer success where you dedicated, to being a full time parent. And in that time, you also started, you became a health coach, right?
[00:03:38] Cesar: And. I wanted to ask you, what was your thinking behind that decision? because taking a break from a career, right? it's not something that comes easy, right? Especially because when you if you decide to rejoin the workforce, right? there's some challenges there that, my be,from that [00:04:00] decision, right?
[00:04:00] Cesar: So I wanted to ask you, right? What? What? What was the,the thing that prompted you to decide, you know what, I'm going to take a break. I'm going to dedicate to being a full time mom. And then, we'll see what happens.
[00:04:11] Tanya: Yeah. Happy to,first of all, Cesar, thank you so much for inviting me to, to join you today. It's a, it's an honor and a privilege to get to talk with you. yeah, to give a little context of what was going on at that point. my husband and I had moved from California where I grew up and had spent pretty much my whole life to, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
[00:04:33] Tanya: And,so our son was born in July of 2008 and I had already pre negotiated with my company in California that where I was still working remotely, that I would take six months off to,get used to parenting. and so that was fine, but while, as we got close to the time when it was time for me to come back to work, which would have probably been, around January,the three of us flew from [00:05:00] Cambridge to Sacramento, where I grew up to spend the holidays with my family.
[00:05:04] Tanya: And what happened was we were, actually on the plane on our way home to Boston. And they said, anybody who's going to Boston should get off the plane right now because there's weather there. And, you're going to miss your connection and you won't make it. So you're better off if you want staying here rather than, whatever.
[00:05:22] Tanya: so my, my, actually my ex husband and I, and our son were sitting on the bench outside the airport, waiting for my parents to come back and pick us up. And, He said, I just want to remind you that this is how this works, right? We're traveling and delays happen, and now we're going to spend an extra night.
[00:05:43] Tanya: and I was traveling a ton for work at that point. And he said, I just want to make sure that you're okay with going back to work because this kind of thing could happen. And if you're expecting to be back on a certain day at a certain time and you get stuck, how are you going to feel?
[00:05:57] Tanya: And I was like, I'm going to feel terrible. if I [00:06:00] can't see my baby when I thought I was going to and whatever, and just the idea of being away from him at all and traveling was really scary. and so my ex husband just said, I want you to know that if you. Want to not go back to work.
[00:06:13] Tanya: I would support you. and it was floating around in the back of my mind, but it wasn't something I had seriously considered at that point because I just didn't think we could do it. I didn't think he would be supportive of it. I didn't think we could afford it, et cetera, et cetera. and so that really opened up the,and yeah, I said, let me think about it and, I don't know, I guess at some point I made the decision that I would stay home with him, and I thought that it would just be, I really didn't know how long that was going to be for, I didn't know how long I would stay home.
[00:06:43] Tanya: I actually did go back to work, I think about a year later, I found, a wonderful role with, a boutique consulting firm called intrasphere. They were doing a project with a company at the time that was called Millennium Pharmaceuticals. Millennium is now part of Takeda [00:07:00] Pharmaceuticals. and so I actually was doing a management consulting project and it worked.
[00:07:04] Tanya: It was amazing. Millennium Pharmaceuticals was eight blocks from my front door.I had a nanny and I didn't travel at all. the nanny took care of all kinds of things like getting groceries and all that sort of stuff. And,I was back and forth to work and it was really fantastic.
[00:07:19] Tanya: but, about 10 months into that role. My ex husband got a job offer to move to the west coast to Seattle. So when we moved to Seattle, I made the decision to permanently stay home. And that's really when that 2010 kind of window started. and I wasn't sure what I was going to do. I didn't know how long I was going to stay home.
[00:07:40] Tanya: I didn't have any real plan about it. like I, I really wasn't thinking about it at all. I got pregnant with our second child while we lived in Seattle. And I really didn't think about anything except for, taking care of our wasn't until, fast forward a couple of years, we moved back to San Francisco.
[00:07:55] Tanya: We moved to the East Bay. We lived in Walnut Creek for anybody who's familiar with it, the Bay [00:08:00] area. and then we moved to San Diego in 2016, and some for my ex husband's job. And a couple of things happened with that job where it didn't work out. We'd only been there for two months or three months, I think, or been here for a couple of months and his job didn't work out.
[00:08:15] Tanya: while we were still in the Bay Area, I was participating in a lot of women's groups for, wellness and, leading some women's groups and bringing women together just to focus on their self care and that kind of a thing. So I got interested.
[00:08:29] Tanya: I had always been interested in nutrition, but I got really interested in it. So I took a health coaching course. And when we moved here, I actually took on a couple of clients and started, doing some nutrition coaching and just not, I didn't want people to be focused on losing women to be focused on losing weight.
[00:08:44] Tanya: I wanted them to be focused on, having a healthier lifestyle.
[00:08:48] Returning to the Workforce: The Unexpected Path to Customer Success
[00:08:48] Tanya: so when it was time for me to go back to work though, customer success hadn't been a thing before. everything was really different. So,B2B SaaS was,SaaS in general was [00:09:00] really like, then had really emerged during that time.
[00:09:04] Tanya: So someone told me about customer success. I focused on customer success roles. And the role that I found was with a company called Lifeworks, which is an employee assistance program. And they were interested in me of all things because I had a coach wellness coaching background.
[00:09:19] Cesar: Look at that.
[00:09:20] Tanya: Health coaches were part of the employee assistance program, which is probably best known for people looking for therapists and looking for lawyers and stuff like that.
[00:09:29] Tanya: but it was a wonderful fit. It gave me, it got my feet under me as far as customer success was concerned. I was there for a year, I think 14 months, something like that. And I saw an opportunity with GainSight. I had been learning about GainSight and,I was like, obviously GainSight and Customer Success, especially at that time are synonymous.
[00:09:49] Cesar: Yep.
[00:09:50] Tanya: So I got an opportunity to go to Gainside and it was amazing. And that really changed my, the trajectory of my career. but yeah, getting that health coaching certificate, it's just funny [00:10:00] how,I wasn't planning on being a stay at home mom forever, but I didn't know what the other side of it would look like.
[00:10:04] Tanya: So I thought I would maybe, spin up a health coaching practice and instead I ended up with a customer success career.
[00:10:12] Cesar: That's amazing. and it's like that quote from Steve Jobs is that you can only connect the dots looking backwards because I'm assuming that at that point where you decided to pursue that, path of health coaching, never in a million years, you would have thought that was going to lead you to customer success, right?
[00:10:29] Cesar: and, Were you at some point, the, were you at a crossroads where you had to decide, Either going full time on perhaps starting a business or joining a company, what was the thought process behind that?
[00:10:41] Tanya: when we moved to San Diego and my ex husband lost his job that we had moved here for, and we had two young children, we had a mortgage, we had, no network almost at all. We didn't know anyone in San Diego.we said, okay, let's both spend some time every day looking for a job and try to [00:11:00] figure out, where do we go from here?
[00:11:02] Tanya: And, I just sat back and tried to figure out, what am I good at? I don't even know, like I knew that technology was something that I had known and I'd worked in, in, enterprise software companies. So that was all I knew. And I figured that would be the place I would end up.
[00:11:15] Tanya: but, yeah, so that's how the chips fell there.
[00:11:19] Cesar: And you mentioned that someone told you about customer success. And do you remember who this person was? How are you connected to this person? And what was it about? I guess your personality, your skill sets that this person made the connection. Oh, Tanya would be a great for customer success.
[00:11:39] Tanya: Yeah, that's a good question. So my previous role before my son was born was with a company called Model N where I was doing pre sales. And solutions, management solutions, engineering, whatever we call it. Ultimately, I was, the more sort of more somewhat more technical counterpart to a couple of account [00:12:00] executives.
[00:12:00] Tanya: and that was an on premise, Old school, sort of solution for revenue management solution for, and I was working with life sciences companies. So my boss in that role, Just a really intuitive person, a wonderful guy named, GoPro, if he's out there, hello, go, and so when I came back into the workforce and was looking for my next role, I called him, I called a lot of people, I called him and he said,I'm not at, modeling anymore.
[00:12:28] Tanya: I'm at a different place and,I really want to help you. I don't think we have any roles that would be appropriate for you at this moment, but we might. but I really think you should check out this area called customer success. That's probably where we will have the most need next, and it's an area where I know a lot of companies are, trying to find talent because, it's this sort of newer thing, and there aren't a lot of people in this field.
[00:12:52] Tanya: And he said, I think what would be good for you about customer success. You know, you work with a finite number of customers, but their [00:13:00] customers, and I had worked in professional services before also as an engagement manager. and so when he explained to me what customer success was all about, I really lit up because I thought, Everything I had ever done.
[00:13:12] Tanya: I had done user and user training and, engagement that I had never stayed with a customer in a long term way after they got to a point of achieving value. I never really got to enjoy the Or celebrate with a customer that they were, enjoying the outcomes of what they bought.
[00:13:30] Tanya: Everything was ahead of that, even engagement management, right? Like we got up to the point of a customer going live. And then when they went live, I moved on to the next, to the next project. I think he saw that. customer management was something that I could be good at, because I could understand the business objectives.
[00:13:47] Tanya: and then, learn to translate those into value.
[00:13:50] Cesar: Yeah, that's amazing, right? Having people like mentors or people that know our skill sets and the value that we can bring can be super helpful in making [00:14:00] that path a little more clear. When it comes to make making transitions,
[00:14:04] Cesar: now I'm curious that when you made that transition to customer success that first yearwhat was the most unexpected thing that they learned or, some of the, biggest growth opportunities that, that you experienced?
[00:14:19] Tanya: yeah, in that first year, so much was happening for me. It was such a huge moment of growth for me because I had been out of the workforce for a long time. six years is a long time. and so I think some of the things that I learned was about getting to know a customer in a, in an important way.
[00:14:41] Tanya: I didn't,when I worked in pre sales, when I worked in professional services and those different kinds of fields, I definitely had to get to know customers. but I felt from a customer success perspective that I wanted to get to know my customers in a much. More, almost intimate way. and an example I can give you [00:15:00] is, I was working with a lot of school districts in Texas. like I had, I don't know, maybe 10 or 15 different school districts in Texas as part of my book. And I had other kinds of customers too, but, One of the customers, I got the, I got the privilege to go down to Texas and visit a couple of them a couple of times. And one of them I visited right after Hurricane Harvey, and they were halfway from Houston to Galveston.
[00:15:27] Cesar: And their entire community had been pretty well wiped out by Hurricane Harvey. And since what I did was employee assistance, I was able to offer them access to things like United Way and, different kinds of charities and stuff that could help people.
[00:15:43] Tanya: but it was the first time that I started to really understand the deeper kind of connection between,the customer's need and my ability to address it, to put it into broader context, they, Had no idea of really what was available to [00:16:00] them through the employee assistance program. So going down there and seeing, people's carpet and mattresses on the side of the road, waiting for the trash people to come and take it, and a whole parking lot full of appliances that had been flooded out.
[00:16:14] Tanya: Like it was so chilling. to think of like the destruction that had happened to this community. and so it was, it really got me thinking about like, how can I do my job better to make sure these people understand that there are some resources available to help them. They may not be the immediate things.
[00:16:34] Tanya: I certainly can't send everybody a couple thousand dollars to get new carpet or whatever. but there were a lot of resources that were available and it, so it gave me the opportunity to really think differently about, My role and what was, you know what I could offer to these people.
[00:16:48] Cesar: Yeah. and, speaking of, asking yourself that question, right? How can I do my job better? How can I better serve? you've also built teams, right? You build teams, you've mentored teammates. and I'm [00:17:00] curious to know, what's your approach to building an effective team and how do you make sure that everybody feels included, right?
[00:17:09] Cesar: And that they are part of the team and not feel. left out.
[00:17:15] Tanya: Yeah, I love that question. I Learned this concept about a year ago that has really Stuck with me and that is listening for the minority voice
[00:17:26] Tanya: we're all in this American democracy and the idea of democracy is that, the people make the decision, right? And the highest number of votes wins.
[00:17:34] Tanya: but I really think there's something to be said for listening for the minority voice. the people who don't speak the loudest and don't get all the votes and, maybe just have a differing opinion. And so the idea of listening for that minority voice really,influenced how I like to lead people that I want to make sure that everyone gets to be heard.
[00:17:58] Tanya: another concept that's, [00:18:00] that, you know. I've heard in leadership. I know it's one of, Amazon's leadership principles. For example, I learned about it while I worked at Gainsight from Nick Maida. is the concept of disagree and commit.and I think that disagree and commit and listening for the minority voice really work really are, important to align and reconcile.
[00:18:19] Tanya: Because disagree and commit basically means that, they're in a, in decision making and in collaboration and in work, there's a time for discussion, the time to,present all of the ideas. and then the, there's a time to make a decision. And after that decision is made, there's everyone has to get on board with it, right?
[00:18:40] Tanya: Like we need to accept the decision, emotionally and otherwise. and get on board with it, even if it wasn't the, our idea. and so I feel like the minority voice is really important for the part before the, the disagreeing part, right? Like I think it, we need to make sure that everyone gets a chance to be [00:19:00] heard in order for them to have agency in, in the longterm commitment.
[00:19:07] Cesar: Yeah. Definitely get a chance to be heard. 'cause most people just want a chance to be heard, And that doesn't mean that whatever you say is gonna happen, or that's gonna be the decision, right? But at least having that chance of getting that perspective, into it, and a leader, once you have all the perspectives, like how do you make the decision, right?
[00:19:29] Cesar: I guess that's the tricky part. once you have all the perspectives and you evaluate and, what's the best course of action. that's, the tricky part there. a lot of people in the audience, especially women,a lot of times they find themselves being the only female in, in the room, right?
[00:19:47] Cesar: In a room of executives. And I wanted to get your perspective on that. Now, one, if you've ever been in that position, and two, if you ever been, or you haven't, what advice would you have [00:20:00] for women that might be in a executive role? And, they might be feeling like imposter syndrome or feeling like they don't belong in, in that executive room.
[00:20:11] Cesar: Yeah.
[00:20:15] Tanya: to go back to something you said a minute ago about how do you make the decision?one area that I've had to face in my career is that a pattern that I know I've had, is, this kind of Venn diagram. I've had a couple situations in my life where sort of two things have happened at the same time where, I get myself into analysis paralysis.
[00:20:40] Tanya: Like so many voices and so many options and and then the combination of that with, the, this term came to me several years ago, and I think it's most brilliant, the tyranny of the urgent.and so for me, that combination, the Venn diagram of putting together. analysis, [00:21:00] the paralysis that can come from that and the tyranny of the urgent has, in some cases, gotten me into trouble with inaction where I've just done nothing, and to answer your question about how you make the decision, I don't know any other way to come to the right solution than to get quiet.
[00:21:18] Tanya: to, to meditate,I really believe in the strength of things like meditation and prayer to get quiet, to listen to my intuition, to listen to, my higher power or, whatever anyone calls it. I usually refer to it as my divine grace.toyeah, I think the only way to answer your question about how do you make the decision is you have to get quiet,you can make a pros and cons list.
[00:21:42] Tanya: You can do all of those things, but the answer, the right answer I find will come if I get quiet. and so I have to make sure that I find time for that in my busy schedule, because otherwise, the decisions I make are probably not going to be the best ones.
[00:21:56] Cesar: absolutely. And how does Tanya get quiet? how does that [00:22:00] look like in practical terms? Is it a room in your house? Do you use a particular app?
[00:22:06] Dealing with Stress and Anxiety: A Personal Story
[00:22:06] Cesar: Do you journal? Do you just close your eyes and think? Yeah, what does that look like for Tanya?
[00:22:13] Tanya: it happened yesterday. I had a lot on my calendar and my daughter wasn't feeling well. she'd had a fever the night before. And I hadn't gotten as much sleep as I would have liked. And I took her to the doctor in the morning and that was sucking up a lot of the morning and, I was just so exhausted.
[00:22:26] Tanya: So when we got back, I wanted to get in the shower and I got in the shower and I just felt like I could just feel that I was anxious. I just feel that like my heart was racing and I thought to myself, Oh, I've got to get out of the state. What am I going to do? so I got out of the shower and I sat in, I have a chair, a really nice chair with an Ottoman in my bedroom.
[00:22:45] Tanya: I sat down in the chair, I got myself really comfortable and I'm a big fan of insight timer. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. the meditation app, and I just searched in there for an anxiety, meditation. I turned one on [00:23:00] and, it just was the wrong choice. the lady kept talking about anxiety and she kept talking about all kinds of things.
[00:23:05] Tanya: It was just making me feel more, more keyed up. I turned that one off and I, turned on another one. I set my timer on my phone to make sure that just in case I fell asleep or anything, I wouldn't, I would make sure that there was an end time to, to this break. And I think it was a 15 minute meditation and it just took me through the process of, really getting back into the present moment.
[00:23:28] Tanya: listening to my breath and, going, doing the body scan all the way down of, all the different parts of me and how I'm feeling and it does anything heard. And does anything feel, and most of the time I end up realizing I'm pretty okay. everything's okay.
[00:23:42] Tanya: and that really helps me,get back to that space of calm. And then I can, move on about my day. So yeah, yesterday like magic, magic time of, just sit back and reset and get back to it.
[00:23:56] The Power of Meditation and Intuition
[00:23:56] Cesar: It's important to be aware of that, right? That there's technology out [00:24:00] there. And also the way we, craft our environment, right? You have that chair with Ottoman. and. Making sure that you have that time, even if it's 10 15 minutes, and the power of tapping into your intuition. I think it's so underrated, especially when it comes to making decisions, right?
[00:24:16] Cesar: And I think that's something that you are practicing. we don't get it perfect all the time, but I think I would say 99 percent of the time where you tap into your intuition, most, most likely, it's, it turns out to be the right decision.
[00:24:29] Confronting Imposter Syndrome
[00:24:29] Cesar: and I want to take us back to, that question asked about imposter syndrome and women in the executive room.
[00:24:36] Cesar: if you ever have an experience with that and if you haven't, then, what advice would you have to. Other women that, might be in this position and, they have like imposter syndrome and feel like they don't belong in that room.
[00:24:48] Tanya: yeah, absolutely. No, that's such an important question. the first time that I experienced imposter syndrome and I could name it, Because I've definitely had it, a lot throughout [00:25:00] my career. But the first time I experienced it when I could name it was while I was working at Gain Sight, Gain Sight's CMO at the time, Anthony Cannata, posted, spoke internally and also posted on LinkedIn a really vulnerable post, about.
[00:25:16] Tanya: Experiencing his own, imposter syndrome. and I hadn't, I'd heard the term, but I had never really internalized it. I'd never really spent enough time considering it to realize that's something that I had experienced. So shortly thereafter, I had, I was a CSM at Gainsight and, I went through this period of thinking to myself, gosh, I come from a totally different background.
[00:25:37] Tanya: Customer success was a totally brand new concept to me like a year and a half ago. and now I'm supposed to present myself as an expert on this topic. so many other people are so much better prepared to talk about this topic than I am. who do I think I am? And I went. All the way down that dark spiral.
[00:25:56] Tanya: and I got completely overwhelmed and I [00:26:00] had. So many tasks and I, again, like I couldn't figure out where to prioritize and it was just like, my head went absolutely off the rails. and so I went back and thankfully I went back and read that article that Anthony canada had written. and he talked about using meditation.
[00:26:16] Tanya: working with therapists and other things, but using meditation and. So I got really honest with my leader and said, gosh, I'm struggling with this right now. and he gave me some, some really mostly understanding, like a lot of just empathy and understanding, which is, as you said earlier, a lot of times people just want to be heard and validated a little bit, like your things are legitimate.
[00:26:38] Tanya: and, thankfully, I was working at Gain Sight, which is a place where it is okay to be vulnerable and to be honest about how you're feeling about things. so yeah, I think that's really when meditation started to become a part of my life. And, I'm able now to,to, when I get to those moments of feeling whatever I'm feeling.
[00:26:56] Tanya: the anxiety, I'm not good enough. I'm not sure what to do from here, now I [00:27:00] know that the answer is going to be to get quiet.
[00:27:02] Cesar: Get quiet. Yes. And. From talking to many professionals and, from all backgrounds and leaders, I've come to realize that imposter syndrome is something that never goes away, right? Because there's always that level that you're aiming towards next, right? So whatever, if you reach that level, you get comfortable, but then there's another level that, that you're always aiming for.
[00:27:26] Cesar: And it just doesn't go away, right? Even, like. Hollywood actors that have won Oscars, right? It's just, it's something that we just have to dance with. but it's so interesting, right? Because if you let it, it'll cripple you, right? Cause you can get into your own head and go down that spiral.
[00:27:42] Tanya: And,if you don't have the right support network, I guess you can just stay there, right? I've had some wise people in my life, thankfully. And, there's a couple of expressions that come to mind as you say that. the first one is,actually, yeah, they're all about comparison, right? How comparison [00:28:00] is, robs you of joy. the first expression that I thought of there is, don't judge someone else's outsides by your insides, right?
[00:28:08] Tanya: don't compare how someone else looks to how you feel, because you have no idea how they feel on the inside. I feel like imposter syndrome can be so much about comparison. and then the other one along that same line is don't judge somebody else's best day on your worst day.You have no idea what anybody else has gotten through in order to, achieve that, that best day. and to me, imposter syndrome really is a lot about comparison. and the assumption that, the only way you could be at an imposter is if somebody else knows how to do it better than you, right? somebody else's is in the role, that you're supposed to be pretending to be.yeah, I think a lot about, how comparison is just a dangerous road to go down.
[00:28:50] Cesar: Yeah.
[00:28:51] The Importance of Mentorship and Building a Network
[00:28:51] Cesar: as you're talking about this, I'm thinking about the power of your network, the power of having the right people in your corner, the power of mentorship. [00:29:00] And a lot of people in the audience, they either Are struggling to, to find mentors or to build up their network,especially as they're trying to pivot or transition into a new field, to a new career.
[00:29:14] Cesar: And I wanted to get your perspective on, mentorship, and how do you go about building up that network, right? That, that, that support system, that's going to be critical in your career.
[00:29:26] Tanya: I have found that, the people in my life who've been most influential for me, I've just, had, I've gone to them and said, Hey, you have something that I want, like you understand something that I don't understand. and would you be willing to help me? and. I've heard people, some presentations and such about mentoring and how to go about that.
[00:29:49] Tanya: And I think the thing that I learned the most from it is that, when you want someone to be your mentor, you have to do the work. you have to be the one to schedule the appointment. [00:30:00] You have to be the one to, come up with the topics of what you're after. So when you want to have someone as a mentor, don't make them do all the work.
[00:30:07] Cesar: Right.
[00:30:08] Tanya: that's a really important piece of advice that I feel like I was given and that, that really helped,and then all of the kind of usual,etiquette of, show up on time and, make sure you're prepared and all of that kind of stuff. but flipping it around, I have found in my career when I've had opportunities to mentor other people, I've learned so much more than I expected.
[00:30:28] Tanya: I've gotten so much out of that experience that,I would really encourage people who are early in their careers to, look at those people who have what you want, or you admire or whatever, and let them know, because you have no idea, it might be experiencing imposter syndrome, they might be having a bad day today.
[00:30:46] Tanya: And it might be the thing that changes everything that you reached out. yeah. But,most people I know are excited to,to help wherever they can.
[00:30:56] Cesar: that's so important. Do the work right. And if you [00:31:00] are, do you do the research? If you're interested in the topic,show that you have some stake in the game, right? I think that's how I would put it. and just ask, right? It's, it sounds simple, but man, the bar is so low because it's, I don't know why, but people get it wrong all the time.
[00:31:18] Cesar: I know you see all these like call emails and just like generic. And, if you just do a little bit of the work, it's if you have, if you help yourself, people are more willing to help you. If you are already helping yourself, if you're showing signs that Oh, Tanya and Cesar, they're doing this and I think I can help them, if we tweak this a little bit, it'll be better.
[00:31:40] Cesar: there's something there, right? That they can help you with instead of just coming off like, Hey, what can you do for me? Kind of mentality.
[00:31:47] Tanya: one of the things that both of these,you know, networking best practices. experiences I've had just this week have taught me is,and something I've always known to is just like negotiation, right? It's all about a give get. if you [00:32:00] go in with this is what I want from you,yes, people want to help and all of that.
[00:32:04] Tanya: if there's something that you can offer in return, and that could be something as simple as, Hey, I listened to your podcast or, I read this article that you wrote and it really resonated with me. and I was wondering if you could, expand on, this one topic that you brought up and I didn't, that I'd like to understand better, et cetera.
[00:32:21] Tanya: the give can be something simple as I've done some work to understand you and, would like to know you better. that it can be that simple.
[00:32:30] Cesar: Exactly. It brings me back to how we connected, right? We were part of. I think we're part of Catalyst or the Catalyst or some other community, but I think in my outreach to you, the first time was, I had seen this video on YouTube, you were being interviewed by, things called CSM practice, I don't remember the name of the host, but you were sharing your journey of, you took a six year break and you took, took a break to parenting, then you transition to customer success.
[00:32:59] Cesar: [00:33:00] Is that right? But that video alone, right? Just gave me like a little bit of,Hey, I, this resonated with me about you, that, that transition is a customer success that, break you took. it just goes back to whether it customer success, or if you're trying to reach to someone, just know who you're reaching out to, right?
[00:33:18] Cesar: Know your customer. and. when you mentioned, when you were talking about mentoring and how you've learned things when you've mentored someone, is there a particular, mentee that comes to mind or a particular situation where, you learn something new about you in that, In that experience, yeah, I'm just curious about, what are some of the things that you have learned about you, through mentoring other people?
[00:33:48] Tanya: I've had people point out things, strengths of mine that they appreciate and like maybe the reason why they want me to work with them that have surprised me like, Oh, I didn't realize that was a [00:34:00] strength of mine.
[00:34:00] Tanya: So that's certainly a gift. I didn't realize that's part of, you have, what is it, the Jihari window, right? The version of yourself, you see the version of
[00:34:08] Cesar: Yep.
[00:34:09] Tanya: other people kind of thing, and then that gap. so that's definitely a gift is to hear, to understand better how other people experience me.
[00:34:17] Tanya: but also,just,one of the topics I know that you talk about a lot is diversity
[00:34:22] Cesar: and. That's something that I feel like, to understand someone else's background. like one person who I've gotten the pleasure of mentoring, is a woman from Iran who's lost almost her entire family, due to political strife, and came to this country more or less on her own and created an entire life for herself, including a career in customer success.
[00:34:46] Tanya: Wow. Amazing.
[00:34:48] Tanya: Yeah. And I just, that's just a remarkable experience. And so to get to witness and learn about someone else's story and, to see the, just the [00:35:00] capability that we all have of. of strength and resilience is really special. I don't know if that's much of an answer as far as something specific that I've gotten out of mentoring other people, but, I definitely find that it's,it's a, another way to get a brief look into the humanity of other people.
[00:35:16] Cesar: Ah, absolutely. I love that. I love that they mentioned that sometimes people can give us feedback on things that we don't notice about ourselves. And that is also very powerful, right? and on the topic of strength and resiliency,there's a book that you, I think you wrote, I think a chapter or a section, I think it's called the unthinkable.
[00:35:38] Cesar: 75 women share their stories of life transitions. And the book is called. Uh, I'm totally blanking out, but, uh, yeah, so help me God.
[00:35:49] Sharing Personal Stories and Overcoming Tragedy
[00:35:49] Cesar: Yeah. how did you get involved in that project? And what was the process for you to share that story and put it into writing?
[00:35:59] Cesar: [00:36:00] Andwhy do you decide, you know what, I think I'm ready to share this with the world.
[00:36:04] Tanya: so let me think. when I lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I've always been interested in writing, I've always loved writing and, crafting emails,
[00:36:14] Cesar: I love the story, by the way. It's very well crafted. And I think you should be writing more. Yes,
[00:36:25] Tanya: it's something that, I always, I've done the Clifton strengths and communication is my number one strength. writing is something that can be very cathartic and journaling and, and sharing stories is something that, I feel like is definitely was always a part of my childhood.
[00:36:39] Tanya: My mother's a great storyteller. My father was a, was, an incredible communicator and a really good writer. it's always been there. as far as how I got to that project, I don't remember the details. I remember that, when I lived in Massachusetts, I was part of a women's writing group, that I came across.
[00:36:58] Tanya: and I feel like once I got [00:37:00] to, Living in the East Bay, I got more and more interested in writing and, just the kind of,like I got interested in David Sedaris and short stories and personal essays and stuff like that. So I don't know how I got connected to that group. Nothing but the truth.
[00:37:15] Tanya: So help me God is what it's what the
[00:37:17] Cesar: that's the name of it.
[00:37:19] Tanya: and there were two of them. As far as I know, I don't think they've done any further. but, there was a woman who, was. Really wanted to create her own publishing company. And so she thought that the, and she wanted to hear women's stories. So she went out to find women and, it was actually a con a writing contest.
[00:37:39] Tanya: and the way that it worked was, and as I said, this was the second one. so the way that it worked was, you submitted a, an essay, a personal essay of a certain number of words and pages or whatever. and then, it worked out to be a popularity contest, right? everybody's work was published on Facebook, and then whoever got the most likes or whatever, won [00:38:00] and the winning person was going to get, Their own story actually published with this publisher.
[00:38:06] Tanya: and I wasn't honestly sure that I even wanted to go that far, but I was interested in writing the story. so I wrote the personal essay and I submitted it and, I was super honored that they chose it to get published in the anthology. I think this was in 2013 or 2014. and it was a really fun process because once it was published, I got invited to two different speaking events to read excerpts of it.
[00:38:32] Tanya: One of them was that, a big literature event in San Francisco's mission district called Litquake. And so all around the mission district of the city, different. venues were hosting writers, reading excerpts, and, and I got to do that actually on my dad's 70th birthday. I made cupcakes and shared them with the audience to celebrate my dad's birthday.
[00:38:53] Tanya: yeah. So to give some context, if that's helpful, when I was 19 years old, I had been living [00:39:00] abroad and, studying abroad. And the day after I came home from that trip, my father died in a car accident. I was driving. I hadn't driven in a long time and, I swerved to miss a squirrel and my dad died almost.
[00:39:13] Tanya: Um, and so, there's no really other way to talk about it other than to say that it was a horrifically tragic time of my life. and so the story that I wrote, which I called the unthinkable was about the experience of. Learning to,observe the gifts that life gives you, even in, times of tragedy or, in, in times of, trauma.
[00:39:46] Tanya: and that loss was substantial, but,I feel like. The transition for me, the psychological transition for me was about flipping it around and looking at it as [00:40:00] first of all, getting to a place of acceptance, there's nothing that can be done to change that experience, but also to look at it through the lens of what has that given me, and,and focusing a lot on gratitude of what I have today.
[00:40:13] Tanya: I think that as I think about it, those are some of the themes that I really pick out of what I was writing back then and how I like to live now. I have
[00:40:21] Cesar: thanks for sharing. I think it's important, right? We all have the power to give meaning to events, right? It's like the book that Victor Franco wrote about, when he was in the concentration camp. we all have that, we all have that choice of give meaning and I think getting to a place of acceptance, right?
[00:40:37] Cesar: that's, it takes a lot of work, right? But once you get there. And you feel gratitude and then you can use the story to empower others by sharing your own story. I think that's where You turn around right that tragedy into something that can be Valuable not just for you, but also for other people that might be going through something Similar right?
[00:40:59] Cesar: So [00:41:00] thanks so much for sharing it. And yeah, it really resonated with it
[00:41:03] Career Advice and Final Thoughts
[00:41:03] Cesar: and last question here. any advice that you would have for.people in their career, as they're thinking about either growing in their current career, or perhaps trying to pivot into, customer success or another career, what advice would you have for, for those people?
[00:41:20] Tanya: Yeah. my advice would be to be courageous. it's scary to reach out to someone you don't know. it's scary to, look at someone's resume on LinkedIn and think, Oh my gosh, they know so much more about this than I do. but feel that fear and do it anyway. Find the leader who you want to meet, find somebody who's a CSM.
[00:41:41] Tanya: If you want to be a CSM, find another CSM who's doing the job and connect with them. And,not everybody's going to write back and not everybody's going to be open to helping you, but a lot of people, a lot more people will than you expect. and,show some enthusiasm, do some homework, and, the, they, it'll pay off for [00:42:00] sure.
[00:42:00] Cesar: Awesome. Tanya, thank you so much for coming on the show, sharing your story with us, sharing your career journey and, all the lessons and. Things that you've learned throughout the, throughout your journey, it's been a pleasure, yeah. Thanks so much.
[00:42:13] Tanya: Thank you. I really enjoyed meeting you.
[00:42:16] Cesar: all right. I hope you enjoyed this episode and thank you so much for listening all the way through. I appreciate you. And I hope that you get some valuable information that you can apply to our personal and professional life. If this story resonated with you and you would like to support the podcast.
[00:42:38] Cesar: Please make sure to subscribe. So you don't miss out on any future episodes. Thank you so much for the opportunity. I appreciate you. And I look forward to serving you in the next episode.

Creators and Guests

Cesar Romero
Cesar Romero
Helping startups and SMBs build strong customer relationships that drive product adoption, reduce churn, and increase revenue | Community-Driven | Podcast Host
Tanya Strauss
Tanya Strauss
Customer Success Leader | Helping companies decrease customer churn, improve NRR, and make their customers raving fans.
From Tragedy to Triumph | Tanya's Journey Through Loss and Career Transformation
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