Taking Stock: How I Got Into Community Management

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I slid sideways into community management—as I think many of us did—through a combination of happy accidents.  Luckily I’ve come to realize it’s the perfect fit for me.

Siobhan Hitchmough

How Can I Help You?

I’ve always been interested in technology so while I was in film school—yup, that happened—I worked for my university in technical support.  In doing so I discovered pretty quickly that I actually enjoyed the challenge of problem solving and the satisfaction of helping others.  I’m a strategic thinker and tend to come at a problem from many angles, so that led to me driving more proactive solutions for our support community during my time there.

This probably should have been where I realized my life’s passion was going to be helping people, but I was 23 and I still thought I’d be the next Kevin Smith.  So after graduation I packed up my Usual Suspects poster and headed back home to Toronto to make a name for myself.

Pilot Season

Soon after arriving home, a friend turned me onto an opportunity at a pretty big TV corporation, so for a little while I worked in their development department.  Even though it was awesome and exciting (I ran into the locally famous in the hallway, and got to see new shows before they aired), the part that I excelled at was coordinating between departments and ensuring clear communication.

Internships in TV and film generally don’t pay so when I realized I couldn’t keep living in my parents’ basement (bless them), I ended up taking a paying job that was considerably outside my desired profession.  The job was poorly suited for me, and I knew pretty quickly that it wasn’t the right fit.  But the thing that working a job you don’t love does for you is pinpoint what you’re good at.  Even in this job there were some things that stood out:

  • Once again I was connecting people to each other to get things done.
  • I was the contact point for communicating the wants and needs of my clients to management.
  • I was managing the company’s relationship with our customer community based on MY relationship with the customers.
  • Holy moly, I was making a difference and benefiting the company as a whole!

So when it came time to look for a new gig, this time I broadened my search: I wanted to be interacting with clients but not selling.  I wanted to help people and technology seemed to be the best place to do that.

Suddenly I had a direction.

Taking Stock

Early in my search I heard about a position that sounded perfect: a startup specializing in Inventory Management was looking for a “Community Manager” and the job description sounded right up my alley.  Interact with clients? Check.  Create content? Check, check.  Manage and gather feedback from the community? Big Check!  It helped that the job description requested “Magnifitastic writing skills,” which told me they probably weren’t boring.   Luckily for me, when I finally met our co-founders, it was clear they saw the community as partners in the product’s growth and were eager to continue that journey.  I was sold.  So in early 2009 I became employee number four at inFlow Inventory.

When I first came on board, our development group was managing support and they did an amazing job building a solid foundation with customers that were both engaged and excited about our product.  I was pumped to be working with a team that really cared for their customers and used that enthusiasm as a springboard to get to know the inFlow Community.  As in any great community, ours is never shy about sharing their opinions, thoughts, questions and comments, and we are the better for it.  inFlow is the better for it.  And as the community has grown (we’ve tripled in size over the last five years) we’re now serving over 600,000 small businesses across 120 countries.

Our support team has also grown to 3 full-time employees who work tirelessly to support our customers and help them better understand and use our program.  We frequently link up with community members to chat about features or fixes and find this direct customer feedback essential to helping us build a great product.  As a company we attribute our success not only to our amazing dev team (shh, don’t tell them I said that), but more importantly to the inFlow community.  Building that relationship between the community and our team has continued to be the thing that I’m most proud of in my career.  As any proud community manager will tell you, there’s nothing better than seeing your community flourish!

Looking Back

In hindsight it all makes perfect sense.  Though I couldn’t have predicted where this journey has taken me, becoming a community manager has been incredibly rewarding and utterly exciting.  What’s more, that companies are starting to recognize the true value of real connections with their customers is incredibly satisfying.  We’ve come a long way as a discipline and while there’s a long way to go, the generosity and camaraderie of this network of community managers continues to inspire me.

Happy Community Manager Appreciation Day everyone!  Don’t forget to take a second to thank a fellow community manager for all that they do.  Because we all know a second is about all you can afford to spare. 😉

Want to share the story of your love affair with Community Management? Let’s talk!

Siobhan Hitchmough

Community and Support Manager at inFlowInventory.com
Siobhan Hitchmough is a customer advocate, community manager and part-time tutorial wrangler.She’s a serious craft nerd, appreciates a good one-liner and loves nothing more than learning something new.When she's not seeking out new challenges she leads the community and support team at inFlow Inventory.

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