We ask five questions of Stephen Paskel, a senior manager and site leader at AllState as part of our continuing series profiling HDI’s Strategic Advisory Board. The board is composed of industry thought leaders, practitioners, and solution providers who help us keep close tabs on the customer insights and support center and service management market developments.
Could you describe your current role?
I have a couple of roles at the moment. I am a Senior Manager and Site Leader at Allstate. I joined Allstate 2 years ago to open up their new Contact Center based in Chandler, Arizona. It was an exciting opportunity to work for a Fortune 100 company that was bringing over 300 job opportunities to the Valley of the Sun.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Allstate, and my responsibilities there have increased in the short time I have been there. I have since also taken on responsibilities for our Leadership Enablement Team, in addition to our Workforce Management Team. Finally, as we continue to branch out our footprint I have taken on responsibilities for our Operations work with Vendor Partners.
Prior to joining Allstate, I spent more than 20 years as a VP and Technology Manager with Wells Fargo before starting my own Technology and Security Support Services organization, CMIT Solutions of Biltmore. I am the Principal and Founder of this company that provides Technology Support to small and mid-sized businesses. I have a wonderful team that takes care of the day-to-day needs of our customers. It has truly been an incredible experience to be both a Senior Leader at a wonderful Fortune 100 company and be an entrepreneur who is able to give back by supporting the small business and non-profit communities.
What, in your opinion, are the characteristics of someone who is successful long-term in this industry?
First I think success means different things to different people. For some people success is defined by how much money you make. For others it is defined as how happy you are when your workday is over. For me, call me selfish, but I want both. I want satisfying work and I want to feel like I am being fairly compensated for what I bring to the table. So sometimes that means doing work that I would rather not do because it brings the compensation element. Other times it means passing by on higher paying opportunities because I know that it would disrupt the work/life balance that I want.
With all of that said, if a person really wants a successful long-term career in this industry, I would say that a vital first step is to remember we are about serving others. We are in the service industry, and that comes with a lot of good, and that comes with a lot of stressful anxiety, as well. If you like serving others, you are able to adapt to change, and you take it as a challenge to take someone in a bad mood and turn their day around, then you can be successful long-term in this industry. Our industry is not for everyone, and that is ok. If it is for you, though, it can be extremely rewarding.
What is one piece of advice you would like to share with those who are just setting out on a career path in the service and support industry?
Performance is not enough.
Performance is expected of you and is what you are paid to do. There are plenty of people who perform, and there are plenty of people that are good communicators. Doing your job and then expecting to be noticed and promoted is a nice thought, and sometimes happens. However, how many people do you know complain about their jobs and how they didn’t get promoted when they think they should?
So how do you avoid being a statistic? In addition to doing your job well, you have to invest in networking. You have to invest in talking with others, meeting with others, building a board of directors, having both mentors and sponsors - all of the things that seem intimidating for someone just starting out to do. If you do it, you will be setting yourself up for long-term success. Your network gets you the exposure that you need to get the jobs you want.
There have been so many changes in this industry, both because of new technology and because of the COVID-19 crisis. How do you feel those changes will shape the industry in the next decade?
It is interesting. So many established companies and cultures have been built around having people in a brick-and-mortar location. In our industry, we talk about how change is so important, but we forget how difficult change is.
Change is hard for Executive Leadership, as well. Many seasoned executives were used to seeing their staff and having a level of heightened control over people within a certain building or site. The COVID-19 crisis has forced many organizations into situations that they would have never thought of before. And these changes are not something you can just put back in a box, even if some leaders might want to do that.
This means that there is both more opportunity than ever before, along with more competition than ever before. The person who lives in Billings, Montana might not have to move to New York City for the big job opportunity anymore. That also means that the job that I might have been a lock for in Arizona is not as easy anymore because I might be competing against someone from Northern Ireland. This just screams to me about how important it is to continue to learn, and continue to get certifications and degrees when it makes sense to set ourselves apart from the crowd.
It’s clear by your participation on the board that you believe in the role of mentorship in the service and support industry. Can you share a valuable lesson you learned from a mentor, and share who that mentor was?
I have had so many great mentors over the years, but I have to share what Dr. Reginald Turner has given to me. Dr. Turner is the Director of the Information Technology Senior Management Forum (ITSMF) Management Academy. I attended the Management Academy, and afterwards Dr. Turner served as my Executive Coach. Dr. Turner gave me great insights to effectively interview better, read and command a room, and a bunch of other great stuff.
His greatest gift was helping me to reflect on my life, my upbringing, my early family life, basically the things that made me the man that I am today. Our formative years shape who we are more than most of us realize, and understanding that is power. It helps us identify some of the unique things about us that we love about ourselves, and it always exposes some of the traits that we might need to work on. Knowledge about ourselves is a direct tie to emotional intelligence and plays such a role in our lives.
So, thank you, Dr. Turner, for making me a better person.