I’m a Software Support Manager for CDK Global, a provider in automotive retail software. The support organisation is one of the largest departments in the UK, so there is a team of 8 managers, each managing teams with different specialties and reporting into the Client Services Director.
I manage two teams, the CRM team and our Turkish Helpdesk. The Turkish Team are based in England, but as they work primarily in Turkish, I’m currently working on improving my language skills. Both the team and our customers speak excellent English, but where possible, I’ll speak or communicate in Turkish. Fortunately, they’re very polite when I mangle my pronunciation and grammar.
As well as managing the team, I’m responsible for looking after the relationship between Support and our customers, so I have several assigned accounts for whom I’m the first point of call for Support-specific issues, e.g. to escalate cases, respond to any complaints, discuss product improvements, and provide updates on our SLA performance. I also have a volunteer role as the UK Engagement Champion, supporting employee engagement. We send out regular surveys on engagement, but I’ll follow these with focus groups and Q&A sessions, working with the senior managers and directors to identify what actions we should take as a result of the surveys, and feeding back on progress. I hear a lot of complaints as part of this role, but I also get to make a difference to people’s work lives, so it’s rewarding and challenging in equal parts!
I wake up, shower and get dressed fairly quickly. I have two very energetic dogs, and as soon as I’m awake, they’re both waiting by the door for a morning walk – my first task of the day. In the summer, this is a great way to start the day, as it means I get some light exercise and to ease into the day, but when it’s dark and cold, I generally wish the dogs either woke up later, or had slightly less enthusiasm for throwing themselves into every mud puddle they see. The Turkish Helpdesk work to the same working hours as Turkey, so the first shift starts for them at 06:30, so on the dog walk I have my phone on in case any urgent issues come up, though I try not to start checking my emails while I’m out.
Once I’m back home, I make myself a cup of tea, and hand over the dogs to my husband. He’s self-employed and works close to home, so is in charge of sorting out their breakfast and walking the dogs at lunchtime. We’re lucky he has the flexibility, as otherwise it would be tricky to manage their needs around two full time jobs.
I usually set off for work around 7:30. It’s a fairly easy drive that should take about 15 minutes, but as this is a rural area you can expect to get delayed behind tractors and deer. I put on a podcast for the journey, usually one of the tech or management podcasts I’m subscribed to, as it helps me get into work mode before I arrive. CDK is flexible about working from home, and most people do so a few days a month. It’s a balancing act for me, as when I know I’ll need to get my head down and focused for several hours on one piece of work, it can be easier to do so without the distractions of an open plan office, but most of the time I’d rather be in the office with my colleagues, as I like feeling connected.
Support work in shifts, but the most common start is the early shift that starts at 8:00. Generally, most cases get logged early in the day, as people find the issues when they log on, so we tend to be busy first thing. I’ll check in with the team, then check down the case queue to see what we have in the backlog that might need focus today so I can assign them to the right people. We use HipChat a lot throughout the day. The CRM team is based across three different office locations, so we use the chat to schedule lunch breaks and time out of the queue, keep each other up to date on new issues arising throughout the day, and also to generally chat. As we are in different places, it really helps the team that we all get to say good morning, and check in on weekend plans, as we would if we were all together. After that, I check my emails to see what’s come in overnight, and what I have flagged for follow up from yesterday, and review my to do list and plan for the day.
Usually, by this point, my plan for the day has already completely changed. One of the biggest challenges of working in Support is that by nature we have to be reactive, so making sure we still have time for proactive tasks can be difficult. If we get a high priority case in, where an issue has brought down a customer site or a department, then we have to make sure that’s our top focus. I’ll also probably at some point realise I didn’t eat breakfast and grab a cereal bar from the stash I keep in my desk.
The majority of my meetings are usually scheduled for this time, so I could easily be in meetings back-to-back at this time. I have weekly reviews with Mercedes-Benz Turkey to discuss ongoing projects they have upcoming, and there are usually customer calls to discuss any ongoing issues or improvements, and 1:1s with my line reports. I space these out through the month, and late morning is usually the best time for these. We’ve generally got any urgent issues out of the way, and you avoid the post-lunch slump. While I am always prepped with people’s performance against their goals, I want to make sure that they do the majority of the talking, about their challenges and achievements, and we get the opportunity to talk about their development and what they see happening next in their careers. Support at CDK is atypical. We have a large, complex, and ever-evolving product, so even analysts who’ve been with us for upwards of ten years will regularly encounter things they’ve never seen before. It’s challenging and means we can’t rely on knowledge articles or existing fixes, but on creative problem solving and investigation skills, and technical and coding knowledge. As a result, I have a team with really diverse backgrounds and development tracks. It’s really important to me to understand everyone as an individual. I want to be getting the best performance I can out of the team so we succeed, but I also want everyone to be feeling good about their work, and where their career is going.
I’m usually back at my desk and will check how the queue has moved this morning. Usually, at this stage, we’ll have had more new cases come in than we’ve closed, but it usually evens out later. We currently have two analysts who are still in training in the CRM team, so we are working slower than usual, as we need at least one person helping them, and they’re not fully up to speed yet. It’s important for the short term but needs the queue needs to be more closely monitored than usual.
Getting away from my screen and walking in the fresh air makes all the difference, so even if I don’t need to pick up anything from the shops, I’ll always take a walk on my lunch break. If I’m working from home, I’ll take the dogs out for another walk on the common at lunchtime – either way, I go back into the afternoon with a clear head and feel more energised and focused for the rest of the day.
When I get back from lunch, I’ll have another check of where the case numbers sit for the day, and how the case backlog is looking. I’ve learned to not obsess on the day-to-day numbers, as you never know when you first look at a case if it’s going to be something that you can fix in ten minutes, something that will need three days of investigation and technical review or an issue that will need to go to our Engineering department to fix the code, so our figures tend to be lumpy. However, if the overall backlog trend is heading in the wrong direction, we’ll need to act quickly to make sure we’re still giving the best possible service to our customers.
14:30 – 16:30
I try and keep my afternoons relatively free of meetings, mostly because this leaves me with some space to move things around if something urgent has come up and to work on my ongoing tasks. I’ll be back in my emails as well, working through any new queries that have come in and prioritising new tasks.
The day officially ends now, and generally speaking, it’s a good day if my to-do list is shorter than it was at 9:00. I’ll try and wrap up what I’m doing, and head home. As the standard working hours for UK Support are until 18:00, and extended contracts are on until 19:00, I’ll keep my phone on, and periodically check my emails. On the way home, I tend to listen to music, rather than podcasts or the radio. I like clearing my mind and winding down for the evening.
I usually get back shortly after five, and my husband and I will take the dogs out again – actually, if it’s raining, he’ll usually volunteer to take them out alone, and I’ll take him up on it. We both have to work late periodically, but as a general rule we try and keep work-talk for the first half an hour we’re both home. For that half hour, we can vent any complaints, talk through issues together or celebrate successes, but after that we try and keep it focused on our personal lives. We’re in the middle of doing up our house, so some of the evening will go to painting, drilling and building projects, and we’ll both try and get in some exercise as well.
I’ll turn off my work phone at this point, and either my husband or I will cook dinner. We’re both keen cooks, and this is usually the point where I feel I’ve switched off from work. If I’ve had a day where I’ve added more to my to-do list than I’ve taken off, there’s something satisfying about making a meal – it’s a goal I can achieve, and the results are (usually) delicious.
We’ve usually eaten by this point, so for the rest of the evening we’ll usually relax, reading or watching TV together. I’m studying for a diploma outside work, so while I usually study at the weekends, I’ll sometimes do some reading in the evenings as well to keep up to date.
I’m in bed by 22:30, so I can try and get 8 hours sleep, and start the next day rested.
I’m lucky to have had an amazing role model in my mother. She has one of the most varied careers I can imagine, including studying Russian, teaching computer science, raising two children, becoming a charity manager, and then a specialist in early years education – she even got an OBE for her work, before taking early retirement, and taking up competitive rowing! She always taught me to follow my interests and passions, and not to limit myself.