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Reducing Tension In A Hostile Environment & turn things around

Krunal Patel

Senior Leader - Engineering & Architecture at Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

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Problem

My company was working with a customer we had sold our product to. The higher management of that customer's team really loved us and our product. However, the mid-level managers and engineers were a bit skeptical and felt the managers had made a commitment without talking to them. My job was to be on the floor at the customer's company to help them Configure & Operationalize the product and to help them understand how to use it. To aid with this, I also held some training sessions and workshops for the users.

Actions taken

I went there with one of my engineers and the environment was extremely hostile. They weren't even willing to give us a desk to sit at, despite being there for a month. My team and my engineers weren't convinced we would survive there for a long time and thought we would be thrown out within a few days.

However, I told my team we had to try to show this company the good things about our product and we needed to build a relationship with them to understand why they were unhappy with our product. We started using a cafeteria and lounges as working stations and we slowly started delivering things and working with the customer's team members. We also started showing them power of the product through "Do it yourself" sessions and also understanding their problems outside of the particular use-case and explaining via real demo as to how those problems can be solved.

"Relationship building & patience goes a long way."

As we did this, they started to see more value in the product and I was able to bridge a lot of gaps in our relationship. This helped my team a lot as they saw I had established this channel of communication and they were able to leverage this to start interacting with the customer's team. By the end of the month, the customer's team had completely changed their mind and they liked our product and chose to continue using it.

Lessons learned

When you are faced with a difficult situation or a hostile environment, you have to be persistent. Don't lose hope. Delivering under pressure takes multi-pronged approach, 1) understanding the pulse of the customer and 2) shielding engineers from the external hurdles. As far as my team goes, as manager, my job is to absorb all the pressure to create a smooth path for my team to excel in building & delivering products.


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Krunal Patel

Senior Leader - Engineering & Architecture at Chan Zuckerberg Initiative


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