Every day when I pick up my kids from school, I ask them what they’ve learned that day. They proceed to tell me what they did—in class, after school, what they had for lunch, who they played with at recess. But getting them to articulate what they learned is a lot harder. So in the spirit of setting an example, I thought I’d report on what I learned this year as a product manager for SparkPost.

nightskytrails

First, let me back up: it’s been a year of remarkable change and growth for our company. We made the leap from our origins as an established, packaged software vendor to a software-as-a-service operation. We architected an entirely virtualized, cloud-based infrastructure. We built and launched our core SparkPost offering. We expanded upon that foundation to introduce the SparkPost Elite service with dedicated instances and service level agreements to suit the world’s most demanding senders. We built out a world-class operations, deliverability, and customer success team. And, we changed our brand from Message Systems to SparkPost to better reflect all of these changes.

But those are things that we did. What did we learn? Here are four lessons about doing business in the cloud that really hit home for me this year.

  • Offering a cloud service means more than engineering a technology stack. It requires a deep understanding of how customers actually integrate technology into their business processes. It also means publicly staking a claim with the right product/market fit and countering a new group of competitors. All in the open.
  • Another key lesson for us at SparkPost has been just how critically important it is to reduce friction throughout the customer lifecycle, from selling to onboarding to daily ease-of-use and support. In plain language: the cloud means we need, more than ever, to make it easy for customers do business with us. In our market of high-volume, high-value email, we want to make it drop-dead easy for legitimate senders, while freezing out spammers and phishers. Ultimately, dealing with the bad guys in the email world is where our rock-star compliance and deliverability teams give us a real competitive advantage. But as a product manager, I can assure you that it takes a lot attention to detail to get that balance just right.
  • The cloud changes everything, including the business model. If you’ve spent any time in the traditional software industry, you know how big, perpetual license deals are the name of the game. But there’s a reason why the business model for cloud businesses is called “software-as-a-service.” Services aren’t a one-and-done deal; instead, our accountants report recurring revenue as the primary metric for our shareholders. For customers, that’s good news: less up-front capital expenditures, more bite-sized spending, and a real incentive for the company—that’s us—to keep customers happy and earn that recurring revenue.
  • And this brings me to the thing I think about every day of the year. Of course I want to develop a product that has the most compelling features in the industry. Of course I want to see my product beat out competitors on the biggest deals. But the discipline that the recurring revenue model enforces on us means that customer retention (and that really means customer satisfaction) is simply crucial. To be frank, the same simplicity that makes the cloud so compelling also makes it pretty easy for a customer to switch to a new service provider. So, that means that I am always working to make SparkPost better-performing, easier to use, cost-effective, and a step ahead of my competitors in all the ways that matter to our customers, including email deliverability.

That last lesson is the most important thing any company needs to remember, and doing business in the cloud simply makes it all the more obvious. So, what I learned in 2015 (and will keep focused on for 2016) really is a reminder of what I and my colleagues have always believed: keeping our customers happy is the key to our success. It’s not the technology, and it’s not the marketing, or anything else except you. So a heart-felt thank you from all of us at SparkPost and from me personally. I’m looking forward to an awesome 2016.

—Irina, Cloud Queen 👸

MarySpacehead

Hi there! I’m Mary (@mary_grace), and as you may have heard, I’m the new developer community manager at SparkPost. Things are finally starting to slow down after three weeks of onboarding, training, and lots of fantastic conversations, so I thought I’d take some time to introduce myself.

I’m based in San Francisco, and am a (Northern) California girl, but also spend a fair amount of time in NYC with my boyfriend, Jeremy. I’m a connector of people at heart, both personally and professionally, and love digging into the strategy of how to build and foster communities.

I’ve been a part of the developer community for a while now, but have taken a bit of an unconventional path to get here. My background is in communications and journalism, but after 5 years of talking at my community via press releases and social media, I wanted to have conversations with the community. I wanted to know if they were actually interested in our content, what excited them, what new projects they were digging into, why our resources were (or, more importantly, weren’t) helpful. So I transitioned into a community manager, builder, advocate, architect, and developer, and I’ve never regretted it!

I’m also often known as “the one with the dog.” My dog Ember (like the coal, not the JS library ;)) travels with me everywhere and serves as my super-nose, smelling when my blood sugars are starting to run too low and warning me before I can feel the symptoms myself. Bonus: He also serves as a quick and easy reference point when people are trying to track me down at an event.

Mary's dog

Given my busy personal and professional life, I’m often on the road, but in my spare time I love to explore new cities, fly in the wind tunnel, listen to music, read books, and occasionally dig into crafting, sewing, and making projects. You can also often find me running local trails or at the beach with Ember.

I hope to meet all of you on the road soon. In the meantime, introduce yourselves here! Where are you based? What are you excited about working on? Is working with email & APIs a hobby or a career choice (or both)?! 

Lastly, if you’ve been keeping an eye on our developer hub, I, along with the rest of my team, want to help you build something awesome! So if there’s something missing, something we could be doing better, or something we could do to help you build more awesome things, drop us a line. Want to reach out to me directly? You can find me on TwitterGitHub, and as always, via email.