You don’t have to sacrifice the passion that sparked your career
If you stay connected to your spark and let it drive you, even bad opportunities can open doors that lead to great ones
Customer Success professionals can keep their spark by working to support products or industries that they love
Can you please introduce yourself and what you do now?
My name is Nicole Sherwin. I’m the Vice President of Customer Success at EcoVadis.
EcoVadis provides business sustainability ratings. We’re a global SaaS company founded 14 years ago in France. I’ve personally been with EcoVadis for 11 years. It’s a very mission-driven organization and, our aim is to provide companies with insights and tools to improve their sustainability practices at scale. That means improving environmental and social outcomes across their global value chains. We have 650 requesting companies, which are customers, but also 80,000 “rated” companies, which are also customers subscribing to our solution.
Now a bit about my role in that. The CS organization is made up of a team of 100 individuals in the world managing the 650 multinational requesting customers. We support our customers as change agents to accelerate their maturity on l sustainable procurement, and their adoption of the EcoVadis sustainability ratings within their organizations. I oversee five Regional CS Directors as well as the Customer Success Operations team.
Can you tell me about your early career?
I received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Cinema Studies & Moving Image Arts because I loved the idea of being on the ground in creating things. I then spent five years in New York City trying to figure my way out in the film world before finally stumbling on my passion. I worked on feature films, commercials, and independent small films, but where I found true meaning was working on documentary filmmaking as a producer.
Some of my favorite projects involved documentary films in international contexts. One in particular in Central America - Nicaragua specifically - examining banana plantations and the impacts that large multinationals have on the local environment and communities by using banned chemicals.
That actually inspired me to get into the business world. I believed in the power and impact that media and filmmaking can have, but I wanted to get into the inside of business to help sort out the sustainability impacts that they can have. I joined EcoVadis in 2010 as a Sustainability Analyst intern and relocated to France.
We were 25 people total at the time, and maybe 10 accounts were being managed. So I started managing customers in a hybrid role. We officially broke off as a dedicated team for managing customers in 2013, and renamed ourselves to Customer Success Managers in 2016. I eventually moved into my role as a VP of Customer Success in January 2021.
Get the Catalyst Newsletter
Join more than 30,000 Customer Success professionals to get new events, research, and feature opportunities delivered straight to your inbox.
You started your career with a lot of fire and enthusiasm. Do you feel you’ve managed to retain it as time went on?
I always make sure that I follow my spark, my joy, and whatever makes me glow. The path forward can be very uncertain, but you always have to be curious and keep your doors open.
There’s actually a quote I saw recently from Martha Graham, who’s a modern dance choreographer.
You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open.
There can be a lot of self-doubt about starting something new or going in a new direction where you feel like you don’t have the competencies there. That always rang true for me. But if you just continue to be connected to the spark that inspires you and open that door that’s in front of you right now, there will often be another door that will eventually lead you closer to where you want to be. Sometimes that door helps you retain that original spark, but sometimes it lights up an entirely new spark that’s just as powerful as the first.
That’s what my experience has been. I went full steam into film production, then got disillusioned. I shifted to documentary filmmaking. Shifted to the world of multinationals and sustainability. Shifted to getting an MBA in Sustainability Solutions at Presidio Graduate School. Shift to moving to France for this CS career.
I’m pretty far today from where I started, but I do believe I continued to follow that spark and joy in the context of the evolution of my role. Even the act of building internal teams and processes follows that. The spark for me now is in the people and the core of working with people. We’re making changes that address sustainability, environmental impact, and social impact of companies, large and small, around the world.
That’s meaningful to me.
What happens when you encounter a business situation that conflicts with your ideals?
There are certain things that come down the pipe from the top or from the side in a business context that I have disagreed with upfront; often because I didn’t have the full picture. Sometimes I disagreed with it even if I did have the full picture.
There are decisions an organization may make where - especially as a manager - you have to accept and get behind because it makes sense for the business. You have to trust your leadership and get into alignment that it’s for the larger view and I’m okay with that.
If there were repeated events and the organization was going in a direction that conflicted with my core values? I would probably consider leaving the company. Trust and transparency from management are critical… I think lack of it is the main reason people leave.
How can people find their spark in Customer Success?
The spark for me is in the human side - both with my team and with our customers. The customer has a specific need, and within CS we are there to help guide them, identify what outcomes they’re looking to achieve, and what will bring them value. We are their partners accompanying them on this journey. For myself, my spark is that I can help customers and team members achieve outcomes by being authentic and true to myself and doing something good for someone, and finding a solution where they can be happy.
You don’t have to work with sustainability, which is what we specialize in. There’s a diversity of SaaS companies with Customer Success teams and so a lot of options to work close to your interests, like education, video production, or AI. It’s an opportunity to support adoption and drive outcomes with customers on a product or solution you believe in, and there are lots of options for that today.
EcoVadis is the world’s most trusted provider of business sustainability ratings, intelligence and collaborative performance improvement tools for global supply chains. Backed by a powerful technology platform and a global team of domain experts, EcoVadis’ easy-to-use and actionable sustainability scorecards provide detailed insight into environmental, social and ethical risks across 200+ purchasing categories and 160+ countries.