Women In Tech: Deltek’s Senior Director of Customer Success, Melanie Lawn, Shares Her Experience Of The SaaS Industry
Melanie Lawn is the Senior Director of Customer Success and Global Support EMEA for Deltek. Mel has global responsibility for six Deltek teams, spanning multiple solutions and her team looks after 3000+ SaaS customers. She was voted Deltek's Customer Success 'Leader of the Year, 2016’.
In an August 2018 interview, Melanie discusses her evolution with Deltek, the global footprint of her customers, the dialogue our industry needs to attract more women into technology, and why “clients that work in partnership have the most to gain”.
The following is a transcript from the interview.
Q. Melanie, thank you for participating in today’s interview. Can you tell me a little about how your passion fits into what you do? What is it that you enjoy most about your current role?
'My role provides me with a lot of variation. I thrive on change and our customer’s success. Add the huge amount of communication with people in the business that share a similar purpose and my role ticks all the boxes for me.
In all honesty Deltek is one of the best companies I have worked for. Like I say, we all share a similar goal in terms of what we envisage for our customers and their experience with Deltek. The company has a great staff and customer retention rate, which means we are doing something right and I personally think it’s down to our fantastic culture, opportunities to progress and enhance ones skills. Because we are acquisitive by nature we also have a wonderful mix of new talent joining us regularly.'
Q. What are the demands of the job? Technical, functional? Pulling the team together?
'The technical aspect is certainly about having a solid understanding of the products. But my job is essentially crisis handling, trouble shooting and requires a great deal of collaboration. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t speak to engineering, sales and consulting teams across the business. Of course the most active part of my role is as a people manager which I thoroughly enjoy.'
Q. And on that last point as a woman in technology, heading up a team, have you faced any challenges?
'I genuinely haven’t faced any such issues at Deltek, in fact Deltek has been and continues to be incredibly fair. I have had great mentors both male and female and I really do believe, at least here, that people assess based on your professionalism, knowledge and eagerness to succeed. I personally aim to be the best leader and mentor to my team, and earn their respect via that approach. In fact despite the ratio of my team being 70:30 male to female, 3 of the team managers reporting into me are women.'
Q. What steps do you think can be taken to attract more women into technology? Have you seen improvements in diversity over the years?
'I think a lot of women view technology as being rather corporate and rigid when that isn’t reflective of the everyday reality. Therefore there needs to be more communication from our industry to highlight the flexibility, creativity and variety of roles that are available which, I hope, will ultimately help to break down those preconceived ideas. My role is predominately about people management and being an effective communicator. This industry is one of the most flexible I have worked in, and with customers and teams working globally across numerous time zones I am free to tailor my time accordingly.'
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Q. You spend a lot of time talking to customers, what’s that like?
'Overall they are a fantastic source of information. I must add, that creativity and humour, should not be underestimated, these skills are an extremely important part of my role. That’s not to say that some days are not challenging, or that I don’t speak to a frustrated client, but those situations must be met with understanding and empathy. I take a transparent approach towards setting expectations of what is in our control and what’s not. But a day doesn’t go by when I don’t learn something new and feel a sense of value from building strong relationships with my customers.'
Q. What characterises the most successful customers?
'From experience I believe that clients that work in partnership with us have the most to gain - for example collectively defining expectations at the beginning of any project.
It’s essential for both parties to accept that occasionally, things don’t always go as expected. Customers do change their mind along the way and there needs to be a realism about what they are taking on. The journey isn’t linear 100 per cent of the time, but Deltek will do everything in its power to find the best outcome. There is an important need for transparent and responsible dialogue.'
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Q. What developments have posed the most important new challenges to your customers?
'Most recently it would have to be the move to the Cloud which provides tremendous opportunities as well as new challenges to customers, such as shifting the perspective of their product approach, change management and security requirements.'
Q. When you are helping a customer, what informs your thinking? And how long until you know what you are doing works?
'I think the most important element for me is understanding a customer’s objectives and desired business outcomes to effectively converse with product experts within our business and achieve their end goal. And that time could be days or months, and essentially comes down to taking a tailored approach toward each customer.'
Q. The industry is going through tremendous change. What do you think it will look like in 5 years from now?
'It goes without saying that artificial intelligence, machine learning and self service will be more readily adopted and Deltek is already having plenty of discussions about what customers will demand from technology in terms of their unique interactions. I also think there will be a more blended approach, over and above what we are seeing today, with our home environments integrating into work, in a way that is secure for us as consumers.'
Q. And finally, you came to Deltek through an acquisition, can you tell me a little about your own evolution, starting your own team(s) as well the evolution of the solution?
'Yes, approximately 5 years ago Deltek acquired TrafficLive which in all honesty gave a great deal of structure and security to the product and how the business rolled it out to customers. It was a unique turning point for my own career. I would go as far as to say, I have been particularly lucky, because coming to Deltek accelerated my career. I came from a much smaller company and product, to being promoted twice, managing six more teams than when I joined - all within the space of 4 years! I also have the added bonus of working across two areas of the Deltek business (Customer Success and Global Support).
From my perspective the acquisition (of Traffic Live) was the best thing that could have happened to my career. It applied a global approach to my role that earlier was only UK focussed. I now spend a great deal of time travelling and continuously learning from some of the most experienced people in the business, and our wonderful customers.'
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