As a geology major in college, Kristen Abberley first encountered Esri in her classes, using the ArcGIS (geographic information system) software the company created. “ArcGIS plays such a critical role in environmental science,” she explains.
After graduating, she took on a part-time internship as an environmental writer while starting her own jewelry business. “I thought about applying for GIS analyst positions before, but I never thought of working for the GIS company—that is how I thought of Esri at the time—until I met someone from Esri at a conference,” she recalls. Their conversation about Esri’s company culture stuck with her. Later that night, Abberley updated her resume and sent it to her new contact.
Today, she’s a digital sales lead focused on mid-market business development. And though she’s recently stepped into this leadership role, Abberley still works directly with clients and closes deals. “As an account manager, I gained experience by leading opportunity teams during the sales process and acting as a mentor to others,” she says. “The responsibilities of a team lead have given me new leadership experiences, such as setting our team’s goals and shaping a vision for our team. I run our team meetings, hold bi-weekly one-on-one meetings with those on my team, review our team’s performance, and advocate their work.”
Find out more about Abberley’s path, and what it’s like to join (and define) a brand-new team.
What attracted you to work at Esri?
I was first drawn to Esri because of my experience and understanding of how ArcGIS plays such a critical role in environmental science. During the interview process, I learned that there is so much more to the work Esri does, which only attracted me to the company more.
I’ll never forget one of the interview questions that was asked: “How would you have used GIS to run your jewelry business?” I couldn’t believe that I had never thought of that. While earning my geology degree, I learned a lot about how GIS is used in the sciences, but I had never thought about all the ways it could be used to help businesses and other types of organizations. Being able to support other small- and medium-sized businesses like my own excited me, which is what I found appealing about the mid-market team specifically.
What are you responsible for as a digital sales lead?
My primary focus is providing guidance and coaching to the team as a mentor while continuing to close business myself. I help set our team’s goals and ensure everyone is empowered to manage the sales process and contribute to our team’s success. I’m very involved in the onboarding process and am responsible for providing regular feedback and coaching to help individuals grow.
In addition to the leadership responsibilities, I also have my own customers that I support. I enjoy working with our users and building relationships. Plus, I’m able to further develop my own sales skills and stay current on our solutions and technology through my customer engagements. The mid-market team covers all sectors and industries, so I work with many different types of organizations.
How are you gaining leadership experience at Esri?
Esri offers many different training courses for professional development. There is a training series specific to leadership, which has helped me learn about different concepts and strategies that I’ve been able to incorporate into my daily work. In addition to the leadership training, I’ve also learned a lot from my manager and the other team leads on the digital sales team. I’ve been lucky to have great leaders and colleagues at Esri who I can look up to and learn from. My manager often shares tips and feedback that have helped me gain confidence as a leader. She also sets a really great example to follow.
What is it like working on a relatively new team within business development?
It involved a lot of creativity, some trial and error, and a ton of learning. When I first joined, the mid-market team focused on supporting small- and medium-sized businesses in the commercial industry. This market was different from the larger commercial organizations, so we had to get creative to establish repeatable sales processes and best practices that worked well for mid-market commercial customers and could eventually be replicated for other sectors. I’ve always enjoyed trying new things, getting creative, and thinking through strategies, so I’m happy to have played a part in that.
Since then, our team has grown to support all the other sectors as well. This is where defining additional structure has been key. I have been working with my manager to align our team with each of the sectors, based on their interests and experience. This allows individuals to really dive in and become subject matter experts for that space. It provides a better customer experience and increases the cross-team collaboration with the aligned sector teams who focus on the larger organizations.
Tell us about the role of mentorship in your professional development.
Prior to becoming a team lead, I was an account manager on the mid-market team. The team was growing quickly, and I began to help others who were newer to the team with their onboarding and coaching them through their first few customer engagements and sales opportunities. I invited others to shadow me and was always there to help if someone needed me to support a call or provide some guidance and advice in certain situations. When I became a team lead, I was able to dedicate even more time to mentoring others in a more official capacity while taking on additional responsibilities.
Watch this video to learn how Esri supports employee growth:
What are some notable wins at Esri, and how did your team accomplish them?
Our team has had several customers participate in published articles and presentations. One of our customers even presented during the plenary session at the Esri User Conference, which thousands of people attend each year. This is a win for us because it represents the strong and lasting relationships we have built with many of our customers and how we have helped them succeed in their goals and overcome challenges. When one of our customers is very successful and is interested in participating in any sort of case study or community event, this means that we have done a really great job in supporting their growth.
What does a normal day in your job look like?
Typically, my days are a combination of internal and customer-facing meetings and coaching individuals. I usually have meetings with my team to check in and help them prepare for customer calls. For example, today I attended a demonstration dry run to provide feedback and help those presenting prepare for their customer meeting. I am also involved in the onboarding process, so I often work with new employees to help them learn the sales process. As a part of onboarding, they are asked to present assessments, also known as teach backs. I join each of these to provide feedback on their presentation and ensure they are on track and understand what they have been learning during the onboarding process.
The customer-facing meetings I am a part of are typically in support of a sales opportunity, a kick-off call to help get a customer up and running successfully, and general conversations which I always enjoy! I even have a biweekly cadence meeting with some of my customers to keep up to date on their work and weigh in with additional ideas or recommendations when I can.
What do you love most about your job?
It really boils down to two things: being in a position where I can help others, and knowing that the work we’re doing is having a positive impact. I love seeing the progress in someone’s learning and I get excited when those on the team have a good meeting, a presentation that went well, or maybe a sales win or other customer engagement they’re proud of. It also feels good at the end of the day to work for an organization having such a positive impact.
What are you working on right now that excites or inspires you?
I have always been inspired by how customer focused Esri is as an organization. Currently, I’ve been experiencing this through the various efforts related to COVID-19. Esri has been providing access to resources and GIS solutions to help organizations, both in the private and public sectors, respond to COVID-19 and prepare for the road ahead. I’ve played a part in this by sharing available Esri COVID-19 resources with my customers and having conversations with them to understand how we can help. As you can probably imagine, many of these conversations aren’t easy and can often be filled with emotion. While this is true, each conversation has also had a sense of hope and optimism. Being able to contribute to that hope by providing support or a helpful hand makes me feel good at the end of the day. I’m happy that I work for an organization that has such a positive impact, especially during a time of crisis.