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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Management

Working in Customer Service Can Help You Land a Leadership Role—and This Manager is Proof

Ruth Trieger, the Member Experience Manager at Bright Cellars
Ruth Trieger, the Member Experience Manager at Bright Cellars.
| Courtesy of Ruth Trieger

Ruth Trieger loves wine, but hates feeling like she doesn’t know enough about what she’s drinking or nervous to ask questions about it. So when the opportunity arose to join the team at Bright Cellars—a data-driven startup that aims to “make something that can be stuffy and complicated into something that’s fun,” she says—Trieger jumped at the chance.

The role as the Member Experience Manager paired her passion for wine with her years of working in customer service. From the get go, it was a match made in career heaven. “I knew this was the company for me the moment I began the interview process,” she says. “Everyone I spoke with was so talented, kind, and genuinely enthusiastic about the company and where it’s headed.”

Since many of the company’s new and upcoming initiatives—including an innovative approach to wine education—are designed to improve the member experience, it’s Trieger’s job to ensure her team has the training and tools it needs to deliver on Bright Cellars’ promises.

Here, she talks about why working in customer service has made her a better leader, an amazing company perk, and her favorite Bright Cellars wine.

Tell us about your career journey and what inspired you to pursue a career in customer service.

It’s remarkable to think that I’ve been in the customer service business for 17 years now. My degree is in journalism, so my intention was to work for a magazine or newspaper, but I got hooked early by the retail business and couldn’t leave. Customer service is a business where you never stop learning or being challenged, and the curveballs are always so exciting. It’s a problem-solving, people person’s dream! I especially love that customer service is about helping people feel welcomed and cared for from start to finish—like hosting someone in your home. As I’ve grown in my roles, I’ve been lucky enough to take my love of helping customers and apply that with my teams. It’s amazing to help someone grow in their career, and partner with them to build skills that are transferable in all parts of life.

Can you recall a “tipping point” in your career, where you did something that gave your trajectory renewed momentum?

Like so many people, 2020 forced me to revisit the purpose of my career. I was working long hours, and work-life balance wasn’t coming easily. It took some significant self-reflection to re-establish my “why,” which all came down to people. I reaffirmed that even when things get tough, there is nothing that fills my cup more than supporting and growing people and teams. At its core, leadership is internal customer service, and it gives you the chance to collaborate with amazing people and, if you’re lucky, you get to help them along their path.

You created a leadership training program for your team. What inspired you to pursue this project? And what do you think makes a good leader?

A good leader isn’t so different from a good coach: they care, support, train, and want more for their team than they want for themselves. A good leader trusts their team and isn’t afraid to admit when they’ve made a mistake. I’ve seen some great leaders in my time, and some not so great ones, and I’ve learned a lot from all of them.

I wish that there had been a cohesive leadership program when I started my career. I had to land on my face many, many times to walk away with the knowledge I have today. If someone had given me a playbook of some foundational concepts, it would have helped me avoid some basic errors and made things easier for my team, too. If my learnings can help someone else in their journey, that’s great!

What are some company perks and benefits that have helped improve your work-life balance?

I think the culture of Bright Cellars is a perk in itself, particularly the ability to work from anywhere. As a parent and a leader, I often feel like I need to be in several places at once, so it's great I can be where I need to be, when I need to be there. I find that when I can fully show up for my family and my work, I have the emotional and intellectual space to contribute more in all aspects of my life.

There are also some phenomenal internal benefits, such as our new employee PERKS program, an online marketplace where employees get a monthly credit to purchase services such as e-learning courses, products, or experiences such as cooking classes, yoga, the list goes on! We’re in the driver’s seat with the items available, so if there’s something we’d like to add to the marketplace, we can request it. I often use my credit to purchase Whole Foods gift cards (who doesn’t want to pad their cheese budget?), but I’ve been eyeballing an online cooking course for an upcoming date night with my husband. I really appreciate that Bright Cellars has gone out of their way to provide us with a benefit that we can really tailor to meet our needs.

What is your favorite wine right now, and who would you enjoy it with?

I would say the Tag & Title Gruner Veltliner was the first wine I loved from Bright Cellars—it’s the one that hooked me. I’m also someone who loves to celebrate, so our Stigma Private Reserve Aromica is a favorite (who doesn’t love a good sparkling?).

There is nothing I love more in this world than entertaining! I make a mean charcuterie board, with many different fruits, cheeses, meats, nuts, chocolates, veggies, and dips. I love inviting friends over for a backyard hangout with lots of food and wine, great music, and laughter. I have a gift for keeping glasses full and the energy high!

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t underestimate your value. It’s so easy to feel like other people are smarter, more accomplished, more well spoken, more tech savvy, the list goes on and on. But I always remind myself that we’re all hired for a reason. Although we may need to come back to that every so often, our experiences and backgrounds give us unique perspectives and gifts that nobody else can.

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