Career Stories

Lev’s VP of Client Success on the Empathetic Leadership That’s Led to 4 Promotions

a person with blonde hair wearing a blue button-down shirt
Abbey Sullivan, the VP of Client Success at Lev
| Courtesy of Abbey Sullivan

Abbey Sullivan’s advancement in tech boils down to two words: taking initiative. That’s how she pivoted from being a marketing and social media coordinator to working in product and technical support. 

Sullivan’s drive led her to where she is today: VP of Client Success at consulting agency Lev. “To develop my consulting and leadership skills, I continued to raise my hand for bigger and more complex client work,” she says.

Sullivan has also experienced tremendous growth at the company—she has had four promotions in just as many years. Here, she talks to The Muse about why working at Lev has been a game changer for her career, how she approaches leadership, and what her advice is to candidates interested in joining her growing team.

What led to your job at Lev, and how did you know the company would be a good fit?

Someone I’m close to recommended me for a job at Lev, and there are three reasons why I felt confident that Lev was the right place for me. First, the job I accepted as an account strategist was a new role that Lev was investing in specifically to consult with and support clients in addition to the highly technical consulting we do for them. And I immediately bought into this investment. Second, my experience working in tech, product, sales, marketing, and customer success were all highly transferable into this new role. That gave me the confidence I needed to try consulting, which was something new for me. Third, I happened to know that our CEO Michael Burton had previously worked with a client I knew to be very challenging. So I knew of the professionalism he had demonstrated in those difficult scenarios, and that is the kind of leader I wanted to support.

Describe your career path at Lev. How is your experience emblematic of Lev’s dedication to supporting career growth and promoting from within?

To develop my consulting and leadership skills, I continued to raise my hand for bigger and more complex client work. I focused my energy on solving huge problems for our clients and supporting our consulting teams as we collectively built relationships and drove value as a team. I’ve since been fortunate enough to work in two additional leadership roles, both of which have benefitted from the experience I gained in that first role.

There are so many options to grow your career at Lev, many of which include leading larger and larger teams. But you can also completely change roles, learn additional technologies and skills, become an industry or subject-matter expert, or lead an affinity group at the company.

What are you responsible for in your role as the VP of Client Success?

Our team includes client success partners and marketing consultants. Our client success partners are the trusted leaders between our consultants, channel partners, and client teams. They are accountable for client satisfaction and success. Our marketing consultants are accountable for creatively driving client business outcomes, which includes proving and increasing the client’s return on their marketing technology investments. Both teams have strong leaders working with me, who are focused on supporting the growth of our consultants and continued success for our clients. I listen to our consultants, clients, and partners to stay on top of trends and opportunities that we could influence one way or another, and I bring these to our senior leadership team to prioritize.

Why does the work you’re doing at Lev excite and inspire you?

Change is inevitable everywhere, but the speed at which Lev continues to evolve to best serve our clients is remarkable. It’s a great fit for me personally to work in tech and consulting, where I can count on a fast pace and constant problem solving as part of my day. I think most Levsters would agree with me when I say that it’s hard to imagine working in an environment where we aren’t constantly assessing what our clients need and figuring out how our talented team members can deliver highly valuable work to solve challenges.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I feel I’ve built trust and rapport with my team through empathy. I work hard to understand our teammates and take into consideration what’s important to them when making and communicating decisions. I try to be concise and direct, and I’m a fan of leaning on Predictive Index—a behavioral assessment we use at Lev—to change my communication style when something doesn’t land. I hope our teams feel that even though change is constant, I have their backs and I’m always willing to hear them out. I’m certainly still working on all of this and more.

What has your experience been like as a woman in leadership? What has helped you succeed?

I struggle with this question. On the one hand, it’s real and I want to address it, but on the other, I know this question doesn’t show up for my male-identifying peers. I want to recognize the privilege I have as a Levster. Our senior leadership team is mostly made up of women, and there is a strong representation among leaders across the organization.

Where this is real for me personally actually predates my time at Lev. Due to lack of representation in other organizations, my earliest mentors in tech were all men. Most of the people who interviewed me for roles in tech were men—and oftentimes men were chosen over me when I sought out leadership roles. In comparison, being part of an organization like Lev, where equality is a core value, has been a tremendous asset in achieving personal and career growth.

What do you like best about the company culture at Lev?

Each week, one of our wonderful teammates puts together a spotlight on one Levster. One of the questions in the spotlight is similar to this one, and each week, the answer is nearly always “the people.” Our teams are wicked smart, hardworking, and want to do what is right for both Lev and our clients. Everyone here demonstrates that we’re willing to learn and grow together through change and support one another in tough situations. We also show tremendous compassion and respect through actions, such as truly honoring PTO, providing support for people’s personal lives outside of work, and celebrating each other’s accomplishments.

What skills are necessary to succeed in customer success, and how can a candidate stand out in an interview?

When I meet with a candidate, I’m most interested in hearing specific examples of how they’ve solved problems, worked through tough scenarios, and brought the client, team, or partner along for the ride. Our team’s work is so rewarding, but it requires tremendous effort. Demonstrating how you’ve successfully identified and resolved a problem before it was even “a thing,” managed a high-risk situation, and learned something that you carry forward with you are all great indicators that you’re a fit for our team. I’m always open to questions and I love when candidates ask for more detail about a specific response I provided, or further elaborate on our discussion. That makes the conversation so much more organic, sincere, and fun.

What advice do you have for those looking to earn a promotion within their company?

Be specific and compelling when you advocate for yourself. How have you fulfilled, or how do you very specifically plan to fulfill the requirements of this opportunity? If you don’t have the precise experience, what relevant experiences can you illustrate that make you the right fit?

Most importantly, if you don’t get the promotion and you decide it’s still something you want to pursue, work closely with a mentor to take specific steps that’ll help you grow into the next opportunity. Your next leader and your future team want to hear about your resiliency!