Meet Ajit Kumar, Senior Manager, Office of the President - GTM at Zendesk and Primary Mastermind Network Founding Member
As a CoS Mastermind Founding Member, Ajit gravitated toward the network to learn more about VC-backed startups and expand his network in NYC's tech ecosystem. Interested in joining? Apply here.
How did you land your current role? How did you transition from your previous role as Customer Success Manager?
Right before the pandemic, we had hired our new SVP Customer Success (then VP) which coincided with a strategic shift our company was making in GTM to accelerate Enterprise market share. At the time I was one of the only CSMs in our org with a MBA/Consulting background so with this transition I saw an opportunity to bring in some of the frameworks I had learned into the way we delivered Customer Success. During our AMAs with my SVP I expressed interest in taking on additional work outside of my CSM duties and consistently offered my perspective on how we could scale more effectively. I quickly began to stand out amongst my peers and when a role came up to support her and the greater GTM leadership as a CoS, I was handpicked to move into the role. This experience emphasized the importance of raising your hand when opportunities come up at work to lead initiatives and seek out the intersection of the business needs with your unique strengths — both of these tenets have been a game changer for me and a catalyst in building my reputation at work.
What has been the most rewarding part of the role so far? The most surprising and/or challenging?
Having to pivot quickly based on shifting priorities is the most challenging aspect of the role. Even as your company grows to Enterprise size the sheer volatility of scaling a SaaS company amidst all the market dynamics still exists. The urgency-importance matrix is important to keep in mind at all times so you’re working on the initiatives that your Principals need to prioritize to drive business results. The positive byproduct of operating in a rapidly changing environment is learning how to deal with uncertainty which helps not only professionally but also personally.
What is something you are very good at? How did you develop that skill? What advice do you have for someone working on it?
There are several traits I’ve identified as differentiators that I’m very proud that I’ve developed in this role, but if there’s one thing that I attribute to my career ascent is the ability to influence stakeholders without having a leadership title to my name. Even in college I always raised my hand to lead initiatives and without realizing it until very recently I’ve always been seen as someone who can lead with purpose and unlock value beyond what is expected of me. Don’t be afraid to identify problems you want to work on to your leaders and propose a hypothesis to validate a solution; in fast-growing companies the ability to test and iterate is critical to scale.
How has joining the Chief of Staff Mastermind helped amplify your career?
Despite the fact that my company, Zendesk, is a larger Enterprise company now, our internal CoS network is relatively dormant and with going digital-first I was finding it difficult to cultivate a community of peers that I could share ideas and learnings with. I came across the CoS Mastermind through a friend and instantly gravitated toward the network and programming not only because I was interested in learning more about Venture Capital-backed startups but also how its core mission centers around expanding NYC’s tech ecosystem, which is really the last major metropolitan frontier in the US for me to expand my network (previously lived in SF, Chicago, LA and Texas).
Interested in joining Primary CoS Mastermind Network and growing your community of peers and mentors? Apply to join here!