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At the same time, hanging up shoes doesn’t magically enable the company to serve customers well. We need to have empathy with our customers, which to us means spending time with them. Our sales team follows the mantra, “You gotta get your face in the place,” meaning sales reps get out of the office and visit customers.
This is pretty typical for sales organizations. But we’ve learned that it’s just as important for other functions at the company to get face time with customers — most notably, software developers.
Ben Stein, who oversees our developer experience group, began his career at Bloomberg, writing code for Wall Street trading-floor terminals. Ben’s degree was in electrical engineering. He knew little about Wall Street and had never set foot on a trading floor. On his first day, he realized that neither had any of the other developers on his new team and they were building software for those traders. Ben talked his boss into letting him spend a day with people who used Bloomberg’s product and discovered that traders were viewing the app in a tiny window on their screen, alongside nine other programs. Ben had been developing as if the user interface would fill a full screen. Ben was also able to talk to traders, who were eager to tell him what they liked and didn’t like about the software. That one day on the trading floor was invaluable for him.
When Ben joined Twilio in 2015, he brought this mindset with him, and has been driving it throughout the organization. Engineers on his team are required to speak to at least one customer every quarter. They can attend a hackathon or meetup with customers, tag along on a sales call, or listen in when an account manager checks in with a customer.