Digging in and Doing a Little Bit of Everything
Rachel Hronek is a customer experience director for North American retail at Blue Yonder. She joined the company in mid-2019 with a desire to meld her career journey into one ideal role – customer success. She talks about her passion for driving value for customers and how one of her biggest risks led her to get the management and business experience she never thought possible by digging in and doing a little bit of everything.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m from Cleveland. I recently moved back from spending 20 years in Boston. I am an uber auntie to a niece and nephew, dog mom to a four-year-old black lab named Bonnie, and daughter to two retired education professionals. I have a strong sense of giving back to my community through volunteering as my HOA Board member and Edgewater Hill Block Club co-chair and serve on the Economic Development Committee with the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization. I enjoy cooking and entertaining friends and family, traveling, and staying active. I like to challenge myself and try new things, so I have picked up paddle boarding and golf as two new hobbies and have always enjoyed skiing and running road races. I am rarely bored, nor sedentary, but when I am, I enjoy some TV or a good book.
What did your career journey looked like before coming to Blue Yonder?
I moved to Boston when I worked for Purina in the early 2000s. I sold dog food all over New England – from Boston to Bangor, Maine and then south through the Cape and Rhode Island area.
I held various retail roles in CPG and then mainly on the retail technology side. Most of my prior roles were at startup or growth-based companies. I was employee #3 in a startup and got to meet investors and learned how to grow a book of business.
Then my last job was at a growth-based company where I got to start a customer success practice. It was a really unique job, and the genre of the job clicked for me professionally. I love being client-facing but am passionate about how do we right by our customers and show them value. Part of this is articulating the value they are getting in the language they speak that resonates internally.
I saw the job opening at (then) JDA and it couldn’t have been a better fit. I was really attracted to the company and brand; all the retailers I’d worked at previously always wanted to find ways to work with JDA! And the job opportunity gave me a chance to work with the best of the best! That plus our transition to SaaS really what attracted me to the company. I really wanted to be on that journey.
Speaking of the JDA brand, what was your reaction to the Blue Yonder rebrand?
At first, thought wow, after 35 years! Having worked for SaaS companies, I understand that we were a different kind of company and had outgrown our name.. The new name presents an opportunity to start fresh in some ways and I’m looking forward to seeing where it takes us.
Regardless of the name, the tenure here is so impressive. In my experience, after companies are acquired, many from that company leave. But we have so many legacy RedPrairie and i2 associates and beyond here, which speaks to the culture. People want to stay here and that says so much.
What is the best risk you’ve taken and why?
The riskiest move I’ve made was taking a job as employee #3 at a startup. It was an amazing rollercoaster! It was one of those roll up your sleeves, change hats, do whatever needed to be done type of jobs. We didn’t worry about titles or pretense and even the work week was undefined. It was really empowering – I did marketing, business development, analytics, and sales. I always say I got my MBA without getting an MBA! We grew the company to 12 domestic employees and went to get acquired but then took back the company from investors – as they were making us spend on stuff we didn’t want to spend on. So we all worked for $8.25 an hour for a year to keep it afloat. It was a wild ride and a huge risk.
What about your career surprises you?
When I took the job at my last company – as director of customer success – I had to Google what customer success was. It was a cool title and I needed to know what defined it. This was five years ago or so. It was an emerging title at the time and really important to have at SaaS companies that are always looking at retaining customers and reducing churn. This is a moment I got to challenge myself and take all my experiences together in one role. I created an NPS program, held customer quarterly business reviews, and generally started a lot of fun things to get a holistic picture of our customers. I then fed that information to our product- and client-facing organizations. It was such a fun challenge to make me think about all the experiences I had and how they interrelate. The role brings together all those experiences and just suits my personality well.
What are important characteristics of a leader?
It takes a lot of self-reflection to be a leader. I try to lead by example. I would never ask anyone to do something I wouldn’t do. An emotional quotient is also important. I like to challenge myself to be my best, but in turn, challenge other people to be their best. That way, everyone is marching towards a goal together and you get to greater places. Ultimately, you want to be inspiring enough to get others to see their potential. That is the ultimate joy of being a leader.
How does it feel being the only woman in a meeting?
Let’s not call that out anymore. It should be about being the best qualified person in the room and it shouldn’t matter the gender. So I try not to see in that lens as men vs. women. We need to bring everyone to the table regardless of gender or race.
What book(s) are you reading right now?