User communities

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10 community leaders and how they win

From one of the biggest CRM companies to a collective of tech investors and founders, we’ve interviewed 10 community leaders who cracked the code on how to foster and build successful and engaged communities. Get to know their stories and best secrets on winning over executive teams and community members.

  1. Angie Coleman, Director of Community at Operator Collective
    About Angie:
    Angie has nearly 8 years of community experience ranging from B2B products to peer social groups. Currently, she is spearheading the global community for enterprise tech operators in venture capital. Prior to joining Operator Collective, she helped grow Snowflake’s community membership from 7,000 to 35,000 in less than two years. Even outside of her professional community career, Angie loves being an active member of local QPOC, LGBTQ+, and techie communities by creating engaging event series that allow for deeper networking and personal growth.
    Biggest win: “Snowflake’s Data Heroes Advocacy Program was a huge win because not only did I get to bring that program to life but it also just became this world-class type project that other companies are modeling after it. […] People are also getting jobs because they have participated in the Data Heroes program.” How she executes: “I call those like my five E’s, so every community should educate. Every community should enable. Every community should engage. Every community should expand, and every community should evangelize. I kind of use that as a very loose framework as I’m building out my programs.”
  2. Shana Sumers, Senior Manager, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Communities at Hubspot
    About Shana: Shana got her start into community right out the gate. The former music therapist’s path into community started as a community member herself, trying to build relationships in a new city on the HER social app. Her super user status turned into the entry point for her career move into tech. While she was at HER, she started the Bad Queers podcast, helped rebrand for more inclusivity and built up its overall membership. Now at Hubspot, Shana focuses on building a community for black professionals called Black@INBOUND, which she hopes will be the framework for other communities in the future.
    Biggest win: “It would definitely be between launching my podcast Bad Queers and launching the Black@ INBOUND Community. Launching Black@INBOUND was not only proof of my skills and abilities – it also proved that I made the right decision in moving forward from HER (a startup) to a large corporate company and still be able to make a difference with communities that I care about.” Best piece of advice: “Make sure you’re putting diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging at the forefront because that is the number one thing that is going to help your community and allow more people to feel like they belong in your space, which is the overall goal for what we’re doing.”

  3. Mary Shen O’Carroll, Chief Community Officer at Ironclad
    About Mary: Mary has never been shy about exploring uncharted territory. Thirteen years ago, she helped Google build and lead its legal operations team at a time when legal ops was an emerging field. Her experience of shared knowledge and best practices via other companies motivated her to establish a global community of corporate legal operations professionals called CLOC (Corporate Legal Operations Consortium). Currently, she is the Chief Community Officer at the number-one contract lifecycle management platform, Ironclad. Mary is passionate about establishing scalable processes and paving the way for digital-first general counsel.
    Biggest win: “We got everything up and running very quickly. Our online forum didn’t exist before and we spun it up in 90 days. Our engagement is about an 82% peer-to-peer response rate. In terms of community-led growth, we’re seeing how much community is actually influencing our close rates, pipeline and our brand building.” How she executes: “We really talk about making them [community members] heroes. I think when you make them a hero and they feel supported in all parts of their job by the customer success team and now by the community. They’re heard with the product feedback and they want to associate with you. That is going to lead to loyal advocates, who want to participate in a webinar or write a blog or create content.”

  4. Linda Lian, Founder at Common Room
    About Linda: Linda’s foray into the power of community was as a junior investor at an early stage VC fund, where she had the opportunity to dive deep into the trends that are fundamentally re-inventing the way that software is built, distributed, and adopted. She was particularly interested in the rise of user- and developer-led adoption within product-led growth, developer services, and commercial open source companies—all driven by strong communities. Linda then had a chance to experience this trend firsthand, leading product marketing for serverless computing at AWS. There she was charged with overseeing and growing a great community of developers, and realized there was a huge need for tooling to enable, support, and manage communities. This discovery led her to found Common Room.
    Biggest win: “My proudest moment so far is recently launching the general availability of Common Room, which was the culmination of a great partnership with our own community. We gathered a group of top community leaders and developer advocates (DAs) before we ever wrote a single line of code. Some of our best customers today are those who have been with us on the journey for almost two years now. They saw the first product designs in Figma to now doing 100+ seat deployments of Common Room to cross-functional stakeholders that partner closely with community and DA teams like customer success, product, and revenue teams. Our community has pushed us every step of the way in how we build our product, ensuring we address the problems they want to solve for their users and their teams.”
    How she executes: “To be successful in increasingly competitive and noisy spaces, companies today need to be more than just their software. They need to shift from being a platform of “services” to a platform of “economic opportunity” so that their community members can advance their skillset, their visibility within the ecosystem, and ultimately their careers. We often hear of community and product champions who take their tooling from job to job, and the best community-led companies take pride in supporting and enabling their community members throughout that member’s personal journey, regardless of where it may take them.
  5. Sofia Rodriguez Director, Community at Venafi
    About Sofia: Sofia has been active in communities in forums and guilds as soon as she remembers getting on the internet. But her first paid community role was in education overseeing in-person events and eventually, moved to education technology. It was there that she realized community was the path she wanted to pursue and wound up at Salesforce. She managed the Trailblazer Community and the following programs: Community Groups, Salesforce MVPs, and Community Conferences and was Global Vice President of Latino force, an Equality Group. Currently, she is the Director of Community at Venafi.
    Biggest win: I see achievement as overcoming a new challenge or learning something new. I’ve had my hand in designing and managing new community programs, events, and initiatives and scaling existing programs, but launching a full-blown enterprise community for the first time was like a unicorn to me. So I consider it a huge professional win to have launched an online community for a niche segment. From owning the community and engagement strategy, platform selection, and community architecture, to the manual tasks that included welcoming new customers and educating employees on the value and potential impact of community, it was a constant effort and adrenaline rush. Launching something new is a beast on its own which can increase feelings of imposter syndrome, but also forces you to believe in your own worth and ability.

    How she executes: I’m in my year of focus. This has carried over to my approach to community strategy. I am constantly tempted by new ideas and want to bring them to fruition but focus is key. I want to make progress in one direction instead of going around in circles. If you’re on a bike, you move farther by pedaling one direction, instead of making a turn, then a turn, then another turn – you end up where you started! Do one thing really well, show success, and then move to the next thing.

Want to learn from five more community leaders? Continue reading this article in Customer Health Magazine.