In Episode 6 of The inSide Scoop, we talk to Luiza Drăghicean, Community Manager EMEA at UIPath—leading RPA software company & Romania’s first unicorn! Let’s learn more about UIPath’s staggeringly successful global community approach and some of the brilliant engagement strategies they are applying.
Don’t want to listen this time? We’ve got you—check out the handy transcript of this interview below. Don’t forget to follow The inSide Scoop over on Spotify!
- Connect with Luiza on LinkedIn
- Discover UIPath’s incredible community
- Luiza’s go-to community management resources: CMX and The Indispensable Community
- Luiza’s ‘can’t live without’ tools! Slack and LinkedIn
- Check out the CrossFit community for some interesting engagement inspiration!
Today, we’re chatting to Luiza Drăghicean from UIPath—the Romanian Robotic Process Automation (or RPA) software company that reached a $1bn dollar valuation back in March 2018, becoming Romania’s first unicorn! UIPath started life as an outsourcing outfit back in 2005, but it wasn’t until 2012 that the founding team recognized their market fit with RPA, and it was 2013 before their RPA product started gaining real traction in the market.
In 2015, the company became UIPath as we know it today, and to say they’ve seen some staggering growth… well, let’s just say that would be something of an understatement! How many other tech start-ups can say they’ve been named market leader by Forrester and seen a 690% increase in ARR year over year?
Luiza has been the Community Manager for EMEA at UIPath for just over a year and a half and has been lucky enough to experience the company through multiple stages of growth. Luiza’s has an extensive background and 8 years experience in communications, having previously worked in education, public diplomacy, NGOs and now tech. UIpath is not an inSided customer, but they run an incredible community, so today we’re talking to Luiza to learn more about UIPath’s community approach and some of the brilliant engagement strategies they are applying. Let’s jump in!
Dani Juson (01:08):
Welcome Luiza! It’s great to have you here on The inSide Scoop—really excited to talk to you today about the community at UiPath and get some of your expert insights about building and growing a really successful user communities. How are you?!
Luiza Drăghicean (01:24):
Well, thank you for having me. I’m humbled by everything that you just said and happy to be here. Well, I’m home, adjusting to the new normal, adjusting to life as it is, you know… The physical presence (or limited one!) of other human beings and also the very fast lane of working.
Dani Juson (01:46):
Yeah. I know it’s been an unprecedented few months, hasn’t it? But hopefully everything is all right for you. Remind me—you’re in Romania…
Luiza Drăghicean (01:57):
Dani Juson (01:59):
Yeah, awesome! Well, it’s fantastic to have you here today. We’re excited to talk to you. UiPath isn’t one of inSided’s customers, but we really, really love your community. We think you’re doing a great job in terms of the engagement strategies, and how you really sort of harness and stimulate your users, and you have a really, really thriving, active community there. So you’re a great person for us to talk to! Maybe you can tell us a little bit about who UIPath is what you do and what’s your role there as well?
Luiza Drăghicean (02:39):
Definitely! Well, first of all, I love our community as well, every single day. So, long story short, UIPath is a RPA (Robotic Process Automation) global company. It was founded in Romania a couple of years ago, and what we do is: We build bots that automate repetitive, tedious tasks and processes, and we make life easier for everyone basically.
Dani Juson (03:03):
That’s so cool. That’s really cool. So robots are going to take over everyone’s jobs then, right?!
Luiza Drăghicean (03:12):
Not really, no! However, you know, they are definitely changing and probably will continue to change the way we perceive and also do the work on a daily basis. At UIPath, we started this path of having a robot for every person which means that, you know, robots are here only to make the job easier to help us with all those repetitive tasks, like I said, and leave room for us for more engaging projects, more human oriented tasks, and more pure collaboration. And, you know, as a company—and as a community theme as well—our mission is to actually take the robot out of the human at the end of the day. So, robots are here to assist us, basically!
Dani Juson (03:59):
Great… I think that’s a really nice point you make about leaving a space to do the more human work—because there is so much repetitive work and technological tasks these days, and sometimes that can… You can bog people down. And I think it’s really nice that you guys exist to help people get their humanity back and focus their creative energy on the thinking and the creativity, you know, rather than the monotonous, repetitive tasks. So maybe you can give us a bit of background on yourself, Luiza and how you came to be at UIPath. Why are you a great person for us to talk to about community?
Luiza Drăghicean (04:47):
That’s a tough question! So I am a Regional Community Manager at UIPath. I work for the Europe, Middle East and Africa region. I’ve been with UIPath for one year and almost eight months now. And it’s my first job in tech, to put it like this. My background is in International Relations, diplomacy, public affairs and education. I really, really wanted to join a tech company, and specifically UIPath because, you know, it’s a Romanian company, the first unicorn and because of the culture—the amazing culture—that had been very human oriented, people centric and, you know, working as a huge team to advance work.
Luiza Drăghicean (05:33):
What makes me uniquely qualified? Well, the fact that I have been very fortunate—and still am—to work for the company and also for and with the largest community in the RPA field—because we are at this point. And I’ve also been lucky enough to witness and actively build the growth of the community and the company. I’ve been lucky to see the company in different stages, you know, close to startup, then scaling and growing and expanding and bringing our community along with us. So I think that’s my bit of advantage there. It makes me unique.
Dani Juson (06:18):
Brilliant. It must’ve been quite a journey and I’m sure you’ve learned a lot along the way!
Luiza Drăghicean (06:27):
Yeah, definitely! Not just automation!
Dani Juson (06:29):
No, exactly, exactly! I mean, we’re keen to learn more about your expertise. So tell me: When did you decide to start with an online community and why? What was the reason for doing that?
Luiza Drăghicean (06:47):
Well, it came quite organically. The community spirit and the values were always deeply embedded into the culture and they still are today. And for a very short overview: In 2015, when UIPath brought the product to the market the people then also believed that access to technologies should be open source and free of charge. So the next year they opened the software for a 60 day free trial. And soon agreed that the technology should be made open and free of charge for those who need it most. So they released the community edition, which was free for developers, schools, and small businesses.
What came as a shock was the fact that within a year it had over 250,000 downloads! And to the people that were working at the company… They realized that, you know, we weren’t big enough to offer the full level of support for that.
So they decided to crowdsource it. And that’s how the UIPath community forum came to life, along with UIPath Academy, which was actually the first open online training platform for RPA. And we continued on that. The community spirit again, is very well embedded, both within UIPath—so we have a community within UIPath, but also outside. Everything that we do is closely in relation to the community at the end of the day.
Dani Juson (08:15):
Yeah, we’ve spoken briefly before Luiza, and I definitely felt that from you: The fact that the community is actually responsible for driving a lot of the go to market strategy that UIPath is running with right?
I believe you’ve got a program, an educational program? I think it’s the Academy that you mentioned? Which is actually not just creating the community element with existing customers, but it’s actually helping you with new business as far as I can understand, is that right?
Luiza Drăghicean (08:51):
Exactly. Yes. It’s a full online platform with courses. So basically for all the new releases, we also have courses which are free for users to start learning, creating, and deploying. So we had it free from the beginning and we are keeping it free for everyone to at least start to learn automation and not fear it, you know? “The Robots will take my job!”
No, the robots will help you. And all you have to do is to learn a little bit how to deal with a robot and how to make it a reality.
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Dani Juson (09:31):
Very cool. So you’ve got a number of different engagement programs across the community that you’re running there. Maybe you can give our listeners a bit of an overview of some of these programs: What they’re for, how they work and where your ideas came from? And, how you manage those?
Luiza Drăghicean (09:55):
Definitely! Well, in the new COVID era, now we’ve moved everything virtually. But still we kept the mission to give the people the platform to learn, to acquire, and also constantly improve the new skills to collaborate, create, and have fun, at the end of the day. And we did this through different types of activities and programs. For instance, the most common ones like Meetups, open forums challenges. And we move into hackathons, recognition programs, such as our Most Valuable Professional. Then we have different types of singular campaigns, such as Improve Your Skills, which was directed in the new context of COVID to people who were looking to acquire new skills. And we had Studio X, which is mainly for business users. So it does not require a technical background. And we bring these types of campaigns to make sure that we keep with the times, the challenges and also with the needs that users bring in front of us.
Recently, we just launched a community events platform and the purpose is to gather all the global, regional and local events that we have, and most importantly, to empower and enable people from all over the world to become—what we call them—community builders… and actually start to organize their own communities wherever they are: Countries, regions, and so on.
Dani Juson (11:29):
Super nice! And your Academy is actually upskilling students as well, right? With the skills to actually use the bots, to use the UIPath, which is then sought after by employees—sorry!—employers? So you’re also really helping with learning and development there as well!
Luiza Drăghicean (11:54):
Exactly! It’s the entire ecosystem. So we bring people within the Academy, and they start their learning journey. They go into the forum for more questions from people that have already acquired the knowledge, have experience. Then they move into the Connect and Marketplace. They start creating, they participate in events and activities. They collaborate, they innovate, give back and, you know, eventually they are recognized for all the contribution and the expertise they have. So it’s a full journey somehow. Yeah.
Dani Juson (12:30):
And can you tell us a bit more about your Most Valuable Professional program that you mentioned?
Luiza Drăghicean (12:37):
Definitely. Actually, it was the first most valuable professional program in the RPA field. It started in late 2018. We are now on the second batch of MVPs. And first of all, there are two sides of MVP. So on one hand, they are the creators; the subject matter experts in the worldwide RPA field. And then on another level, they’re also the contributors. They are the people who go above and beyond to help and empower the other people in the community to mentor them. They’re also the most engaged users, both in giving us feedback, creating content and leveraging their skills to further evangelize the community. So they are basically our champions.
Dani Juson (13:27):
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Your champions, your super users… Fantastic. How do you recognize them? What’s the process that you follow to build that group of MVPs?
Luiza Drăghicean (13:36):
We have a selection process, which is once a year. So, you can either nominate someone or someone can just apply in the open call. So we do around that, we look through the applications, we follow some criteria… of course, we do a background check on everyone. Yeah. It’s kind of taking a lot of time because yeah, it’s a lot!
Dani Juson (14:09):
But I guess the value that they’re bringing to the whole ecosystem and the audience of UIPath, is just so strong that it’s worth you guys focusing on them, I guess.
Luiza Drăghicean (14:21):
Definitely. And after that, we have around three interviews with them from a product perspective, a community perspective and so on. And you know, most of the time we know them already because they’ve been involved throughout the year. We know who they are. It’s just—we go into deeper details on what is it that they want to do, because, you know, at that level, it’s about, “Okay, what if you have this amazing platform for one year? What do you want to do with it? Your craziest dream on how to scale, to do something great and how we can create that together with you.
Dani Juson (15:00):
That’s brilliant. So I guess that’s one of the ways that you’re keeping them on board as well, then? Once they become MVPs, is there any kind of VIP type treatment that they get? Like how do you keep them on board and stop them from churning off as these really engaged community members?
Luiza Drăghicean (15:18):
Well part of their MVP contribution is providing feedback and innovating. So what we give is access to the entire product team, to Product Managers, Product Owners, Chief Product Officer and also to licenses that are not available in the Community Edition… Early Birds, and full access to our knowledge and time… opportunities for speaking or creating a type of content that maybe they wouldn’t be able to do by themselves.
Dani Juson (16:01):
Okay. That’s cool. So you’re harnessing them as a means for product feedback and beta testing as well then?
Luiza Drăghicean (16:09):
Yeah. We are a product company at the end of the day!
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Dani Juson (16:12):
Okay, fantastic. And how does your community play into you know, the overall of UIPath cross-functionally? Is it owned by Marketing, does Product own it? Is it pretty well embedded into the organization?
Luiza Drăghicean (16:33):
A little bit of both. So you mentioned marketing. Yes. As the community team we are a global team and we are part of the Marketing department. Now we used to be part of Product, which only plays into our advantage, but honestly, we are at a crossroads. We are actually the bridge between Product, Sales and Marketing. We are the ones that, you know, are in touch with the product managers and also try to translate that into marketing, sales and the wider community. So I would say that we are embedded by the nature of the community and also by need.
Dani Juson (17:13):
Okay. And if you could sort of, you know, pin it down—I know there’s probably not one single thing—but has there been one particular focus that you guys have kept in mind as a growth strategy for the community? Has it been around customer retention or product feedback? What’s been your overall ‘north star’ for the community?
Luiza Drăghicean (17:44):
Well, first of all, we see the community both as people who work with customers, people who work with partners, students, teachers, freelancers… Everyone is part of the community. Of course we have different types of tactics and engagements for each of those, depending on the needs, but they are all part of the wider community and what we have in terms of focus… Our three main pillars—if I can call them that—first would be to drive product adoption, continue to scale, you know, still be the largest community in the RPA space and also engage the users to contribute, to be in a constant collaboration and contribution state.
Dani Juson (18:31):
Okay. That’s solid. How do you—this is a tough one—how do you guys keep tabs on how things are going? You know, what kind of metrics are you looking at? Which KPIs are you reporting, normally?
Luiza Drăghicean (18:50):
We look both at quality and quantity. So of course, when talking about tracking product adoption, we’re looking to acquire new users and users that also create more content, the number of participants at virtual meetups, hackathons and so on. But we also look at the quantity and this is where also the MVPs come in to the conversation. We look at the people that bring innovation, they bring breakthroughs and they’re highly committed and engaged. So it’s a little bit of both.
Dani Juson (19:33):
Okay. And what would you say would be good strong indicators of a healthy and ideally growing community after say, a period of three months after launch… of six months after launch…? Just to kind of give some ideas, maybe, to Community Managers that might be listening and who are wondering: “How do I keep track of how are we going? And are we on the right path?”
Luiza Drăghicean (20:00):
I think it could be, first of all, the number of participants and the growth of requests for more events, to put it like this. And I’m referring here to virtual meetups, or for example, what we did since we moved into the virtual space: We actually sent a survey —a very simple survey—just asking people what they want to learn and hear about from our site.
And it was huge! We did not expect so many people to respond. We do have a large community, but it was overwhelming. And then, you know, the presence at the virtual meetups was amazing. So I would definitely say that the numbers over a period of three months—especially when you deal with a challenging situation that does not depend on your business like COVID—or, you know, when you have to radically change something… I think the request from the community and the number of people that come to you are nice metrics to keep in mind. Typically it’s for the first few months, I think, because that’s when you’re looking to grow and to acquire new users.
Dani Juson (21:20):
That makes sense. So, if you had one piece of advice for other Community Managers that are trying to stimulate stronger engagement amongst their community, what would you suggest people try?
Luiza Drăghicean (21:42):
To listen! To actually listen… I know it sounds normal but a big part of what I do is actually listen, and talk, to our community people. And this can be via Linkedin, via Slack, via virtual meetups, or literally anywhere. I just listen to what it is that they want. And I just try to come back with that specific type of content in a way, you know, that can also be scalable. So, try to leverage the conversation basically. So yeah, the first advice would be just to listen to the people that form your community basically.
Dani Juson (22:30):
Yeah, yeah. Make them feel heard, and make them feel like you’re taking their feedback on board and actually doing something with it rather than it kind of ‘falling into an abyss’, I suppose. Yeah.
So one of the questions that we get a lot at inSided, when we’re talking to prospects who are considering starting their own customer community online, is how to deal with negative sentiment from customers and end users within the community.
People are often worried that they are potentially opening themselves up to negative comments, negative conversation, and just… you knowl… prospects are looking to protect themselves, protect their brand. While at the same time making sure that they’re not ignoring these concerns from the customers, from their end users. Would you have any advice for Community Managers that are concerned about negative sentiment, or is it even something that you guys at UIPath run into?
Luiza Drăghicean (23:46):
Well, there are different types of negative feedback. I used to work in public diplomacy and public administration. So you can only imagine the amount of negative talk! So what I learned—tough! On the job!—was to listen through the words and through the tone of voice and actually come up with solutions to that and make sure that the people are heard and try to make sense of the feedback, because most of the time the feedback is going to help you become better.
And I’m going to move a little bit into UIPath: Actually, with every release and launch ww proactively ask for feedback, which means reporting bugs, challenges, issues… It’s part of making the product better, actually, the testing part. Of course, there might be people at some point not making sense, maybe. But I still think there’s room for conversation—even there. Just try to understand what that person is saying to you. And, you know, even you as an individual: If you look at a hotel and you only see five star reviews and nothing else, you kind of get a little bit worried, right?!
Dani Juson (25:11):
Yeah, yeah. “This can’t be true!”
Luiza Drăghicean (25:14):
But if you see someone giving feedback which was not five star, but then you see the response and how it was dealt with, you’re definitely gonna trust it more and say: “Okay, fine. So they are actually good.”
Dani Juson (25:29):
So transparency is the key then, right? Nice advice there. Okay. So this has been really interesting.
I have a few of what we call our ‘lightning round’ questions for you. They’re not particularly fast, so we might need to rename this! But just a couple of questions to get some of your personal views or take on Community Management as a career, as a discipline and to give some advice to other Community Managers out there that are looking for resources. So I’m gonna run through these… You just tell me what are the first things that come to mind when I ask you these questions. And obviously anything that you mention, I’ll make sure to link in the show notes as well, so that our listeners can take a look at your suggestions.
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So the first question that I’d like to ask is: If you could pin it down to one, what one skill do you think is absolutely vital for Community Managers to keep improving on as they move through their career?
Dani Juson (26:43):
I’m going to answer with ‘resilience’. Readjusting, readjusting!
Dani Juson (26:52):
Interesting, okay. And what makes you say that?
Luiza Drăghicean (26:57):
Well, it goes back to the feedback—being able to take on all types of feedback, becoming resilient every time and trying something, failing, maybe in ROI, being very far away from the target. Just go back and try again with a different set of tactics or with a different mindset, or even with different people, or in a different time. Resilience and readjusting.
Dani Juson (27:35):
I like it! I think it makes sense though. Right? You have to have that adaptability and resilience. You get a lot of engagement and you’re getting a lot of input and feedback from your community of users and customers, and that’s a lot to deal with, regardless of the positivity or the negativity of that, you know? So I like the answer. I think it makes sense.
How about educational resources or nice resources that you use, or that you look at, or read, or listen to, with regards to Community Management, tips, tricks, best practices? What would you recommend for our listeners to take a look at?
Luiza Drăghicean (28:18):
Well, I’d definitely peek a little bit at CMX. They’re very active on LinkedIn as well. They’re specialized in community building, and I would definitely recommend it if you’re looking into community management to take a look at what they’re doing and, you know, maybe become part of the community at some point. Definitely a good resource there.
In terms of reading, I actually did read a book, it’s called The Indispensable Community. Yeah. You know, it’s a light read, but it gives you an overview from the beginning of community building typically, it has the gaming part; it’s quite nice actually.
Dani Juson (29:20):
It’s a really nice way to dip your toe into it.
Luiza Drăghicean (29:24):
Yeah, exactly. And of course, beyond that—just looking to other products, companies, how they deal with communities like big tech or even fashion brands are building communities nowadays, you know, with the virtual environment, it’s important to just take a look outside, even of the field that you’re working in just to see how others are doing it.
Dani Juson (29:51):
Yeah. I think that’s an important one. You can often get ideas and inspiration from other industries that would never have come to mind otherwise, and they may not be the best fit in their current state, but you get inspiration for ways that you could maybe tweak to make them work for you.
Luiza Drăghicean (30:11):
You re-adjust, you re-test.
Dani Juson (30:13):
Yeah. Fantastic. Cool. Last couple of questions then. So tell me, what’s your favorite tool that you can’t live without?
Luiza Drăghicean (30:25):
Hmm. So for work, that’s Slack. Yeah, because we have a very nice community at UIPath and, you know, Slack is both a way of communicating with other peers work-wise, but it also has a fun part, with memes, and videos… and we have highly creative colleagues that make work fun. So definitely Slack is the most used tool. And for slightly more personal, but still work related, I think it’s LinkedIn, because it keeps me in contact with all of the community people and also other experts in other fields. And just like I mentioned, CMX—so it’s both fun and work at the same time.
Dani Juson (31:21):
Nice, nice, great examples there. Okay. So final question then.
Can you tell me a favorite, or can you name for me an online community—that’s not UIPath’s community, obviously… unfortunately we have to rule that one out—that you really admire or that you really think are doing great things?
Luiza Drăghicean (31:46):
I would step away a little bit from the technical, and I think I’d go with something which is very personal and that’s the CrossFit community. It’s very di