Gainsight and SV Academy partner to create customer success program for underrepresented communities

With sponsors like Box and Boomi, the CS YOU Program offers training and placement in entry-level customer success associate roles.

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Diversity in the tech industry has been a hotly debated issue this year and one organization is trying to change things with a new program designed to train people in a burgeoning customer success field.

With investment from Insight Partners, customer success management platform Gainsight partnered with nonprofit SVAcademy for the CSYou program, which is designed to create opportunities in customer success, one of the most in-demand careers in technology, per LinkedIn's 2020 Emerging Job's Report.

Robin Garcia-Amaya, vice president and head of philanthropy at Gainsight, said in an interview that just 1% of customer success manager positions are held by Black people right now and 6% come from Latino communities. With CSYou, Garcia-Amaya said the companies are trying to tackle inequality and eliminate disparities for underrepresented groups, specifically for Black Americans, Latino, and women while achieving $100 million in wage expansion in three years for minorities. 

The 15-month program includes four weeks of training, an eight-week internship, and up to 12 months of coaching for associates and their managers after full-time placement. Insight's $500,000 investment will sponsor the first cohort of 25 customer success associates beginning in November.

"Amidst the most monumental civil rights movement in recent history, we know the momentum around inclusion has never been more powerful. As the customer success category creators, it's our responsibility to build an industry that offers everyone a future," Garcia-Amaya said. 

"Successful organizations, successful companies, and successful categories are, by definition, inclusive. We're honored to announce our partnership with SV Academy to identify, recruit, and train exceptional candidates. We know that these associates bring experiences that will strengthen innovation within the customer success industry."

SEE: IT leader's guide to achieving workplace diversity (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

In interviews, Garcia-Amaya and Rahim Fazal, co-founder and CEO of SV Academy, explained that the economic crash caused by the coronavirus pandemic has forced millions of people to rethink their line of work and look to a new field for opportunities. 

Fazal highlighted specifically that thousands had been fired from "people-centric" jobs in retail and education that made them particularly ideal candidates for customer success positions. 

"We started SV Academy to help high potential underrepresented candidates launch future-proof careers in the tech industry, no matter what school they attended or background they came from," said Fazal.

"The biggest issues facing underrepresented candidates are accessing practical work experience, mentorship, and employer connections. Together with Gainsight and CS YOU's 25 Charter Partners, SV Academy is excited to support a new career pathing option for candidates pursuing customer success, one of the fastest growing roles in the future of work."

The program offers training and placement in entry-level customer success associate roles and the positions have become one of the hottest careers in technology over the past few years, he said.

Right now, about 72% of customer success professionals work in the software and IT industry. Garcia-Amaya noted that Gainsight's estimates show that only about 8% of CSMs are Black or Latino. 

"The launch of the CS YOU program will fuel the top of the funnel with an inclusive pool of outstanding CS talent. Gainsight is partnering with SV Academy to design a tailored early career path for customer success associates—an entry-level position that serves as a stepping stone into a promising career in customer success," Garcia-Amaya said, adding that participants will have access to professional education, mentorship, development of social capital, and, ultimately, and the potential for expanded wages. 

"These days it's not just about getting new customers, it's about actually making sure that your existing customers are successful and getting value so that ultimately they stay with you and ideally grow over time."

Garcia-Amaya noted that Gainsight has gotten funding for the program from over 25 charter partners, which have committed more than $600,000 in commitments that will sponsor the tuition and placement for the first 25 customer success associates. The partners include Insight Partners, Box, Boomi, Genesys, Flatiron Health, Talend, Hootsuite, Refinitiv, Nuance Communications, Udemy, 6sense, Contentstack, Instructure, Tricentis, LeanIX, OwnBackup, Quantum Metric, Showpad, Checkout.com, UserTesting, TeleSign, Campaign Monitor, Diligent, PayIt, Covera Health, Payfactors.

Each company is sponsoring one associate and will offer every participant a paid internship with the chance for it to turn into a full-time job. Garcia-Amaya said the position has often served as an entry point for other positions and people generally spend less than two years in the job before moving to senior positions.

"Many of us take the privilege of access for granted. Access to training, coaching, career opportunities, networking, and more. This partnership opens up opportunities to launch the career for all of these individuals and provide access to one of the fastest-growing roles today," Garcia-Amaya said. 

"If we're getting inclusive talent into the pipeline early in their career, we're hoping that years from now this is the next generation of an inclusive slate of chief customer officers and VPs of customer success."

The program launches in November and will include a cohort of 20 associates. The internships with the charter partners will begin in December and January. Garcia-Amaya said that within three years, they want the tuition investment to be worth five times its cost, so for each associate spending $1 on the program, they get about $5 worth of wage expansion.

She added that it was important more than ever to help communities of color because of COVID-19's effect on the economy. The courses cost about $20,000, with $10,000 going to SV Academy for tuition and the other $10,000 going to the participants for the eight-week internship, Garcia-Amaya explained.

Fazal said SV Academy has seen a spike in interest as a result of the job losses from the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in positions revolving around teaching, sales, and retail.

He said the skills in these positions are actually easily transferable to the tech industry but many people have no idea how to get their foot in the door. Fazal added that for years tech companies have focused on coding roles but now that there is increased automation, the need for human-centered skills is becoming apparent. 

"What's important here is to understand that there is no way for us to solve the inequalities that we see in our world today without focusing on really preparing the very best workers, no matter what schools they went to, for the jobs of the future," Fazal said. 

"It's not just going to happen through one company or one institution. It's going to require broad skills and cooperation. We hope this initiative will be a framework for customer success and that all employers that can play a part in closing the equity gap." 

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