Boot Camp is a total immersion, on-boarding program for all new hires at Next Jump. The three week program gives new members an opportunity to identify their character imbalances and backhands under stress while getting to know the company. It's encouraged that boot campers take risks and practice these backhands as it a safe space above the company waterline. In addition to introspective reflection, boot campers are expected to meet daily metric goals with the CS team and come up with a product fix by the end of their three weeks. By identifying character imbalances and backhands very early on, these new members are able make deliberate practice of their backhand a habit and ritual from the very beginning of their time at NxJ.
February 19th was my first day at Next Jump, which was most definitely an interesting week to join, with everybody in town from the other offices for the annual party, dressed up and preoccupied with their dance competition routines (yes, there is a dance competition). There were so many new names and faces and accents and leather fetish costumes, all part of a crazy celebration of the company's past year of unprecedented growth.
As a part of the festivities, I also kicked off Boot Camp, a three-week immersion in the CS department alongside Sarah, the new Director of Wellness and my partner in crime through all of this. Now, as we have wrapped up our second full week, the process thus far has been challenging, forcing us to maintain a constant pace of processing CS tickets as well as a high level of quality. It's also given me an opportunity to peer into the inner workings of CorporatePerks.com and see the human hands that drive the machine, as well as to practice some of the cultural themes that were front-and-center as I had been interviewing over the past three or four months.
Some themes of my experience thus far:
Practicing my backhands - working on patience, humility, empathy, and courage muscles
One reason I joined Next Jump was for the opportunity for personal development, to work on skills like communication and teamwork that I for many reasons wished were better and that I didn't get to develop as much during my previous years in investment banking. I began with a framework around character imbalances that helped us identify what attributes I could work on.
I hate being wrong, dislike not knowing, and like neat answers – this was an area I tried to work on. For this, Boot Camp provided a wealth of stressful moments - issues I don't know how to resolve, upset people I'm not sure how to appease, potential for misreading a situation or responding with the wrong answer. Also, I'm trying to replace the attitude of “How could you not have read the fine print?” with “How can I make your experience better?” I've certainly had my fair share of unpleasant experiences with other sites' customer service, so when I found myself face-to-face with a harshly-worded customer complaint, I tried to take a breath, to check in with my mentors about the proper response, or to start from my own unpleasant memories.
At first, admittedly I shied away from many of the angrier tickets, but as the pool of tickets dwindled and as our weekly quotas loomed, Boot Camp forced me to take on some of those delicate situations. It forced me to be conciliatory and accommodating, to fight my obsession with the fine print and being in the driver's seat. Pretty soon it was abundantly clear that it wasn't just about getting over my discomfort with confrontation, but more (if not wholly) about helping our customers. That said, everybody get on Bigger Hearts and help make our jobs a little easier!
On the flip side, I'm also trying to practice these same character muscles within the CS team. Ian and Cassandra have been particularly helpful to me, and remarkably patient given the volume (and absurdity) of my questions. It could be that they're just nice people, or that they're forced to be nice to us because of Boot Camp. Either way, it's been great to have them as CS guides. I try to have respect for their time but the courage to ask questions when unsure. I'm a big believer in restauranteur Danny Meyer's concept of enlightened hospitality, so treating my coworkers well was a big focus as my working relationships with them deepened.
Understanding the moving pieces
Another reason I joined Next Jump was to learn about a successful e-commerce business, and to contribute to that success. Reading and responding to the variety of customer requests has given me a better sense of what people are buying, what they are having trouble with, and where we can improve. Also, as we from time to time escalate certain issues that CS can't resolve by itself, I am getting a glimpse of how information and decision-making processes flow across merchant, dev, fraud/security, and other teams. I don't fully understand the ecosystem yet, but Boot Camp gives me a roadmap of where to look and who to ask.
Next Jump set Sarah and me up as Talking Partners, an important cultural program that has really positively affected my experience thus far. We talk about what's going on in our lives, as well as what challenges and frustrations we're facing with Boot Camp – it's a safe space to vent and be heard, as well as to give honest feedback. Having a person with shared goals and to bounce ideas off of has also been very helpful. I've also been very impressed with Sarah's competitiveness and drive, and her ability to basically only eat salads for lunch has affected how I eat (for the better. I think. Folks who know how indulgently I eat will understand this.) These are more ways that the Next Jump community is driving positive change in my life.
Iterating and follow-through
On our first Friday of Boot Camp we gave an impromptu presentation in which we were tasked with identifying potential improvements to the user Help Center. A recurring idea that Sarah and I thought of was to ask users with claims for missing WOWPoints (our rewards currency) to submit proof of purchase documents at the same time as they submit claims, instead of writing back to ask for documents after a claim is submitted. Since these documents are required to verify large orders, our hope is that having them in conjunction with the initial claim allows the CS team to resolve users' issues more efficiently, with more information to make decisions and shorter wait times. However our conversations with the engineering team revealed potential security concerns associated with requesting sensitive user data. This opened my eyes to how closely teams must work together on even seemingly simple issues, requiring a holistic approach and probably subsequent iterations to successfully implement this feature. In terms of execution, I am still learning the complexity of and discipline required in following through with even a small tweak.
Boot Camp has been a mix of opportunities to grow and to contribute, to improve both personally and operationally, with some challenging objective metrics to serve as hurdles but also with enough room for those who want to venture beyond them. It's a great way for those first coming into the business to learn about the people, the mission, and the operations – as well as start exercising the introspection and give-and-take of feedback central to the Next Jump culture.