The Reflectance Series: Q&A With Austin Schwark

Our Reflectance Series features interviews with some of Capella’s talented team members across all our departments, showcasing some of the brightest minds in the innovative satellite technology industry. For previous installments in this series, I spoke with our Chief Technology Officer and Director of Space Operations. Today, I’m continuing the series with Austin Schwark, Capella’s Director of Customer Success.

Tell us about your career path — how did you end up at Capella? What made you want to join the team?  

I’ve had quite the winding journey — starting from precision agriculture to IT technology to finally landing in satellite technology. When the pandemic hit, I had to reevaluate what I really wanted out of my work and realized that the feeling of being a part of something grand and spectacular — like sending satellites to space and helping customers use that data to solve real-world problems — gives me drive and purpose in my personal and professional life. When looking for opportunities to make my next career move, I turned my attention to the private space sector. Luckily, the stars aligned, as they say, and I was able to connect with several former colleagues who now work at Capella. It turned out that they had a need for my expertise to support the 2021 commercial satellite launches and company growth plans. I’m thrilled to say that I am finally a part of the amazing work Capella is doing!

You have a vital role in helping to make the customer experience with Capella’s tasking console successful. Tell us what your team does to ensure that the experience goes as smoothly as it does.

First and foremost, my team prioritizes leading with honesty and setting realistic expectations with our customers to ensure smooth experiences with Capella’s data programs. Our second most important role is training the customer on how to read and use the data we collect for them, which requires a true understanding of each and every customer that we deal with. I believe that the only way to do this is to figure out what each customer  hopes to accomplish and to then guide them in that journey. Finally, we spend a lot of time using our own data platform, the Capella Console, in our daily work so we’re very familiar with the ins and outs of the technology on the backend. Being so involved in the platform allows us to provide open and frequent feedback to the product team on how to constantly improve the customer experience.

What does your day-to-day role look like?  

Each day brings new surprises, but it is a mix of long-term planning and solving day-to-day customer inquiries. The Customer Success team has grown so much that we’ve reached the point of successfully straddling the fence to do both proactive and reactionary work. This means that some days, I onboard customers and provide them with guidance on how to use our products. Other days, I learn about new tools and technologies that will allow the team to grow and scale in a smart way as the commercial business grows. 

In what ways has the team adapted its approach to customer service through the pandemic and work from home transition? 

The Capella Customer Success team has focused on flexibility and understanding in this time of uncertainty. Pre-pandemic, as a society we often viewed it as unprofessional to show your team and your customers that you have a personal life outside of your professional one. Now, no one blinks an eye when I need to let the dog out during a conference call. I’m very proud of the fact that my team has been open to rethinking how we work with customers. For instance, we’ve expanded our use of certain technology platforms to adapt to the regions we serve, such as transitioning to communicating via WhatsApp for our customers in Latin America. We’ve found great success when we can adapt to our customers’ unique needs.

As Capella grows, how does the customer success team scale with increased customer demand?  

Using efficient processes and tools are key to my team’s success in dealing with increased customer demand. We are currently working on expanding how we use innovative customer-facing software like Zendesk, which will be instrumental in creating a cohesive and equitable experience for our customers.  The Customer Success team is refocusing our attention and efforts on hiring new team members internationally as well—there really is no substitute for having colleagues in local time zones around the globe who can speak native languages and are in tune with the intricacies of the culture they interact with.

How do you think working with customers in the space data industry differs from more traditional data / service companies?  

Working with satellite customers requires my entire team to be experts. We all need to know the ins and outs of Capella’s satellite technology because it’s so new and innovative to many of our customers. Another difference I’ve noticed is that for some of our customers instead of selling a solution to a problem, we’re trying to help these customers understand their problem in a new light, highlighting exactly how SAR data can help them solve it. At the end of the day, the Customer Success team is pushing for a fundamental shift in how people view and solve their problems.

What has been the most rewarding moment you’ve experienced while leading customer success at Capella?  

Though I am fairly new to my current role, I’d have to say working with our North American customers to monitor whale populations has been one of the most rewarding experiences, so far. The teams are using Capella’s satellite data to gather information on the migration and feeding patterns of North American Right Whales in waters off the west coast of Canada to inform public policy. This data will be shared with Canadian government programs to preserve the whale population and their habitats by preventing collisions with boats and fishing gear. #Savethewhales! 

What are the top 2-3 reasons why prospective customer success hires should join the Capella team?  

The private space sector is just beginning to experience the start of a massive growth period, and Capella’s SAR satellites are excitingly at the forefront of private technology in the USA — so I say, come join the best! As an organization, I feel that we are at a stage where individuals looking for career growth and opportunities will shine, as there are so many different and specialized paths available to be successful here.

Next up: We’ll be sharing more Reflectance interviews in the coming months. Check out our blog for our upcoming posts.