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Executive Interview Series: Elana Feldman

Elizabeth Zink
Jun 28, 2023
Our first question is an easy one: what is your job title?

My job title is Senior Vice President of Customers at Pypestream.

What exactly do you do?

Basically, it covers anything post-sales that involves a customer. We do get a little bit involved in pre-sales but once you’re a Pypestream customer you’re my responsibility.

What kind of pre-sales stuff do you do?

We get involved in late stage demos, building out workshops to prove value. Our pre-sales tasks mostly surround scoping, making sure that use cases align and fit the business need. Our goal is to create a smooth hand-off.

Did you always want to do this job?

No, I didn’t know this job existed. [laughs]

What did you want to do?

As a little girl I wanted to be a ballerina. And then I wanted to be an author and then I realized that I didn’t like writing. And then I wanted to be a psychologist. And then I wanted to be a linguist.

And then I kind of fell into this after college, with a degree in linguistics, and said “Oh I have a degree in computational linguistics. Speech science sounds correct.” And so I went from speech science to IVR and all the way to chatbots.

I mean, it is kind of true. You are looking at language all day, every day, aren’t you?

Yeah! When I told people what my job was going to be after college they were like “I feel like that is the one job that is relevant to your degree”.

I’m lucky to be one of those people that studied something that’s relevant to what they ended up doing with their life.

Did you start working at Pypestream right after college?

No, I started at Nuance and was there for about 4 and a half years. My original position was as a speech scientist until the position transitioned into something called speech and data science. I was building different models for IVRs for phone systems.

I then started the Speech Science division for NINA, which is their webchat. And then started doing a lot of analytics. That’s kind of where the analytics came in.

After Nuance, I came to Pypestream and built out the analytics suite that I wished we had had at Nuance. Then, I built a team of Customer Success Managers which turned into me running the team of Customer Experience and now I’m the SVP of customers.

We [Pypestream] become true partners and I think that’s really the biggest value.
What would you say are your major priorities for the coming year at Pypestream?

For my team in particular, we’re focused on scaling. With the ramp up of sales and marketing, we need to make sure that we can scale the professional services at the rate that we need to be able to handle our managed service customers.

Are you trying to add headcount or are you trying to add capabilities?

It’s both. Definitely the team is growing and the team is growing in some new ways. We actually brought on delivery partners to be able to help us deliver faster. But, with that, we also needed to retrain a lot of the team in terms of competency to make sure that they are able to hand off work to delivery partners.

We just did a big workshop out in L.A. around Design Thinking. And now the team is fully certified.

Is this design thinking initiative your way of helping with the scaling or was this always the plan regardless of the company’s growth?

It’s been part of the plan. I think design thinking is a great way to think about delivering on the types of solutions that we deliver on. But, with that said, it was very fortuitous because it does help with the scaling in that it front loads a lot of the back and forth client work. It also gives us another deliverable that we can sell in a design thinking workshop where we can come in and just be purely consultants.

We can identify business problems and, with design thinking, we can work through them and come out with a proposal of how automation can help a business outside of the Pypestream platform. It’s leveraging the Pypestream CX team as automation consultants.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

I think what I enjoy most is the team and the people I get to work with. I brag about my team all the time because they’re the most interesting, kind, intelligent group of people that I’ve ever worked with.

A piece of feedback I always get from people who start on the team is that everyone is so helpful and I just love the collaborative experience of the teams and how everyone is trying to put out the best product possible.

Can you give me an example of someone who fits in with your team?

It’s someone who picks things up really quickly and is always willing to help and pitch in. As a manager and as a team lead that’s so helpful to not have to think about if I assigned them enough work and if they’re understanding and synthesizing information. Taking responsibility for your own education and participation on the team I think is huge.

So, our next question is how is AI going to affect you and your team?

I think we, as a company, have been in the AI space and it’s the space we’ve played in for years. So it’s always been affecting what we do. I think with the rise of generative AI, what I’ve noticed is that it’s now totally inescapable. Clients are no longer coming to us saying “We think, maybe, we want to use AI because we think it might help us”, they’re coming to us saying that they now have mandates that they have to use AI to automate because that is the new norm.

We’ve really been able to position ourselves as industry experts. We’re not OpenAI. We’re not Google. We’re not selling them an AI product. We’re product agnostic at this point and we’re able to point out the benefits, as well as the risks, and where a more traditional path is ideal and I think that’s really powerful for us. Being able to walk in as AI consultants rather than AI service providers is big for Pypestream.

Our final question is what do you think is the biggest benefit Pypestream offers clients?

I think we offer expertise in automation. I also think we’re really good at taking data from clients concerning what their current contact center is costing them and finding the value of automation. We’re really good at building business cases, and delivering on them, and then enhancing it, and continuing to build further.

We [Pypestream] become true partners and I think that’s really the biggest value.