I’ve been really lucky to have travelled a lot over the course of my life. My father served in the Indian Army when I was growing up which meant we moved every two years or so, and over 12 years of schooling, I changed schools eight times. Moving around that much certainly had its challenges, but also taught me a lot about adapting to change quickly, and realising that everything in life is a transition.
What does a Client Principal actually do?That’s a very good question. While it would be easy for me to say ''we sell stuff'', but that couldn't be further from the truth. Our clients can sense a sales pitch a mile away, and like us, don't like being sold to! So our role is to work with them to get a better understanding of what’s holding them back from achieving outcomes that are important to them, and looking at ways to overcome those constraints.
For example, for a delivery client struggling with capacity it could be as simple as identifying ways to create capacity through new ways of working. For an executive looking to focus teams on strategic work, we could do some consulting around prioritisation. For a CIO it could be a combination of helping to improve the underlying technology platforms while building capability with their teams to work in more effective ways.
These might seem like simple examples, but the point I’m hoping to convey is that challenges/constraints and how we help overcome them vary significantly depending on the responsibilities our client has, and the outcomes that are important to them.
What does your typical day look like?That’s a tough one as there is no typical day. We’re on call 24/7 for both our clients, and the Thoughtworkers working with them. My day usually begins with emails and my to-do list. Once I’ve cleared the backlog, I spend some time on ‘operational hygiene’, which includes pipeline updates, planning for any new initiatives or pursuits, or preparing for upcoming conversations.
Next, I reach out to my various client stakeholders to temperature check what's working, what’s not and so on - often face to face which means I end up drinking a lot of coffee and green tea. I try not to solve anything as part of our initial conversations, but make sure I am listening closely so I can identify what the real issue is, and where appropriate, look at how we can help. This is, in my experience, a powerful step to involve our clients in the process, and get their buy-in on next steps.
It’s also important for me to spend time reading proposals that other colleagues have put in for deal review, and keep up to date with everything happening in Thoughtworks and the broader tech industry.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?The most challenging part is getting alignment across clients, Thoughtworks and our consultants on what needs to be done to deliver the right outcome. This requires a lot of relationship building, negotiation and investing time to understand the key drivers for each stakeholder.
What’s your favourite part about your role?It’s definitely the people side of things. Each step of my value chain is linked to a person – and some very intelligent ones at that. I enjoy being able to collaboratively craft win-wins for both our clients and Thoughtworkers. I know it sounds cliched, but I’ve never worked for an organisation that is so incredibly focussed on doing what is right for both our clients and our people which allows us to drive amazing results.
In addition to all of this, being part of Thoughtworks gives me access to knowledge and insights from incredible thought leaders both technical and conceptual, some of whom are hugely influential in shaping the software industry.
What are you measured on?Being sales focused, numbers play the biggest part. I do have to add however, that although revenue and sales are primary measurements for us, we need to be cognizant of the bigger picture, like profitable client partnerships and placing our people on the right projects.
What makes a good Client Principal?I think this question could be best answered by our clients! If I was to take a shot, I’d say it’s our lateral thinking ability to understand the client’s challenges and be able to rally the best of what Thoughtworks has to offer to find a solution. At times, it may mean we need to question the problem or challenge a client brings to us in the first place, and question if it’s even the right place to start.
What are some of the industries you engage with?I’ve been previously focused on the Financial Services sector mainly due to my past experience. This year however, I’ve had the opportunity to shift my focus to scale-ups – companies that have already validated their products in the marketplace and proven they have a sustainable, economic model in place.
‘I love being a Client Principal because…...it gives me the freedom to find opportunities to create value for my customers, my colleagues and Thoughtworks every single day!
Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.