Latest Update: Sept 13, 2022 //
Gainsight Administrator is a creative, powerful role. It drives career development, it lives in the cutting-edge world of Customer Success Operations, and it’s both a new challenge to a systems administrator veteran and an entry-point for someone looking for a first ‘technical’ role.
I know, because I’ve lived it and I’ve seen it. I became a Gainsight Admin in 2015, and earned my Level 3 Certification when it first became available. After transitioning from ‘Gainsight customer’ to ‘Gainsight employee,’ I ran Gainsight’s CS Ops team for 2 years, which included experienced Admins who have since grown into leadership, and first-time Admins who had never configured a piece of software before. In my newest role, I see the experiences of Admins with all levels of experience, plus their managers, on a daily basis. I hear about what they need and what has worked well for them.
And I hear how out-of-reach the role can feel for newcomers. It’s intimidating, or confusingly different from job description to job description, or ‘not for people like me.’ I understand all of those sentiments, but I also know how to defuse them. Plus, survey data shows that the average Gainsight Admin in North America earns a bit over $100,000 annually (see the full report), and there are numerous roles sitting open. So, I’m here to help the opportunity feel achievable and clear for anyone who wants to even take a first, experimental, no-commitment step.
Who are Gainsight Admins?
Gainsight Admins like to build machinery that will run on its own, forever making peoples’ lives better. Gainsight products are full of features with different purposes, strengths, and limitations. An admin spends every day imagining, “If use this thing in Gainsight with that thing, it will smoothly make our CSMs even better at their jobs and make our customers more successful.”
Gainsight Admins are excited about how much more can be created. Once they see the potential, they’re driven to keep taking step after step to see how far the road can go. They hold a ‘Growth Mindset’ both about improving the Gainsight setup, and about becoming more and more personally capable. To help take those steps, Admins love learning by tinkering, playing with new tools that are simply cool, and creatively inventing a process that’s never been done before.
Gainsight Admins come from wildly diverse backgrounds, both within and outside of the tech industry.
Gainsight Admin is a technical role for a ‘technical person,’ right?
The first thing I absolutely need to say: Gainsight Admins do use technology to solve problems. But the thing that excites them, and the skill they’re hired for, is their ability to understand a problem and invent a solution. Hiring managers don’t want a Cook, they want a Chef. If you can show that you have a Chef’s mindset, then you can learn the Gainsight cuisine.
That means that one of the most common jobs before Gainsight Admin -- maybe the most common job -- is not system administrator, or IT, or analyst. It’s CSM.
How does that work?
Some CSMs, when they see something that should just work better, they tinker around to make a simple solution. It might be a spreadsheet to track their customers, or a slide deck template. Then they discover how to make it a bit better, and then even better. Their knowledge of tools builds quickly, opening up doors for new projects. Building one dashboard, for example, teaches you how to build another, not to mention teaching you where the data lives.
So, if you’re not technical today, all you need is a curiosity to experiment with something you’ve never used before.
But, won’t ‘technical people’ do better in the role?
They will have more success sooner, no question. If you have extensive technical experience -- even if it’s with systems other than Gainsight -- the learning curve for Gainsight will be much faster. An employer would love for you to bring skills in database administration, programming, complex administration of systems like Salesforce or Eloqua, etc. So, if you’ve got those, emphasize them! If not, and you’re head-to-head with a candidate who’s identical in every respect except they have more technical experience, they will likely get that offer.
Though, rarely are there two candidates who are identical in every respect. And some employers will prioritize taking someone less expensive or with fewer preconceptions, even if they take longer to become skilled. The hiring team gets to make that choice, but they only get to make it if you play your cards.
How do I build my Gainsight skills?
These four resources are the bedrock of becoming a Gainsight Admin:
- Get Structured Training. On-demand e-learning is free. It only takes 9 courses before you can earn your Associate Admin (Level 1) Certification. See those courses and learn about certification at Gainsight University. (We also get highly positive feedback on how impactful and high-quality the live instructor-led courses are, if you’re up for the fee.)
- Practice. We’ve published practice exercises based on workflows that real-world admins have been asked to build. They’re targeted at folks who have earned their Level 1 Certification.
- Ask Questions and Follow Conversations. The Gainsight Admin community is enthusiastic about helping each other, and that includes you! You’ll find them in Slack, at community.gainsight.com, and at monthly meetups. In Slack, for example, 40% of questions in the #quickhelp channel get a first reply in less than 10 minutes, and that rises to 80% after 3 hours.
- Absorb Info. We’ve curated the most critical resources about CS Ops and the Gainsight Admin role at CS Ops Central. Sign up for the CS Ops Newsletter, too (and check out newsletter back issues).
- Talk to Admins. Over a 100 CS Ops professionals have raised their hand for you to tap them for a mentoring conversation; you’ll find them in the CS Ops Mentor Program. You’ll also find people willing to chat if you reach out 1-to-1 on LinkedIn or in the Admin Slack.
If you’re already a Gainsight customer, especially if you’re already doing some admin work yourself, you have even more tools:
- Gainsight Support gives you answers fast via chat. Email them about more elaborate topics.
- Come to Gainsight employees (but not Support) using the following channels when you think, “I’d just like to understand this area of Gainsight better -- can someone lay it out for me?”
- Admin Office Hours (medium level of attention, highly technical, not hands-on)
- Your CSM (high level of attention, medium-to-low technical expertise, not hands-on)
- Your Technical Account Manager (TAM), if you’ve purchased TAM hours (high level of attention, highly technical, fully hands-on)
- You’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned your own manager yet! Rely on them for, “I’ve found a few ways to configure this. Each has pros and cons. Which is right for us?”
What will I need to show to nail my admin interview?
You are a ‘Solutioneer’
This may be the most challenging part, but it will also do the 👏 absolute 👏 most 👏 to make you stand out as a candidate. 🙂
What stories can you tell that demonstrate the following? Stories about using software will make the biggest impact, but non-software experience -- even from hobbies -- can drive these points home, too.
- You’re excited to solve problems, especially shortcomings in “the way we usually do things”
- When someone brings you a problem or request, you earnestly and curiously seek to understand the reason that it’s important to them
- When assessing a problem, you dig for the underlying cause, instead of just solving the surface issue -- again, this is curiosity
- You use the rich knowledge you’ve built of the issue to shape how you deliver on the request
- You can suggest a collection of tools and tactics that, all together, solve the problem
- It’s important to you that your solution is high quality -- it’s easy for everyone, makes the best use of the available tools and people, and is hard to break, even in the future
You understand Customer Success
CSMs (and their managers) will be your customers. So, you want to be able to describe what a CSM does, what motivates them, and what gets in their way. If you’ve been a CSM before, you have this empathy already. If you’ve had a customer-facing role before, that will help, yet you’ve also never experienced the same expectations and pressures as a CSM.
If you want to build a stronger understanding of Customer Success, numerous Googlable resources will teach you about the field. I recommend The Customer Success Professional's Handbook.
You’re comfortable learning technology
People do land Gainsight Admin roles without any Gainsight skills. Hiring managers, in these cases, are willing for the Admin to learn the tech on the job. These candidates, though, need to demonstrate that they have learnt similar technology before. You could point to administration of a CRM or marketing system, database/SQL experience, or analytical tools like Tableau.
If you have no technical experience (and even if you do), you’ll do better in the interview process if you can demonstrate knowledge of Gainsight, which also demonstrates your eagerness to learn. An Associate Admin (Level 1) Certification will make a difference to the company, and help you speak with more conviction about what you would do in the role.
Lastly, give them confidence that they won’t have to hold your hand through how to learn. Show that it’s natural to you to identify knowledge you lack and go get it on your own. This can come from any context: professional, academic, hobbies, etc.
You help people understand, and like doing it
You will provide indispensable value as an expert in how Gainsight is configured and in “Why we should do it this way,” since you can translate those concepts for others. You’ll train CSMs in workflows; you’ll propose workflows to management; you’ll make slides that help execs understand what happens in Gainsight. You’ll be the bridge for people to the information that they need to know. So, when have you had to demystify complex concepts with an eye for exactly who your audience is? Can you demonstrate that you like these interactions, and consider them something valuable you’re eager to provide (instead of a distraction from your ‘real job’)? If you’ve ever been some type of teacher, you’ve got great experience to share here.
You understand the Gainsight Admin role
The company knows some things that they need you to do, but they also need you to know what success in your role requires. Your manager wants to support you, but they are likely not an Admin themselves, plus they may have never hired one, and you are likely the only Admin on the team. So, show them that they won’t have to paint every step of the path for you. If you absorb the concepts in this post, find the parallels in your own experiences, and hear from a few experienced Admins about the role, you’ll be set up to blow their socks off with your own informed perspective about how to do the job.
How can I be successful in my first months as a Gainsight Admin?
Co-create your plan with your manager
I cannot more strongly recommend the book, The First 90 Days. One of its core lessons about starting a new job still serves me every day: Take ownership of what you need to know, and of your plan.
Even if your manager hands you an extensive ramp-up plan and your first quick wins to achieve, you should give them visibility into what you’re discovering that might help you to learn faster or to deliver your first projects better or sooner. If your manager hasn’t had the time or expertise to build that plan, then you can’t be just a co-owner of the plan -- you have to own it outright (while getting agreement and advice from your manager). In your first 30 days, your colleagues will happily answer as many questions as you can invent, so use that openness to discover (1) what you need to achieve, (2) what you need to learn to achieve it, and (3) where you can learn those things. (The book offers lots more advice about how to do that.) Don’t depend on any of those three things to be handed to you on a silver platter.
Have a 30-60-90-Day plan
More advice from The First 90 Days that helped me: Your first 30 days is about learning, your next 30 is about delivering a quick win, and, in the next 30 days you deliver something that makes a bigger splash. As a Gainsight Admin, this 30-60-90-Day plan should contain three types of milestones:
- Technical Know-How. Skills acquired, courses taken, and/or certifications completed. You need pure learning goals to justify (to yourself and to others) taking time for simply learning.
- Impact. This might be something like, “Addresses 75% of questions from CSMs.” Your Impact milestones should also include your quick wins, which will benefit the business, feel great to you, demonstrate that you can make a difference, and serve as practical exercises to hone your new technical skills. This is also where you’re first showing off your skills in ‘Solutioneering,’ communication, and more.
- Capabilities. This is potential impact, such as, “Can automate sending of surveys” (even if no new surveys have been needed yet). It’s beyond pure technical learning, since you’ve gotten hands-on enough to stand ready. These should be focused on mission-critical areas, such as health scores if those are a huge part of how CSMs work, or surveys if there are plans to launch an NPS program the following quarter.
Learn how to test
Over and over, I’ve heard from Gainsight Admins, “I learn by doing.” You’ll want to try a feature in a way that doesn’t affect real-life CSMs or customers. Even expert Gainsight Admins are constantly running tests on new or misbehaving configuration. It’s not only calming, but actually critical to your learning that you can feel, “If I take steps X, Y, and Z, then I am definitely not going to mess up anything that matters while I’m proving that the configuration will do what I expect.” So, what are those steps?
Use the CS Ops Mentor Program to find an experienced Gainsight Admin who can show you how they test their configuration. If you’re an existing customer, you can also bring questions to Admin Office Hours or your Technical Account Manager (if you’ve purchased TAM hours).
If you’re a Gainsight customer and your company has purchased a Gainsight Sandbox (which allows you to test things by giving you a duplicate of the environment that real humans are using), do lots of experimenting in it. If you don’t have a Sandbox, ask your manager if it’s possible to get one. Whether or not you are a Gainsight customer, you can ask the Gainsight Education team to spin up a testing environment, but it’s short-term and its basic data and configuration doesn’t let you truly see, “How will this configuration affect our real environment?”
We’re behind you the whole way
We’ve seen people make Gainsight Administrator into an incredible career that leads into senior management, and we’ve also seen how much benefit comes from great Gainsight Administrators. You can even hear the stories of how five people broke into the role, and see our career profiles of even more admins. If you want this career, or even are just curious, we support you, and want you to have access to everything you need. Comment below, or reach out in any other way, if there’s anything that you’re struggling to understand or to do. Best of luck, and take it one step at a time!
What’s your very first step you might try? (You can even post it below 🙂)
Thank you Seth!
This is Gold.
Super helpful for those who needed more guidance! Thanks Seth!
Thank you, folks! So glad and gratified that this resonates and is useful!
Thanks, I’ll be sharing this one.
#Pulse2022 will be quite the Gainsight Admin and CS pros mecca this year! 🎉
Pure Gold for people thinking about a career as an admin in Gainsight! great article
@seth and love the cook/chef analogy here!
Here are the guestimates
The above estimates are for a decent skilled person, could be +/- a few hrs based on learning discipline.
I have several years of experience as a Gainsight Admin and found the Level 1 exam to be very straightforward and quick. I would not recommend extensive prep for L1 for an admin that has at least 3 months (a year would be better) of recent experience. I would default to Sudheer’s guidance on 2 months but I think it varies on what % of time is spent on Gainsight admin tasks vs team enablement, process analysis, etc.
Level 2 is subject-area specific and if you’ve worked on dashboards and reports in the last 3 to 6 months you again should have good luck going for that exam. I imagine a similar level of practical experience would be required for L2 for Journey Orchestrator. Less time would be needed on each if that was a significant focus recently and you really saw all corners and aspects of that feature.
I haven’t completed L3, but once I do I’ll let you know!
This is an extremely helpful article - I really appreciate it. Thanks so much!!