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We have a Slack channel here at Kenna called #kudos, and I can’t tell you how often I see Caleb Eckenwiler’s name pop up directly following a couple of plus signs (++). Caleb, a Customer Success Manager, has accumulated an arsenal of “kudos” points from the kennabot for many reasons: sharing helpful knowledge with teammates, receiving incredible customer feedback, conducting killer QBRs, producing amazing documentation, and so much more.
Caleb joined Kenna about four years ago. His professional growth within the organization can be seen directly in the immense value he has consistently delivered to his team, customers, and prospects.
But his ability to help our customers get value out of Kenna’s technology is only one of the many impressive things about Caleb. During just a short interview with him, I discovered that he is a master of languages (studied Chinese, French, and Arabic, and used to speak a bit of Greek with his parents), was raised by a lawyer and a historian, has done quite a lot of traveling across the United States, and seems to have a brain that never seems to stops going the extra mile!
Q: Where did you grow up?
A: I was born in New York City, but shortly after, my family and I moved to Chicago for eight months, and then we settled in Washington, D.C., and that’s where I grew up. I spent most of my life there and only left when I went to college in upstate New York. Most of my family are lawyers, and my father works for the government—D.C. is definitely the place to be if you’re in that line of work.
Q: How did you come into this field of work?
A: I did not have a traditional path into the security field. I actually majored in Chinese and also focused quite a bit on Arabic and Middle Eastern studies too. But when I graduated, I didn’t want to go into translation. I had done a couple of internships and recognized my career path wasn’t going to be as satisfying as I had initially thought. But I had always had an interest in tech. I spent some time doing freelance work for a year, and then, when I realized I really wasn’t enjoying it, I started looking into some entry-level sales development positions. That’s how I ended up getting hired at Kenna. This was way back when we had only 40 employees.
I joined as a Sales Development Representative and eventually received a promotion. But a couple of months after Charles Coaxum (VP, Customer Experience) joined Kenna, and I ended up getting an opportunity to move over into Customer Success. As a Customer Success Associate, I worked predominantly with our smaller customers, ensuring they were getting up and running, using the platform according to best practices. About a year-and-a-half ago, I moved into a Customer Success Manager position.
Customer Success has definitely been a good fit for me because, admittedly, I’m a massive nerd. Back when I was still in Sales Development, I loved giving demos to prospects and really nerding out about the platform. I liked having those practical conversations, digging deeper, and really getting down into the weeds of the data science and algorithms. And in Customer Success, I get to do all of those things and help our customers get the most value out of our platform.
Q: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career so far?
A: Enjoy the people you work with, and choose to work for good people. They say people don’t leave companies—they leave managers. Likewise, good managers bring in good talent. The CX team has been really great for professional development. They don’t put any limitations around my nerdiness. They are supportive and understanding. They’ve really helped to foster my learning and, as a result, my growth at the company.
Q: What do you think is the greatest invention in your lifetime so far, and why?
A: I really appreciate the investments in renewable energy. If you look at something like wind power, for example, it’s been around for a long time, but there have been advances that have allowed energy sources to power entire communities or cities. The same thing has happened with solar power advancements in the last 20 years that allow communities to leverage renewables to the next degree.
Q: What is the best compliment you have ever received?
A: Probably a compliment from our previous VP of Engineering. I had the unique opportunity to work with him on a particular project to fix some slight data accuracy issues for Customer Success and Sales tools. It was a project we’d been working on, and we finally had the bodies to jump on it and get the engineering bit done. When he reviewed my proposal, he later said it was a very thorough write-up and that I had been very thoughtful and knowledgeable in my presentation even though it was out of my comfort zone. That one has stuck with me since I have zero engineering background, but through teaching myself our product, I could positively impact multiple teams. But that’s enough humble-bragging.
Q: What’s a movie you can practically quote from start to finish?
A: Probably the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I’m a massive Tolkein nerd, mostly because of the astounding level of detail he went to create that universe, including full languages from the ground up, histories, and more. I also tend to re-watch movies — newer films and older films like Blade Runner, Spinal Tap, Pulp Fiction, or other classics, so I can quote more than a few movies.
Q: If you could have one song play every time you entered a room, what would it be?
A: “Time” by Hans Zimmer from the Inception soundtrack. It’s a really huge, modern, orchestral piece of music. In a way, I almost feel like it’s an allegory for life. It starts quietly and slowly, and the music builds and adds pieces to the orchestra. Then in the middle, it becomes much more full-bodied, faster, and the meter is almost as though each beat is a second, and then it slowly starts to wind down and is more and more peaceful. I feel like those stages map well to how we progress through life. You’re born, you spend a lot of time learning and growing, you progress into an adult and have a life, family, etc., and then as you get older, life starts to slow down again. Maybe I’m projecting meaning where there is none, but it’s a piece I really enjoy.
Q: If you could live absolutely anywhere in the world, where would it be?
A: Probably Monaco or Paris.
Q: Top 5 songs for your road trip playlist?
A: I’ll admit to being a musicophile, and I’ve made a lot of cross-country road trips, like New York to San Diego and Denver to DC, so I’ve been through all my playlists and more. I will listen to just about anything: old school rap (Tupac, Biggie), newer rap (Logic, Bazanji), soundtracks (anything by Hans Zimmer, Howard Shore), jazz/pop (Michael Buble), classical (Paganini, Chopin, Vivaldi), opera (Andrea Bocelli), rock (Nirvana, Aerosmith), EDM, French Rap (Maitre Gims, Stromae, Lefa), maybe some country music—it depends on my mood.
Q: Sweet or salty?
Q: Drive or fly?
A: It depends on where I’m going! I wouldn’t try to drive to Hawaii.
Q: Mashed potatoes or baked potatoes?
A: Mashed potatoes.
Q: Roller rink or bowling alley?
A: Bowling alley.
Q: Go forward in time or go back in time?
A: Go forward in time.