Mark Alexander is Eastpoint’s head of customer enablement and if you work with us, you will probably work with Mark.
He supports and advocates for our clients throughout development projects and beyond, always seeking to not just be their voice, but understand what they want to achieve and support them along the way.
But Mark’s career didn’t start off as you might expect.
At one point Mark’s future looked lab-bound, with the bourgeoning Smectic C liquid crystal market for television, laptop and monitor displays.
Here is a Q&A on how Mark went from a first-class degree in physics to customer success in the software industry.
Let’s go back to school – did you always enjoy STEM subjects?
I’ve always been interested in how stuff works, and my dad was a physics and maths teacher, and went on to learn computers at an early stage of that technology. I taught my classmates BASIC programming before people knew what programming was!
I got A-levels in maths, physics, chemistry, alongside O-levels in general studies and electronics, as well as an S-level in physics, with is a special advanced A-level. I went to university to study electrical and electronic engineering, but the course wasn’t for me, and I ended up studying physics with electronics in applied sciences.
So you have a physics degree but decided to pursue a much more customer-facing career. Was that always the plan, or did something change your mind?
At university I got a first and in my final year I studied Smectic C liquid crystals, which were being developed for TVs and telephones and stuff like that. I could have done a PhD but I didn’t want to do that – I was too much of a people person and didn’t want to be stuck in a lab.
I’m a balance between extrovert and introvert and in personality tests I am always between the two. But I get a lot of energy from interacting with other people, and I’m definitely not a loner, so I am more extrovert in that way.
I’ve always been somebody who likes to help others, and I go out of my way to help other people. My values are honesty, integrity and hard work and in my career I want to work with and for customers, because I get satisfaction from seeing them succeed.
What did you do after university?
I started off working for an education authority as a software tester, and then got a job as an electronics engineer in a graduate training programme. I wasn’t enjoying it but then I got picked for a special manufacturing R&D project to reduce the costs of re-working printed circuit boards.
From there I was asked to drive another special project to get all of our products through RFI compliance (new legislation back then!). I was in a project management role, being the interface. Next I was headhunted for a product management and marketing role, overseeing product lifecycle management for software products for desktop publishing.
Having spent years in product management, it gives me an appreciation for the lifecycle of products and businesses, from start-ups and new product introduction (NPI), to rationalising product portfolios through to end of life.
You’ve also worked in marketing and in senior strategic roles, what was that like?
I managed the flagship product of an English company that was acquired by an American and a Japanese company - and got a deep education in cultural differences and global business.
From there I became a channel manager for a territory that included ‘the world apart from Europe’ in the print and publishing industry, subsequently joined a UK subsidiary of a Danish company as operations director and turned a loss-making business around.
Then I made the move into the dotcom space, which I knew would change the shape of the world, and worked in professional services at a large, global IT infrastructure company. I was the interface between the company and their partners and enjoyed evaluating more than 70 different companies in one year!
At my next job in digital inkjet technology, running the marketing and product management department, I was instrumental in market analysis, strategic direction and presenting on the global exhibition circuit. Customer feedback informed our strategy and goals and the company grew from £30m to £130m turnover in 10 years.
After a couple of years consulting in inkjet and digital printing (including 3D) I worked as director of customer success at a SaaS business. This was another planned move – to bring my 30+ years commercial experience to bear on a scale-up tech organisation in Cambridge.
I learnt a lot about SaaS business models and leading-edge software development and was also able to have a positive impact in the fight against Covid-19 (we provided temperature monitoring systems to hospitals for example).
Having carried out a variety of roles within businesses, what continues to draw you to customer enablement?
I want to use my experience to help and support others. A lot of business problems at their core are repeated, and my experience means I can appreciate what a client is trying to achieve as they grow, streamline and transform.
Having worked in several industries and multiple businesses I have seen and worked through many of the challenges our customers are facing so I can relate to where they are at and offer ways forward. Hence my current chosen role – customer enablement!
Do you want to hear more from Mark? Connect or follow Mark on LinkedIn here.