Ask an Xpert: Vivun’s Thomas Anderson on Building Community for Solutions Leaders
This week, I sat down for Q&A with Vivun’s Community Specialist Thomas Anderson. We talked a bit about the Vivun Xpert Community, his path from account executive to community manager, and how he’s helping build community for Solutions leaders. Read on for our full conversation.
Hi Thomas! What do you do as Vivun’s Community Specialist?
I’m responsible for all of Vivun’s programs aimed at community building for Solutions professionals, whether it’s bringing like-minded leaders together via our Xpert Community, raising awareness about the profession, hosting meetups and events, or directly connecting people to one another to facilitate personal relationships.
I think similar to Solutions Consulting, a lot of people don’t quite know what community managers work on, but it’s quite simple—if there’s a place where folks are coming together over a common interest, that’s a community.
What people might not know is that you made the jump to community management from sales—why don’t you walk us through your Hero Origin story?
So my undergraduate degree is actually in mechanical engineering, but one of my professors during school spoke of a domain called “technical sales,” and I was curious to learn more. There was a minor studies program for STEM majors at my university that introduced us to the basic concepts of what folks now call solutions consulting or sales engineering, and even let us shadow technical sellers to see how they worked.
I thought that whole experience was awesome and decided from there that I wanted a career in Solutions. I went to work at AT&T and began networking with their Technical Sales Consulting organization, and then a recruiter contacted me about Vivun. I’d seen firsthand some of the pains that AT&T’s technical sellers experienced, so the chance to join a company whose mission it was to make their lives easier hooked me right away.
From there, I became Vivun’s 8th employee, built out the company’s early sales development process and eventually managed a team of 10 SDRs, then spent about 8 months as an account executive before I was approached to take on the Community Specialist position. As someone who had always been interested in getting to know our customers and peers in the Solutions space better, I was thrilled.
Could you tell us more about the Vivun Xpert Community?
For many people, Solutions is a profession that they “fell into” or “stumbled upon,” and so much of one’s career development in this field involves figuring things out on their own. When we started asking for feedback on how we could make our existing community programs even better, the most common request was for more spaces where senior leaders in the Solutions space could get coaching, mentorship, and advice from one another.
That was the catalyst for the Vivun Xpert Community—it’s our effort to help push the Solutions profession forward by facilitating meaningful relationships between the industry’s leaders, and to help our members get a unique window into the lives and strategies of their peers.
There are a ton of great Solutions-focused industry groups out there—what are we adding to the mix with the Vivun Xpert Community?
To be clear, we’re not trying to compete with everyone else out there—we’ve partnered closely with amazing community groups like PreSales Collective and the North American Association of Sales Engineers in the past, and look forward to collaborating more in the future.
The Xpert Community adds to the Solutions community’s existing resources with a very tailored experience for senior leaders. We have a tightly focused membership group that we send out invites for on a rolling basis, and that lets us do some pretty special things.
Some examples include matching Solutions leaders to one another on an individual basis for mentoring and coaching, giving community members access to the Vivun executive team if they want guidance and insights from us, and hosting offsites and meetups where our members not only get to brainstorm and strategize with each other on topics of interest, but also have fun together in person.
Another piece we care deeply about is building the community in a way that really nails the experience for remote work, even as we provide great opportunities to connect in person. A lot of meetups prior to COVID tended to be local or regional in nature. People being highly distributed is part of our new reality, and we’re trying to bring a wider set of individuals together without the downsides of something like a large common-interest group on social media.
What else are you looking forward to working on?
While it’s still early days for our Xpert Community, one of the things I’m really looking forward to is making the collective knowledge of our members accessible—not just to them, but to the rest of the world. We’re working on following up our events by putting our members’ insights on paper, and giving them a platform to share their expertise more widely. I’m also just looking forward to meeting more of our community members in person!
Any final thoughts you’d like to share?
I’d like to invite all Solutions executives to join the conversations we’re having, and I’m excited to meet more of you! You can request to join the Vivun Xpert Community here, and connect with me personally on LinkedIn.