EKO 2022: Goals, Games, and the Best SEs in the Business

Recently, the sales engineering team met up for their 2022 kickoff. For the first time in almost three years, Victor Vrba, Dan Schmitt, Matt Sikes, Mike Stratton, and Brian McKay got together in person to celebrate successes, create new goals, and feast on the best steaks Chicago has to offer.

Our marketing team caught up with them to find out how it went — and get a sneak peek or two of what to expect from our amazing systems engineers this year!

New year, new goals

Marketing Team: How was EKO 2022? Walk us through it.

Dan: Prior to all our fun, we discussed support objectives for the fiscal year 2022. We talked about forecasting changes we will be implementing via our support ticket submissions, and possibly some additional horsepower on the resource front.

Vic: We kept it pretty light, but without going into a ton of detail — additional fields will be required in our ticketing system. It will help us report where we are spending most of our time and determine how we can alleviate some of the most common issues hitting our support desk. This is something we’ve not had in place.

MT: That sounds like a big goal! But I’m sure your team is up for the challenge.

Vic: We want to develop some reporting metrics to show just how awesome our support team is. Year over year we continue to provide the highest level of customer support. Unfortunately, the tools we currently have lack the ability to show that.

Brian: With the new ticket tracking statistics, which will require mandatory assignation of tags, we’ll be able to view trends on what type of issues we are dealing with throughout the year. It’ll help us figure out if there is something we can do to lighten the load with improved knowledge base content or training videos.

MT: Some of you were at the Sales Team Kickoff in December. Did you have takeaways from SKO that you talked about at your team’s kickoff?

Vic: Yes — but nothing we can discuss publicly!

Dan: Attending the annual SKO prior to the SE meetup gave me a larger picture of what to expect in 2022. Taking what we learned at the SKO and sharing it with the SE team is always rewarding because it inspires us to focus and collaborate on how to achieve greatness. On the product front, we will be entering territories we’ve never been to before. On the sales front, we will continue to grow fiscally year over year at an unprecedented rate. And while learning all the plans and objectives for 2022 is exciting, it is also assuring when you get to share the information in person and not over a video conference. 

Steaks and stakes in the Windy City

MT: What was your favorite part of the meetup?

Dan: Collaborating with the SE team in person — finally! — was much needed. All around a great time with the team!

Matt: It was good to see camaraderie with our teammates. And the food was great!

Brian: We had a fantastic meal at Morton’s, where sinful amounts of red meat were consumed.

Vic: Besides the steak? The highlight of our get-together was having Brian come in from Utah. Many of us are in the central Midwest, so we’ve had the opportunity to see each other here and there. 

Mike: But even for those of us who live in the Chicago area, we don’t get to see each other very often.

Brian: I had not been in the same room with any of the guys since the Tahoe trip in 2019!

Vic: Just seeing Brian and hearing his laugh was the highlight of the event. Brian lights up the room when he walks in.

MT: It sounds like you guys had a lot of fun in Chicago!

Matt: Quote of the night from an Uber driver about Chicago, “It’s like Gotham City with no Batman.”

Dan: Not only were the meals and drinks at Morton’s The Steakhouse outstanding, but the game at WhirlyBall also brought out our competitive sides.

MT: What’s WhirlyBall?

Brian: WhirlyBall is basically bumper cars combined with Jai-Alai. You drive the car with one hand and hold a big scoop in the other to pick up, catch, or throw the ball at the goal. 

Vic: It combines lacrosse, hockey, and basketball — in bumper cars! It was a blast.

Brian: It was surprisingly entertaining. When they told me we had a whole hour booked, I thought it would be the longest hour of my life, but it flew by quicker than any video game session. Of course, there were plenty of unnecessary bumper car crashes and verbal taunting. 

MT: So, there were bragging rights at stake. Who won?

Brian: We had uneven teams because there were five of us — it was me, Vic, and Matt against Dan and Mike. We played like, five rounds. They won some, and we won some.

MT: Sounds like you were evenly matched.

Brian: Yes, it was kind of a wash! Afterward we stayed up at the house until about 5 a.m., just catching up before everyone finally passed out. Unfortunately, everyone had to get back to the responsibilities of family life the next day, so it was a short visit, but enjoyable and long overdue.

Triumphs and shout-outs

MT: We’re so glad you were able to meet up this year and have fun together. Your team deserves it — you’re always hard at work!

Vic: Shout-out to Jim Scholtens, our newest member, for being involved in the most tickets in 2021, followed closely by Brian McKay. And shout-out to the entire support team for reaching over 100 webinars and publishing over 60 new knowledge base articles.

Brian: Props to Victor for taking on the role of lead SE. He’s been doing a great job, and so is the rest of my team.

Dan: I can say without a doubt that Variphy has the most talented group of systems engineers in the market. While many of us wear multiple hats at Variphy, at the end of the day it is so rewarding to see such a cohesive and agile team, considering we are still a relatively small team that always focuses on customer relationships. Our customers and prospects work with Variphy because of the team we have and the culture we exude. The product, while it is enjoyed by many, is not the primary reason customers continue to work with us year over year . . . it is the experience they get while working with our teams.

MT: You guys are very popular with our customers!

Mike: The relationship we have with our customers — it’s unreal how so many of our support calls are friendly or casual . . . in a good way! I think part of that is because of our dev team. They continuously put out a good product, which makes things easier for us. We have quicker response times and resolutions because of them.

Vic: Out of 200 customer support feedback responses last year, we are at a 100% happiness rating! This is a huge feat and something we are proud to build on. I’d like to share a few comments from our customers — 

  • For Mike: “Mike nailed it. Based on the symptoms, he knew right away what the problem was. Also, he responded very quickly. Appreciate the support.” (P.B., Network Engineer, 1 year customer)
  • For Jim: “Variphy support is always top-notch! No matter the difficulty level, the support engineers jump in and solve our problems quickly and efficiently! Thank you, Team Variphy!” (A.F., Senior Telecommunications Engineer, 2 years customer)
  • For Dre: “Responsive, knowledgeable, and efficient with time. Pleasure to work with.” (L.B., Principal Unified Communications Engineer, 5 years customer)
  • For Brian: “Brian, I really appreciated your help yesterday, and you were fun to work with…keep up the humble, easy-going and helpful attitude — we customers appreciate it!” (M.M., Senior Network Engineer, 7 years customer)

MT: You are all fantastic. And I hear you’re looking to grow your team this year?

Brian: We discussed the hiring of a new SE this year, as we will be looking for someone who is well-versed on Microsoft products to assist us with our integration of support for MS Teams.

MT: Whoever joins you will be lucky to have such great colleagues!

If you’re interested in applying, send your résumé to jobs@variphy.com.

On behalf of all of us at Variphy, we would like to thank the SE team for all their accomplishments last year! We look forward to even more of their amazing feats in 2022.

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