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Technical Support Engineer Nathan Crissey on Problem-Solving, Fatherhood, and Yo-Yos

Nathan Crissey

Medallians at the San Mateo office enjoy an unusual perk: the chance to catch a National Yo-Yo Master in action. When Nathan Crissey isn’t helping the Engineering team develop creative solutions for clients, you might find him practicing tricks that have taken him all over the world. Below, he explains why he joined the team, how Medallia has changed since, and how the team supports him as a yo-yoer—and a new dad.

What do you do at Medallia?

I’m a product expert within the Engineering team’s Technical Support group. Essentially, we’re liaisons between Engineering and the Professional Services team, which works directly with Medallia’s clients. When someone in Services runs into an issue with the platform, we investigate and either help them solve the problem, or write it up so Engineering can develop a fix.

I started out on Professional Services when I joined Medallia four years ago. I liked collaborating with clients and coming up with creative solutions to make the platform more valuable for them, but my favorite part of the job was translating our work to the technical side. So the role I’m in now was a natural next step. The Technical Support group stays plugged into the client experience through our colleagues in Professional Services, and then we bring that perspective to Engineering. That’s important because when you’re deep in the code, the impact on the end user isn’t always clear. But at the same time, someone in a customer-facing role might not be able to identify the root cause of a problem or know how to fix it. Our team is the bridge between the two.

Tell us about your background, and why you joined the team.

Before Medallia, I was a mechanical engineer at Lockheed Martin. One of the things that appealed to me initially was moving to a smaller company. There are 100,000 people at Lockheed, and Medallia had about 500 back then. Even now, at over 1,300 and counting, there’s far more opportunity to take ownership.

The other thing that drew me to Medallia was that they wanted people from a wide variety of backgrounds. Working as a mechanical engineer in spacecraft mechanisms isn’t your standard path to a software startup, but I could understand systems and knew how to solve problems, and they saw the value in that. I remember my teammates on my first project here were an English major, a stats major, and a Ph.D. in materials science—and we built a successful program. Medallia understands that when you bring together smart, driven people from different backgrounds and perspectives and get them working toward the same goal, you can do some very cool things.

How has Medallia changed in the four years since you joined?

I think we’ve matured, in terms of both people and processes. When I joined, there was a lot more doing your own thing, and sometimes we wound up with ideas that weren’t sustainable. Over time, we’ve learned from those experiences and been able to create best practices and a more defined methodology.

One thing I do miss from the early days is that I knew everyone, or at least recognized their name. That gets harder as we grow, but you figure out ways to keep up with people on different teams so you’re still in the loop. We have happy hours that I try to attend. I’m still friends with the people I worked with in Professional Services, and I’m always meeting new people from that team as they submit cases. I’m friends with more engineers now that we work together closely. And it’s exciting to see how much we continue to grow, even after all these years.

What have you learned at Medallia?

I think I’ve learned to dig deeper and make sure I truly understand what someone is trying to ultimately accomplish. When a client wants a different type of report or a change to a chart, for example, it might be easy to do, but it may or may not be the best solution for them in the long-term. Rather than just say yes, I’ve learned to think about what they’re actually trying to achieve and then work together to find the ideal approach. The same is true when you’re working with a teammate. When you know where someone is coming from, you’re much better equipped to collaborate and come up with the best possible result.

Tell us about your life outside work.

I’m a new dad—my son just turned two months old—so that’s the bulk of my personal life right now. During the week, it’s get home, hang out with the baby, cook or clean around the house. On the weekends, it’s people coming over; my wife and I are Bay Area natives and we get to spend a lot of time with our family and friends. It’s been busy, but my team has been really cool and flexible. They understand I want to get home and see the baby, or I might have to come in late so I can go to a pediatrician appointment. And I’m looking forward to my paternity leave—I’ll be off from Thanksgiving to New Year’s.

Another big part of my life is yo-yoing. I started back in middle school when it was going through a boom and just kind of stuck with it. I’ve been able to travel all over the world to compete, and a few years ago the National Yo-Yo Museum named me a National Yo-Yo Master, which is like a career achievement award but for people who are still active.

Even if I’m not practicing for a contest, I almost always carry a yo-yo in my pocket and still play regularly. It’s kind of meditative; I’ll take it out and do a few tricks if I have a spare minute or need a quick break at work. I also get to perform in Medallia’s annual talent show, which is fun. It’s awesome seeing everyone’s talents—and it’s neat that people seem to think yo-yoing is cool!