#throwback The Art & Science of Snowflake’s Sales Capacity Planning with Rachel Haley

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This is a podcast episode titled, #throwback The Art & Science of Snowflake’s Sales Capacity Planning with Rachel Haley. The summary for this episode is: <p>This week, we're throwing it back to the most popular episode of Operations ever.</p><p><br></p><p>It's hard to take what looks like a perfect plan on paper and translate that to real life. It's even harder inside of a hypergrowth company. In this episode, we go inside one of the fastest growing companies out there: Snowflake.</p><p><br></p><p>Our guest Rachel Haley spent two and a half years at Snowflake as their Senior Director of Sales Operations, and is now the co-founder and CEO of Clarus Designs, a consulting firm focused on operational efficiency.</p><p><br></p><p>Rachel saw Snowflake explode from 30 reps to 450 during her time there. In our conversation, we talk about the insane growth she saw, how they were constantly planning and re-planning at Snowflake, and why Snowflake’s CRO once told her he wished they had invested and hired in Sales Ops even sooner.</p><p><br></p><p>Like this episode?&nbsp;<a href="https://www.drift.com/operations/review" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️&nbsp;review</a>&nbsp;and share the pod with your friends! You can connect with Sean on Twitter @Seany_Biz and @DriftPodcasts.</p>
Snowflake's rapid growth story
03:42 MIN
The art and science to scaling your company
02:43 MIN
How to hire high caliber ops talent, at an accelerated rate
04:14 MIN
Capacity model to support a sales org
02:11 MIN
"I'd rather have a suboptimal strategy with flawless execution, as opposed to constantly shifting strategy to fit a particular box."
03:07 MIN

Sean Lane: Hey, everyone. Welcome to Operations, the show where we look under the hood of companies in hypergrowth. My name is Sean Lane. Has this ever happened to you? You build this beautiful model for your sales team. You take into account your goals, your quotas, your head count, and what looked so beautiful on paper, turns to absolute mush in the real world. It's hard, planning in the midst of hypergrowth? But today we're going to learn from someone who is in the thick of one of the fastest growing companies there is, Snowflake Computing. Our guest today is Rachel Haley. Rachel is the co- founder and now CEO of Clarus Designs, a consulting firm focused on operational efficiency. And prior to Clarus, Rachel was the senior director of sales operations at Snowflake from late 2017 to early 2020. During her time there, Snowflake grew from 30 reps to 450 reps. And the ops team alone grew from three people to 40. Rachel herself, she started as an individual contributor there, and at one point she was man managing up to 22 people. In our conversation, we're going to talk about the insane growth that she saw, how they were constantly planning and replanning at Snowflake, how she partnered with sales leaders on what she calls street knowledge, and we're going to talk about why Snowflake's CRO once told her he wished they had invested and hired in sales ops even sooner. But let's start with that progression that she saw though, because it is one of the wildest and fastest growth stories we've ever heard on this show.

Rachel Haley: When I started at Snowflake at the end of October, 2017, it was around 330 people total in the company and around 30 quota carrying AEs. We also had sales engineers and a really small SDR team as well, but really only 30 core AEs throughout the entire company, and that spanned across three primary GOs, North America, Europe, as well as Asia. The charter for the company for the next two years, so within all of 2018, as well as 2019, was a very lofty goal. They wanted to triple each year. And so the goal was from the time they had started, it was a triple, triple, triple, triple, and then a double, double, from a revenue growth. So you could imagine the type of hypergrowth that that was for the entire company. So not only the sales organization, but all of the revenue supporting functions that had to scale along with it. And the interesting thing was that sales operations at the time when I started was a very small team. So it was a little bit out of balance in terms of, I would say, the support ratios needed for a company that is looking to scale at that pace. It was a team of three people, right when I started. It was the VP at the time, her name is Rhonda Larson, myself and one other analyst. And so just the three of us and I was actually an individual contributor. Throughout the rest of 2017 and then into 2018 and early'19, we grew the team together from around three, four people to about 40 people. And at one point in time, 22 people reported to me. That was probably the biggest point in hypergrowth was that, I would say, 18 months or so that we experienced. Overall Snowflake went 30 AEs when I started to 450 quota carrying AEs when I left, which was March of this year.

Sean Lane: Wow. So 30 AEs to 450 in two and a half years?

Rachel Haley: That's right. Mm- hmm( affirmative).

Sean Lane: That's insane. And when you say 40 people on your team, that was 40 people just in ops?

Rachel Haley: Yeah. 40 people who all reported into the VP at the time. And 22 who reported into me, so just in sales ops. Sales op at Snowflake, however, contained a few more functions that maybe would be centrally located in other organizations. So we had a distributed business intelligence model where we had core BI team that rolled up into product and they manage the data model for Snowflake. But then we also had business intelligence teams that were embedded into each of the functions within the company. So marketing had a business intelligence team; sales ops did, or the sales team did; customer success, when it was a function at the time, had one; sales engineering, they are pretty much all BI specialists, so they didn't necessarily have one dedicated resources, but pretty much the function within the company also had business intelligence analysts and teams supporting them. So we did have a few more types of roles and responsibilities that you might not consider at a standard company, which is what would explain the 40 people. But it was around the right size, given where the company was and what the company needed to scale to from a sales and revenue perspective. And then also revenue 5x'd in that time as well. And it continues to grow.

Sean Lane: That is insane. The growth is just insane. I'll say it again. 30 reps to 450, 3 people in ops to 40, and the revenue, the revenue 5x'd all in about two and a half years. Now, we're going to come back later to how Rachel and the team at Snowflake actually went about hiring all of those people, because the volume of people there merits more discussion. But first, I was trying to put myself in Rachel's shoes when she arrived at Snowflake in November of 2017. And think about all of the annual planning meetings that she was probably dropped into. When the Snowflake team was thinking about the following year, 2018, and the lofty growth goals that the business had in mind, what did that look like, particularly with regard to the headcount planning? Where do you even start?

Rachel Haley: Within Silicon Valley, at least at the couple of startups that I've worked at, there's a pretty templatized approach to how you grow your head count. Not necessarily how you grow it at such a rapid pace, because recruiting is obviously a big variable in that equation. Even if I told you that I can guarantee these 10 AEs will hit their million dollar quota at 90% or 100% and help you get to your revenue goal, it's hard to hire them at the time that you need. You need to hire them all by a certain date because it takes them time to ramp. So usually the thought process behind it is, understand what your revenue goal is for the next year, and then figure out each AE's respective capacity. And by capacity I mean what they can actually attain from a quota perspective in that given fiscal year once they start. The templatized approach that I was talking about is generally companies will look at this attainment or capacity as relative to that AE's quota, so if a AE has a million dollar quota and they have, let's say, a six month ramp, so 500K is the most that they could achieve if they were achieving 100% of their quota once they were at full capacity or fully ramped, people will put in 500K into their capacity headcount planning model. Because they assume just whatever the quota is, that full attainment, once an AE is ramped. And that's how they build the capacity. So how many AEs do we have to hire, by when to get to the revenue number that we need, assuming that the ramp is X or Y. It's a waterfall model and it builds from there. However, what I've realized over the last few years, not only working at Snowflake, but also at Sumo Logic and consulting for a variety of tech companies, is that standardized equation of putting in 100% of quota into your capacity plan is a little bit flawed, I would say. You can obviously hair cut it down to adjust, but really looking at a trailing 12 month average of what AEs in that specific geo and region have achieved, is much more realistic in terms of a forward looking capacity plan. Meaning, it might actually take an AE much longer to ramp in Atlanta, Georgia depending on your headquarters, your revenue model, the product that you're selling, et cetera, then it would for an AE who's hired into San Francisco, or has the territory of San Francisco. Not only is the ramp faster, maybe the overall attainment on average is 1. 1x quota versus in Atlanta, Georgia, maybe it's 0. 75x quota. So I think taking the trailing 12 month average for as much data as you have for all the AEs and looking at historical information and decoupling what that AEs quota actually is or would be, is the most useful way of building a capacity plan. And what we started to do at Snowflake, once we had really geared up to scale, whereas most companies, I think, just plug in a quota number, we were looking at historical averages and using our BI team and modeling to really project out what we thought people could achieve in specific regions and geos within the world, I think was probably the most helpful and strategic thing that we could do as a company.

Sean Lane: I really like Rachel's approach here. It's simple to just build a spreadsheet that takes rep quota and multiply it by a number of heads and say," Okay, I'm done. That's our quota coverage." It's much more nuanced and ultimately more accurate to build in very specific attainment expectations, not just based on the role of the rep, but also based on their territory or their geo. Rachel said that these expectations weren't only in the plan either. They extended these same expectations to the reps themselves and their ramp plans based on geo. But look, at any hypergrowth company, things can't always go perfectly, especially when it comes to expectations in your plan or expectations about headcount. The VP of operations at Drift, Will Collins, will always say to me," The only thing I can guarantee you about the plan is that the plan is wrong." So I wanted to learn from Rachel, how they handled change like that at Snowflake. The needs that they expected to have at 30 reps or the conversion rates or the rep profile, had to be different when they got to 75 reps or 100, right?

Rachel Haley: I think Snowflake is a very unique company and very lucky in the sense that the product is so differentiated and fantastic that for the most part, when we've set revenue goals or hiring targets, and we also had a fantastic recruiting team as well, we were able to hit those. However, your point still holds, Sean, there's an art and a science to this. And that's the interesting thing about working with sales leaders and what I've always really appreciated, because I'll approach the headcount planning, and capacity or growth modeling with a very quantitative perspective and I'll have an Excel model or a SQL model or something that's very data driven and mathematical, and then they'll look at it and they have all of this, basically, street knowledge is what I call it, and years of actual experience and selling. And it's a very interesting and fun conversation to combine the two. You can present anyone with a model and we would do that. And especially some of the east coast sales leaders, who I became really close with, I would show them these data perspective. And they're like," Okay, this is great. However, this is not actually a viable company to sell to. I understand that the scoring and the data would say that it is, however, I can't actually put a rep on this account because he or she will not be able to eat. They will not be able to make their quota. If this is one of their primary targets, they're going to spend two years just trying to get a first meeting, so that's not realistic." Really, the conversation was more along the lines of like," Okay, Mr. And Mrs. Sales leaders, these are the assumptions that we've put together and we've been able to aggregate, how do you think about this? Does this make sense? Does this align, and is this directionally correct with what you know and understand about your territory?" And then it was more of a delicate dance. And you are right. And things probably, they weren't always going 100% according to plan. So we would obviously try to add in additional buffers in terms of hedging for our revenue goals. we would try to over hire. We would try to hire ahead, so that we didn't miss from a revenue perspective. And then obviously if that was something that we weren't able to achieve, trying to figure out which accounts we have that were existing customers, which ones of those that we could try to actually glean for more of an upsell. So we always had contingency plans, but I think the higher level type of conversation was more of a delicate balance between the art and the science. We weren't just blindly taking the data. It was definitely a very strong input to how we would scale, but the sales leaders needed to agree with it and that needed to fit into what they knew and understood about selling for over 20 years in their respective territories.

Sean Lane: Yeah. I really like the art and science dynamic. One of the things I think of with our team at Drift when I think about that art and science is, our sales leaders are always talking amongst themselves and with their frontline managers about the concept of building a bench. And always having folks that are either from previous companies or from their network, or folks that they're proactively going out to to actively build that bench of who's going to be next for the team. And whether that is for growing from 30 to 450 reps, or replacing a rep who isn't performing. And so that balance, to me, they're kind of building that bench. And then at the same time, all those timelines that you were talking about become critically important when you're trying to build your bench. How long does it take to recruit somebody? How long does it take to ramp that person? When are they actually going to be productive? That to me is just another version of that balancing act. How far out were you having these conversations with them? If you're saying," Okay, we need to be at 100 reps by the end of the year," how far out are you having those conversations to make sure you're at 100 productive reps at that point in time?

Rachel Haley: Great question. We were always planning at Snowflake. As soon as we had the edict from the board of, this is Snowflake's long- term plan from a revenue perspective, this is our path to an IPO or a revenue goal that it was, which was 10x where we were at the time in 2017, we were always in planning mode. So not only were we looking a year out, it was short term and long- term planning. So we had two years out what we were thinking about, and then one year out, and we were constantly refining that every quarter. I would say, definitely start the conversations as early as you can. I think a year is probably the shortest timeframe I would start. It's not always feasible, but it takes the long time to find really qualified account executives. And especially in 2017, it was a very different economic environment then. And it was an employee's market. I mean, there were so many startups that were growing at a fast pace and it was hard to find good talent. And so you could never start the conversation early enough. And to your point of building a bench and always having a network of people to which you could draw from, I thought was very helpful. We did that at Snowflake as well. But back to your original question, I think at least a year. And then from the time I started, we were always in planning mode. Every quarter we were adjusting, that was just sort of the status quo.

Sean Lane: I have two clear takeaways from Rachel here. Number one, they were always planning. There was not this singular, magical moment where they published their plan and then that was it. It was constantly in flux and there's a necessary art and science to the entire planning process. And number two, you can never start these conversations early enough. Recruiting conversations, planning conversations, the further ahead that you can get the better. Let's talk about actually finding all of these people that Rachel is talking about. Not only were they growing the sales team at Snowflake, they were also growing the ops team at a considerable rate. I want to understand how Rachel, both in her time at Snowflake and now in her own company at Clarus, goes about hiring high caliber ops talent at such an accelerated rate.

Rachel Haley: That was probably my biggest learning lesson in my time at Snowflake. I think I have a good template now. However, I did not always have that template. I think I failed a lot, actually. And we as a team failed a lot and learned a lot. One of the things that I used to talk about with Chris Degnan, who's the current CRO of Snowflake, is how he wishes that he would've invested in hiring more people in sales operations sooner. So we did get to the number which I thought was very good to support the growth of the company and where it was headed, but we were maybe a little bit delayed in actually getting there. And so, because we were behind the eight ball, we didn't always get it right. I mean, we definitely made a lot of mistakes and we were able to recover. So I think one of the things was just shifting your overall mentality. We used to approach hiring as more reactive, whereas we would have a project or a timeline or a need, and then we would put the rec out. So it was more like, Hey, now we realize, after we've had X number of fire drills with regard to business intelligence or board reporting, or figuring out how to optimize Salesforce or whatever the common fire in sales op is or was at the time, now we realize, okay, now we really need someone who can own this full time. After running territory planning and quota allocation was partly my job, partly my VP's job, partly someone else's job. It was always a piecemeal process where like, okay, now we need someone to actually just run this whole pillar entirely. So I think shifting that perspective first was like, no, no, no. Just like you mentioned, building that bench always be recruiting. Always be thinking about people that you can bring onto your team because at the pace that Snowflake was growing, if we didn't have a role that minute, we would've definitely had one within the quarter or within six months. And given how people, I would say, in today's market prefer to transition jobs, having that timeframe or buffer in between is common, so a six month window is actually not too long. I used to think, wow, that's forever away. However, now I think that budgeting that timeframe is really, really helpful. So switching from a reactive mode to a proactive mode and then always being the minds of recruiting. So always have that mindset of recruiting is what I meant to say. And so going to sales ops meetups or different tech events or holding tech events at Snowflake, or starting a meetup group or attending just different webinars and seminars and trying to meet like- minded individuals, was what I really started to do. Because we had a recruiting team, we also had external vendors helping us out, which was very helpful to augment the process, but you really meet such great like- minded individuals at these types of conferences and events, so I was just going to those all the time. It became pretty much my full- time job as a leader, I would say. It wasn't necessarily doing the work, but it was managing the team and recruiting the team. And that was a big shift for me because I started out as an individual contributor, so I had to actually do all of the work. And then once I had a team I had to transition to managing and then hiring full time, and hiring at such a pace that was really unprecedented. Those were the two biggest shifts in perspective that we had to do. And then over time we developed more of a framework that was a template and more repeatable, so once we were getting the pipeline of candidates that we wanted, we could easily identify and assess them on a common scale to make it easy to have everyone on the same page when we were going to approve or deny a particular candidate for a role that we had open. It took us a long time, or longer than I would've preferred, and a lot of fails and false starts, to actually get to a point where we had more of a templatized approach and a good pipeline of people. Because if you don't have a good pipeline of people and you have a huge need, then it becomes really active, reactive. And then you end up putting someone in a job that they probably weren't the best fit for, you just needed a body, which is the worst place to be.

Sean Lane: Yeah. I feel like that's the natural trade off that people people make when speed and immediacy come into the play without necessarily having had that longer term planning horizon that you're talking about. You always sacrifice quality as a result of that. And so getting ahead of that, I think is incredibly important and also incredibly difficult to pull off. I think what you said about your transition from being an individual contributor to someone who was literally just focused on recruiting all the time is really interesting. We talk a lot within our operations team at Drift that even in our most senior folks, our VPs in operations, there's always, I feel like, a component of being a doer for people who are in ops, because historically we have been restricted in terms of capacity. I think it's so interesting that your CRO in looking back at the hypergrowth that Snowflake went through said," I wish I had hired ops sooner." And so I'm curious, as you were going through that process and clearly making a good argument internally for why you need needed more ops resources, did you guys land on a particular capacity model or ratio or something that said, this is how many people we need to support a sales organization of this size and scale and speed in order for us to grow? How did you make that argument? And is there a model that you've walked away from, that you now use for your consulting companies as well?

Rachel Haley: Great question. I'd really like to hear, as well, your perspective in growing your team at Drift. I would say, we did. We looked at benchmarks of other studies that had been done, and we landed on a ratio of one sales ops employee or individual to every 10 quota carrying AEs, so this were core AEs only. Meaning when we had 450, we had around 45 people in sales op, so that was the loose ratio that we were operating within. The issue with that is sometimes you can do more with less, and that was what Chris Degnan and I would talk about as well is, okay, maybe this one to 10 ratio does hold. However, if you can hire someone who's maybe a little bit more experienced or more senior and can do 1. 5x or even 2x the work of someone who's a little bit more junior, even though from a cost perspective it's a lot less, you should probably hire the more senior person and do more with less and build in leadership and a good second line leadership level under me, or in general, so that they can also take on some of that burden of management. So loosely, that is what we aligned on, but it didn't always necessarily fit that way. And then sometimes we would need more. Because just because you have one sales ops individual to every 45 core, or sorry, 10 core AEs, you still have all of the supporting functions within sales that still require your time. You have sale management, you have sales engineering, you have SDRs, et cetera, and those people still take up operations bandwidth. So I think that's a loose ratio that you can operate within, but sometimes you don't need as much and you can do more with less. And then sometimes in different scenarios might need a little bit more given that your core AEs are not your entire sales team. You have supporting functions within all of the CROs org that also help generate revenue that require ops bandwidth. Yeah, I'd be curious to hear your experience and how you've negotiated or figured out what growth pattern works well for you and your team.

Sean Lane: Yeah. Well, I think first your point about the management layer, I think has proven incredibly true for me and for our team at Drift. The more VPs, the more director level folks that we have on the team, I find we tend to spend more time with them and almost the bandwidth, it can be taken it up even more so by those folks. And in some ways that's good, in some ways that's bad, in my opinion. The way that it's good is that's a much higher leverage activity and much higher leverage use of time for people in ops, because ideally you can spend time with them and then they can turn around and spend time with their team and spending time with one person actually equates to spending time with 20 or whatever. As opposed to me or somebody on our sales op team spending one- on- one time with an individual rep. I think at a certain point, your company gets too big to be able to have those interactions, where when I first got to Drift, I used to meet one- on- one with individual reps all the time. And eventually that breaks. In terms of the way we think about growing the team, we did a very similar benchmarking exercise to what you did. And I think it has become very clear to me, it's critical which types of companies you benchmark yourself against. Because you could benchmark yourself against companies that you may feel are similar to you at that moment in time, but a year later, those benchmarks could be completely irrelevant. Your go- to- market may have changed. Your target market may have changed. And so I can imagine a company like Snowflake, having lower ratios with much higher average sales price, longer, more complex deal cycles, where if you rewound to Drift two years ago, we were more transactional. And now we've gone further up market. And I would say our ratios probably need to change as a result of how we've changed our approach in the market as well.

Rachel Haley: Yeah. That's a great point. I think that your revenue model and target market, exactly like you mention, and the overall size of your company at that point in time is highly critical. Because the higher the transaction and volume business that you're running, the more strain falls on operations. Where if you're only doing 10 deals a quarter and they're each$ 10 million, we don't need a ton of operations people, necessarily, to get all those done.

Sean Lane: Conversations like this are exactly why we started this show, real exchanges between operators inside of high growth companies. And it's just so telling that the CRO of Snowflake's reflection on this particular time in their business was that they should have invested in and hired more sales ops folks sooner. That's wild, but incredibly refreshing to hear. And I hope you're taking as much away from it as I am. I couldn't let Rachel go without asking her about one more thing. There's this quote from her on the Clarus Designs website. And I'm not going to lie, I was a little skeptical when I read it for the first time. Here's the quote." I'd rather have a suboptimal strategy with flawless execution, as opposed to constantly shifting strategy to fit a particular box." So I asked Rachel what this quote meant to her.

Rachel Haley: Sure. Yeah. I stole that quote, more or less. I kind of rephrased it on my own, but it's from AWS. It's an AWS motto, more or less, in terms of how they operate. Their perspective is let's find a strategy, but let's make sure we get the execution right and really stick with it. And then, only then can we really identify and see if and determine if this was the right strategy or not. So you remove one of those variables of error. I think what I often run into in startup companies that I consult for now, as well as ones that I've worked for, is there's a ton of quick moving in strategy change. The idea is let's fail quickly and then move on to the next idea. And I think that that's valid, however, a lot of the times what happens is companies fail to actually get the execution and operations down correctly, so they don't know if it was a failed strategy or they just didn't have the operational process in place to really support that. For example, if you want to set up your sales team and have a territory model, meaning if you're an AE and you cover San Francisco Bay area, that means that you have companies that all fall within a particular set of zip codes. And any company that falls into your database, you can go out and market them or prospect into them. And if you want to try that out and you want to see approach, that really takes a bit of heavy lifting in the beginning if you don't have anything set up. So you have to make sure your lead routing rules are correct, that your rules of engagement if you have an SDR team are correct, that marketing knows when a sales rep is engaged if you're going to nurture them, et cetera, and you have to give it time to actually see if this strategy will work, as well as ensure that you have the systems and the processes and the understanding within the company, to make sure that this strategy can be executed upon. So a lot of the times people will set that up and then the execution is flawed and leads aren't being routed correctly, or marketing and sales and SDRs are all talking to the same customer at the same time. Or the geographic split is not set up correctly, so you have two AE battling over an account, or something goes awry. And instead of really trying to delve into any of the operational kinks, when a sales leader or when executives see that a strategy isn't working, the thought is, okay, well, let's try something else.

Sean Lane: Yeah. That team doesn't work.

Rachel Haley: Yeah. This just doesn't work. And I think you really, you fail to overlook a strategy that might actually be really beneficial for your particular company and the revenue model that you have set up for the time, because the execution was flawed or failed. So I think let's actually set it up and make sure it's working and give it at least a quarter of really good operating rhythm and then feel free to pull the plug if it really doesn't work. But I want to remove the operations as an excuse as to why something didn't work.

Sean Lane: Yeah. I was going to ask about the time horizon that you thought was appropriate for that, and so I'm glad you said it was a quarter. I think what I found with this is a behavior that I had to check in myself and relearn over time was, I find that the longer you're at a company, sometimes institutional knowledge can almost be a detriment to you. Because someone will say," Hey, we should do this." And you say," Oh, actually we did that two years ago. It failed miserably and so therefore we should not do that." What's missing in that is, well, did you actually do that thing well? And so you can look back and say," Oh yeah, we tried that. It didn't work. We shouldn't do it again." But the question, to your point, is, okay, did you actually execute on that thing well, enough for it to have a chance? Was the idea good and the execution bad or vice versa? I was trying to think of ways that I could push back on your quote, but I buy it. I think I'm in and having that time horizon, I think, also reduces some of the thrashing that can take place inside of these really fast moving companies.

Rachel Haley: Right. And I'm glad that you share the perspective after at least talking it through with me, because I think sometimes it becomes the opposite of sunk cost fallacy, where people are like, okay, it's not working. We've tried it for two minutes. Let's move on. Both extremes of the spectrum are bad. I think if, yeah, a quarter to me sounds reasonable if you have really good execution set up and working. And to your point, I think that's why when you are looking to hire and scale an organization, bringing in talent from maybe industries that aren't necessarily the specific one you're operating in, to just bring a fresh perspective, can be very helpful.

Sean Lane: Before we go, at the end of each show, we're going to ask each guest the same lightning round of questions. Ready? Here we go. Best book you've read in the last six months.

Rachel Haley: Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss. I think anyone in sales or even in life should read that book.

Sean Lane: Favorite part about working in ops.

Rachel Haley: That all of the problems you get to solve, it's such a problem solving type of role, I'm never bored. I think there's never the same problem with the exact same people that I'm trying to solve. It's always a new, interesting, exciting day.

Sean Lane: Least favorite part about working in ops.

Rachel Haley: I think because sales operations has evolved dramatically just within the last five years, it's not as well known, or I should say all of operations, as some other functions that have existed for a while. So in order to really gain the strategic seat at the table, there's a lot of internal selling that you have to do, or that I've experienced that you have to do. That sometimes is less fun because it's still a developing and evolving pillar within an organization. But I think that is very much changing. I'm horrible at selling, so for me, that's a tough one. That's why I'm not in sales. I'm really bad at it.

Sean Lane: I think it goes back to the conversation we were having before about the argument for resources in ops. And so I would argue that if you grew your team to have 40 people on it, 22 of them reporting to you, I think you might be better at selling than you think.

Rachel Haley: Inaudible. Maybe. We'll see. I still feel I'm pretty bad. I'll have to see.

Sean Lane: All right. Someone who impacted you getting the job you have today.

Rachel Haley: My great friend and mentor, his name is Mark Wendling. He runs corporate sales at Snowflake, and he's been such an instrumental mentor and leader in my life for the last five years. He worked with my consulting company back in 2015 when he was at Sumo Logic. He recommended me for the job at Snowflake. And he's always believed in me and given me the encouragement that I needed to take risks and a leap, and I can't thank of enough. My career would not be where it is today without him in my life.

Sean Lane: That's awesome. All right. Last one for you. One piece of advice for people who want to have your job someday.

Rachel Haley: Ooh, interesting. That is a great question. I've never been asked that question before. I would say, if you want to have my job one day, then you probably have an inkling of what really makes you tick and what you're passionate about. And if you want to start a company, you've probably thought about it often, but have some fear around taking that risk, because you're worried that it might not work out. But I would say the biggest thing that you can do for yourself is to bet on yourself and to just take that risk and to take that leap. The comfort job that you have right now will always be there, but you might not always get the opportunity to actually go out on your own and start your own venture. So bet on yourself and take a risk, and I think that most of the time, good things will happen.

Sean Lane: Thank you so much to Rachel Haley for joining us on this week's episode of Operations and special, thanks to Katie White from the Kitcaster team for helping to set up the conversation. Man, this was such a good one. And I learned so, so much. If you learned something here as well, please make sure that you are subscribed to our show. We have a new episode that comes out every other Friday. And if you're enjoying it, share that enjoyment with others by leaving us a six star review on Apple Podcasts, six star reviews only. That's going to do it for me. Thanks so much for listening. We'll see you next time.


This week, we're throwing it back to the most popular episode of Operations ever.

It's hard to take what looks like a perfect plan on paper and translate that to real life. It's even harder inside of a hypergrowth company. In this episode, we go inside one of the fastest growing companies out there: Snowflake.

Our guest Rachel Haley spent two and a half years at Snowflake as their Senior Director of Sales Operations, and is now the co-founder and CEO of Clarus Designs, a consulting firm focused on operational efficiency.

Rachel saw Snowflake explode from 30 reps to 450 during her time there. In our conversation, we talk about the insane growth she saw, how they were constantly planning and re-planning at Snowflake, and why Snowflake’s CRO once told her he wished they had invested and hired in Sales Ops even sooner.

Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the pod with your friends! You can connect with Sean on Twitter @Seany_Biz and @DriftPodcasts.