Meet Ilana Uemura, a Customer Success Manager based in Oregon. A First Gen in Tech, Ilana’s journey to HubSpot has been unique. From being the first member of her family to graduate from college, to working in nonprofits and small businesses, Ilana set her sights on a career in tech. Read on to learn more about Ilana, her role helping HubSpot customers, and her tips for fellow First Gens in Tech looking to follow in her footsteps…

Tell us about your role - what do you do for HubSpot?

I’m a Customer Success Manager, so I work with existing customers to make sure they know how to use HubSpot and see a return on their investment. Ultimately, my goal is that when every customer’s renewal comes around, they think “Of course we’ll renew, we love HubSpot and can’t imagine life without it!” I spend my days meeting with customers to talk through how they use HubSpot, advise on best practices and optimize the tools at their disposal, and mitigate any roadblocks to their success.

What 3-4 words describe your role at HubSpot?

Creative. Resourceful. Strategic. Supportive

What is your background and journey to HubSpot as a first-gen in tech?

Growing up in a working-class family in Wisconsin, I witnessed firsthand the dedication and hard work of my parents – my father a truck driver, and my mother a pricing coordinator at a grocery store. Despite their tireless efforts, I couldn’t ignore the toll of their jobs and the lack of benefits that prioritize their well-being. With respect for them, I knew I wanted to figure out a different path for myself. 

I was the first in my family to graduate from college. After graduating, I moved across the country (also a first for my family) and worked for nonprofits and small businesses aligned with my values. Although my life looked different from my parents already, I found myself grappling with similar feelings of exploitation, exhaustion, and uncertainty about sustainability. While contemplating my next move, I stumbled upon the field of UX Design, opening my eyes to non-technical roles in the tech industry. I thought “woah, you mean there are jobs I could do in tech? I could live that life?!” 

Once I could imagine it, I had to figure out how to make it a reality. Transitioning into the tech industry wasn’t without its challenges, but I did finally land a role as a Customer Success Manager at HubSpot.

What advice would you give to someone looking to break into the tech industry?

    • Do your research & ask for help - Don’t pretend the shift isn’t a major learning curve. Thankfully, there are so many resources to leverage, from YouTube videos to LinkedIn Learning, to informational interviews. Additionally, HubSpot hosts a First Gen in Tech event every Fall where people share their experiences and advice. 
    • Build your brand - Cultivate meaningful connections rather than approaching networking as transactional, and be sure to express gratitude when people offer their time, skill, and attention.
  • Find a referral - Related to building a brand, the game-changer in my search was internal referrals. I got interviews when I had a referral, and often I didn’t hear back when I applied cold.
  • Articulate your value proposition - Learn to distinguish what will be familiar to you in the new role, as well as what you’ll need to learn. This will help you during your interviews, and make it easier for your recruiter to understand what you’re bringing to the table, and that you understand what would be asked of you.
  • Prioritize growth - You could likely be rejected when you apply for a role for the first time. What’s important is how you will learn from each rejection. And how will you continue iterating until that job offer finally comes through?

What are some career lessons you’ve learned to date as a First Gen in Tech?

  • I’m an asset - Even though I have moments of self-doubt, at the end of the day I know that my perspective and experience is an asset. In the context of my current role, I understand the small business customers I support with our software. I’ve been that overwhelmed manager sitting at their desk. I know how it feels to answer the phone in that seat, and the cost-benefit analysis of changing entire processes and systems to implement software. Money is not frivolous to me, and it isn’t to my customers, either. I can meet them where they are, and that helps me drive outcomes for them, and for HubSpot.
  • Relationships still matter! - While working at a corporate company (and being fully remote) certainly looks different in terms of relationships and connection with co-workers, there are countless ways to make connections and continue building my network, personally and professionally. “My people” are everywhere, and they help me stay grounded. I found another “career changer” on the second day of orientation, sent her a Slack message, and we’ve Slacked every single day since. Having a work bestie with similar experiences and challenges has made all the difference, and we remind each other that we belong here.
  • Take up space - It’s been really important for me to find people who help me feel big, who encourage me to take up space, and who tell me my ideas are important. My manager at HubSpot is incredible at naming my skills and challenging me to think bigger and claim my influence.
  • Find outlets for questions - A side effect of imposter syndrome is being afraid to ask questions in fear that it will make others realize I don’t belong. My manager told me “The Imposter Syndrome doesn’t go away, you just get better at managing it.” It’s been important for me to find outlets for my questions where I’m comfortable being more visible in my learning so that I don’t hinder my own growth.
  • Enjoy it, and advocate for improvement - I can confirm that the work-life balance, the benefits, and the sustainability of working in tech have changed my life for the better. I’m saving money for retirement. I got to spend four months with my newborn without worrying about pay. I am trusted to do my work and do it well. There is a lot to be enjoyed, and it’s okay to let myself enjoy it! That said, as with all places, there are opportunities for HubSpot to be better, and I try to contribute to positive changes.

What keeps you at HubSpot?

HubSpot attracts really amazing people, and it’s an honor to work with and be influenced by my colleagues. I really appreciate HubSpot’s commitment to being a hybrid workplace, allowing me to work remotely from Portland, Oregon, and be a fully functional member of the team. I believe in HubSpot’s product and leadership and I like where we’re headed. It’s an inspiring company to be part of.

Learn more about HubSpot’s culture on our careers website and follow HubSpot Life on Instagram as we continue to share employee highlights, internal celebrations, learnings, and more. Interested in Customer Success careers @ HubSpot? Learn more here!

Originally published Apr 18, 2024 8:00:00 AM, updated April 19 2024