June 10, 2024

Learning on the job: A Q&A with one of Assembled’s first business generalists

Whitney Rose

Assembled just hit a significant milestone: 100 employees. In honor of the company’s journey from three Stripe alums in 2018 to triple digits in headcount six years later, we’re spotlighting early hires and the unique paths they’ve created for themselves at Assembled. You can find all their stories here.

Talal Naboulsi is a Sales Engineer who’s worn a lot of different hats since joining Assembled as one of its first 10 employees. In this interview, he shares how he went from an Assembled user to an Assembled employee, what learning curves he’s had to overcome when stepping into the many roles he’s taken on, and why you don’t need to have done a job in the past to be good at it. His answers have been edited for clarity and concision.

Q. Talal, what were you doing before you joined Assembled?

A. Before I joined Assembled, I was managing support teams at Google and Looker. I joined as a support agent and then moved up into lead and then a manager. I was deeply in support world.

Q. How did you end up at Assembled?

A. As a support manager, I actually used Assembled with my team alongside others, such as Jeremy (Eckman, Head of Support), who's also now at Assembled. We used Assembled to run our team and to help scale our team globally. We had teams across four or five different time zones. It was the founding team — Ryan (Wang, co-founder and CEO), John (Wang, co-founder and CTO), BZ (Brian Sze, co-founder), and Jen (Ong Vaughan, first business hire and former COO) — who actually sold us Assembled. I think that was in 2019?

Q. What was your first impression of the product?

A. I was really impressed. At the time, we were running everything in spreadsheets. I had seen a couple of different products, but my first impression was, yeah, these people have clearly done support before because they understand the pain. I knew the product would help us scale our operations by taking a lot of the manual work off of our plates so we could focus on the really important stuff, which is developing employees and taking care of customers.

Q. How did you end up moving from Looker to Assembled? Who initiated the conversation?

A.  I did actually. I was very impressed with the founding team and the product itself. And I’ll always be an evangelist for people and products that I believe in. From the beginning, I felt that Assembled was going to have a really good future. I used to say I’d invest in them if I had the money. Then, one day, Jen shared a job opening on LinkedIn. So I thought, time to put my money where my mouth is. I applied, interviewed, and got the job. I left Google on a Friday and started at Assembled the following Monday. That was three and a half years ago.

Q. What was the role?

A. The role was Business — that was literally the title of the role. The contract said business generalist. The team was so small at the time that there weren’t really titles or anything of that nature. You were either on the product team or the business team. As a member of the business team, I did everything from support to onboarding to customer success. I even tried to do some sales on the side. It was a different company back then, we needed everyone doing everything.

Q. And now you're a Sales Engineer?

A. Yes, I am indeed.

Q. You've had quite a few roles here. What's everything you've done between when you started and now?

A. I started as a business generalist. Then we officially split into success and sales. I didn't do sales back then; I did success. We needed someone dedicated to support, so I led our support team, recruited people, and built our support org. For a period, I also had recruiting operations and another operations team under me. After that, I did a PM role for about six to eight months. Then I led our solutions team for a few months until we hired a new leader. From there, I moved to my current role as a Sales Engineer.

Q. Of all the different hats you've worn, what's been your most challenging role at Assembled?

A. Each role has its challenges. Success and support weren't the most challenging for me since I had experience. However, I believe support is one of the most underrated and toughest jobs in tech. Doing world-class support is incredibly difficult, even if it can be done poorly by just churning out answers. I was lucky to learn from the best, which helped me a lot. Sales has its pressures too, but it's different because you're tied to a specific metric.

Q. What's been the steepest learning curve for you in your current role?

A. The steepest learning curve has been pulling up from being a details person to talking at a higher level. It's about describing the power of our team and product, focusing on the bigger picture without getting bogged down in details. I've been using Assembled for about five to six years, both as a customer and employee, so distilling that experience in one-on-one interactions without losing or confusing people is a skill I'm still improving.

Q. You've seen such a big evolution within the product itself. What's the wildest change from when you first got introduced to Assembled to now?

A. The wildest change is probably all the work behind the scenes — integrations, infrastructure, and technical improvements that aren't visible to customers because they work so well. But, visibly, the product has expanded significantly. We still have screenshots of the old Assembled, and comparing them to now, there's just so much more. We have new products like AI and BPO manager, and the navigation bar is much longer. We've built a ton of new features without hiring hundreds of engineers.

Q. When you're showing people what Assembled can do, what usually gets them most excited about the product?

A. The ease of use and modern design often impress people. Assembled was started in 2018, so it looks much more modern compared to some competitors that look like Windows 95. Tasks that are repetitive and time-consuming on other platforms can be done quickly in Assembled. Our reports run automatically, and power users can navigate and get things done fast. What we consider table stakes often impresses new users because they're used to clunky, legacy tools.

Q. How do you fight imposter syndrome when you're stepping into a role you’ve never done before?

A. I've experienced imposter syndrome in different ways. Assembled really lives its value of feedback being a gift. Getting regular feedback helps me fight imposter syndrome because I know if I'm not doing something right, I'll hear about it and get help. It reassures me that I'm on the right track and that if I mess up, I'll get the support I need to fix it.

Q. What has Assembled's culture of valuing unconventional career paths taught you about yourself and your beliefs about what you can accomplish?

A. Trying different roles has taught me a lot about my strengths and preferences. It's also demystified the idea that you need a specific set of experiences to succeed. At Google, the process was very rigid, but here, it's clear that most jobs can be learned on the job. Diverse career paths bring different ways of thinking, and as long as you're willing to learn and work hard, you can succeed in various roles.

Q. What would you consider the highlight of your career at Assembled so far?

A. A couple of highlights come to mind. Early on, we helped a customer struggling due to world events, which was very fulfilling. Also, referring and hiring some excellent people who have excelled at Assembled has been a highlight for me.

Q. What’s been the most challenging thing about Assembled’s transition from when you started to now?

A. We had a significant growth spurt when we went from about 40 to 50 people in one month, which was a 25% increase. It was challenging to maintain our culture and trust during such rapid growth, but hiring people with diverse cultural contributions has been positive. Scaling trust and culture while trimming bad habits has been a continuous process.

Q. What advice would you offer to anyone who’s interested in joining Assembled?

A. Be open to feedback and raise concerns immediately. Write things down because we move quickly, and it's easy to lose track. Choose something to improve and run with it, but be selective about what you take on because you’ll be expected to deliver. Don’t just talk about how things were done at your previous company — focus on making a difference here.

Q. What are you most excited about in terms of Assembled's future?

A. This year has brought the most momentum I've seen. We've always hit our targets, but now we have a real wind in our sails. The opportunity ahead is massive, and if we execute well, we'll achieve great things. I'm excited to see where we go in the next couple of years. This is the longest job I've had, so I'm looking forward to the future.

Assembled is still growing! Check out our open roles.

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