In this interview, I talked to Kyoko Nagafuchi (Gyori, pictured left) and Moe Kitanaka (Moe, right), who leads Autify from the business side.
– What did your careers look like before joining Autify?
Gyori: I majored in Physical Computing at university, and after graduating, I joined ServerWorks, a cloud broker that integrates cloud services like AWS. I worked in various capacities, including corporate sales, enterprise sales, tech support, and event planning and management. I was later involved in setting up the marketing department. I then moved to ABEJA, Inc., primarily responsible for corporate and product marketing. After two years of preparing for annual conferences, I joined Autify in November 2019.
Moe: After finishing graduate school in the sciences, I got a job as a technical researcher at a long-established chemical manufacturer. Aside from research activities, I was also responsible for technical sales, which involved explaining why a certain mixing ratio of raw materials is best for the client company. After working there for about three years, I decided I wanted to be more proactive in making career choices and play into my strengths. So I got a job at a startup that provides a platform that connects large corporations with small and medium-sized firms with technological capabilities. Having worked in manufacturing, I was intrigued by the system that hooked clients up with great tech for a reasonable price. That position exposed me to a wide range of experiences, not just sales. After that, I went from startup to startup, large and small, to gain knowledge in marketing and AI. I joined Autify in November 2021; I was attracted by Autify members’ professionalism towards their work.
– I’m surprised that your first job was in research!
Moe: Yes, people are often surprised, but what I do hasn’t changed much. Research is about finding the right path through consistent effort, and I think sales jobs are the same. The outcome depends on how well you do what you’re supposed to do. Of course, it’s an entirely different field, but the essence of what you do is the same.
– It’s interesting that the essence of research and sales are the same! You mentioned earlier that you decided to join Autify because you were attracted by Autify members’ professionalism towards their work. Can you elaborate?
Moe: First and foremost, the people I will work with and the atmosphere were most important. I wanted to make an intentional decision, so I met with most members before responding to the job offer. It must have been a hectic time, but I needed to see for myself who I’d be working with and what they believed in.
A company with momentum and a strong leader may be attractive at first glance, but I’ve seen too many cases where the workers are left behind and burned out. Momentum alone can’t keep a company going forever. Members need to see meaning in their work and have pride as professionals.
– What did you think after meeting the members in person?
Moe: It really felt “flat,” that is to say, there seemed to be very little hierarchy. I could tell everyone had pride as professionals and prioritized lean thinking. How they communicated was refreshing, too. My gut told me that if I worked with them, I’d be able to communicate without being stressed out.
Also, the hiring process was sincere. It wasn’t just a generic interview; it included things like text interviews and role-plays, which gave me the impression that Autify’s hiring process was designed to simulate actually working and producing results together. I thought it was because of this hiring process that brought these members to the company.
– Yes, our recruitment process is quite unique.
Moe: I’ve never seen a company that hires like Autify, and I could tell they were really trying to get to know the person. That’s why there was no expectation gap when I started working here, and it’s a work environment that allows me to concentrate on work.
– The critical point in the hiring process is not to create an expectation gap between before and after joining a company. What kind of work do you do on a daily basis?
Moe: I propose implementing test automation tools for IT companies that provide web and mobile apps. We work with a wide range of companies, large and small, from Japan’s leading Internet firms to one-person companies.
Every company strives to improve customer experience by releasing more features. To achieve this, developing faster while ensuring quality is critical. This is why agile development has quickly become popular. But in reality, development teams are suffocating between the sheer number of features they have to develop and bugs they have to fix in existing features. The more you develop, the more bugs you have to squash. It’s a vicious circle. I believe Autify is a service that saves customers from that headache.
Developers want to adopt new technologies, provide better products, and make the world better. Autify removes barriers and lets them focus on the work they’re supposed to do in the first place. My job is to build the foundation for achieving that.
– It sounds like test automation services are becoming essential for improving customer experience. What are some differences between Autify and other automation platforms?
Moe: There are several differences, but I would venture to say that using Autify is like someone is right there with you. It’s Autify’s policy not to develop for the sake of development and become complacent. We have a company culture and systems that value feedback from our customers.
What’s important is to provide the best value to our customers; we don’t believe having more features is the only thing that makes a tool better. You need a robust decision-making system to determine how to provide the best value to customers.
– “Just like having someone right there with you.” I like that! Gyori, you were the first Salesperson at Autify and have supported the company since. From a Sales perspective, what do you find appealing about Autify?
Gyori: This isn’t specific to Sales, but I like how feedback is a core part of our company culture. Feedback tends to have a negative connotation, but I think positive feedback is essential for growth because it allows you to understand how to improve. Another thing is that our feedback culture is based on the understanding that people grow; it encourages active discussions and welcomes challenges. I think we have a positive loop. Most importantly, we value customer feedback a lot. It’s definitely one of Autify’s strengths.
– One of Autify’s Values is “Feedback-oriented,” isn’t it?
Gyori: Yes, it means we actively give and receive feedback and take action based on diverse perspectives. I think this value is ingrained both internally and externally.
Another interesting point is that the market is so huge that selling our product is easy, and there’s room to take many different approaches.
Moe: I agree. Before I joined Autify, I’d never experienced SaaS product sales; my sales experience was mainly through sales proposals. The entire sales process –listening to the customer’s needs, planning and developing the solution, and delivering it – was fascinating. On the one hand, SaaS sales can be exciting, but on the other hand, I was concerned that I’d get bored once I got used to the process.
However, I was proved wrong once I started; there’s always something new to discover. Of course, the product is constantly evolving, and it wouldn’t win in the market if its evolution wasn’t rooted in customer feedback. We need to keep updating how we sell so that we can speed up the PDCA cycle, and there’s a lot we have to do to help development. This was unexpected, in a good way.
Gyori: Yes, I think that’s a common misconception. Plus, Autify is a tool for developers, so it’s hard to appreciate its usefulness, unlike toC services. Communicating its benefits is challenging. However, developer tools are the software industry’s infrastructure, and I like how profitable it is!
Moe: Developer tools have a lot of depth. There are so many things I don’t know, so I learn something new every day, and it satisfies my intellectual curiosity as a sales representative. Also, I love it when someone quietly shares something that other people may not know about!
– Not many people at Autify are the “me, me!” type. We are quite mature. What kind of challenges are you currently faced with?
Moe: There’s quite a lot of personal struggles… For example, because I don’t have a technical background, I don’t have the tacit knowledge or the unspoken rules of the industry. It’s challenging for me to ensure the customer’s expectations align with ours. We need to keep learning as the product grows, and I’m made aware every day of how difficult it is to establish a common understanding.
Gyori: For me, I have challenges that are unique to being in a management position. Fortunately, all our team members are excellent, so I don’t have to “manage” them per se, but I’m always thinking about how I can make sure each member can give their 100%. I think that’s my mission.
The company is also in a transition period, and we’re facing challenges precisely because the product has grown. In the early days, for better or worse, we were able to contact all customers with sheer effort, but if we tried to do that now, we would need more members, and it’s just not scalable. We need to make sure customer satisfaction remains constant, and we also need to ensure that customers can make the right choices. Finding that balance is really difficult.
Moe: Autify handles everything from product development to sales, so as the organization grows, we need to think about how to create synergy between departments. This may be obvious, but things that used to go smoothly when we were a small company became impossible as more people joined us. We’ll need to set up rules and processes to continue working at the same level. It’s not an issue yet, but I think it’s important to lay the proper foundations now.
– With the organization growing rapidly, communication design will definitely become more important. How is the Sales team currently structured?
Moe: Before I joined the team, Gyori used to handle all the client-facing tasks alone, which was simply incredible… Now that the Sales team has four members, Gyori manages the team, while the other three, including myself, are mainly in charge of negotiations with customers.
Gyori: Yes, I think we are finally at a phase where we can share roles. Of course, it’s still early days since the team was set up, so each of us is just beginning to develop our own styles. However, now that we’ve got more members, we can visualize where to focus our efforts.
– Sounds like the Sales team is in a transitional period as well! Do you have any goals for the team?
Gyori: It’s still in the planning phase, but I’d like to create a team that can achieve both SLG (Sales-Led Growth) and PLG (Product-Led Growth). Also, we may have to assign members to clients based on the lead time rather than the number of employees or revenue. We’ll also need to consider whether to allocate different members to new and existing clients or keep going at it on an account basis.
I don’t necessarily have a framework in mind for the team’s structure, so I’d like to create a team that suits us best as we go along, taking into account the abilities and aptitudes of future team members.
– I’m looking forward to how the team will mature! I know you’re looking for new members. What kind of people would you like to work with?
Moe: Integrity is paramount, and I would like to work with someone with a proven track record while also being humble. Obviously, having a proven track record is important in Sales, but rather than getting carried away by numbers and the dollar amount, I think the ability to stay modest and analyze what the numbers actually mean is more important. Confidence is key, but I think there’s a point where confidence turns into arrogance. I love people who understand that you can’t do everything yourself.
Gyori: I agree. Another thing I look for is a high level of reproducibility. Autify’s Sales team’s mission isMaking clients ‘can’t live without Autify,‘and I think a high level of reproducibility is needed to accomplish it. Do you understand what you’ve reproduced? Do you consistently reflect and improve? Can you produce consistent results without getting hung up on a great performance that only happened once? I think that’s what it means to be committed to helping clients grow their businesses.
– Do you have any last words?
Moe: I think Autify is a great place to work for those who genuinely want to achieve results. Any company has non-essential tasks like creating documents, and you tend to get caught up in office politics, but at Autify, you can focus on real work without getting distracted by frivolous tasks. It may sound rather basic, but that’s what I want to communicate to readers.
Gyori: I get to listen to customer feedback and relay it directly to the development team. And in turn, I get to deliver what they developed to the customer. It’s simple yet rewarding. I want to build a unicorn company with those looking for an environment like that.