How to Help Build Your Startup Community: Pay It Forward

The willingness of successful entrepreneurs to pay it forward is the determining factor of whether a startup ecosystem thrives or not. To create an ecosystem where startups are successful and scale-ups are possible, entrepreneurs (whether failed or successful) need to invest in other startups, leaders and talent around them. Check out Sam’s story and how he learned from a successful local entrepreneur the importance of paying it forward, becoming a force for change, growth and impact in the St. Louis startup community.

Sam Cummings

What is your current position?
Data Science Project Manager at Gainsight.

What is Gainsight?
The World’s leading Customer Success Platform. Gainsight is a Salesforce plugin that combines data from various sources of customer intelligence like surveys, support tickets, sales data and usage logs, and analyzes this data to prioritize and automate smart customer success actions.

How did you find this opportunity & ultimately get connected to them?
I got introduced into the tech space by a man named Jim Eberlin who started multiple successful SaaS(software as a service) companies. Gainsight was the second one he founded. So when I was looking for an opportunity that had more technical enterprise experience, Gainsight was a no brainer.

What has been the most challenging aspect of your job?
Dealing with 2.5 million in customer risk at once. Some of which were extremely challenging business use cases where the odds of success were really low. Sometimes regardless of how much you try or want all parties to be successful the odds are not in your favor. So in those cases being able to manage the risk and expectations for customers, managers and investors alike can be challenging. In these situations being honest and transparent has done wonders in turning even the most unsuccessful situations into graceful wins.

Have you picked up new skill sets/capabilities? If so, what are they?
Yes, I have learned tons about technologies/processes like Salesforce, Amazon Redshift, SQL and No SQL databases, Python, Agile development and roadmapping among others. Also, I have learned about how to gather requirements and drive them from business objectives into technical configuration requirements. In addition, I have developed a breadth of soft skills like team management, conducting quarterly business reviews and getting global buy-in from multiple parties in an organization in order to achieve desired goals. I was always a great leader, now I am an experienced one.

How has your role evolved?
I have grown into more of a managerial role and have taken on more responsibility. I now lead a team of data scientists in India and work globally with our partners and customers. Most importantly, I have continued to maintain my customer facing experience while strengthening my technical and managerial acumen, which is awesome!

You’re what we consider a “Culture Champion” in St. Louis’ startup community. You are active in the tech space, participating in hackathons and meetups, and you’re great at bringing people together and making connections. You have referred many job seekers to PluggedIN. Tell us about why you’re active in supporting talent initiatives in STL? 
I view PluggedIN as an essential vehicle to make sure that the St. Louis tech scene and others like it can continue to grow their talent pools. As people begin to grow and gain experience, having an organization like PlugginIN helps keep a pipeline of opportunity available so that talent can stay in the scene. Sometimes people out-grow their roles and might just find themselves in need of a new place where their experience and fit can be valued. PluggedIN being in multiple cities increases the chances that people can find the right next opportunity regardless of where it is.

What else do you think goes into building a vibrant startup ecosystem?
Investment in consulting/training opportunities and high-school/college pipelines. Just like the NFL it is important to have the draft, and training organizations that support it otherwise there is no other way besides chance and happenstance to farm and cultivate the people necessary to keep any community vibrant.

What do you enjoy about working at a startup?
Everything you do means that much more. If I give a lil extra effort at a large corporation, although my manager may appreciate it, I have less of an overall impact and effect than at a startup where the numbers are smaller. Just based on numbers alone, giving 110% at a startup is way more impactful and visible than at a large company.

Where would you point other job seekers who want to join St. Louis’ growing startup ecosystem?
Directly to!

Anything else we should know about you? :)
I advise everyone to make a five year plan and work your way back to the present from there. This helped me give even my everyday activities a broader scope and purpose. If anyone is interested in learning more about my story and future goals feel free to reach me on Linkedin :