Someone Like Me: Casey Zumwalt on building for customers and the keys to making a career switch


While Casey Zumwalt has had three roles within his tenure at Elastic they all have one thing in common — creating a great customer experience. 

“All of my moves here have been around embedding myself into solving problems for customers,” he says.

Casey, now a Director, Web and Localization at Elastic, started building and designing websites as a kid in the mid-90s. 

“My entire career has revolved around design,” he says. “So while my interests have stayed around design, I’ve branched out.”

Before he started at Elastic, he was focused on design and engineering for software products. He got to see the whole picture of building successful software products and how all of these things are related but disparate, he says.

“I just love to build things,” he says. “That’s true for a small website or a huge product. I love getting that satisfaction.”

When his previous company was acquired by Elastic, he joined Elastic’s product design team and worked to unify it as members were spread out across teams.

Two years later, he started to consider what the next step might be. He saw a position open in product management and contemplated if he could make the transition. 

“I was interested because I thought a lot about products and the value and how a user uses something,” he says. “I wanted to make deep improvements, I wanted to spend more time at the table, making decisions, understanding who we are building for, what we are building, how we are going to sell and market it.”

Casey applied for the job and was successful. He worked in product management for three years, primarily on Elasticsearch products. Then a few months ago, he saw another role he was interested in. This time in product marketing. 

“I saw the opportunity to move to marketing and bring the knowledge I had,” Casey says.

“If you can’t market it, no one will know about it.”

Throughout Casey’s career, from product design to management to marketing, he’s cared about the same things. 

“Ultimately it’s about customer experience,” he says. “I’ve moved earlier and earlier into the customer journey.”

“We want to create really good, sticky, experiences, but before that, we need to do a good job marketing them. I care about customers getting value. I want to get them interested in the product and let the product shine.”

Both times Casey switched roles within Elastic, he spoke to his manager, and felt supported.

“I always felt I had the opportunity to move,” he says. 

Now as a manager of his own team, he encourages his team members to be clear about their aspirations.

“As a people manager, my job is to help people get to where they want in their career,” he says. 

And that starts with being open and communicating that desire with your manager. “Changing roles doesn’t have to be scary,” Casey says.

“So many roles have shared surface area,” he says. “We’re all working on the same set of goals but in slightly different ways.”

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