People of Blueprint:

Alex Akana – Escalation Team Lead

Title at Blueprint

Escalation Team Lead

Joined Blueprint

July 2015

Favorite book

“The Dark Tower” series by Stephen King

First concert

Boyz II Men

Favorite podcast

“The Vanished” hosted by Marissa Jones

Favorite hobby

Target shooting

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Sacramento. When I was growing up, it wasn’t as developed as it is now. We had one gas station within a 20-mile radius and only 8-10 kids per class in my elementary school. My mom drove a school bus and my dad was in construction, so I assumed I’d be working in construction when I grew up. I started working at Round Table Pizza when I was 15, and I’ve been working ever since.

Tell me about your career before joining Blueprint.

I’ve worked in customer service for more than 20 years now — in everything from sales and collections to customer retention and support. I moved to the Seattle area in my early 20s for a change of scenery, took the first job I could get and then just started building from there. I figured I could keep looking for new positions and learning new things or stick with one thing and get really good at what I was doing.

Alex-Akana-family

Alex and his family, which inspires his empathy in customer service.

What best set you up for success at Blueprint?

Honestly, I think having kids prepared me the most for my job at Blueprint. Having empathy and understanding when you are working with customers is so important. You need to be able to match tones, even in written responses, and I think that comes from being a parent and having that special type of patience that we have.

How did you learn about Blueprint?

Blueprint reached out to me when I was working in sales at Comcast and asked if I was interested in working customer support for an ongoing engagement. During the interview process, they started an engagement with a new customer in the gaming industry. They asked me if I wanted to work on that one instead, and I jumped at the opportunity. I’ve been a gamer my whole life and was going to be able to match my personal interests and work experience. Also, most other job opportunity out there that I would want are temporary-to-permanent or contract positions. I have a big family at home; I can’t take that kind of risk. Blueprint isn’t a temp agency; it’s not a hiring agency. If one engagement ends or part of an engagement ends, you’re not usually sent home – they’ll move you to another one.

What is the coolest thing you’ve done at Blueprint – that you can talk about?

Being one of the first people to work with this client and watching the engagement grow over the last five years has been really cool. We’ve had different directors. We’ve had different expectations from the client. It was also really special to pilot the escalation team with one of my coworkers. The escalation team is the tier-3 customer support. We answer the more one-off type questions that don’t need to be elevated up to the company but that can’t be answered by the more standard customer support agents. Now we have eight different escalation teams, and I take a lot of pride in my part in that.

What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

I think people may be surprised to know I’m an artist – I paint and I sculpt. I’ve been drawing almost all my life. I think it was my sophomore year, I was put into an advanced art class and the teacher saw that I was bored, and he knew I didn’t like specific assignments. He started letting me do whatever I wanted as long as it was connected to the assignment somehow. If it was a shading assignment, I’d change it up and do it with magic markers or something like that. That started to give me confidence – having the teacher, another artist, actually believe in me. So, I just kept going from there.

If you could live anywhere in the world – where would it be?

I would go to Norway. I’m not a super outdoorsy person, but I like the cold, the land and the culture there. I’ve always lived in cities, so I think it would be nice to go outside and not have 20 neighbors around you.

What achievements are you especially proud of?

In July, I had my 5-year anniversary at Blueprint, and I just won our Core Value Award in November. I was shocked. I try to stay out of the spotlight and just be a team player, so it was unexpected – nice, but unexpected, to be recognized. I take a lot of pride in what I do, and I want my work to be perfect the first time around. That frees me up to be able to reach out to other people to help if they are having issues. I’ve been here a long time, so I can bring experience, perspective and advice.

Alex-Akana-Art

Alex draws inspiration from super heroes for many of his digital drawings

If you hadn’t gone into customer support, what career might you have gone after?

When I moved to Washington, I did everything I could to get on at Boeing because everyone said that was the place to work in Washington. Now, I’m glad I didn’t end up there – I love my job. But, if I hadn’t ended up on this career path, I probably would have ended up at Boeing.

What is a lesson you learned from earlier in your career that you still apply to your work at Blueprint?

I learned that closed mouths don’t get fed. At my last job, I saw things that could have been improved or were broken, and I never said anything. Over the years, you get shot down a lot, so I felt like even when I’d say something, it would never go anywhere. When I joined Blueprint, I decided I wasn’t going to stay quiet and let my ideas go to waste. It may just be because I’m older, but I’m at the point where I don’t want to waste time when I see a way to improve something, especially if it can improve something for everyone involved. At Blueprint we actually fix a problem when something is flagged. And, if there is no immediate fix or an idea isn’t something that can be implemented, management follows up and gives you an explanation. That just makes for a great work environment.

The future of your career begins now.