Keeping The Door Open: How This Growing SaaS Company Welcomes Rehires
Saying goodbye to an employer might close one part of a career journey — but it doesn’t necessarily mean the company will be in the rearview mirror forever.
When Joshua Sangster joined SaaS company Conga in winter 2020 as a solution architect, he described it as a “dream come true.” With prior experience in the Salesforce implementation space, he was impressed with the organization after previously working with one of their products.
“I implemented Conga’s new ‘Contracts for Salesforce’ product once and immediately knew I wanted to be a part of what they were doing and the culture that surrounded it,” Sangster said.
A handful of events, however, diminished some of that enthusiasm. Sangster said his morale took a hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges of working from home. Then, in May, it was announced that fellow SaaS company Apttus would acquire Conga, a process that Sangster described as “an extreme challenge” given both companies’ size and competitive product offerings (a difficulty compounded, no less, by remote work). Ultimately, layoffs ensued. Feeling “discouraged and struggling for motivation,” Sangster sought, and ultimately accepted, a new opportunity.
Yet Sangster remained in touch with Chief Product Officer Grant Peterson, the longtime DocuSign CTO who had come aboard Conga in early 2021. Over the course of several discussions (and some golf), the two discussed the CPO’s strategic vision for the future and how Sangster might contribute to that. Eventually, an offer for a director-level role in product materialized.
“I decided it was worth a shot, despite a bit of a quick return,” Sangster said. “The opportunity to be a director with the ability to be a part of more than just single customer implementations was beyond exciting.”
While Sangster described an amicable return, pulling off such a maneuver is by no means always easy or straightforward. Sangster’s arc points to a few fundamentals that have made his rehiring successful: maintaining good relationships, identifying where previously gained skills can be leveraged, and cultivating a culture that’s welcoming and supportive of returning team members.
After leaving Conga, what ultimately brought you back to the organization?
After announcing my resignation, Grant asked me to reach out if the new role didn't work out, planting a seed that stuck with me as I began my new role.
After I left, we talked a few more times; ultimately, it led to a discussion about roles and opportunities. I expected to be invited back to the professional services department, so I was taken aback when he said he’d like help on the product side. I decided to test my mettle and make a life-changing decision to return.
How did it feel to return to Conga? How did the company and your colleagues make you feel welcome and set you up for success?
It was extremely humbling. There were hundreds of messages on my LinkedIn post, a ton of emails and chats welcoming me back, and even a brief discussion of my return during a company all-hands. I felt truly valued and welcomed back to a group of people that missed me, not a company looking at me to pad their bottom line.
Grant and other senior leaders began mentoring me immediately after I returned. The leadership team here has taken an active approach to my success so that the product can succeed. Everyone really embodied the team spirit that was missing during the pandemic and acquisition.
The leadership team here has taken an active approach to my success so that the product can succeed.”
What have you tackled since returning to Conga? How have you leveraged the skills you acquired in your first role there?
Right now, I’m focusing on helping carve out the part of the market that best fits the product I manage. I’m doing this by meeting with the various sales teams and leaders around the world, discussing positioning, challenges and the product roadmap. I’m working with internal supporting teams to plan a variety of tasks, including marketing activity, sales enablement materials, technical support plans and implementation best practices. I’m supported by a group of highly motivated professionals who are excited someone is helping a product they love and have pride in.
I’m leveraging the previous relationships forged during my first stint at Conga, as well as my consulting and technical background. I’m fortunate to have a deep understanding of how the product works as well as the challenges we face during customer adoption. I’m attempting to leverage those experiences to better support and grow the product.
When you compare Conga to other companies, what’s different in terms of its ability to draw people back?
I think Conga differentiates itself by being honest. During the acquisition, there was a change at the CEO position. Noel Goggin brought in a refreshing, honest take. Also, Grant is brilliant and an excellent communicator. He has the experience, energy and wit to get the products aligned and best in class.
Also, the office has partially reopened. There is something magical about this Broomfield building and getting back together. A friend and mentor once said there’s something deeply human about sharing a meal together. Now that we’re back at the office we’re sharing at least two a day. It really feels like a team effort. Conga’s approach feels practical, honest and full of drive.
Do you know of any other colleagues at Conga who have stories similar to yours? If so, what do you think that says about the company?
There have been at least four or five other “boomerangs,” but no one that I know personally. I think that the organization is sincerely focused on repairing or improving its relationship with past, current and future employees. The merger and the pandemic created a vision, culture and trust void. Noel and the rest of the executive leadership team have been working nonstop to push forward. I’m humbled by their work ethic.
What was the most surprising or difficult element of returning? What advice would you give to others in the same situation?
It was difficult to come back and see the product that I manage in a tough spot. If you want to come back to Conga, or join us for the first time, be prepared to bring positive energy every day — Conga is still very much a place in need of energy and excitement. I felt it was time to bring positivity, growth and energy to Conga. Being back on campus with each other makes that much easier. I hope to see new and returning Conganeers soon.