Show and Tell: Tom Cox

A Q&A with an IXL Technical Support Manager

September 16, 2015

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Life at IXL

Find out what it takes to work in IXL technical support in our Q&A with Tom Cox! Plus, learn about the best support call he’s gotten, his childhood aspirations, and his surprisingly philosophical reflection on the type of donut he’d be.

The Basics

Name and title: Tom Cox, Technical Support Manager

Has been at IXL for: 7 years

Hometown and current city: Grew up in Río Piedras, Puerto Rico. Currently lives in San Mateo, Calif.

 

Life at IXL

What did you do prior to coming to IXL?

Before I was hired here, when I was right out of college, I briefly worked doing manual labor in the Lagunitas Brewery in Petaluma, Calif. I would physically lift the cases of beer off the assembly line, and I’d put them on the pallets that they’d ship them in. I like to joke that I made sure the beer was “pallet-able.” [laughs]

What do you do at IXL? Give us a taste of what a typical day at work is like for you.

Well, a typical day in tech support involves a whole lot of phone calls and emails. We have a lot of customers who call in to ask about how to use the product, or if there’s some technical issue with their browser or their network. We answer a huge variety of questions, which makes it really interesting and means that I’ve still not heard every question that customers are ever going to ask us. Personally, my job is to help guide the rest of the team to answer the questions and find the best solutions for our customers.

What qualities does it take to do your job?

I think the most important thing is just being able to empathize. If you can put yourself in the customer’s shoes, you can better understand what they’re asking for. You can better understand the problem behind the question. You can truly care about giving good support and making them happy. It’s something that we can’t train you in. When we are hiring, that’s the number one thing we look for. When people can really establish a connection and show enthusiasm and be genuine about it, then we know that we have someone we can train to make a great support specialist.

What’s the best tech support call you’ve gotten?

Some of my favorite interactions are when, after we’ve answered a parent or teacher’s question, they write back with a quick thank-you, but then they’ll say, “By the way, we love IXL. It’s made everything so much better. Our kids are doing so much better, and they’re excited about math.” One teacher wrote in and talked about how her third graders would walk down the hallways, and they had a little IXL chant about how much they love it. Of all the things that I read, I think those little heart-warming tidbits are the ones that make me happy to do what I do.

 

Life beyond IXL

What do you like to do in your free time?

I read a lot, at least an hour or two every day. I just can’t get enough of books. I read mostly fiction, science fiction, fantasy, but also, a pretty wide variety, stuff that would be considered very literature-heavy, things like Cormac McCarthy. I also play video games, and like everybody else, I like hanging out with my friends.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I would say I probably wanted to be president of the United States and then an astronaut. And at some point, probably a dinosaur, but, you know, all of us trade in our dreams for something a little more practical. [laughs]

What’s your ideal vacation?

Any beach with beautiful clear water, a hammock, and zero responsibility. I’ve had several really relaxing vacations in my time, and the ones at the beach are always the best.

 

Just for Fun

If you were a donut, what kind would you be and why?

I would be a Devil’s food cake donut because I’ve been trying to find that donut ever since I learned of its existence, and nobody that claims they have it ever has it. So I would have to be that one, just because I don’t know what it is. Whoever knows what they are, right?

Who would play you in the movie of your life?

Bill Murray. I think he’s cool; he’s got a quirky sense of humor.

What would the movie be called?

“Oops.”

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