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­čôŹ San Francisco Bay Area
­čôľ Account Executive (Sales) at Dialpad
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This is a hard question to answer, so I'll just share my story of how I ended up where I am today -- successful (in my mind), motivated by my work, recently married to an amazing inspiration of a woman, great friends, and living in one hell of a city that keeps you on your toes.  It took a combination of many things coming together...some calculated moves, some luck, some risk, some guessing, and a lot of support from a network of friends, family, and colleagues. I wish I had something like huttle to go to back in 2009 ;)

Like you, I had no idea what path I wanted to take out of college. I found myself switching majors and minors throughout my 4 years, then I was introduced to Supply Chain Management by a friend in my business fraternity. Something clicked and it just made sense. Here is where I made a conscience decision to switch track my minor from Real Estate to Supply Chain with 3 semesters left to go. That was an intentional decision.  The business fraternity was the network that helped me get into Supply Chain.

Also, timing was great for a  role that involved making operations run more efficiently, negotiating contracts, and saving companies money because the recession had just hit right when I was graduating...in fact only 12% of the 2009 graduating class in the US had jobs lined up after graduation, which meant I was extremely fortunate to be able to start my life of independence right out of the gate. Unlucky for most, but kind of lucky for me....by the way, hard to say that work sucks but you have to do it to pay the bills. It's fun to be in your young 20s and making REAL money for the first time. Trust me, the responsibilities 

I had 3 job offers for entry level procurement roles in 3 different cities - San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. I spent my entire life in San Diego so I was debating between sticking in a place where I was comfortable and had friends and family to lean on, or try something new. My dad grew up in San Francisco and he was a huge proponent of me moving here to try it out. A little nudge from dad and I was on my way to a brand new city where I had no friends. I always wanted to try being the new kid in school, so this was my chance I guess.

I stuck with a procurement and strategic sourcing role for 6.5 years across two companies - first at Pacific Gas & Electric (our country's 2nd largest utility), then at Electronic Arts. A procurement job at a 100yr old utility is by no means, "sexy." But it's fun to be in a new class of fresh grads and young people shaking things up with the old timers and getting your hand slapped a time or two. Best way to learn something new is to get a stearn lesson from an executive or sr. director.  This is right around the time I met my girlfriend (now wife) and we would play hooky from work, take long lunches and walk around San Francisco's Embarcadero.

Electronic Arts -- I knew I wanted to break into the magical world of tech startups here in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, so I networked my way into Electronic Arts first. Not a start up (10,000 employees worldwide and almost 40 years old. But they are a technology company that every tech startup wanted as a logo, and I knew that if I had a procurement or strategic sourcing role there, I would meet a lot of sales pros from successful startups trying to sell their tech to EA. Boom, 3 years later, one of those guys introduces me to my now current company where I am having a blast. I even made another career change and moved to the other side of the table - now I'm the sales guy negotiating with IT leaders and their procurement people. Funny how that works, eh?

So what is the point of this story - the point is to focus on what kind of life you want to live and where you want it to take you (even if that life goal is to have mystery and move whichever way the wind takes you), and use your early jobs as stepping stones to support that life. Eventually a "career" will just kind of happen and things your decisions will become more and more calculated and the pieces fall in place and you have more data points in your life to make decisions from.

Have a blast these final days in college, focus on early wins like building a network of people who share similar goals and you know will be successful someday. Keep asking questions, and make bold moves while you can :)

Long winded, I know, but I hope that was helpful! 


+1 to Michelle's post: "Last thing I might add, I think it's impossible to know where our roads are going and all too often we're disabled just trying to figure out the end destination."

I'm 29, and I personally make a few plans - my micro plan is very much focused on the company and role I'm in. This is a 2 year plan. Am I getting some motivation or excitement in the short term. Some days are bleh, others fly by and I have fun with my job, or get nervous and have to overcome something. As long as I feel like I'm growing and learning, and entire weeks are passing by where I wonder what the hell did I even get accomplished, all is good.

As I look at my 5 year plan, I start to look less at the company and job, but more at the people in my network to make sure I'm surrounding myself with the RIGHT people. These aren't friends -- these are mentors, colleagues, relationships who will want to see and help me succeed in life, and hopefully I can help them too.

Now the big 10-20 year plan. These are personal life goals and everything above are just contributing to this plan. Hell, it might as well be a 50 year plan! My vision isn't so good, so this far downfield is always going to be a bit blurry, and that's totally cool with me. Life happens and I may have to pivot or overcome some obstacles, as long as the general path feels like it's getting me where I want to be. This is where I think the word, "meaningful" that you used comes in. Your JOB doesn't have to necessarily be so meaningful, as long as it's a means for you to do doing something meaningful in your life (i.e. does it give you time to volunteer...I mean you're already helping your family with bills. That's pretty damn meaningful). Maybe your job and your meaningful life merge, finding that ideal convergence.

Thanks for posting. This was a fun one to reflect on and I hope you found it helpful.

Definitely. You're already ahead of your peers with no CC debt. I recommend getting started with whatever you can and to get in the habit of re-evaluating how much you can contribute with each promotion/raise/new job. If you're thinking about this already, you have a good head on your shoulders, so I have confidence that those promotions and raises will come fast. A little bit now compounds over time. 5 years is going to fly by and you'll regret not having started when you could have. It's going to feel good!

This is going to be a 2-post response due to 3,000 character limit.

Hey Aggie2018, first let me commend you for putting yourself out there. Sales is all about no fear, leveraging your network, planning, and being relentless. So far you've checked the box on 3 of those. I have a feeling the 4th will show itself in time.

I made the jump into sales 2 years ago and haven't looked back. Had to accept that it was a career change and started with an entry level role. I am very fortunate to have worked with inspirational leaders, supportive teammates, and could leverage the network I've built over time to propel me into a senior role with the best territory I could hope for.

OK, so you want to go into sales. Here are the things to keep top of mind throughout your career journey.

How can you put your network to work? Do you have friends, people who were the same clubs as you that graduated ahead, professors, etc... who you can ask for advice about their jobs or people you might want an introduction to? Your network or peers, mentors, professional acquantances is your best asset.

Planning (also known as hunting) - Would you rather spend 5 hours chopping down a tree with a dull axe, or 1 hour sharpening the axe and 1 hour chopping the tree down? Planning the who when and why you're asking someone for a meeting is the most important part of sales, so do your homework and be prepared.

Whatever drives you most (a specific industry, working in a booming city, or just making a ton of money), do your research on who the key companies are (look in press publications like Forbes, Fast Company, NY Times, Wired, etc) to see who is making the news. The best foot in the door is an introduction, but if you have to cold call/email your way into a job opportunity, you will want to have some relevant and interesting things to talk about other than yourself to show that you understand the market and have the drive to learn about the person/company you're meeting with.

Relentless - it's common knowledge in sales that it can take up to 10 attempts to finally get that coveted meeting. You're competing with so many factors beyond just other job candidates. Anything that takes a recruiter or hiring managers attention away is a distraction, and thus a competitor to you getting and crushing your interview. Follow up regularly, be creative and differentiate yourself.

Hey, tough question, but a good problem to have. So based off what you shared so far, it will be hard to go wrong. Don't put too much emphasis on the "RIGHT" first job. Because I seriously doubt you will be there long ("long" by today's definition is anything more than 4 years). I graduated in 2009 at the peak of the recession (or valley...whichever way you want to look at it). I went for location. Having lived in San Diego all my life, including college, I wanted to go elsewhere. I had a choice with two awesome big firms -- Northrop Grumman in LA, or Pacific Gas and Electric in San Francisco. Northrop is sexier by far, but I was drawn to San Francisco, and PG&E ain't too shabby. Am I glad I went to San Francisco! I got in at the right time and now I'm living/working at the epicenter of innovation and startups. I've been fortunate enough to build an amazing network of colleagues, friends, mentors, etc...opening up all kinds of opportunities.

So getting to the point -- try to look past "The Firm." My humble advice is to look downfield. If they are in different cities, which city is more poised for economic growth? Do you have a more established network at one firm over the other (even just 1 person who will want to see you succeed)? That's a HUGE advantage if they are already established and can continue to vouch for you along the way in your first 1-3 years. Where will you get more exposure to executive leadership or a variety of roles within the company...a variety of people?

Lastly, great to see that you have an end game in mind. It will keep you focused. Be sure to stay open minded. You never know how your career may shift throughout your 20s. I made a complete 180deg switch from strategic sourcing/operations at 2 big established companies after 6 years, to jumpstarting my career in sales with a relatively small young startup when I was 27. Couldn't be happier with the move.

Take it 2 years at a time for now. 5 and 10 year plans are for old guys, like I'm becoming ;)