Job: Account Manager, Tek Systems*
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
*Alex recently moved to a Business Development Representative role at Salsify, but was still with Tek Systems at the time of this interview*
Alex and I were connected through my last interview with Ally. Alex is actually dating Ally, so I had the chance to meet him in person a few times when he visited Chattanooga while I was still living there. I loved hearing about Alex’s experience in sales, his highs and lows of being a young professional, and the overall importance of having a strong work culture.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m from the metro Detroit area and went to school in Southern Michigan at Hillsdale College. I went there initially to play baseball, ended up switching to track, majored in economics, minored in psychology and took a few extra business classes on the side. My focus in school was really to understand people from different perspectives.
How did you decide to go into sales?
Going into college, my dad worked for Cisco in sales and I was pretty certain that was what I wanted to do. It is pretty unusual for people at that age to know what they want to do so early on, but I had that window because of my dad. So throughout my summers in college, I tried to take any type of internship I could, getting involved in the corporate environment. I actually ended up taking a fifth year in school because I had eligibility for one more year of track, and I’m super glad I did because that opened the door up for me with the job I have now.
After my fourth year of school, I took a sales internship at Thomson Reuters, a tax and accounting company. It was a training program and I basically made calls all day and tried to make sales. After that, an internal recruiter came to me from Tek Systems and asked me if I was interested in moving to the Boston area. I had the job by December of senior year and started off as a recruiter right after school.
Has age played a part in your work experience?
I feel like my age has been more of a help to me because the vast majority of my company are client-facing types of people. The way they run the company is based on targeting a lot of people coming straight out of school. 75% of the 5,000 employees are millennials, so the vast majority of my company is between the ages of 22 to 28. Internally, it has helped me because I was the targeted audience. However, because I am in a client-facing role, there is sometimes a stigma with older clients and employees I work with. Sometimes I will be in meetings all the way up to the CIO level and they are already going to be making assumptions based on my age. To combat that, you kind of need to overcome your age by speaking to them in a way that adds value and shows them that you are worth the conversation. I think it’s all about finding what is really valuable to people and honing in on that. Whether you are young or old, that is what is going to make a lightbulb go off in peoples' heads that says “This person can help me in this area, that is actually my pain point.”
What do you like and not like about being a young professional?
I generally love it because I think it fits more of my lifestyle and interests than college ever did. I am totally fine with the desk job and the corporate lifestyle, so I am 100% invested in this realm of a career. Pretty much everyone is working the same hours, and you are not in some weird shift or schedule that doesn’t align with other business professionals. Specifically, in my corporate environment, I get to work with people and talk to people all day long. Whether they want to talk to me or not, it is still rewarding for me in the long run because I am interested in solving peoples' problems. The only gripe I would have is that it is a lot of hours. It is a large time commitment and I often work at least 55 hours a week. Having the flexibility to plan your own day and get things done was tough at first, but this is the time in my life when I can do it. I don’t have kids and I am not married, so this is the time in my life where it is okay to work these hours. My company has such a good environment with great training, and they let you know that it is a time to fail too. I’m building such a good base with how to interact with many other work environments for the future.
Do you have a good work-life balance?
Sometimes I do. At the same time, what is nice about my job is I can be on the road all day to meet with my clients face-to-face, but you get the autonomy to basically run your own business within the company. You do what you need to do to add value and bring it to the business. You have the autonomy to work the way you want to work. I’d rather work 11 hours in this environment than be somewhere where I am micromanaged and watched like a hawk for 8 hours a day.
Do you know where you want to be in 5 years?
Where the opportunity is, I am always going to be keeping my eyes on it. I can't tell you where I will be, but I can tell you that I like where I am right now because of how good of an environment it is to fail, to learn, to build up and be successful. Ultimately, not all territories are created equal. My territories could end up yielding no sales at all, but I have a good base to move on somewhere else. My territory could also yield a ton of results and I could stay here for a long time. Sales are dependent on your territory and how well you do. For the most part, I am treated really well, and it makes things so much easier to fail in this type of environment than in another one where you’re penalized for that.
What advice do you have for someone who is looking into a corporate career?
Don’t just look for a corporate job. Look for a place where you can grow your career. Look for a company that places emphasis on training and growth. Beware of things like benefits versus perks. A perk would be something like a ping-pong table in the office. That’s cool and nice if you have a 15 minute break, but you should be looking for the benefits for when you are struggling, to see if there is a system in place to help guide you. Look for a corporate career rather than a perfect job. Identify what you want. Do as much research as you can. People think it is in the company’s hands to believe you are a good fit, but it is just as much on you to see if the company is a good fit for you.
What have you learned about yourself since joining the workforce?
In my environment, you have to be incredibly persistent. In sales, you fail 90% to 95% of the time. You’re successful 5% of the time. You are told you are going to fail many times and be told no so many times. You can go in and think you are a hard worker, but then you go in and actually do it and it’s actually pretty hard. You can know about the expectations beforehand, but for a job like mine, it can get stressful. That is what I think was surprising. You think you are a hard worker in general but then you realize how much it takes to be good at this job, and it takes a lot of persistence. People don’t give the field enough time before they quit or move on to something else, so people who do really well are the ones who go way beyond the people who don’t get past that first threshold. There is a fine balance between those two things. I think I am generally persistent, but in the short run, it can be demoralizing to go through some of that. It’s important for people to know that is pretty common; you’re going to get your teeth kicked in, but that is part of the job. I treat it as part of the training, actually. Get past that point where you feel like you are going to quit.
The YoPro Know's Takeaways:
– As a YoPro, show that you can add value and show that you are worth the conversation
– In sales, you fail 90% to 95% of the time, so you have to be persistent
– Beware of things like benefits versus perks when looking for a job
– Don’t just look for a corporate job; look for a place where you can grow your career
– Always keep your eye on the opportunity