Considered pursuing a career in sales? This interview will take you down the career path of a technical sales representative, including the ups and downs you can expect, what it takes to land the job, what you can expect to earn and more. This is a true career story as told to Latpro and is one of many interviews with sales professionals which among others include a product manager, a president of marketing, and everything in between.
As a technical sales representative, I sold semiconductors to major accounts in the telecommunications industry. For one and a half years, I trained and sold semiconductors to one single account. Because the product and sales cycle was long, I needed patience, technical savvy and a consultative nature.
As a black woman, I was more affected by being one of the few women on the team than by being black. Our office was mixed. There were three African Americans and four women in the office. However, there was only one woman in the office that held a position to mine. The other two women worked in reception and inside sales. The office was dominated by men, both black and white.
I never noticed any discrimination in the office. My direct manager was a black man, who was extremely jovial. His manager was a black man, who listened well and enjoyed talking. His manager was white, and I never had much interaction with him except on occasion. My peers were mostly white men and one white women. Rather than discrimination, there was more reverence for people in certain positions. Competition among team members was also fairly high.
During the initial stages of my position, I had joint responsibility with one of my teammates. Daily, we would meet with our customers to determine how the product was working with their current design or determine their expected demand for the coming product introduction. The customers asked us technical questions about the product and made requests that would make the product integrate better with their current design. Each day, our goal was to ensure that the customer selected our product solution over the competitor.
This was not always easy, because frankly, we did not always have the best solution. However, we worked to change our technical specifications to develop an optimal solution. We also met with our product planners to help them plan for potential demand since the product required three months to develop from the order time.
Many people that sell products think they can also sell semiconductors. While soft sales skills are required, the technical understanding of VLSI circuits and the development process can be complex and requires a technical background to understand the details of the specifications, speeds and connections.
On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rank this job an 8. The perks were great and entertaining the clients was fun. However, being bombarded by a host of technical questions was somewhat challenging at times. There was also the stress of making or exceeding a quota as a team. I think that I needed more confidence in my technical ability as it related to my specific job duties.
I never really considered semiconductor sales as my calling in life. I wanted to work in semiconductor sales to learn more about the semiconductor process. Then, I would transfer the skills later to obtain a Ph.D. in Biomedical engineering, as well as, an M.D. for research purposes.
Semiconductors were the foundation of electrical neuron designs that mimicked biological neurons. Electrical neurons would eventually be implanted into the body. I wanted to strengthen my skills in semiconductor technology. This company had some of the best semiconductor plants and clean rooms in the industry.
There was never anything particular about semiconductors that moved me when I was working. The implications of the technology were fascinating. The technology is much more advanced today. As the footprints grow smaller, one could only imagine what a semiconductor will be capable of.
After college, I needed a break. I was basically a double major in addition to Pre-Med. I wanted to earn some money before going to medical school. I interviewed with several corporations for software engineering, design engineering and technical sales. I was awarded offers in all three categories, but it was tough for me to decide. Technical sales combined both sides of my personality, so I chose it instead. With sales, I did not have to be stuck in a lab or office all day long. I needed autonomy, and technical sales provided flexibility.
I was young when I started working. I allowed a personal situation in my life to affect me on the job one day, although I do not think anyone noticed but me. I decided that if I were going to deal with personal situations during the work day at work, I could not allow it to affect the quality of work I produced. On the day I received unsettling news in the office, I quietly excused myself.
I also learned to be prepared and then, prepare some more. In the heat of competition, some people will do anything to win a competition for the best presentation. When a career presentation is on the line, always be aware of your co-workers intentions and plans. Their actions may make you appear less than prepared or knowledgeable.
In my instance, specifically, two of my co-workers decided to play some music during my presentation and reenacted a commercial or movie clip for comic relief. I was not fully aware of what they were planning to do and their full-frontal body bumps caught me off guard during my portion of the presentation. That song, “The Night at the Roxbury” still haunts me to this day. I switch the station whenever it comes on.
School does not adequately prepare you for how a specific company does business. A student may learn software in college, and the professional version is 180 degrees different from college training. College demonstrates that you have an aptitude to learn. The experience is a strong indicator of what the person will do to succeed on the job. However, the skills are not one-to-one transferable.
I got up to go to work because I had bills to pay, and because it was what I was taught to do. I did not advance far enough in my position to accomplish anything particularly noteworthy. I did, for the most part, like the people in my office. My direct manager was easy to get along with, and he was accessible. I had a stronger relationship with his manager, however, and would have liked to work with him more. In fact, most people in the office were nice, on the surface, at least. Sometimes, it is difficult to gauge someone’s true intentions.
I studied electrical and software engineering. I was most frustrated that the company was slow to adapt new ideas. The company was conservative in terms of change. However, new leadership has changed their attitudes towards new advancements.
I made approximately $70,000 with a company car and other perks. I had two weeks of vacation, but never took advantage of it. For a single person, the salary was adequate, but taxes were unbelievable. After paying rent, saving for 401K, paying health insurance and paying for other job-related expenses, there still was not a whole lot left over. I also did not live a miserly life. Overall, the job was satisfying in many ways.
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