Should you abandon your previous career to jump into a more rewarding one? Not necessarily. Ché shares his path to tech and tells how he benefited from his previous experience by transferring his soft and hard skills to his new role in tech sales.
To begin with, what did you do before your first job in tech?
I used to work in the paint industry. I dealt with chemical coatings.
What was your background before you decided to get into tech?
I went into the military when I got out of high school. I was in the Navy for three years. After the Navy, I had several different jobs. Actually, I had to make street paint for a company.
Years after that, I started going to school to get my business degree, and I went into a manager training program. The manager training program took me to Sherwin-Williams, and I stayed there for a good 17 years.
Through those years, I was at different manager levels, and they transferred me to different states. I've seen a lot and moved my family a lot. I got to a point where I didn't want to keep moving. I wanted to do something else and wasn't feeling as fulfilled with the position and the money couldn't be better. As always, money is always a thing. I didn't care about the industry itself, really.
Do you remember the time you started considering a possible career shift?
I had broad experience in the field and wanted to take a look and see what else I could do. The main issue was constantly having to move. I don’t mind traveling, but the constant moving was way too much for me. My wife and kids are in Atlanta, Georgia. The kids love their school there and my wife thrives. I’m from Cleveland, Ohio, but I moved around the US for a while.
I was on YouTube one day looking for different opportunities. I didn't even think of schooling or anything; I just wanted to see what was out there. I knew tech was an option, and I have always been into gadgets, but I was unsure about learning to write code. I saw this guy, Cyrus, promoting the Careerist bootcamp. He mentioned Tech Sales, and I started doing more research on it.
At some point, I realized I didn't have any special experience. I liked that Careerist walks people step by step from the beginning in addition to having an internship opportunity. I thought it was meant to be and jumped into the training program at the beginning of January of 2023.
It looks like this was a very considerate approach. How did you like the Careerist training program?
From that initial step, I realized that there were a bunch of people my age. I'm in my 40s. There were people both older and younger than me. You know, you always have that fear you’re doing something that nobody your age probably does. The majority in their 40s are used to “sticking in loyalty sand” and that’s fine. On the other hand, younger people strive for money and life level. Hence the community is awesome.
You can't just blame it on your mentors. You can't just blame it on the people teaching you different lessons each day; you have to ask a lot of questions. There are no stupid questions. And network with your cohort, and your team there, because everybody's trying to come from different backgrounds, different ages, different nationalities. And we're all trying to do this transition into tech. Tech is going to be here forever.
Did your family support you? How did they take your idea?
On the “self” part of it, you start doubting yourself, thinking you’re too old to do something like this, or even thinking folks are going to look at me like I'm risking losing the security of my job. And so I had to really jump on the faith and prayers of my family. I had a lot of support.
That’s awesome to be supported by the ones closest to you. How did your job search go?
I was still jumping the gun a little bit because everybody was anxious to throw their resumes and stuff out. So did I, but once it was done, it went the way it was supposed to. I had to learn a lesson and see that neither my LinkedIn profile nor my resume was right. My cover letter was no good either. I learned a lesson and brushed it up. It’s worth trusting Careerist people and letting them guide you through this process.
It’s great to hear you’ve made it through. Did you join the internship provided by Careerist?
It’s my personal thing, but I didn’t join the internship. I feel that my seventeen years of experience have already made me a part of this. I used this time to brush up on my LinkedIn profile and profiles for other job boards we were advised to use for the job search.
Fair enough. How did your job search go?
At first, there were way too many rejections. I hit 300 applications easily because I was doing around 20 a day. At the end of April, I stopped for two weeks just to get my mind right. This pause in the tech job search helped me reconsider the strategy. Tech has different umbrellas and you have to go with experience to break into tech. If you have a finance background, you have to go into the finance part, and they're going to look at you more quickly. I have a chemical background, and I did nothing but chemicals with the paint industry and stuff. So basically, that would be like chem tech.
So I started looking at different chemical production companies hiring a Sales Engineer. The first one I applied for, they ended up giving me an interview, like a quick interview. An HR rep called me for a five-minute interview. We went to the next level, a Microsoft Teams interview.
Could you tell us a bit more about this interview? How did it go? Were you stressing a lot?
There’s definitely a story to tell. I had it scheduled for the next week and I did that during my lunch break in my car. I have never done MS Teams meeting over the phone before and was a bit nervous there.
That time I was interviewed by three guys: a president, a VP, and hopefully my future manager. I had my cheat sheet up, but I really didn’t need it because my past experience spoke for itself. I can tell for sure that I was guiding and leading them through the whole conversation. It was a lot of laughs and I felt it was too comfortable. I had a strong feeling I was going to be set up—you know when you simply don’t feel like being interviewed.
However, the worst part happened next. The sun was beaming on my iPhone and it got too warm over there. It probably got too hot and switched off. The next couple of minutes were super stressful for me trying to revive my phone. Once I made it back on Teams they were still there. So they looked at me, my resume, and each other and told me they wanted to bring me in for a final interview.
What was your on-site negotiation like?
So they flew me up to their core corporate office from Atlanta to Pittsburgh, put me in a hotel and everything, and took me out to dinner. The night before I felt that it was a setup again because everybody was laughing and they wanted me to grab a drink or something. It felt a bit odd because I was leaving a huge company, Sherwin-Williams, for a smaller company.
The next day after dinner, which went very well, it was business talk, personal talk, and of course, trying to get to know each other. They did a tour of the facility. And I think that was really just like I said, just to meet and see how our personalities mesh. Except for one key player; they wanted me to “catch the wave” with him. I thought it was a test I had failed.
That sounds like an awesome experience. Did you have any chance to negotiate your compensation with them?
I thought for my years of experience and what I'm bringing to the table, I should be able to come in at $98K–$100K easily. So I put it down, and then I scratched it out and put a higher number. And I said, “Well, it is what it is at this point.” I didn't know what was going to happen. I filled it out just for the people on file. I was biting my nails as the day went by. I heard nothing from them for two days. On the third day, I got a phone call. At some point, I was pretty sure they would reject my candidacy and were just calling to let me know they were not moving forward with me. However, they made the offer, and I made six figures and bonuses too.
I negotiated to actually get a higher income. And by the end of December , I will have a six-month review of my offer letter. I can possibly get a higher salary, around a 5 percent increase.
I didn't want to lose the vacation time I earned with Sherwin-Williams. So they maxed out the vacation over 27 days. And they said it was no problem to do that. You never know until you ask; it doesn't hurt.
Were you able to join them immediately? Did you have any time for transition?
They just asked me how long I needed to transfer to them and I gave myself a month. They understood I had to handle and leave the company correctly and different things like that.
Is it a remote or on-site position? Are you moving to Pittsburgh?
It is remote. I'm at home now, guys! Since I am in the chemical industry, I have always been hands-on more than behind a computer. I do computer work with reports and different things like that, and I’m learning how to code and communicate with my customers and my other tech colleagues or whatever. I'm in factories, and I'm doing tech demos of actual chemicals to the customers. I cannot say that Careerist didn't help, because they did. They helped me to break into this and see that I did have other options I could go with.
We’re happy to hear your dreams come true. Did you enjoy your onboarding?
They still do train you, even though I had to just get trained on the products, not necessarily the industry, because products change for them. The position was supposed to be 50 percent travel, but when I started they told me it sometimes might go up to 90 percent. I joined them in June, and as of September, it has probably been two weeks straight that I've been home—nothing too much going on.
They said it would be a 90-day training or longer. There’s no set milestone and it is pretty relaxed. Whenever we have any kind of issues, I'm humble enough that they invited me to the roundtable because it's always either me, my boss, the chemical director, the VP, or the president. And so we're all making decisions together. We're all doing demos together, and we value each other's input. So this is a dream I live in.
So it’s been around four months already. How does it feel so far?
All my customers are blowing up. So this has been a dream come true. I told myself I had to get a job before my birthday in July, and I did. I will not turn back. It looks like I’ll always be remote, even if it's 50 percent travel or whatever. I've been to Virginia, Pittsburgh, and Kentucky, and I'm probably going to Oregon soon.
I love it. My flight and hotel points are going up, and I'm enjoying something Careerist has instilled in me. But at this point, I mean this is just the beginning, and the sky's the limit. Money is always great, but just to have a work-life balance is priceless. I want to have time with my oldest daughter because she's a senior. I want to be able to take her to all these college tours.
Since you’ve moved from a bigger company to a smaller one, which one do you like better?
People think bigger is always more secure and the best for you. And that's not necessarily true. You become a number out there, and in my mind, I don't feel like they care, per se. I couldn’t just keep uprooting my family and moving all the time for the sake of every other promotion. You know, I think I'm being treated with a great work-life balance. The pay is awesome. And that the guys are just very helpful. And on the tech part of it—two thumbs up. So it's awesome.
That’s great. What are your plans for the future?
Since I joined tech, I’ve felt like it’s going to blow up even more. So now my future goal is to take Sales Engineer training. I probably want to do a cybersecurity one, as well, and become 100 percent remote. However, so far I’m enjoying it.
I see. And how would you describe this profession just in one word or phrase? Who is this person?
That's a good one. I am the only one who is here for the customer. I'm the product and tech expert because I'm dealing with the tech on all the machinery that they're running our coders through. On the sales side, I promote more product possibilities for them. I'm the problem solver, but I'm the all-in-one, go-to expert for them. So you have to love being on call for everything. You have to love that; you have to love learning. I'm constantly learning.
I guess I have to talk personally because tech is going to look different under different umbrellas. I have to learn all the machinery that my chemicals are going through. We do a lot of team calls, and I do a lot of CRM or Salesforce work. And that's really not too hard for me. Go into your industry. Otherwise, the training will be longer and harder. So I guess it just clicked in one of those dumb moments that I wasn’t looking in the chemical industry for this same description of what I'm trained for.
Sounds great. So your advice is just to try to look for jobs in the same industry you were in before you joined tech, because it will enhance the chances to get your dream job, right?
Exactly! Unless you are young; if you are young, be open to everything. Careerist is going to help you look at your background for this. Everyone has a different background, and some people can only do one or two jobs. Even having this, you still bring a certain set of skills and knowledge. It’s necessary to package up the things you have and get it right for your LinkedIn profile. Careerist folks help to get it right, and you can do the application trackers. So they're going to give you the right keywords and everything to put into your profile and resume and help you word things nicely to attract different recruiters. And now that I am in Texas, I get messages for Tech Sales Engineers, and it shows that I am getting more traction on LinkedIn. But I don't want to be a job-hopper. I'm giving myself time to grow with this company for a little bit, maybe a year to build, and I’m also looking at cybersecurity stuff and taking free courses on that right now. I’m just taking it easy, and I just keep growing and learning. That's it.
Do you have any final words for Careerist graduates?
You have to believe in yourself. Keep trucking with it because there are a lot of different backgrounds out there, and you aren't going to bring something phenomenal to the table. You're going to have mental breakdowns where you think you can't do it. But I'm a true witness that you can double your income, because I was not at this income with all those years at my company. I was not in the same position with bonuses, a car allowance, an office allowance, and a company credit card. And I'm at home now. I'm relaxing. And you know, and I'm living to train to get out of it. Wow, I used to see people do it, and I'm really in it now.
That’s an awesome story, Ché. You didn’t just shift your career; you’ve climbed the career ladder and doubled what you were making before. We hope to hear back from you in a couple of years to learn more about your journey! Learn more about Careerist Sales Engineering training here, and consider upgrading your career today.