Emmanuel is one of our first tech sales graduates. Curiosity motivated him throughout his course and led him to discover a new lifestyle, a new mentality and many new opportunities. His job search was one that was made up of attentiveness and persistence, and it is one that everyone can learn from.
Discover how he achieved his goals below.
Did you have any technical background before you joined Careerist?
I had no technical background at all. I think the most technical background I had was being able to use the Internet and that was about it.
Why did you decide to become a tech sales specialist?
I had some experience with sales. And I decided to switch my career. I was working as a line cook at a restaurant when I started thinking about switching jobs.
I wanted to go back to doing sales, but a lot of people told me that if I really wanted to have a bright future that I should learn how to code. You know, find a 12-week coding bootcamp and then start looking for a job, but coding was never really for me.
Anyway, the Internet has a way of putting two things that you search for together. And one day when I was looking at jobs in sales, while also entertaining the thought of learning how to code and becoming an engineer, the Internet put these two things together for me and came up with… tech sales! Careerist popped up not long after that, and that was that.
That’s interesting. What inspired you to work in tech sales?
I think that my experience in sales made me feel like I could do it. Particularly when I found out what the role was and I started to do a lot of research, which was before Careerist popped up into my scope of view.
As I read more and more about the role it made me feel as though it was exactly what I should be doing. It’s more consultative, it’s sales but just in a different sort of way. It made me realize that working in sales is what I want to do, and I want to be in a customer-facing role, that’s more consulting-based, and in a job where I can demonstrate the tech I work with.
When I used to work in door-to-door sales you could make very little in a single day, or you could make a lot - $150 - but that was commission. There wasn’t a basic salary. You either sold items or you didn’t eat dinner.
I started comparing sales engineer roles, or tech engineer roles, to this job and I realized that it was the same work in both jobs. The only difference was that sales engineering workers got a basic salary, which was usually pretty good.
At some point, I decided that the money was a lot better, and the role was much nicer, so I knew exactly what I wanted to do.
So you already had a wealth of experience as a sales specialist and you decided to marry it with tech?
Yes, that’s right.
Okay, when did you start your studies at Careerist? And what was the most challenging part of the course for you?
I learnt about the tech sales role in May, and by the end of May I’d signed up for a course. I started Careerist at the beginning of June. The course was over by the end of June.
I would say that the most difficult part for me was… nothing was too difficult for me. Everyone at Careerist made everything super easy to understand, and the team organized their classes extremely well.
My classes were Monday through to Friday. I did have to change my work schedule, so that I could attend all the classes. But my overall experience with Careerist was great and nothing was too difficult.
Did you complete an internship?
During my time there wasn’t an internship available. Once I finished my course I went straight into applying for jobs. I was really energized during this period.
Let’s talk about your job search. How long did it take you to find work? And how did you apply for roles?
Careerist had software that was able to help me apply for jobs. They gave me a hand with my resume, and they helped me create a separate email address that was specifically related to my job search.
The software I used applied for almost 20 jobs a day, which was a lot. I kept track of them all in my emails, just in case I was lucky and got a couple of calls. The platforms I focused on were LinkedIn, Glassdoor and Monster. I tried to stay away from the latter two and I didn’t apply there. I used LinkedIn to find a job.
The entire process was about six months in total. I started from not knowing anything about the role of a tech sales engineer and finished by finding a job in October.
I landed a role in one of the biggest CRM companies in the world. That’s something I’m really proud of. A general LinkedIn search really did turn into a job for me - it’s a great tool.
Whenever I saw a job posting, instead of applying on the site, I would find the person who posted the job on LinkedIn and I’d contact them. I was hunting down HR managers and recruiters all the time. If I couldn’t find them, I would look for a different hiring manager at that company and contact them. I would usually send out this sort of message:
“Hi, my name’s Emmanuel and I’ve got this … amount of sales experience and I’m currently growing my tech background. I saw that you were hiring for … position and I was wondering if I could ask about who your ideal candidate would be and the role itself.”
A lot of people appreciated me being proactive and reaching out to them personally. And very often they replied to me with “Yes, sure, let’s set up a call.”
These calls often turned into interviews and I appreciated this a lot. In addition to this, I was also asked by many recruiters about “What stopped me from applying for the job normally”. I told them honestly that my lack of super technical experience held me back from applying for jobs through the application systems.
So, I remained very upfront and honest with recruiters and, I guess, in turn, what I managed to do was let these people know that I was interested in working with them.
I would also ask recruiters questions related to what experience and knowledge I’d need to gain to become an ideal candidate.
To be honest, not all of the roles I applied for had the title “sales engineer”. But whenever I spoke to someone I’d always make a habit of telling recruitment teams how my sales experience would be of great value to the role they were advertising.
Being proactive is how I landed my job. I was able to show recruiters that I had the makings of a really good tech sales engineer.
Can you tell us how you managed to remain so proactive?
I was told by a number of people that I didn’t have the right experience for the job they were advertising. But I wasn’t discouraged by this because I had a different mindset. But I know a lot of people will be discouraged after hearing such things.
We’re living in an age where applying for jobs is more about who you know rather than what you know. You can learn about tech, but it’s not so easy to learn soft skills, like interpersonal skills are hard to master, and maybe they can’t ever be truly taught.
When I started looking for a job I came to the conclusion that talking to people on LinkedIn and reaching out to them personally was best. My mentality was - if I connect with the people then I will actually build connections - I’ll get to know people. I would spend time talking to sales engineers all the time, I’d ask for their opinions and for advice - I really inserted myself into the heart of the field.
In doing so, I really learned about what it meant to be a sales engineer and what experiences these individuals have, and that meant that my mind turned into that of a tech sales engineer for real.
How many interviews did you go to before you got a job offer?
The funny thing is, I don’t know the exact number.
I used to keep a spreadsheet, and I know that at some point I reached the final interview round of five different companies at the same time.
Usually at this stage of an interview process they give you an assignment to complete. Generally, they were not easy and all of them were different. I don’t work at any of these five companies at the moment.
I experienced a lot of rejections during my time, and I know that I applied for around 150 jobs for sure. I actually attended 27 interviews between July and October.
Do you think it’s true to say… “The more you apply the more calls you get and therefore possibilities”?
I agree with that to a certain extent, and the reason for that is that you have to think about yourself. If you’re not getting better after every call or rejection you’re effectively wasting time. After every call you have the opportunity to take on board the recruiter’s advice and feedback to get better. You could apply to several different companies and learn something new every time.
I definitely think that if you apply to more jobs, you definitely have a better chance of finding something for yourself, but it’s also about getting better.
When I started applying for jobs my resume was going out to a bunch of different places, but nobody was giving me a call. So, I felt that there was something about my resume that didn’t reflect who I was. Therefore, I had to tweak my resume. After that I started sending my resume out again and I got more calls. That small change had worked.
Then after a while I noticed that I’d get calls, but the conversation never moved on from there. The recruiters would give me feedback and it was always super helpful to me. From then on I did my best to implement what they said. After making this change I started getting to the second rounds of interviews.
Whenever I got the chance to speak to a recruitment team I’d always ask “What do you want to see more of?” Then I’d apply what they’d told me to make sure I fitted into their company. It may sound complex but it's a very strategic process.
After receiving a couple of rejections, did you work with your Careerist mentor to improve your resume and interview technique?
Um, it was mostly my job to tweak my resume because I was constantly learning and improving based on my experiences, but still, I can’t say that the whole job was done by me.
Careerist assigned a mentor to me who was amazing! She would check in with me at least once a week but usually twice a week. She would also practice my interview techniques with me, we would also do role play and she would ask me random interview questions, and coach me through how to answer some questions.
There was also a document that Careerist gave us to study that had the most common interview questions listed on it. We had this so that we could learn the questions, become more confident and be well prepared for interviews. Knowing what questions we could be asked gave us a better idea of what to expect on the day. My mentor always made sure that I was well prepared for interviews.
Great to hear that. Can you tell us about your job?
I’ll be honest, I feel like I work in a millennial’s dream job. I was a line cook in May, and I was able to triple my salary within six months.
Right now I’m doing a lot of training and onboarding exercises at one of the largest, and most robust CRM companies in the world. My training and onboarding will be three to six months long. The company is making sure that I understand my role really well. They don’t want me to be suck, which is good, because that would impact my confidence.
The team I’m working with at the moment trusts me and we create our own systems. I find this interesting because I haven’t had much experience in this field yet. My team consists of seven people, including my manager who is just amazing. The team varies in experience, there are people with little experience and there are individuals with a huge amount of experience, so it’s very good. The team is very encouraging and supportive. I feel like I’m doing research most days.
There is also a lot of roleplay right now, and this is where I get to practice making deals and doing demo preps. Over the next few weeks I’ll be learning how businesses make money now, and how they can make their business grow. My job is to demonstrate how the software we sell will be implemented into a client’s business. It’s all about the value the product will bring to the client’s business.
Early on in my job, and knowing that I didn’t have much work experience, provoked an illness known as Goodpasture syndrome to occur. It took me a really long time to recover from it. During this time I developed quite a negative way of thinking, where I constantly put myself down and didn’t believe I belonged in my job. The syndrome does go away eventually. My company is actually okay about hiring a person with limited experience, but I have been concerned about this and I hope they don’t change their mind.
You are working with many other tech sales specialists at the moment, what are they like?
I think a tech sales person is a person who is always thinking about the problems they have to solve. From what I’ve seen, the clients we work with just need somebody to show them how our product will add value to their business. Tech sales people are very good at noticing the technical problem and the business problem. These things are very different, and are very much separate issues.
What’s your advice to someone who’s not sure if a career in tech sales is for them?
Honestly, I had no tech sales experience before completing the course. I guess people need to stop thinking that you need to have a 4-year long degree, or some other serious certificate, to prove you can do this job.
That’s not the key to your success because this role is very personal. You need to have lots of different skills, and if you look back at the jobs you’ve done, you’ll likely see that you’ve already got a lot of these personable skills. You need to focus on the skills and experiences you’ve already learnt, and then apply this to the job you want.
There are also more opportunities than you think, so strategic applying will help you find a job.
Do you work at the office?
I’m 100% remote. It’s a different speed from what I’m used to because working remotely means you have so much more freedom… I can have a nap during lunchtime [laughing] - just teasing. You know, I love my job and I really enjoy it.
How do you motivate yourself when you’re working remotely?
I think just being in my role is something that helps me a lot. My role is something I can speak about all day everyday. This is definitely my dream job, and I enjoy thinking about how I can solve various problems, or how I can let my clients know that their businesses are about to explode with growth.
I was talking to my fiancé recently and we asked each other about what we’d like to ‘change’ in our life. Then we started writing down what we were doing right at that moment to help us achieve that ‘change’.
We were both surprised by the fact that neither of us were doing anything at that moment to make a change in our lives. We didn’t seem to have a goal or a direction to go in. You see when you have goals, you keep them in your view and everything you do helps you to achieve them.
We have both sat down since and written down some goals. Right now my goal is to be promoted within a year to a principal solutions engineer role. This goal is just one of many goals that I have set. Every time I lose my motivation, I think of why I’m doing my current task and it helps to keep me on track. I know that I have to keep training hard, keep learning and eventually I will reach the principal solutions engineer role.
What are your plans once you become a principal solutions engineer?
I would love to give something back to the world in some way, and I definitely want to see more people in this world.
I want to change the world for people who are underprivileged, for people like me, an African-American male who didn’t have too many, or was not exposed to many opportunities growing up, and for individuals who don't have a degree, certifications, or a sufficient amount of work experience and are often rejected by recruiters.
I was lucky to find Careerist and to land a decent job. I’m in a good mental place now. In the future, after being promoted to a principal solutions engineer role, I would definitely want to become a part of a program that helps other tech sales engineers. I’m all about helping other people to find their way and to improve their quality of life.
Thank you very much for sharing your story. I am very happy to hear about your successful journey! I’m sure many of your fellow graduates will be motivated and inspired by your efforts.