Differences/Similarity Between College and Tech Sales
A year ago I was gearing up for my final exams and impending graduation. Today, I find myself in the midst of Oracle's Q4, helping to close out another fiscal year. Our fiscal years end in May, mimicking the same waves of work that I grew to know through schooling and university;
"Summers are moments of reflection and preparation; fall is a whirlwind of change and new opportunity; winter brings a sense of urgency; spring reminds that another year is upon us"
While the feelings are familiar, the substance is different. College was about managing simultaneous, parallel streams of information. Taking different, separate classes and achieving excellence in each of them. Now, the streams have merged. I am no longer juggling between subjects, but finding value in a web of information. My goal has evolved. Instead of making sure I am not leaving something behind, now I must be sure I am not left behind.
In comparing college to working in technology sales, I have noted two marked differences and one important similarity.
- The first difference I see is that my projects are not assigned. I must create my projects. In college, I was assigned a paper, research, or a presentation with specific guidelines. Now, I have goals to meet, but the project creation and management is my own. My manager may have suggestions, but ultimately my business is a result of my organization and creativity. Each individual on my team creates and implements unique strategies. Some of us tailor information dissemination to our customers. Others use company resources and events to gauge interest. Our methods of communication are also varied. We have metrics, but they are not our focus. The true measure of our success is not in what we do, but what we create: opportunities, customers, revenue.
- The second change is harder for me to accept. In school, we could all be successful. Questions had right and wrong answers. Professors gave us exams to test our understanding and application of a very specific knowledge set. There was not a palpable sense of victory or loss. Now, there is a zero-sum game. My customers only need one technology. I can do my best work, and lose. I can be right, and lose. I could be wrong, and I might win. The correlation is not as clear as it was in college. This is a hard lesson, but an important one. It highlights the intensity of the similarity I've seen in college and in work: relationships.
- In college, going to office hours, reaching out to my professors, cultivating friendships with classmates could be the difference between understanding and confusion before an exam. Building strong relationships led to my success in the classroom and facilitated my move to the corporate world. My relationships with teaching assistants and professors allowed me to learn about opportunities and know I had a strong pool of recommendations when the time came to ask. We move through several stages, from school, to university, to work and onward throughout our career. There is instability and uncertainty, but our ability to build meaningful relationships can keep us steady.
The change has not been easy, but all three points have a unifying factor: being proactive. I must create my projects. I must accept responsibility of my wins and losses. I must build relationships. The focus is inward. And it's scary. But it's also the best lesson I've learned.