Why tech sales? A graduate’s perspective

Many thanks to Iona Theobald, a 2019 graduate of Geography, Economics and Social History, for her guest blog. Iona takes us through how she transitioned from the University of Edinburgh to a Tech Sales role with Cisco.

Road to Technology Sales…

Leaving school, I had no idea what career path I was going to take, and chose my degree purely on my interest and passion for humanities. I studied Geography, Economic and Social History, and I can honestly say I loved my degree. I enjoyed the breadth of topics we studied, the research and field work we participated in, and the analysis of data. When thinking about ‘what next’ nearer the end of my studies, I realised I wanted to be able to put the skills I had learnt in my degree into a career.

A particular highlight in my degree was researching and writing my dissertation. I researched the impact of technology in Singapore being used to help ‘green’ the city. This was my first real taste for technology and what it can actually be used for aside from allowing me to message my friends and stream movies. After writing my dissertation I knew I wanted to work within technology, whilst being able to use the skills my degree was teaching me.

Throughout my time at university I was lucky enough to get a range of internships and work experience that helped narrow down what I wanted to do. I also held a few brand ambassador roles whilst at university and this included marketing and selling the products of the brands I was working for, and I found myself really enjoying it.

In the summer of third year I was also lucky enough to gain some work experience at Cisco. During these two weeks I took in as much as I could about what Cisco did, their products, and spoke to as many people as I could to really get a feel of the Cisco environment. It may sound cheesy but I was taken aback by the culture, and knew once I graduated, I wanted to work for them.

What is my role?

As of October 2020, I am just two months into my role as an Associate Sales Representative. For the first six months of my graduate scheme I participate in daily training to learn and gain an in-depth understanding of Cisco’s technology portfolio as well as building upon my professional skills, with world class sales and leadership training. After these first six months I will progress onto the sales floor, shadowing account managers for the next six months, before ‘graduating’ to become an account manager myself, and selling the Cisco portfolio.

Once an account manager, your real role is to add value to businesses, understand their problems and come up with the right solution to not only fix these issues but also drive their business growth for the future. It is this ability to add value that is incredibly interesting and rewarding. Not only do you need to have an understanding of Cisco’s portfolio, but as an account manager it is your responsibility to bring your team of engineers and specialists together at the right time to provide the most value for the customer.

Having started my role in the midst of a pandemic, my experience so far has been 100% virtual, and honestly in testament to the culture at Cisco, I haven’t felt my learning or development has suffered one bit. We train as a class with another team based in Frankfurt, with regular breakout groups in which we brainstorm ideas and pitches for products. It really is a team environment, with everyone supporting each other, and the trainers are fantastic at not only developing and pushing us to learn but also facilitating this atmosphere. In terms of meeting those not in the graduate cohort, we get involved in the rest of the team’s weekly meetings, have had a virtual social, with many reaching out to us to offer advice and support if we need it.

No matter how senior the employee, I have found they are always willing to help and no question is a silly question. This again is testament to the working culture at Cisco; everyone is there to support and work with one another, which is definitely something that attracted me to working at Cisco. You are also given a great mentor throughout the graduate programme and beyond; they are always there for a helping hand, and have been so useful in providing us with an idea of what happens outside of our training, whilst we are still learning in our virtual world.

Parting advice…

When looking for your what next, I would say take a look at what you do now, whether that be academically or in your spare time, and look at the skills you are: 1. Good at and 2. What you enjoy and want to develop further.

There is no correct degree when getting into technology sales. In my cohort, degrees include business studies, engineering and history, to name a few. I would say the key skills you require are an ability to be curious (ask questions), listen, have an interest in technology and a desire to build strong relationships.

Whilst I am still very much new to the world of technology sales, I would say I can’t wait to further progress in my career. I was told by a mentor ‘every day is a school day’ and I truly believe this is what it is like. At Cisco you learn something new every day, you have the opportunity to add value to businesses and facilitate their growth, and be consultative as much as a salesperson. It’s a fast-paced environment, but if these are things you’d like to do every day, I couldn’t recommend Cisco enough!

If you are interested in joining me at Cisco please check the roles we are currently advertising to University of Edinburgh students and graduates on MyCareerHub.

You can also find me on Platform One if you would like to know more about my journey and this area of work.

Cisco are also hosting a #SkillsForSuccess session on digital interviews and virtual assessment centres on Thursday 3rd December, 2-3pm. It’s a great opportunity to hear from a Cisco University recruiter and learn some handy interview tips. Book your place via MyCareerHub.

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