You're an Engineer. Why Would You Want to be in Sales?
by Guest Employer | October 16, 2018
This week’s blog is written by Kevin L. Parker, Regional Sales & Marketing Operations Manager for Rockwell Automation, Inc. and 2011 Ohio State B.S. Mechanical Engineering Alum.
"You're an Engineer. Why would you want to be in sales?" I’ll never forget my mom asking me that question. I understood where she was coming from. She’s the one who had to listen to me complain about the busy weeks and all-nighters (usually self-inflicted) that came with engineering. To her, it seemed like a waste of a technical degree. If that’s the direction I wanted to take, why wouldn’t I have pursued a business degree? In actuality, I considered that at one point but Scott Lab was pretty cool and new at the time, plus we had motorcycle parking right in front! What my mom failed to recognize then, were the experiences and career opportunities that come with technical sales. She has since come around.
Reflecting on my experience at Ohio State, I have fond memories of my time in the College of Engineering (except for the weekly Chem labs, I could never seem to get those reports just right). The exposure to various technical career paths was welcoming, yet I couldn’t help but wonder what life was like outside of traditional engineering. I certainly fell into the category of, “I have no idea what I want to do with my life” and as I made my way through junior-senior year, I found myself asking questions. Which industry should I choose? What kind of environment do I want to work in? What will I do after my first position as an engineer? I struggled to find an answer to these questions as the time leading up to my final Career Expo dwindled away.
Then I had a conversation that changed my life. I was working at Ohio State Calling as a Student Caller. During one of my shifts I connected with an OSU Engineering and MBA Alum and we got to chatting. After he reminisced of his time on campus, he shifted topics to his career experiences and offered some advice as a fellow engineer. He spoke about things I could relate to, like committing to an engineering discipline, being on the fence of a traditional engineering position, and wondering what else was out there. During our discussion, he suggested I consider the same path he chose, and that was technical sales.
I spent the following weeks leading up to the Career Expo evaluating options. As I dug deeper into technical sales, I became obsessed. The preconceived notions I had about “sales” changed as I learned what companies were looking for; someone who listens, works well on a team, provides insights, is consultative, and solves problems. They were describing engineers, and they were describing me! The best part was, the technical sales roles I was pursuing actually required an engineering degree. Business school wouldn’t have been the right path after all.
I was ecstatic when I received an offer from my top choice of companies and training programs. Since then, I’ve spent seven years with the same company, all within the sales organization. I’ve learned that you don’t have to fit a stereotype to be successful in sales. All it takes is the ability to empathize with customers, provide insights to help them be successful, and pull in the right team when needed. It does require drive, and a bit of grit, as it’s not always easy. The exposure to different industries, technology, and people make it all worth it. Nothing beats the variation in your schedule, and the occasional flex office session on a Friday afternoon.
Engineering and technical sales is just the beginning of my story. I encourage every engineer to keep an open mind throughout their careers, even if your own family is questioning you!
"I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions." - Stephen Covey