Career Transition: Engineering/Design to Strategic Sales

The big thing going on in my life over the last year or so has been my effort to transition from being a designer and engineer for Rockwell Automation to being a member of our field sales organization. As you know from recent postings, I finally succeeded. As of January 3, 2005, I will be an Account Sales Engineer in our Baltimore office rather than a Software Project Engineer in our R&D facilities in Cleveland.

In many ways, this is a huge transition in my life – and Teresa’s. I have been in Cleveland since 1993 and at Rockwell since 1994 (with a year off for good behavior at Chiron in ’98-99). We have moved to a new city, leaving many good friends and colleagues back in Cleveland. We’re selling our little Bay Village bungalow which we’ve been in and working on since February 2000. Teresa has (finally) left Lorain County, Ohio, where she spent many years working with the community and government organizations in different roles. And, of course, I’m moving from a product-side engineering role to a field-side sales role. I have a lot to learn about the lingo and day-to-day work of sales.

In other ways, however, this is a natural and easy transition. Being back in the Virginia/Maryland area feels right. We love the hills, the ocean, the bustle, the East-coast, mid-Atlantic groove. The house we put an offer on feels a lot like the home and neighborhood in Ohio (only more expensive and with more sunshine). And my work in engineering has always been concerned with bringing our actual customer and user work closer to our product decision-making. Now, I’ll be embedded with a set of specific customers, helping them evolve their own systems and businesses, using Rockwell Automation products and services to accomplish their goals.

Culturally, sales feels better already. Many, many extroverts who live out there in the world every day, rather than the somewhat isolated and cocooned world of product design and cubicle-farms. In sales, nearly everyone drives all over the place to get their work accomplished – it’s very distributed. In engineering, I was unusual in roving the building and other parts of the company every day. In sales, it is natural to strike up a conversation with someone you’ve never met before, and to go out of your way to meet someone and influence their thinking. In engineering, that was usually considered rude or tactless. In sales, it is natural to take risks and reach farther than you were sure of. In engineering, there was often a huge amount of analysis poured into every decision and claim.

I’ve always been an uncomfortable engineer. I’ve always done everything differently and challenged assumptions and structures. I’ve always put inordinate amounts of work into get groups and teams of people to move off the mark. I’ve never enjoyed coding. In sales, I will have more responsibility for my own performance and success. The day-to-day work will result in tangible revenue for the company, for me, and for my accounts.

I’m excited and curious to see what parts of this new role really jazz me and which parts irritate me. Every job has portions of both, hopefully more of the former. What I’m sure of is that I have the passion, the drive, and the energy to make it work. And I really like everyone I’ve met so far in my sales branch. And I like and trust my manager. What more could I ask for?

Stay tuned. I hope to share more of my thoughts, emotions, and other reactions to this big move.

This entry was posted in Sales. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Career Transition: Engineering/Design to Strategic Sales

  1. lcbnaidu says:

    I really enjoyed reading about your transition from sales engineer to sales rep.You have excellent thought process and your formulation of sentences are very good.You can write best selling book

  2. Jim says:

    Thanks for the kind comments. Over a year and a half into this role, I’ve got much more to share… but no time! I will make some time shortly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *