Of course, you know the story doesn’t just start and end there…..if you know me, there is usually an intense life lesson to go with every milestone. SO seatback and enjoy my story, hopefully, it can help you as well.
The story starts back in late 2020 when I transitioned to my current role which is in Business Development aka Sales. The role was sales but it was still within my expertise of recruitment, student support, hiring, etc so I was ecstatic. I’m a natural relationship builder, connector, connoisseur of all things student engagement so I thought it would be smooth sailing BOYYYYY was I wrong.
Although I nailed my sales calls, I struggled to develop a strong sales process, a sales mentality (competition over collaboration), and a general rhythm of managing a pipeline, nurturing current relationships and executing on active deals. It didn’t help that I got almost 0 onboarding. For many months, I felt isolated and like I had made the wrong decision. I was constantly comparing my numbers against my co-workers and second-guessing my approach. So naturally, I sought out help and inspiration in the form of community networks. I joined a group called Sistas in Sales (SIS) another called Women in Tech Sales (WITS) and a third one called Accelerate Her Future and I became OBSESSED with gathering content about sales. I did LinkedIn learning courses, asked lots of questions, and developed many strategies and it WORKED because my numbers started to pick up.
Somewhere along the way, I convinced myself that my next opportunity was going to be in Tech Sales. After all, I had learned how to do sales methodically and I have always worked adjacently to the Tech industry so of course in my head, my next role was going to be Tech Sales. Sooooooo as the career coach that I am, I decided that my next step was to learn more about the industry! My plan was to have lots of conversations; to talk to the folks who recruit for Tech Sales, talk to the folks currently doing Tech Sales and folks who have left Tech Sales. Over the next 6-8 months, I had these conversations with professionals in Google, Salesforce, LinkedIn, TikTok, Shopify, and everywhere in between and I always left the calls feeling great but lacking something. People would ask me why I was interested in tech sales and I would do my spiel but somewhere deep down I didn’t necessarily believe it.
So when this new opportunity for Manager of Graduate Careers came up, and the director encouraged me to apply, I had made up my mind that I wasn’t going to accept it if it was offered to me because the role was not in tech sales…..nevertheless out of respect for the director I applied in Oct 2021. I didn’t hear back until Dec 20 that they wanted to interview me on Dec 22nd at which point I was already living my best life in Lagos….. If I’m honest I had just closed my laptop for the year and gone on holiday so I didn’t want to have to be preparing for an interview but I decided to do it just to hear more about the role. I remember that day in my house, my cousins, sisters, and mom helped me prepare but the running joke was “well at least, you don’t really want it so there's nothing to lose”. The interview was a BREEZE and I had a blast! One of the least nerve-racking interviews I have ever done, I thanked them for their time and went back to enjoying my holiday.
Fast forward to mid-Jan, I had just come back from Nigeria and I got an email from my new boss asking for my references and I thought to myself “well that escalated quickly” LOL…. but still I thought “Nah I don’t think I will accept” but I wanted to see it through so I called my current boss to tell him I wanted to put him down as a reference. That conversation started a chain reaction of deep conversations and introspection because he told me to seriously consider the role because it was a good opportunity for me. I was genuinely shocked because throughout the recruitment process he hadn't encouraged or discouraged me, he remained neutral but when it was crunch time he was encouraging me to go for it. So I started to think about it methodically!
Something about “TECH SALES” didn’t seat well with me and I was still trying to figure it out BUT now I had less time to figure it out with another offer in front of me, I had to think fast. Here are some of my thoughts ……
Sales Personality - I struggled with the idea that I didn’t “fit in” as a salesperson. I knew that I didn’t have the same passion for it that my co-workers did and I didn’t have that deeply competitive nature. I am MUCH more collaborative and process-oriented than outcome-focused. I don’t have the “by any means necessary/ ends justifies the means” quality…..funny enough there was a time when I was outcome-driven but somewhere along the way, I realized that it DOESN’T matter if you hit a goal if you were MISERRRRRRABLE the whole time. I have definitely evolved into someone that cares about the journey as much as the destination if not more.
Do I even like Tech? - I know I started my career hiring in the tech space, I know I then transitioned to supporting business technology students and that my current portfolio was supporting tech partners BUT do I like Tech?! I think the answer is Yes and No. The tech industry is alluring…..everyone knows someone that works in tech and they are living their best life - working on cool projects, unlimited vacation days, high pay, free snacks, casual dress, what’s NOT to like right? BUT then again I asked myself "do I actually CAAAARE about Tech?" Like as a person! I’m not a TECKY, I don’t get excited about new gadgets, the worst thing you can do to me is to give me an instruction guide to install new technology or fix something on my website. I don’t care about the latest updates and features. I do LOVE that I can use technology in a very tangible way to advance my life. When it comes to productivity (monday.com text expander, Grammarly), health app (step tracker, body fat scale, meallime, better practice etc,) and social apps (LinkedIn, Instagram) I absolutely LOOOOVE it but then again do I just care about being efficient, my well-being, and my relationships?! I think it might be a bit of both.
Lastly, I had to think of whether or not I liked tech sales - if Sales doesn’t match my personality and I don't really care about Tech, Why did I pursue this “Tech Sales” Idea? well, I think for mannnny reasons. When I joined those communities, I was suddenly exposed to so many black and brown women KILLING it in sales. They were passionate and inspirational and they reminded me of me so naturally, I thought these are MY PEOPLE. Those groups also brought a lot of access, I was talking to recruiters, rubbing shoulders with the Tech GIANTS and it wouldn’t be hard to network my way into a Tech job. In my head, I owed it to all those black women coming behind me to see a woman like me get into the industry because there were so few black women in the Canadian tech sales landscape. I also thought if I can make a small fortune that wouldn’t hurt….side note- I remember when I was at one of these sales conferences, and this black woman talked about her 500K bonus cheque! 500THOUSAND DOLLARS!!!! to be fair she also said it was her best year but she landed in the hospital for weeks after from exhaustion and ill health. She did warn us that in her worst year she only made 80K in commissions and I just kept thinking, do you know how many trips to Bali even 20K can get me?? 😂😂 . The purpose of that conversation was to teach us to value wellbeing and wellness in the sales industry because it can mean burnout/ill-health. I also kept thinking about that bible verse that says “ What does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and lose his soul?” But I was still bargaining with God (“what if I just did it for like 2 years lord? ) LOL what can I say, I’m still human.
Anyways, these were all the reasons NOT to turn down this offer but I still had to think about the reasons to ACCEPT it. It's not enough to say yes to option A just because option B is now closed, you have to consider why option A works for you…..so I did that, these were my thoughts.
Career Coaching - This new role involves coaching Graduate Students (MBAs, MScMs, MHA, and PhDs). Anyone that knows me knows that I am deeply PASSIONATE about supporting professionals with their career, life, health & mental journeys, but it was not immediate “yes, I want to do this again". The reality is that I used to do career coaching full time and I burned out of coaching all day and coaching all night with my side business. So I had to ask myself “do I want to do this again?!” And then I realized that this time would be different because I AM DIFFERENT! I’ve grown, I’ve developed boundaries, I’ve gone through a global pandemic PLUS the students are different. The conversations are also different because students have different backgrounds, experiences, and expectations. So ultimately I decided, I LOVE coaching professionals, I’m good at coaching professionals, so do what you LOVE……I also realized that the reason I’ve spent so much time in the tech space is that the Toronto Tech scene is largely made of startups. I was drawn to founders, not because of their “Tech” ability but because I love entrepreneurship and this opportunity would allow me to support entrepreneurs because the Ted Rogers MBA has an entrepreneurship focus.
Increased challenge - Knowing I was going back to do career coaching, something that was in my “comfort zone” my next question was “where will I grow in my career, if I’m doing the same thing, I’ve always done? And then the leadership component of this job spoke directly to that. In this new role, I would become a 1st-time Manager with 2 direct reports and 3 new portfolios 😱😱😱 that’s definitely a BIG opportunity for growth…..but then my next thought was ahhhh imposter syndrome, you don’t anything, you are 5 years old AND immediately I was like NOPE.NOT.DOING.THAT. I have been prepared for this, I just finished an MBA learning about leadership, I know the program and the school like the back of my hand, I have supportive leaders I can still lean on my team! + God’s got you.
Lastly, I started to think about what it would be like to be a black woman in leadership because you know representation matters - I spent a lot of time feeling guilty about letting my black and brown sisters in sales down! I felt weirdly like a coward/failure like I couldn’t cut it in sales…..I subconsciously thought “you see, you have just perpetuated the stereotype that women don’t do well in sales” BUT my friends and community didn’t let me stay there! My roommate said to me, “you don’t like sales, you don’t like the idea of making already “rich companies richer”, you did not fail you excelled in sales, it just wasn’t for you! And it's NOT your responsibility to do something because #RepresentationMatters. She told me that there are other women in the space KILLING It, and that I didn't need to be unhappy to uphold this weird responsibility. She re-reiterated that I DID not fail, and reminded me about something I always say to my coaching clients which is “Just because you CAN do something, doesn’t mean you SHOULD”. Another friend of mine said to me, by accepting this job, you will be a black female leader in post-secondary in one of the best business schools in Canada, this is NOT a failure but you rising to the occasion and showing other black women that this is possible.
So with all those points, I decided to ACCEPT the offer :) and I LEGIT cannot wait to see what’s coming up next! And who knows maybe one day I might find myself in Tech in Talent Strategy or something but for now, I can’t wait to start the next chapter of my career.