Author Topic: Switching careers - from developer to sales  (Read 3515 times)

Grog

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Switching careers - from developer to sales
« on: March 02, 2016, 11:39:06 PM »
Hi fellow mustachians

I was conducting my happy and relatively calm life as a function developer / system engineer (writing control algorhitm, state estimator, designing plant models and such). It is a nice cozy job where I get to use many things I learned at the university.

Then, out of the blue, a company contacted me through Linkedin and asked me if I was interested for an opening. They knew I was working with their product and wanted to know if I was interested in becoming a techincal expert to support their process of sales. Preparing small demonstration, travelling, talk to potential customers, dissipating their technical concerns.

I know that many things comes into play (salary, commute, vacation time, etc) but for the moment I would like to hear about people who made a similar switch...did you miss being a developer? Implementing your own ideas and bringing a product into the market? Did you regret going for sales?

Did somebody switch back from sales to development? I would think is a little bit more difficult if you were out of the industry for years.

I would like to hear opinions about the nature of the job, without thinking about the rest, but for completion of informations:
- I'll get a 10% raise minimum (maybe more, is still not defined)
- My commute by train and bike will shorten by 20 min each way (from 55 to 35 min)
- I'll have to work 15 minutes less a day (42 hr week instead of 43.5)
- I'll have 5 weeks vacation instead of 6 and less religious festivity (2-3 additional day per year)
- I'll be travelling 10% of the time (but I'll be home every evening, small european country) + a couple of weeks per year in another country (I have an 8 month daughter, so I would hate to go away for a long time)
- today I can more or less wear anything that resemble clothes, in the new job it will be suits and shirts
- at the moment I find my job fascinating, but sometime I really hate developing in front of a screen all day long. There are days where I practically don't talk to anybody and I'm staring at the screen 10 hours. I don't have a problem in talking in public, doing presentation and the such, so that would be a nice change.


I'm very torn at the moment, my colleagues are fantastic and right now that I'm the middle of the interview everybody is coming to me with great new ideas for new stuff to do in the nex months/years and I actually feel sick at my stomach and kind of want to throw out....

caracarn

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Re: Switching careers - from developer to sales
« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2016, 07:01:30 AM »
My two cents is that the job itself is very different.  To me those are the issues that most people would struggle with.  Only you can answer if you will miss the problem solving and creative work that is development versus the walking through an established, repetitive, sales process on a daily basis.  It is similar to a developer moving into an application manager role.  I have had developers who transitioned well, but others begged to go back because they felt administrative tasks mind numbing. 

The list of things you mention are more quality of life issues, but the job itself.  I have made the change from a technical to a management role years ago but I am comfortable in both.  This helps when I manage teams because I can get into their detailed thinking as we brain storm solutions, but I would absolutely irritate them to no end if I then offered to code a section.  My role now if to guide and provide them direction and resources, and then step out of the way and let them shine.  This will be a similar transition here where you help is getting a customer excited about the product but then someone else gets the product working for them.  That's not you anymore.

That is what you need to think about.

mozar

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Re: Switching careers - from developer to sales
« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2016, 11:58:27 AM »
I wouldn't leave for less than a 20 percent raise,  but I live in the USA. How many years have you been in your current position? Are you ready for a change?  I wouldn't go to sales with a 2 year old at home. Travel time may creep up. But I'm still speaking as US citizen,  it's common here for employers to lie about travel time.

Grog

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Re: Switching careers - from developer to sales
« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2016, 01:15:36 PM »
Hi caracarn and mozar
thanks a lot for the replies, lots to think about. I still have to do the real interview, up until now was only one hour at the phone + some email, but thank to you I already know what to ask (a little more detail about travel time, etc). What I know about the position is that my job is to get people excited about the product and deal with the technical issue, but I won't deal with numbers and selling and shipping and so on. I'll be the technical face and expertise, but I'll travel always with a "real" salesman, not alone. This would probably mean slightly less administrative tasks. And I'm 100% sure I'll be home most of the evening, I know all the industry using the products and they are at most 2 hours car away.

I think I could be a good fit; sometimes developing is really frustrating, projects get continuously cancelled and in my actual company we spend 20 % time developing and 80% of the time trying to solve an endless list of bullshit (my personal opinion is that is kind of absurd to ask for 6 signature of 6 different manager for a 20 usd dollar expenditure, but it is what it is). But when it works, its really a good feeling. But on the other hand my job is 100% screen time, not so many meetings or presentations, so that would be a nice change. I'm slowly realizing I'm not really an "all day long screen" kind of guy.

Btw I've been a developer for 6 years but I've been with the actual company since 2 years. I'm 30.

DebtFreeBy25

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Re: Switching careers - from developer to sales
« Reply #4 on: March 03, 2016, 09:47:26 PM »
I'd advise you to get a feel for your potential employer's expectations regarding sales volume and activity. Check reviews on glassdoor.com or the like. I've worked in both sales and technology development (sales first), and they're very different.

Your experience in sales is largely influenced by your employer and direct supervisor. Often it's difficult to understand how a company's sales organization operates until you've actually worked there. I'd start by finding out about their employee turnover rate, growth projections, management structure, etc. Be very cautious about any income projections they state. The potential employer is trying to sell you on working for them, and over-promising is extremely common.

mxt0133

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Re: Switching careers - from developer to sales
« Reply #5 on: March 04, 2016, 12:05:30 AM »
And I'm 100% sure I'll be home most of the evening, I know all the industry using the products and they are at most 2 hours car away.

I'm not sure how they do things in Europe but here in the states you are out until you make the sale, granted it's mostly the sales guys taking out the clients.  But don't forget about conventions, where you are expected to addend dinners, weekend events, ect.  It is all part of the sales process and I know you will serve as the technical expert but you need to be clear on what a typical sales engagement looks like.

Grog

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Re: Switching careers - from developer to sales
« Reply #6 on: March 04, 2016, 12:18:43 AM »


And I'm 100% sure I'll be home most of the evening, I know all the industry using the products and they are at most 2 hours car away.

I'm not sure how they do things in Europe but here in the states you are out until you make the sale, granted it's mostly the sales guys taking out the clients.  But don't forget about conventions, where you are expected to addend dinners, weekend events, ect.  It is all part of the sales process and I know you will serve as the technical expert but you need to be clear on what a typical sales engagement looks like.

Thanks, very good points. There will be moments like this and weekend event but usually the evenings are considered 'holy' and for the family. It is actually quite rude to propose dinner and to 'work' in the evenings.

Sent from my YD201 using Tapatalk


PowerMustache

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Re: Switching careers - from developer to sales
« Reply #7 on: March 04, 2016, 01:46:45 AM »
I made a similar switch very recently from a technical role on an engineering team to a sales support engineer role. For me, it was absolutely the right choice and I have really loved the new job more than my old one. I too did not like the long hours alone at my computer with no interaction. The new job has lots and lots of interaction. I find that interaction with people sustaining for myself personally, more than I miss solving the technical challenges. But you may find it different for yourself.

My new role has zero travel. I also work with great people on my new team, which is always hard to know before making the move. There will always be some uncertainty and risk with a switch.

As far as moving back to a technical role, I think it depends how long you are away from the development side. If it's just a year or two, I think you could move back and actually may be better at your old job in some ways, since you have seen a bigger picture and have better insight into how the customers and sales people think. Even if you are away longer, you should still be able to move back, but it may be a setback for your career instead of a boost.

If I were you I would go for it and try it for a year or so. If you don't like it you can always move back and then you'll know for sure what you like. But in the end it sounds like you have two very good options, you just need to decide on one and go for it. Can't really go wrong!

Axecleaver

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Re: Switching careers - from developer to sales
« Reply #8 on: March 04, 2016, 02:03:40 PM »
Technical presales jobs can be a lot of fun. I did this for a couple of years when I was moving into a management role, and I interviewed for a bunch more. I learned a lot about people, sales, and marketing.

The downside - there is often a lot of tension between sales and engineering, and now you get to live in both worlds. You will get some pressure from sales to stretch the truth about your product - never tell a customer "we can't do x" - instead you say "We're working on a feature that will allow our product to do x." That can be a tough spot to find yourself in.

As part of the sales team, you should ask about commission. Even a small taste as part of your comp can be really motivating and meaningful. Consider trading hard comp for commission based comp.

Fishindude

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Re: Switching careers - from developer to sales
« Reply #9 on: March 04, 2016, 02:16:10 PM »
Don't fully understand your work or the position, but as an employer, I've not seen much success trying to use technical people in a sales role.
It really takes a pretty rare, special personality type to be effective at sales.   Can it be learned .... yes, but it's much faster and easier if you start with the right personality type.

2Birds1Stone

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Re: Switching careers - from developer to sales
« Reply #10 on: March 04, 2016, 02:22:25 PM »
I can only speak from experience at my current company.

I work as an Account Executive (salesperson) and my good friend is my pre-sales engineer. He came from an engineering/product management role and absolutely LOVES the switch.

He works remotely 50% of the time, allowing him to spend a lot of 4 day weekends in his vacation home in the mountains of Vermont (we work in NY). He gets a VERY healthy base salary plus a nice chunk of commission on top, and has very good job security since sales are the safest during annual layoffs.

Grog

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Re: Switching careers - from developer to sales
« Reply #11 on: March 05, 2016, 12:05:08 AM »
Technical presales jobs can be a lot of fun. I did this for a couple of years when I was moving into a management role, and I interviewed for a bunch more. I learned a lot about people, sales, and marketing.

The downside - there is often a lot of tension between sales and engineering, and now you get to live in both worlds. You will get some pressure from sales to stretch the truth about your product - never tell a customer "we can't do x" - instead you say "We're working on a feature that will allow our product to do x." That can be a tough spot to find yourself in.

As part of the sales team, you should ask about commission. Even a small taste as part of your comp can be really motivating and meaningful. Consider trading hard comp for commission based comp.

Thanks. I imagined that technical presales sometimes really has to stretch and enlarge the truth....We'll see how I see, for instance I absolutely love working with this product and that's a plus, I couldn't imagine being presales for something  I don't like or even desdain.
Next week I'll have the big round of interviews, good point about hard comp vs commission comp. It was definitely something I wanted to discuss.