The Challenges and Strategies of Switching Your Career to Tech
18 Aug 2021
In this article, I want to share my experience of transitioning from the banking to the tech sector as a Sales and Business Development Specialist, what was new and different for me in the sales process from the experience I had in Banking, as well as address some of the potential challenges and opportunities that you may face in tech. Moreover, I’ll share some tried-and-true tips to help make your sales efforts more effective and organized.
In the meantime, feel free to join my network on LinkedIn, and let's exchange ideas.
Does Experience Matter?
Many of you will have noticed that most tech companies are looking for relevant experience when hiring a business development manager or sales specialist, which makes sense. They conduct business on a global scale, use special tools to manage the sales process, and require their sales professionals to be versed enough to make fast decisions on the spot. Finally, taking too long to onboard new sales specialists may result in significant financial loss, because B2B tech companies tend to have long sales lifecycles and low conversion rates as it is.
However, some tech companies do give junior specialists a chance, providing them with an opportunity to grow and become key employees for their organizations. This is exactly what happened in my case. Given my strong desire to make a switch to the tech industry, I joined VOLO as a junior Business Development Manager despite my five years of work experience and advancements in the banking sector. Since I already had Sales and Client Management experience, I wanted to pursue my career in a similar role in a tech company; otherwise, I would have to learn a new profession from scratch.
New Industry, New Challenges
If you, like me, are thinking about a career transition from your industry to Business Development in tech, be ready to face some challenges. It’s only natural: after all, you are breaking away from the familiar, changing your routine, and venturing out into the unknown. Don’t panic, though. Knowing what to look for will make the transition much smoother. Here are some tips based on my own experience.
The first serious challenge I faced at my new job was LinkedIn. It is difficult to dispute the significance of social media platforms in the modern business environment. When it comes to social networks, companies like VOLO rely heavily on LinkedIn for their marketing, networking and sales efforts considering the platform’s 706 million user base of professionals and 55 million company profiles.
To be honest, before making the move to the tech sector, I wasn’t much active on LinkedIn, so my very first steps were aimed at optimizing my profile, enriching it, and building a professional network. In an effort to combine network building with sales outreach efforts, I started connecting with people from the local tech community and with potential leads. In the process, I came to realize the importance of being active on LinkedIn, posting frequently on topics your chosen audience will find interesting, as well as staying engaged by leaving valuable comments under other users’ posts. Slowly but surely, this will help you build a professional image, make you a thought leader within your network, and make you more trustworthy in the eyes of your sales prospects.
LinkedIn is also known for its sophisticated Sales Navigator tool that makes your life much easier when it comes to B2B lead generation and allows you to send messages (InMail) to people with whom you’re not connected. Sales Navigator also gives you access to more detailed company insights (employee statistics, funding events, etc.), which you can use to make your messages more personalized.
The next serious challenge for me was the transition from corporate culture to a working environment that runs on Agile. Having worked for five years in banking, where a hierarchical management approach is carefully cultivated and applied in day-to-day operations, it was undoubtedly difficult for me to integrate into a new agile environment. Instead of dealing with countless departments, each with its own managers and clearly defined functions and responsibilities, the Agile mindset encourages cross-functional teams and minimal hierarchy.
For those of you who are not familiar, Agile project management was initially created to improve software development processes. However, it is currently applied in various industries. This is not surprising, considering the fact that this approach contributes to better product quality, lower risks, higher flexibility, and continuous improvement. So, if you are contemplating starting your career in tech, I strongly recommend that you start reading up on Agile, its principles, and values. Luckily, there is more than enough information on the web to give you a solid understanding of its concepts. For starters, you can check out the Agile Manifesto.
Getting in on the Tech JargonNo matter what type of tech company you are going to work for, whether it is a SaaS or an outsourcing business, it is still important to have a general idea of the software development lifecycle, the structure of a development team, and the role each specialist plays in a particular project. In addition, you can learn more about commonly used technologies, the kinds of software solutions they are best suited for, and which software components they cover (frontend, backend, DB, etc).
Building on Your Own Experience
Working in tech is becoming more and more attractive to young professionals. Many people decide to change their jobs and learn programming, quality assurance, project management, etc. But keep in mind, you can smoothly transition to the tech industry without learning a new profession. All you need is to choose a role that your skillset and experience can cover.
I know, it probably seems like too much to take in at the moment, but keep in mind that you already have a good foundation to build on, especially if you have previous work experience. The skills I acquired while working in banking have helped me on many occasions in my current role, too.
First of all, it is the good knowledge of written and spoken business English that I acquired during my years of work. As I was working at an international bank where all internal written communication was in English, it gave me an edge in adapting more quickly to VOLO’s processes.
The next important skill that has proven helpful to me in my current line of work is my general management capabilities: be it the ability to handle the actual sales process, listen to potential clients, ask the right questions, work with objections, instill trust, and, finally, make timely follow-ups. Having gone through hundreds of sales calls, B2B meetings, and cross-selling activities while working in a bank, provided me with a wealth of experience to handle the sales processes confidently and efficiently.
However, do keep in mind that the business development process is not just about setting up a call or a meeting, during which you have to convince the prospect to buy your product or service. The business development process in tech companies has a long lifecycle and consists of a number of steps like market research, lead research, lead generation, and analysis. It helps to have honed in on your analytical skills in order to cover this part of your job more effectively. My education in economics and years of experience in a financial services company have definitely helped me in this regard. The bottom line is, no matter what professional background you come from, you’ve likely amassed a number of useful skills that you can apply in this industry.
Your Career Prospects
At this point, you are probably wondering about your career advancement opportunities as a Business Development professional in tech. So, let’s talk about what sales or biz dev specialists can expect when working in this industry.
Demand for Sales and Marketing professionals, especially those with experience in tech, is huge and continues on its upward trend. After joining a Tech company as a junior specialist and working there for at least one year, you’ll not only have a chance to grow and advance in your own team, but you’ll also become competitive in the labor market and attract the attention of other tech companies.
Also, after gaining practical experience in the field, it becomes easier to switch between Business Development and Marketing roles. Take time for your personal development. Participate in specialized trainings, take online courses, and read professional development books. Who knows, maybe you’ll find that switching to Marketing is the right path forward for you.
Having experience in both Business Development and Marketing will eventually play a pivotal role in advancing to CMO, CRO, Head of Growth, VP of Sales and other similar executive roles. Finally, you’ll have a good background to try yourself in the role of an entrepreneur.
Hope that you found these insights helpful. Here are some key takeaways:
- Register and start building your network on LinkedIn.
- Learn more about Agile, its role in developing a new mindset, and its practical use.
- Try to understand the digital product development process.
- Don’t have experience in tech? That’s not a problem. Start with a junior position – it will make it much easier for you to choose in which direction to move forward, and you’ll know exactly what skills or knowledge are required for that.
- Combine your experience on the job in a tech company with continuous learning self-improvement.
- Whether you’re in Sales or Marketing, do not limit yourself to one direction.To grow, you need experience in both.
- Finally, choose a profession you feel most authentic in and who required skillset align best with yours, even if there are others that are higher paid and considered more “trendy” and at the moment. Any trend is temporary, but good specialists will always be in high demand. Do what you love and can excel at.