How I went from high tech sales to marketing to entrepreneurship…
to getting joy from creating AHA moments for other entrepreneurs on their journey to success!
Being an entrepreneur gives you the freedom to choose doing more of what you love along with the potential free-fall of failure. It’s all in the balance.
Most of all though being your own boss or leading a small team is entirely different from being a ‘good employee’ (the grown-up version of the ‘good student’).
I was the quintessential ‘good student’ and became a ‘really good employee’. Took me a long time to learn there’s a huge gap created by having that mindset in your own business: you give too much away and ask for too little in return. That’s a feature of everyone’s perfect employee, right?
But, turns out, that’s a great feature in helping people learn. I LOVE doing all I can to see someone’s eyes light up, to get that AHA moment that enables them to see an easier path forward. That game-changing insight that accelerates them on their journey to success.
Back when I first started my career, working in sales for IBM, my drive to do everything well worked great. I got fun projects, great accounts, worked with wonderful people who taught me a lot and were very good at their jobs. There’s a lot to love about sales. The energy can’t be beat. The comradery is unmatched in any other discipline: everyone has everything on the line all the time and is strategically moving this forward incrementally constantly. Sales reps all ‘get’ each other. And they may not make good team members, they make great partiers for celebration or commiseration or kicking off the new commission cycle.
Moving into marketing was a bit of a shock. First of all, most marketers have no experience in sales and have no clue what customers actually say and do or what matters to them beyond features of a product (and believe me, product features are just table stakes, not what puts you over the finish line). I was shocked that people could be in marketing that had no understanding of the decision-making process. I did my best, worked at accomplishing all my tasks, and became a well-recognized employee.
When I started consulting on my own, I figured I would use my sales and corporate experience of working to the objectives of my customers. Well, that would have worked if I’d started with a financial understanding of my own value first. That took a long time to hit home for me, but it finally did.
I didn’t fully understand the whole dynamic of working hard for other people’s objectives and how that related to my value until I started teaching for UC Berkeley. Then I began to see how I acted – how I revamped my class after every semester and summer session, how I worked to simplify the concepts down to their very essence to help create those AHA moments. How I was possessed by a need to demystify marketing so that people could see how it really is just a basic human process that they can understand and engage in.
Then I had my AHA moment:
I had mistakenly been pre-diagnosed with a condition that would have meant I had just months to live. I realized during that time that while I love consulting and the game of creating results, what really moves me is helping people learn. That I could let go of everything but that. I would do that until the moment I can no longer do anything on this earth. Wow… that was revealing to me.
You have something that makes you feel that way. Could be related to what you’re working on now, or maybe it’s an art, or a hobby, or a dream. Life is short: if you’re not doing something that gives you energy and fulfillment, then think about shifting your focus.
We all have a gift we bring to the world.
This is mine: an ability to take something complicated completely apart, dissect it down to its basics, and then reform the explanation of it in those human terms so that everyone and anyone can both understand it AND see how to use it for themselves. I choose to do this with marketing concepts in courses. In the past I did it with math, with coding, with computer hardware, with all kinds of complex subjects. I love seeing people ‘get it’. Seeing eyes light up with possibility.