Tuesday, 27 March 2018

The Curious Case of an IT sales guy

“We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology”. — Carl Sagan(American astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, author, science populariser, and science communicator in astronomy and other natural sciences — Basically a guy who knows more stuff than you ever will even if you lived for 500 years)
My journey into the wonderful world of IT began about 6 months ago when I joined an IT start-up. I was interviewing for the position of a Business Development Executive who hardly knew jack about software. How hard could it be? Coders code and they make apps — nothing too complex, right?
Before the interview I managed to look at the company’s website. I thought I just need a glance so I know what their tech is — DevOps, Containers, Microservices, Docker, Kubernetes, Cloudforms, Ansible………………….
WHAT IS ALL THIS? Whatever happened to the good old IT websites — We create apps for Android and iOS? What the hell is a container and where does it even go in an app? And Ansible — just sounded like the name of the coolest rock band ever!
I did crack the interview and managed to get in as the new business development executive. Yaay — All I have to do now is meet people and tell them about what we do. I have my MBA in Marketing. This is my bread and butter. So on the first day I get a few links from our CEO — links that I needed to read so as to understand the company better. So I started reading them one by one.
Inception and Interstellar looked like child’s play in front of these articles. I was absolutely dumbstruck by all these terms. Was this even English? What the hell am I reading? I realised that the only way to understand these things better is to ask the Neo’s and Trinity’s of this Matrix world — Our Engineers. I went around the office asking everyone to spare some time and explain what they were working on. I was sure once someone explains it to me I would understand it. So I sat with each one of them with a pen and pad in hand. They talked I just wrote it down. After an hour long session I had collected enough notes to write my own novel about the IT industry. I sat down on my desk, opened up my laptop and decided to create documents regarding each project and the various types of tech that were used. Upon opening my notepad I realised that I could actually write Hebrew(slow claps). This wasn’t supposed to happen. I couldn’t understand or even remember a single thing what the engineers told me. What do I do now?
The IT industry just chews you up and throws you out if you don’t belong in it — this was my conclusion. Escaping was never an option and therefore I knew that I had to win this battle. I was told by many that you’re in sales so one only needs to speak numbers. Not knowing in detail is okay as long as you sell it. I could just memorize and do my job like many other sales folk do but I needed to know. I needed to know why does the apple really fall.
I knew I had to start from the bottom and work my way up. Information was the key. I needed a lot of it and soon. Where should I look?
Of course — The Internet.. Thanks Timmy Turner !!
I knew just googling stuff and reading random articles wasn’t going to help me. I strategize a little and then went about gathering information. There are things that you certainly need to lookup if you are going to master the tech terms:-
  1. Reading Blogs — Lots and lots of blogs. Its okay if you don’t understand them at the beginning. Normally bloggers don’t throw you directly into the deep end. They start off generally with just the toe-dip. Reading blogs helped me understand how the tech world works. I understood the crucial role Open Source has played in taking the IT world to even greater heights. From a DevOps perspective I went about searching for What is DevOps — How does it help the business — Prominent players in this domain — How it is implemented — What tools are used — Future of DevOps.
  2. Videos — Videos are one of the best resources available for learning. A lot of these large corporations have uploaded various videos regarding their products online. They are very informative and give a very clear idea regarding the product. Further to this you have people who post up videos of tutorials and demos. One need not understand the technical side — the terms that they use are keywords which one must note and google later. Everything starts to make sense and the dots are connected almost instantaneously. Try subscribing to some of these channels on YouTube and ensure you watch each new video that they publish. Follow channels of companies like IBMBMCRedhatAWS etc. Then we also have channels like edureka! and The Linux Foundation.
  3. Stalking — By no means in the creepy sense. There are some personalities you will come across during your research of a particular field. These experts give a lot of talks, publish blogs and even speak at large events. Make sure you follow them on their social media. For DevOps, Gene Kim @RealGeneKim was the guy I followed. Find your Gene Kim and follow him.
  4. Online Courses — Yes, yes free courses. God! There is a lot on the internet which is free(apart from illegal streaming of movies) and one of those things happen to be online courses. You can select from a wide range of courses on websites like CourseraClass-CentraledX etc. I undertook a marketing and sales course from HubSpot’s training academy. It really has helped me better understand how to strategize content marketing. Although this course was non-technical it gave me a clearer vision to tackle obstacles in the IT sales process.
  5. Seminars/Webinars — Where to look for these? Follow large organisations like a Microsoft, Redhat, IBM etc. They keep having various free seminars or webinars which may feel like a sales pitch but you will learn a lot. Its like watching a very detailed advertisement — So instead of learning about how a certain soap softens your skin you will learn in depth how a certain product ensures that your data is protected. The more you attend the more you learn — simple.
  6. Ask Questions — Keep asking questions on portals such as Reddit and Quora. Clear your doubts and also receive various different insights from people across the world. Sure you will come across a few A-holes as well who will ridicule you(We destroy them later — mark in you calendar the revenge date). I found Quora to be very useful.
  7. Keep Collecting Literature — “An Investment In Knowledge Pays The Best Interest” — Ben Franklin. Keeping reading and keep increasing your literature. Subscribe to tech newsletters — I managed to gain a lot of information from DZone.
Did I just impart knowledge? Self appeasement to stroke my ego — so please ignore the above image or else please join the applause. I know what I just shared are simple and some pretty obvious steps to increase one’s knowledge in any field. But I did share — sharing is caring(Cringe worthy)
Let’s look at today. It’s been almost 6 months since I joined this IT start-up and I couldn’t be more happy. From a sales perspective I now have my answer why the apple fell. It’s now possible for me to meet people and talk on tech and yet there are still so many new things I need to learn, with regards to sales as well as the ever dynamic tech world. It’s fascinating how quickly things change in this world. If you have to survive here you need to keep reading and keep learning new things daily. Its vital that you keep repeating the steps I mentioned above. I still keep reading fascinating things everyday about the tech world — AI, Server-less computing, IoT, containers etc. Do I fully understand it? No! I still keep reading it. Something is different now — IM NOT AFRAID ANYMORE!

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