Escaping the sales suit

David is trying to climb out his sales suit, and he’s off checking out tech stuff such as the cool Ruby on rails. This is interesting and reminds me of when, ten or so years ago, I had exactly the same problem: I was, at that time, a disgruntled laywer frantically trying to build a profession in the IT field. At that time, the business side of the Internet was starting off, and I was a bit ahead of the pack since I was already a long time Linux user, an Internet fanatic and a tech-savy guy using all sort of hacks appearing online.

However, my humanistic background was biting hard. The two companies I joined in my early professional years were all small shops run by friends and acquaintances with a strong formal technology background (engineers, CS majors and so on), so being myself a lawyer, I was “confined” to the sales world and allowed only sporadic excursions on the technical side which – at that time – meant running an opera fan site.

Phone calls to customers, offers, CRM (well, we didn’t call it that way ten years ago) and all that boring crap took the best part of my day job, and it took me just little more than a year to become incredibly bored and desperately willing to sort myself out before insanity would kick in.

I figured out I needed some sort of technical certification, but attending university again was out of question for a number of obvious reasons. I then decided to accept a lousy helpdesk job at one of the major italian ISPs. That, apart from the ridicolous wage, has been a life-changing experience since I had the opportunity to put my skills to work and slowly climb the company ladder until I became responsible for a few large customers of their colo facility (which meant doing real sysadminning jobs on large infrastructures). The rest is history: once I had on my CV, a lot of doors were opening, and I started my formal career in the IT world.

However, I don’t regret the time I spent doing sales, something that is again part of my daily job (although I trick myself into calling it “Business Development” so that it doesn’t sound as bad as being a “sales guy”): a sales background is incredibly effective when you need to make technical decisions of any sort, to avoid the clean-room effect where you don’t have any clue on what the market really needs and what your customer wants. Also, sales techniques are part of any human relationships: even on the technical field, aren’t we selling and buying ideas everytime? I know that’s a pretty blunt way to depict a collaborative environment, but if you look at leadership, a good deal of it is being able to convince and influence people, which is a sales-like process (neural marketing, maybe?).

Are you sold on this?