From Ops to Sales

It’s been about nine months since I made the jump from an operational role to a sales role. I have been in operational roles my entire career, so it was a different direction moving into a Systems Architect role at Cisco. These months have flown by and its been great to see the other side. If you are thinking about making the move from ops to a sales role but are unsure of what to expect, keep on reading. I’ll be diving in to some of the myths I’ve heard.

“But David, what does a Systems Architect do?” is a question I often hear. As a Systems Architect my focus is my customer. I serve as an advisor. There are times where I’m asked questions on products, there are times where I’m creating a bill of materials, times I am making suggestions, putting together presentations, or simply listening to concerns. My goal is helping my customers realize their vision and reach their business goals. There are of course sales that happen during that process, but my priority is to be a partner and help guide them forward as the technology around us continues to evolve.

Myth 1: You are no longer hands-on.

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Everyone is different. Some people don’t want to be knee deep in CLI or in some configuration. Coming from an operational role, hands on was ALL I did. Sure, I no longer need to wake up at 3:00 AM to figure out why some router is cranky, but I did not want to give it all up. I maintain a lab at home where I can try things out. If customers have certain questions, and I have the tech to try and lab something, why not? There are times where I want to try things out in a lab to provide some guidance or results. Let’s not forget education. There are opportunities to be hands-on with technology you haven’t had the opportunity to dive into. Education does not ever stop and hands-on is one of the best ways to learn. In the end, it is all up to you.

Myth 2: You need to know everything.

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When I clicked the button to submit my resume for the job, I thought to myself “I don’t know everything. I have experience in A, B, and C…but not D, E, and F. I’m probably not going to get it.” While interviewing, I quickly learned that you do not have to know everything. The portfolio is vast. Concentrate on your strengths and learn what you can from the other areas. There is a big team of people that can help. An example is Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI). It is something I have not had experience in. However, if a customer is interested in diving in deeper or even learning how ACI can elevate their org…I can lean on the team that supports ACI and bring them in on the conversation. It helps to learn what ACI is and how it fits into an organization, but I surely do not have to be the ACI expert, unless I wanted to.

Myth 3: You are stuck.

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So you made it over to the sales world. I guess that’s it. You’ll be selling stuff for the rest of your life. Well, only if that is what you want to do. At least when it comes to Cisco, there are so many places to go. As soon as I got here, my leaders started making sure I was looking for mentors and putting together a career game plan. I can dive deeper into a certain technology, perhaps go the Customer Experience route, seek a managerial path or pretty much jump in any direction available. It is nice to have options and no you are not stuck.

It does take a bit to get used to not having to be the one to put out fires in production or plan out some elaborate change request. Now my worries are making sure my customers are putting out their fires in production or trying to find out what their elaborate change request is. It was a welcome change and breath of fresh air. If you’re on the fence, make the leap. You’ll never know where the road will take you.

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