Navigating the Sales Career Path
Ever wondered how to get a job in Sales, or how to further progress your career? Our panel of inspiring women will discuss their own experiences navigating the Sales Industry, tackling challenges and achieving their dreams.
If you want to apply for a role at Cloudflare but are unsure of what the best fit would be for your skillset, please apply using this link and the Recruiting Team will follow up - https://boards.greenhouse.io/careersday/jobs/3085504?gh_jid=3085504
And we are back live. I always like to start my sessions like this. I don't know, it gives me so much energy before a live session.
But today I am super happy to have the three of you on Cloudflare TV as part of our Women in Sales Day.
And we are going to speak about navigating through or navigating the sales career path.
And the three of you all work in sales roles at Cloudflare right now, but you do have or did have like a long journey going through different experiences.
Somewhere we've been with us for a couple of years already.
Isabella, you're currently transitioning as well.
So I'm very curious to find out more about your next steps as well.
But before we head into introductions and the actual conversation, I'd like to remind our viewers that please do feel free to connect with us on LinkedIn, but also submit questions using the small email address that should be visible on the right bottom corner, if I'm not mistaken, called livestudio at Cloudflare.tv, or submit your questions using the LinkedIn event chat, and we're happy to go to answer them as part of the conversation.
As part of the session, because we're talking about careers as well, I obviously also want to highlight that we continue growing as an organization globally, as well as specifically, because we're in EMEA and hosting this in EMEA time zones, we're growing our sales teams massively, whether it is account executive roles, expansion, like Vaso, you're going to share a little bit more on that, as well as our business development teams, marketing teams, and solutions engineering.
So do check out our career website for opportunities, and also feel free to submit your applications if you don't find the right role, but you're still interested to look if potential opportunities may come up.
As I mentioned, we continue growing, so new opportunities come our way naturally, like I always like to share with candidates.
Just very briefly to myself, I'm part of the recruitment team.
I'm here at Cloudflare since over two years now, in the meantime, based in Germany, started off in London, and I think I've met the three of you live already.
It's such an interesting way to say, given the times we're living in, but I'd love for you to introduce yourself briefly as well, and let's kick off with you, Yasmina.
Perfect, hi, and thanks for the honor to have a speak today.
So yes, I'm Yasmina, obviously, and I've been in sort of sales since 2012, which means that is a good 10 years, of which three and a half years I've been at Cloudflare, and sort of my first position in a full tech sales environment.
I would say before that, I sort of dabbled my feet in the tech industry, because I was a recruiter focusing on Microsoft, back when sort of SharePoint 2019 was still the coolest thing to play with, which is a while ago, and that was sort of my first introduction to tech and tech sales.
So that's my background.
Before that, I was a sales representative selling products to people, and we'll talk a little bit later on sort of what the difference is between tech sales and sort of non-tech, so selling products in that environment and what that means.
Yeah, I think sort of that sums it up for now. I work in the Bund-, or maybe one last important thing, I do work in the Benelux market.
I speak Flemish, so that's obviously an added value, and I know the market quite well.
But you're based in London, right?
Yes, Mona. And I'm also based in London currently, not in the office, obviously, in the comfort of my own room.
Yeah, that's great to hear. And actually, on a side note, we just recently opened up a new entity in the Netherlands, so we're expanding the team there.
And just a quick one, how long have you been with Cloudflare now?
Yeah, so I've been with Cloudflare for three and a half years.
Great, and you've gone through a journey with Cloudflare as well, but I'm looking forward to speak about that too.
Vaso, over to you. Thank you. Thank you so much, Anna, for giving me this opportunity to be part of this nice, let's say, company and speaking about what is close at heart.
So I'm Vaso, and I started my sales journey in 2015, where I started working for GoDaddy.
This is where I started my tech sales journey, let's say.
And then in 2017, in January 2017, the sirens of London and Cloudflare lured me to Cloudflare, and I've been working at Cloudflare since.
My background is completely not techie, non-techie. I used to be a teacher.
I was teaching German and history back in the day, and here I am now selling, let's say, being in the space of tech sales.
Great, Vaso, thank you so much.
And Isabella, over to you. I actually just recently had the chance to meet Isabella live in our Munich office, and obviously great to see you on the panel today as well.
Yeah, thanks for having me. I love these sessions because you learn so much about your colleagues.
I actually didn't know that, so very, very interesting.
So my name is Isabella, and I'm, as Anna just said, I'm working in the Munich office in Germany for Cloudflare as a strategic business development representative.
And I am at Cloudflare since now one and a half years, which is crazy.
Time is flying. It feels like I started yesterday. And with Cloudflare came my first tech sales job and ever sales job I've ever had.
So I started international business and management and technology at the TU at Munich, and I actually have an IT background.
But then somehow through the company, the products they have, the services and the jobs they had, I decided to start as a business development representative, which is basically in sales.
But I also learned that probably sales is not sales, like it depends where you are.
And I realized that at Cloudflare, it was the right point to start the sales tech career, and I'm happy that I'm at Cloudflare now.
That's super great to hear. And actually, when we briefly connected to discuss the subjects we'd like to go through as part of the session, and I think one of my very first questions to Vasto, Isabella and Yasmina was, how did you actually end up in tech sales?
Or how did you actually end up in sales?
Because every time I'm talking to my colleagues within the recruitment industry, probably like around 75%, if not more, including myself, say, well, you know, you just start working somewhere and you end up in recruitment, the path sort of leads you there without any like conscious steps towards it.
And then you end up there and you make your career within recruitment.
But you, the three of you already started briefly talking about, you know, your journeys and how long they've been.
But have you made the decision to consciously start a career in sales?
Or did you just randomly ended up working in sales? Maybe Isabella to kick off with you, because you just started talking about your university degree and how you moved to joining Cochlear.
Sure. So I remembered when I first had the interview process and I remember like, I wasn't quite aware what sales means.
Like, I didn't know what the jobs you do, like what would be the jobs you do.
But I quickly realized that I sometimes say I'm like, we're not selling, we are helping.
And I think this makes a huge difference.
And it's so nice if you see like the clients we have, the need that is there, it's super nice to see that whatever you offer is helping people who are in need.
And I think the topic cybersecurity is so important.
And it's so nice that sales at Cloudflare is somehow the mediator between the technology we have and the solution we can offer.
And this is how I realized that it's the perfect job as well to start to.
And I think the technology we have is awesome.
And so it makes fun. It's more like history lesson probably about telling people what we can do rather than.
Yeah, I don't know. Yeah. So you sort of throughout your university or your studies, you decided, okay, you really want to dive into a career in sales and hence you decided to apply for sales role.
Is that right?
That's right. And also the role as BDR, it's the starting role. You can basically do what, like it's a good starting role to get to know the company, the product, and to then decide if you want to stay in sales or become a solution engineer or started as a system or whatever.
So this was a nice role to start with.
That's a good point. Actually, I do. And that's my very personal opinion. I feel like for anyone graduating from university business development is like the best first job you can have, because I feel like you learn so much like pitching products, but also to some extent, selling yourself and later use this knowledge and other roles, how you said Isabella moving into other directions as well.
But Vaso over to you, I mean, like, I didn't know that you'd been a teacher before.
How did you end up making such a great career now working in expansion at Cluster?
That's a great question.
Yeah. I wouldn't have expected it from myself either that I would be the one who would be working in tech, right?
And cybersecurity. So because my background is like simply non-techie at all.
What happened was I was working as a teacher and I found myself stagnating for some reason.
I love being with being in the classroom.
I love teaching. I loved everything, but everything beyond that, like the admin, the bureaucracy, everything connected to that.
I kind of found myself stagnating a bit.
And then there was this great opportunity to go and apply for a job at a tech company.
And friends encouraged me and said, hey, try it.
And so I did. I applied and I was successful. So I first started working for GoDaddy in tech, and then I was approached by Cloudflare and here I am.
And which was a great journey because I also started as a business development representative.
And this is where I found out I basically, I realized how much I love tech.
So you don't need to have a background in tech necessarily to be able to understand what's happening.
If you love tech and if you love learning and if you love, I feel at this, like in our company at Cloudflare, we learn every day something new.
It's so great being among so many talented people who are so gracious in sharing that knowledge with you, where even if you start from zero, which I was close, like I was close to zero.
I felt that I learned so much from my so many gracious colleagues and from the engineering department to my sales, the account executives who were so gracious to allow me to be on calls, to see how things are and to understand and wrap my head around the products.
So if I was super curious, I love tech.
So here I am. And now I'm in expansion where I'm, I have, let's say, look after existing enterprise customers, trying to help them make the most out of what they have already and see how we can add more value and help them even more.
That's great to hear. And I'll definitely loop back in on something you just said.
But before we do that, Jasmina, you've been in sales for a long time already.
Do you remember how you started off your career? Was that consciously? You said, OK, I really want to work in sales.
That's my place to be. Or have you ended up there and sort of found the role for you in your future life?
Yeah. Unconsciously conscious, I guess, is the right answer.
So I just want to reiterate what Isabella and Vasil said.
So sort of the BDR position. First, I so relate to what you both said in terms of coming out of university as a BDR, a business representative development.
You are in a great position to sort of mold yourself and understand, hey, what do I like?
What do I not like? And whether that is sort of in that completely going tech and doing the support in that sense or going into the more customer facing roles.
And I think sort of the BDR position helps you do that.
So I completely relate to you. My story is a bit different. I always sort of knew I wanted to be in sales.
I also joined Cloudflare knowing exactly what I wanted.
And I expressed that from sort of the first moment. And that was everything I worked towards.
So starting as a BDR, I knew I wanted to be an account executive. So I made that happen.
And I put a plan forward to make sure that I knew enough. I knew the market enough.
I knew our customers enough. And that's sort of my Cloudflare journey.
If we look and zoom out and we look at 10 years ago, Anna, then I do remember.
So I started sales in 2012 because really frankly, I needed a way to make money.
I went traveling after school in my academic years. And it was a whole year of traveling.
That's a lot of money that goes into that. So I sort of came back thinking, I'm going to start a new education, and I need some money to help fund that.
So naturally, I was always sort of in my network, the person that would communicate really well.
I would help set up events. I would be the speaker at events.
And I would help sort of mediate between people and make sure that people got their way and connect people to the right people.
So I sort of was already doing sales without doing sales.
And so somebody said, a sales representative role would be quite suitable for you, and you can make good money.
The harder you work, the more money you get.
I liked all of those things. And I did need to fill up my bank account.
So I was like, great. Let's get paid for the things that I enjoy doing.
So that's where I started. Sales then looks very different now, leaving out the sort of pandemic that we're in.
Sales has evolved tremendously. So moving sort of from almost door-to-door sales to now doing everything online.
So it has moved tremendously, and that's exactly what I was focusing on.
Because if you have a product that is sort of not that innovative, you'll very quickly lose passion for something, or it quickly can be outdated.
So that's what you see when you're selling products, and that's what I was finding in the roles that I was in.
So I was constantly looking at how can I evolve my sales career, learn new technologies, and ensure that it's still relevant, and I still will have a job after 10 years.
So naturally, I was sort of looking at the tech industry. I knew very little about it.
So Cloudflare, and my previous role in self-education, has really provided me sort of a fundamental place to start.
And then school really started when I first joined Cloudflare.
I like the fact that both Vasu, you and Yasmina, you mentioned school really started, like really learning.
And we're in such a fast pace.
I mean, the industry is so fast-paced, but we as an organization, we constantly release new products, release new services.
You constantly need to be updated, learn something new, like Vasu, you said.
The three of you have been now in the industry for quite some time.
You've also worked in other organizations, Vasu, you, and Yasmina as well.
Isabella, from your perspective, obviously working on strategic business development with some of our strategic AEs on a very specific market, which is DACH, got you sort of a sense of the environment as well.
What are the opportunities, but also maybe challenges you've seen in the industry?
Yeah, as you just met, or I don't know, everyone, or?
Go for it, Isabella. Go for it. I mean, it's not a surprise, but the pace, as you just mentioned, Anna, is enormous.
It's changing super fast. And in my opinion, it's just nice to be part of such a fast-changing environment.
And yeah, this is what I like about it, or what the opportunity is.
I don't know about the others.
I completely agree with that. I mean, it's a challenge as much as it keeps us going, right?
It keeps us on our toes, keeps us motivated. And sort of my perspective is I lead by passion, right?
So I need to be very passionate about what I do.
And that's definitely something GLAFA can provide, right? So we sell something or we provide a service that is helping people, you know, what's not to be passionate about.
And we sell a service that's for everyone. So that's always the most beautiful thing that leads us is we don't just sell a product to one individual person or one company that's big enough to afford us.
We make sure that everyone can purchase it.
So that's the first thing. Sort of the challenge in which we present ourselves is we have to be adaptable, right?
You have to have that continuous want and desire to grow, to learn, and to help others out, right?
It's looking back and seeing, okay, who else can I pull forward or who else can I help?
So it is making sure that you can manage your time in a correct manner to make sure that you're up to date with everything, that you're respecting other people's time doing so, and then still providing sort of that level of knowledge to your market and to the people who are purchasing the products that you sell.
So I think sort of one of the big challenges are staying up to date with all of the big problems on the Internet that keep surfacing up in the products that we deliver.
That's great to hear.
But let's say in light of the day, and we're here to speak about women in sales, specifically also the industry, would you say you've seen any challenges for yourself being a woman in the industry?
Asma, maybe over to you. So challenges with regards to me being a woman, maybe sometimes in the sense that you speak with, maybe you engage with people or with customers or with prospective customers who are, let's say, who are more used to having, who are more used to speaking with male counterparts, with men, and who are surprised that there is a woman there, and their first assumption might be, oh, she might not be my point of contact, she might be, I don't know, in another role that's just helping the main point of contact.
But this happens, I don't know, very rarely, and it really, like, once you, once they realise, once you show that by working with them very closely that you are on top of things and you understand things and, well, you're on top of things, then everything runs smoothly.
But I wanted to say to the last, to your previous question, Anna, was that I see the challenge as a motivation and opportunity as well, and this is what I see as all-in-one, is, like, being always, like, learning and being on, staying on top of the developments that are happening at Cloudflare and in tech in general.
So this is something I really love about my job, like, and we're a very, I don't know, we release so many products, we're very engineering-driven, so this is really cool, and this is something that motivates me a lot, but also poses a challenge, because you need to stay on top of so many things, where sometimes you say, oh, we have released another product, let me read up on this, let me ask some engineers, let me, oh, I need to learn this, but no, I don't have the time.
So it's really, this is what I love about my role, this is what I love about Cloudflare, but again, this is also my biggest challenge, to stay on top, so this is what I would say.
That's great to hear. I mean, the industry, or cybersecurity in general, I think, not only us, Cloudflare as a company, is fast-moving, but also the industry is fast-changing as well, and I think Isabella, when we briefly talked about the subject, you mentioned a very interesting note, and I took note of the sentence, because I knew we were probably either going to forget, because sometimes you just end up diving into a conversation that is so interesting, just as part of the prep, and you mentioned that the industry is fast-changing, and if you want to participate in change, you should be joining tech.
How did you come about thinking about the sentence, or generally speaking, your perception?
Yeah, it's actually exactly what Vasil said. I mean, it depends.
The most important thing, if you want to be part of it, you have to be curious, and it's all about curiosity, and if you want, it's not only that the technology, as Vasil said, is the part that is changing every day, that if you're curious, you like to learn, and just to give your knowledge to everyone else, if you gained it once, but also the industry.
I mean, it's also super nice to see that, obviously, I think five years ago, I studied IT, and we were kind of some girls, but I heard like five years ago, there was not a single girl studying IT, and now you can see it's changing, and I love also like having CTOs who are female, and it doesn't happen so often now, but if you see like people starting in IT, studying IT, it'll be a matter of time that there will be CTOs being female, and we are totally part of this change, and we are within this change, so and this is extremely motivating, and it's not like I never felt, I mean Vasil also said it rarely happens that someone is like you're a girl, no, not at all, everyone is open -minded, kind of, and happy that everyone is part of this movement, and not only one, like one-third of the world, kind of, so it's really, really nice to be part of this.
Definitely, and I think it's like, I mean we all know those examples from product teams or engineers building products, where examples in the past have shown that potentially a product was built by white male only, and it only works for white male, like I think there's like a water tap example, Jasmina, you mentioned one example as well when we were speaking, if I'm not mistaken, and I think this pretty much from my perspective, and correct me if I'm wrong, relates also to sales, the more diverse the workforce is in sales, in cyber security, the more successful we all be, because everyone will have their own perspectives and views on things, and Jasmina, on a side note, she had a session this morning with the recruitment team, sort of going through how a pitch works, and sharing that you need to, you know, create a need, and I think the more diverse a team is, the more points of view they will be finding, and potentially also seeing different needs a customer have, and vice versa, the customer will obviously be more successful with whatever we'll find, but that's just like my point of view, but maybe before we wrap things up, and I'd love to continue speaking to you, it's always super interesting, I feel like next time we're going to make a 60 minute session, and still end up setting this up as 30 minutes, before we wrap up, I'd love to hear your advice, maybe not only advice for individuals that are graduating and joining, looking to join sales, like Isabella, you did, and you're currently in the transition, moving internally into another sales role, but also advice on individuals that are looking to move industries, I think this is sometimes a little bit difficult as well, if you start your sales career in, let's say, logistics, it's such a different industry, to make the transition to tech, or you know, cyber security, might be like a big obstacle for someone, is there any suggestions, or anything you would say, okay, do this, or advice, you'd advise this in order for them to be successful?
Yes, Mina? Well, I would love for, just generally, if people are interested in joining a sales career, whether that is moving up in a sales role they currently have, or sort of moving verticals, in a sales career, is understand sort of why you're doing it first, right, if your motivation has to be really correct, and that will lead you through everything you do, you'll get to the right place, your stress, your motivation, and sort of your work ethic, that would be my first advice, so make sure that you're going to be interested in sort of the subject matter, if you are changing complete verticals, but that's a given.
If you're moving into a tech career, for all the amazing women out there, of course, don't be scared that the tech industry is still, you know, male-dominated today, you know, just as you see today, but also in sort of our tech leading roles, we have a lot of women representatives there as well, so don't be scared to apply, it is a friendly place to work, and change is on the way, and we're fully in it, and if you are in a position, so I was a BDR, you know, did a couple different roles within CloudFront, and became an account executive, the way that I did that, and the path that I set out for myself, was always very clear, I knew exactly what I wanted, and I made sure that I sat next to the people, and individuals across all teams, you know, that's the support team, that was the solutions engineering team, the WAF team, I went for lunches with people, and I absorbed as much knowledge as I could, to make sure that I was on the right path to becoming an account executive, and understanding issues, and problems, and products that we provide, so I think sit next to the people that you would like to take the skills off of, and I'm going to stop, because we have two more minutes, and I really want to hear Isabella's and Vassa's as well.
Vassa, what would be your advice? I think I'm going to echo Mina's advice, like don't be scared, like I, if, I mean for me, it was a huge career change, from something completely different, something completely different, don't be scared, do it with passion, apply, if you want to do this, apply, don't be scared, and be curious, I would say as well, be curious, learn, apply, and as also as Mina said, and Isabella as well, change is on its way, things are changing, we shouldn't be scared, so.
Thanks Vassa, Isabella, one word, one word advice, actually, I think curiosity is the key, I heard Nella in the conversation with Andy and Carly mentioning that curiosity, technical curiosity is super important, and to showcase this also during the interview process, no matter if you kick off a career, or about to transition from one industry to another.
Before we switch off, thank you everyone for listening in, please don't hesitate to drop us an email, and check out our careers website, yes Mina, Vassa, Isabella, thank you so much.