Talent · 6 MIN READ · JEREMY FURNISS · NOV 12, 2019 · TAGS: Employee retention / Great place to work / Hiring
“Growth only happens when you are uncomfortable.”
My wife and I say this to our kids all the time. But here’s the funny thing: For all the advice I give to my children on a regular basis, there are moments when as a parent you have to live the advice you give and lead by example.
Earlier this year, I found myself at a crossroads in my career. After spending time working in industries for which I had very little innate passion (even though I was “successful” selling in this space), I had to figure out if I wanted to stay the course or try something new. Sure, I could continue doing what I was doing, but would that really bring me career satisfaction for the next 15 years?
The biggest challenge I was wrestling with is that I stopped believing that the products I was selling were truly making an impact. I could have continued down the path I was on, selling software solutions to the people and companies I already knew, or I could enter into the field of cybersecurity and try something new in an industry that I’d always wanted to explore. Inherently I always had an inclination that I wanted to be a good guy who stopped bad guys — I was always drawn to traditional law enforcement. But many years ago I decided that wasn’t the path for me and that I preferred working in computer software … so a job in cybersecurity made sense.
So when a friend of mine encouraged me to take a look at Expel — a company he thought might be a great fit for me — I was excited. But I pushed off applying for weeks because I assumed they would have no interest in someone who didn’t “grow up” speaking cybersecurity.
However, the more research I did about Expel, the more it occurred to me that they just might value the fact that I’d bring a different perspective and set of skills with me to the company.
So I submitted my resume and landed an interview. And while Expel was interviewing me, I interviewed them as well — making sure the company was truly a place I’d want to work. Was this a place where I’d fit in? Where I’d get the support I needed? Could I envision myself being there for years to come?
Here are five key things I looked for during my interview process to help me figure out the answers to all those questions and more.
Sense of humor
It all started with the job description. (If you’ve never seen an Expel job posting, you can check some out right here.) After working for years in an industry rife with buzzwords, it was refreshing to find a company that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
The employees I met at Expel were no different. They were whip-smart and hard-working, but they also knew when to crack a joke and relax. When you see an Austin Powers movie poster on the wall, you know you’re not in a traditional, stuffy office environment. As I walked through the office for the first time, I also noticed the meeting rooms had funny names — Pick Your Brain, Out of the Box, and Let’s Unpack This, to name a few — because the team likes to poke fun at (and avoid using) business buzzwords and industry jargon.
Even in the absence of clever conference room names, you can still figure out by looking around an office if they employees are stressed out and chained to their desks, or if they’re relaxed and happy about coming to work. Take notice and think about whether it looks like an environment you’d want to work in.
Genuine respect for employees (and people in general)
On Expel’s Careers page, the first sentence says it all: “At Expel, we believe if we take care of our employees, they will take care of our customers, and the rest will work itself out.”
Many companies say they care about their employees, but those claims quickly unravel when it’s time to demonstrate that care and respect. Most companies view employees as interchangeable cogs in their revenue machine — thinking of them more as “human resources” instead of people.
But the reality is that customers buy from people they like and trust. Which means that the people (and how a company treats them) matter a lot. Being passionate about your company and the problems their products solve comes through loud and clear in the sales process. A customer can tell if you personally believe in the company and the solution or not. A customer can also tell if an employee is happy.
During your interview process, think about what makes you happy at work. Beyond a great product or solution that you believe in, what else do you need personally to succeed? Ask about those things during your interviews.
A no-BS attitude toward selling
The simplicity of the sales process at Expel really appealed to me. This line from the job description is completely accurate: “Maybe they need your thing, maybe they don’t, but they trust you and you’ll get 30 minutes to see if there’s a fit.”
Now that I’m part of the Expel team, I can tell you that the discussions we have with potential customers are so refreshing. There’s clean and concise dialogue. There’s collaboration. There’s a real desire to solve a problem and help a customer. I like that Expel takes all the old school, annoying sales tactics — the long PowerPoint presentations, the long lunches, the finger pistols — out of the sales process.
As I think about how Expel’s sales process differs from others that I’ve experienced, I always wonder, “Why doesn’t everyone do business this way?” Dive deep with your interviewers to figure out what the sales process really looks like. Ask for real-life examples of engagements with prospects.
Culture of transparency
Expel doesn’t just talk about culture and transparency. The company puts it into practice.
From my first phone interview to the moment I walked into the office in Herndon as a full-time hire, the culture permeates the environment.
The people are genuine. Everyone is inherently driven by the success of the company versus personal success. In most sales teams the environment is typically one full of selfish motives and attitudes, especially when a new rep joins the team and takes a piece of someone else’s pie. But from day one, my colleagues at Expel have been my coaches and advocates to accelerate my path to success, including me in calls with prospects and sharing their resources and tips that have helped them along the way.
Will your new company help you get up to speed and share their lessons learned so that you can be successful? Or do they take an “every (wo)man for herself” approach to sales?
Ongoing support and encouragement
The hiring process reminded me of one of my favorite books: “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. For the culture to scale as we continue to grow, we have to get the right people on the bus — and that doesn’t necessarily mean people with the “right” industry knowledge. Sure, that’s helpful, but there are certain traits we look for here at Expel that can’t easily be taught. The leadership team knew I didn’t have a cybersecurity background but they were committed to teaching me about the industry.
The team gave me access to online training modules for security novices, which were so valuable in expediting my onboarding timeline. Key leaders within our company gave me their time as part of a sales enablement program which laid out the roadmap for success. Make sure to ask about what kind of support you have. What does that support look like, and who’s it coming from?
One month later …
After starting with Expel one month ago, it’s exceeded my expectations. Prior to my first day, an amazing welcome box showed up on my doorstep (I’m a remote employee), which I shared in this post. From that day forward, the journey’s been exciting for our entire family. Our four kids have asked questions, watched cybersecurity tutorial videos, and more — and now my youngest says that Expel is like “Batman for the computer.” They’re now more interested in understanding what their Daddy does every day, which they’ve never taken much interest in before.
As a working parent, one thing I hope to model for my children is how to be not just content with but energized by your work. By carefully contemplating my next career move, asking lots of questions and finding a company with a culture that felt very “me,” I get to show them what that great energy looks like every day. They’ve seen firsthand how stepping outside my comfort zone has blessed us to be a part of an amazing opportunity to change the market for managed security providers.