Jan 14, 2018 | Beyond the Number
Leaning Sideways: A Director-turned-AE Reflects on Her Decision to Prioritize Family, Flexibility and Fresh Alpine Air
This post is part of Outreach's new blog series, Beyond the Number. We believe that salespeople are more than the number they carry, and that by celebrating the human side of sales, we help salespeople win bigger. Join the movement by sharing this post with the hashtag #beyondthenumber.
Ten years ago, if I had seen a snapshot of my life today, I wouldn’t have believed it true. As someone raised by a single mother Police Captain, you could say ambition and grit runs in the family. My mother’s successful example was then augmented by a number of strong mentors throughout my career. Bottom line? I always truly felt that I would take my career all the way to the top, no stops or detours. It would never have occurred to me that I might, at age 40, decide I needed to “lean sideways” and slow it down. But that’s exactly what I did. Here’s a breakdown of my unconventional career trajectory from then to now.
Starting in my 20’s, I began a successful sales career. No one was more surprised than me. It was a far cry from my original goal, which was to be a librarian. In fact, I was in school in pursuit of that goal. But as a young single parent, life intervened. I needed to pay the bills and took a shot in sales with a local car dealership as a part-time job. From there, I was officially bitten by the sales bug-my career transitioned from management at the dealership, to a standalone consultancy, culminating in a Director role at a global tech company in my early 30’s.
This upward trajectory was fantastic in that I was expanding my skill set and growing my career in ways that felt incredibly rewarding. Earning my first trip to President’s Club was such a memorable event. I even got a small tattoo of a plumeria in Hawaii that still reminds me today of how excited I was for that accomplishment. But at some point, the thrill began to feel like diminishing returns. Those sexy titles and big paychecks came with significantly more responsibility, additional travel, and additional stress. I was on an airplane four times a week and sleeping in a different hotel room every night. Days were a jump from one meeting to the next with calls in-between. Weekends were a rat race to restock the house and spend as much quality time as I could with the family, while packing and prepping for the following week’s meetings. I had this nagging feeling that I wasn’t the Super Woman I was portraying. This crystallized for me at the end of a long week of cross-country travel. I realized that I was going to miss my son’s end-of-school-year concert. In that moment, it struck me that I hadn’t attended a single one of them in his three years of elementary school. That’s when I knew something had to change.
I spent a six hour flight home lambasting myself and considering how I might change the scenario. It was a pretty long process, because I couldn’t believe that I would consider changing a career I loved with a company and colleagues I enjoyed. Ultimately, I decided that I needed to make a change and stop traveling. I wish I could say that it was a fast and easy switch. The reality is not quite as neat. Once I decided to make a change, I spent months of painstaking research to find what I thought was the perfect fit with a new company in a Director role that didn’t require any travel–best-laid plans; it turned out to be a poor culture fit and I lasted six months before parting ways. The best thing that came from that period was the career coaching I participated in that helped me put things into perspective and consider thinking about my career differently. It really opened my mind to thinking about my life more holistically and the balance across career and family.
Today, life looks different. I’ve found a comfortable role as an individual contributor as an Account Executive with a fantastic company. I’ve got the flexibility to hit my numbers and manage my schedule in the way that works for me. I have to admit, I really struggled with taking a step backward in my career, even though I believed it was the right thing to do. Would I find the validation day to day when I didn’t feel that I was challenging myself? How would I manage to get back into the fast lane after slowing down? Could I possibly take a step back after working my ass off for all these years to move forward? I grappled with these and a few other questions for nearly a year after making the move.
While I haven’t quelled those thoughts and fears 100% of the time, I’ve found a new way of living that gives me opportunities for new joys. I’ve attended every one of my youngest son’s elementary school events and games this year, and have been able to visit my older son across the country with no meetings or work involved. I set out to learn to play ‘Riptide’ on my ukulele, which I debuted by the campfire this summer. I’ve always enjoyed cooking and have had the opportunity to expand my skill set, even making a move into baking. I was able to hike the Alps this summer, something I wouldn’t have dreamed of taking time off to do two years ago. I’m not sure where I’ll be in five years but for now, this is working.
What tradeoffs have you made in your life to achieve peak excellence?