Job: Sales Development Representative, Fivetran
Location: Denver, Colorado
I met Ethan at summer camp when we were ten years old. We haven't seen each other since then, but I have kept up with him via LinkedIn over the years. When I started The YoPro Know, I knew Ethan would be a great person to interview because his story starts with a one-way ticket out west, where he has taken his entrepreneurial spirit and strong work ethic to make a difference in the tech startup world. Read on for his motivating story!
Give us a brief background on yourself.
So I’m from D.C. and I'm 23 years old. I have always loved to work but looking back when you knew me (think: 10 year olds at a sailing camp), I think you knew me as a crazy middle schooler. I was never serious and it was freshman year of high school when I began figuring out who I was and what I was passionate about. That turned out to be with business and technology, specifically with startups, mostly because of my dad. There were a couple of projects I did in high school that kind of dipped my toe into the water to get a feel of what I was specifically passionate about. I have never been a big fan of school, so the biggest thing I was always doing was trying to stay busy and work. As a result, I found myself starting a nonprofit in high school, which was essentially a landscape company.
What was the company?
At the beginning of junior year, my high school had recently built a school in Haiti, when the earthquake happened a few years back, but they weren't giving anymore funds. Simultaneously, I realized that my peers, including myself, needed community service hours to graduate. Like anywhere in the world, people in D.C. needed their lawns mowed, so I came up with an idea and pitched to the principal that I would give my peers community service hours and by raking D.C. lawns for free. The only thing we’d ask in return is for donations that we would give 100% of the proceeds to the school in Haiti. We had a team of ten our first year and we raised $5,000. The school adopted it as an official 501(c)3 the following year and we raised about $20,000 over just a few years. With the money, we helped build a solar panel and built a freshwater well for the school. The same club is now up and running with current students and it just got passed behind year after year. I wanted to leave D.C. and go to a college somewhere out west, so I ended up at Regis University right outside of Denver City.
What did your college experience look like after getting so involved in high school?
I was very passionate about trying to find work again because for the second half of high school, having my own business was my identity and that was gone once I got to college. I tried to start another company during my first two years of college, but it failed. It was actually a onesie company that the cofounder and I each put $1,000 into. We even went to a few pitch competitions, but it failed, and I realized through that experience that I just wasn’t interested in clothing. Fast forward to my junior year of college when I went abroad, I was living in Bangkok for four months and it was great. I was alone a lot and I realized the difference between being comfortable alone and being lonely. During this time, I had so much time to think for four months, that I realized again that I loved business, but I specifically loved technology and startups. When I got back from Asia, I realized nothing had changed at school, but I had changed. I wanted to continue to do something like start a business since the onesie thing was over and I obviously didn't have my high school business anymore, so I joined App competitions. Colorado puts on this state-wide competition called Go Code Colorado. The state has all of this data, including public data, transportation data, farming data, government data, you name it, and they basically give you data and say 'build something with it'. $25,000 is the grand prize and they introduce you to venture capital companies and fly you to Silicon Valley. We won the competition that year.
What was next for you after the competition?
After that, I jumped right into an internship the summer before my senior year. It was a customer support internship at a tech company. Being in customer support was a great experience, but I realized what I really liked was selling. It's about as entrepreneurial as a role as you can get in a company because you're basically in charge of your own destiny. Going into my senior year, I knew I had one year to figure out what company I wanted to work for, so I did one more internship for a large company and knew immediately that it was not for me. That’s fantastic, because I knew what I didn't want to do it for the rest of my life, which is what internships are all about. I graduated in May of 2018 and took a month off to go back to Asia because I loved it so much. I came back and found Fivetran, about a one hundred-employee company. We're definitely a startup; I'm in sales and I absolutely love it. My voice is heard here, we're growing, and our product really makes a difference, so it's something that I can get behind.
Tell us about your current role and what that looks like on a day-to-day basis.
We are a data pipeline as a service and what that basically means is we're a software company. Data is extremely important, but it has really just become kind of a hot buzz word within the past five years, though it has been important for forever. There’s a quote from Forbes that says more data has come from the last two years than any other years combined. So data is just becoming extremely important and I don’t care if you're a non-profit, a finance company, a college, or a hospital. If you can access all of your data, you can look at all of the historic trends and the patterns from your history, analyze it, and ultimately make better future decisions for your company. The problem that our our founders realized is that your data is found across hundreds of sources (think: databases, marketing tools such as Facebook or LinkedIn, and more). As a result, companies are starting to outsource to people like us so they don't have to hire a bunch of engineers or so they can just have their engineers focus on more important problems. My role is a sales development representative, or an SDR, and it involves handling all of the inside sales, or “warm leads”. Since we are a startup, I kind of do a little bit of everything, so I actually handle all of the global inside sales with the exception of Europe. Sometimes I'm talking to people in Brazil, sometimes I'm talking to people interested in Korea, but most of the time it's North America. My goal is to be an Account Executive one day.
What have been some of your biggest successes in your young professional career?
So I'm still learning every day. I think you always have to continue to be challenged and learn. I like what I do and I like talking to people, so basically, exactly what I'm doing with you right now. I think I'm just naturally a good communicator. If you can learn how to communicate with people, you're golden in this role. I've been hitting my quota or over-hitting my quota, so that is definitely a success. I think I have also tried to put myself out there by meeting anyone from a sales organization to someone on the product or engineering team. I try and make myself known, almost to a point where it's annoying.
Your biggest struggles?
While I mentioned all of those successes, I'm almost biting off more than I can chew and I think it's important to not get burnt out. As I mentioned earlier, I love to work and I still think I’m a machine and will never have to stop, but you really need a personal life. I have always loved to work. That's something that I'm still struggling with, like just finding time to go out with friends and relax. I just work, work, and work, that it's starting to take a toll in a way. It’s important to just have patience and that's something that I struggle with that I'm still working on. Patience in terms of getting the promotion you want; patience in terms of thinking before you act and speak; patience before you offer to help. It's really nice to help, but if you can't do it, it’s okay. So those are a couple of things I’m working on and still learning.
What advice would you give to someone looking to get into your field?
Well, first, do a minimum of two internships. On top of that, take advantage of the resources that your school has to offer, whether it's in the career service center or an innovation lab, business clubs or investment clubs. More importantly, take advantage of the community you're in. There are so many amazing communities that embrace students and there's also so much free stuff out there, that you really don't have an excuse not to get involved.
What was your experience working on an app like and how do others get involved?
I decided to do this coding competition both my junior and senior year after the onesie idea sort of failed. In my second year with the competition, I went to the kick-off event which was about three months before the actual competition, and I met this 35-year old guy who has now turned out to be a great friend and mentor of mine. Majority of the people show up the day of the event, like I did in that first year, but you actually have to put in time and effort and build something that truly is significant. This mentor was the founder of an idea of a side project that he had. As a team, we realized that there were two problems going on in the world, and keep in mind this was right before Amazon bought Whole Foods. I don’t know if you've heard of automated freight trucking, which was starting to blow up at the time, but we realized that the average farmer in Colorado drives approximately 350 miles to get to the nearest farmers market. Next, we realized that fresh food from farmers markets taste really good. If someone doesn’t buy your food that day, then it really goes bad.
Was this how your idea started?
Yeah. As a result, you really have no guarantee of sales that day, so we came up with this concept to basically do Uber for trucking, where all of the different farmers could go under this app to save time, money, and energy for truckers. We built a machine learning product and took the state farming data and fed it into this algorithm that would predict the better sales at the farmers markets across Colorado. We pitched this across five cities in Colorado and we went on to win, where we were awarded some really amazing opportunities to meet with new people. As our prize, they flew us out to Silicon Valley and we got to meet with people from AT&T and their venture capitalists; they took us to Boulder to meet with the most successful investment accelerators in the world. The app ended up not going anywhere but it was an incredible experience and I loved it. We truly built something. I was the youngest winner that year, but there was actually a high school team that pitched their project, except they did not win. Majority of the people were older, though.
What has surprised you about being in the working world?
In the startup world, you are not limited. If you’re doing well, you’re going to get noticed. They don’t promote you based on how long you have been with the company or how many positions you’ve held. Actions speak louder than words. One thing I have noticed is you get out what you put in. You can do the bare minimum in sales, but if you want to be the best, you have to put in more work, right? More importantly, do what you love. I love sales. I know that some of the friends I have don’t love their jobs, but I am lucky that I wake up everyday so pumped to go to work. Some people are half-ass workers, and others love their job. You’ve gotta do what you love.
What books are on your nightstand?
My boss told me to read The Customer Challenge, so I am about to start that now. The 4-Hour Body by Tim Farris, that is a straight-up lifestyle book. Another one that I recommend everyone read is The Little Book of Common Sense Investing by Jack Bogle. He is the former CEO of Vanguard and invented the Index Fund. It’s about a 150-page book that just talks about personal finance from a high-level perspective, and I’d recommend it to everyone.
What drives you?
I want to make a difference. My long term goal is to start my own technology company because I really believe technology has the power to change the world for the better. Whether it’s a data company enabling people to access their data like Fivetran, or a finance company that lets you automate investing so you don’t have to worry about it, I want to start a technology platform that enables the world to be a better place. I want to leave the world better than I found it. Money, freedom, and control drives me as well, if we’re being honest. I like to have fun, too.
Any last-minute words of advice?
Do what you love, if you can. Hang around with good people. You are a combination of the five people you surround yourself with. More importantly, surround yourself with people who are going to challenge you. If you’re the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room. It’s important to challenge yourself and just have fun, which is really the most important thing. I am constantly told this and I know I don’t really practice this at all. You’re not going to remember working on your deathbed, so have fun and take care of yourself.
The YoPro Know's Takeaways:
- It's important to not get burnt out
- If you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room
- If you're interested in joining an App Competition, just do it
- It's really nice to help someone by saying 'yes', but if you can't do it, that's okay too
- Take advantage of the community you're in
- Actions speak louder than words
- You are a combination of the five people you surround yourself with
- Surround yourself with people who are going to challenge you
- If you can learn how to communicate with people, you're golden