Job: Inside Sales Account Manager, Infor
Location: Greenville, South Carolina
Heath is one of the few YoPros I have had the privilege of meeting in person, given the national reach of most of my interviews. We were connected through Sean, my first interview, and the two met while at Enterprise earlier on in their careers. I love his take on those years right after college when we see the top of the corporate ladder, or mountain, that we need to climb. The problem is that we don’t see the whole mountain in front of us that we need to climb before we get there, and that is what our generation tends to forget. I know you'll enjoy reading the rest of his story here.
Give us a brief background on yourself.
So I am Heath Cockburn and I'm 32, currently living in Simpsonville, South Carolina. I went to Furman University and am originally from Dalton, Georgia, so I have stayed around the southeast for most of my life. My career path began with Enterprise Rent-A-Car and I started out as a management trainee, as everyone does there. I worked my way up to assistant manager and moved to Cookeville, Tennessee, to take a branch manager job. I worked there for about two and a half years and had aspirations to continue moving up but my wife’s career was taking her back to Greenville and I felt like we needed to make that move together. I guess you could say that personal reasons brought me here, so I now work for a software company called Infor, where I am an inside sales account manager. I started out in business development about five years ago and worked my way up to inside sales. I have been in my current role for a couple of years now and really enjoy it. It’s proven to be a promising role and very good to me so far.
Tell me how your time in college prepared you for your career.
I would say college prepares you for certain things, depending on what your major is. I was actually a Health and Exercise Science major and have been more or less in sales since I got out of college. I think in any job, you're selling yourself to some degree and I would say Furman prepared me from an organizational and time-management standpoint. As far as skills go, I feel like there are certain skills you just have to learn once you get into the working world. I'm probably more of an introvert than an extrovert, so sales takes me out of my comfort zone quite often. Things like face-to-face meetings or presentations do not come natural to me, so it is something I have to focus on and put time into getting better at. Being able to do it every day really teaches you to sort of just forget about being nervous or worried about what the clients are going to say or what they're going to do. In my current role, I talk to people every day, but it's not a face-to-face interaction like it was at Enterprise; instead, it is a lot more focused on calling and emailing clients. College definitely helped me to an extent, but I think college prepares you only so far and then there are big things you can learn in the job that you can't learn in school.
What has been a hardship for you and how did you grow from the experience?
Leaving Enterprise was a hardship for me. I was not ready to leave and I felt like I had further to go in the company. I was positioning myself for a promotion at the time, and I kind of walked out when I really did not want to. However, I felt like it was the best decision at the time for personal reasons.
Can you talk more about how you prioritized your personal life during this time?
I feel like there are two types of professionals; people that are super career-oriented and that goes above everything else for them, and people who believe their personal life is everything and their career is just a job they do every day. We also can’t forget about the balanced people, which is a little harder to come by. I would say I'm probably in the middle. Obviously, if you don't have any ties, like being engaged, married, or have children, then you can be 100% career-focused. There was this one time where I definitely felt and acted this way, probably in my early 20s, right when I was getting out of school. Sometimes you're faced with decisions that are more than just your career and you have to decide what you want to do. That was definitely tough for me, but I feel like I made the right decision. I don’t look back at all and regret it, but there probably was a time where I did regret it because it was such a big move for me. I feel like I made the right decision moving on and some of the things I learned from that job are invaluable to me.
Tell us about a mentor who has inspired you.
I've never really had a strong mentor, which is probably an odd thing to say. I've had some good bosses and some good people that I've worked with, and I have also had good friends that I have relied on for career or personal advice. I wouldn't say that I have that have had that one go-to person that I go to in times of professional and personal need. It has just sort of been a mixture of people throughout my life, and not that one person. I think it's perfectly okay not to have a mentor. We go through life and think we need to have someone because it has been preached to us as young professionals. I think if you have somebody, that’s great, but if you go out and try so hard to find that person, then you almost force that responsibility on someone when it doesn't come natural at all. I don't think that's as effective as finding someone naturally. It's ok not not to have one.
What would you tell someone to expect from the inside sales field?
To students looking to graduate soon and go into this field, I think the biggest thing that I would share is that from a young age, you're told that you're great, have a stellar education, and that you should come out out of school, join the workforce, and be on top, where you’ll make all this money. I think that's so false of an expectation. What the real expectation is, is that you are going to come out of school and you should be prepared to work hard and earn everything that you get, be prepared to start at the bottom, and be okay with working your way up. In most sales roles, you’re likely going to start at a more introductory type of role and have to work your way up from the bottom. Nobody in our generation likes that, but at the end of the day, I think that's what you should expect.
Career expectations have certainly changed. How can we learn from them?
Just know that if you work hard now, that work will be rewarded over time. You're not going to climb the mountain. One of the hardest things when we come out of college is that we see there’s a corporate ladder, or mountain, that we need to climb, but we only see the top of that ladder or mountain. We don’t see the whole mountain in front of us that we need to climb before we get there. We want to get there right away, but it takes time and hard work. It’s extremely important to develop a relationship with your superiors now and have conversations with them that revolve around pushing them to have career conversations with you. They should be encouraging you to work hard and challenge you both professionally and personally to meet goals. If you're not getting that from them today, then that's a problem, and you need to figure out a way to get it from somebody else. I think that's where most bosses fall short.
What kind of leadership styles do you think our generation responds well to today?
Fifty years ago, you came in, you worked hard, and then the boss left you alone. Now, I think the boss has to be the boss. They need to sit you down today and say “here's where you're at today, so let’s plan where you’d like to be in five to ten years and let me know how I can help you get there.” I think bosses owe that to those employees to do that and show some investment and in turn, the employees will invest in them and the company. My biggest advice to those looking to join this field is to just be prepared to work hard and not be given anything. Challenge your superior or your boss to challenge you.
Are you a podcast or book guy?
I guess I spend more time on YouTube than podcasts, and I usually just search for stuff out on YouTube. I enjoy Ted Talks and things like that on YouTube. There is one guy in particular who I’ll listen to a lot. His name is Simon Sinek and he has an interesting Ted Talk on Millennials entering the workforce and it's pretty good, so I’d recommend that.
What drives you?
Success and financial reward drive me. Look, at the end of the day, everybody's afraid to say that money motivates them but ultimately it does, because everybody has bills to pay and everybody has hobbies and things you like to do. The fact of the matter is that you've got to have money to do that. I'm not saying you need to be money hungry, but you have to be at least driven by financial compensation to some degree. I want to be successful, I want to be challenged, and I like to make money and success usually leads to financial reward. That's what has always driven me and upward mobility is a huge driver for me. It's hard for me to get invested in a company when I know that I can't go anywhere. If I feel stagnant or if I feel like I'm topped out or whatever, I sort of feel trapped because you should always have somewhere to go above. That's what helps me you what keeps you motivated to keep going.
The YoPro Know's Takeaways:
- You're selling yourself to some degree in any job you take
- There are big things you can learn on the job that you can't learn in school.
- It's okay not to have a formal mentor
- Be prepared to work hard and earn everything that you get, especially at the beginning
- We don't always see the mountain or ladder we need to climb right away; we just see the top
- Challenge your superior or your boss to challenge you