The Reluctant Corporate Creature

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Let me be honest. Moving from being an entrepreneur to (and being) my own boss into the corporate world needed some serious acknowledgement that the world evolved around sales. I was undoubtable hesitant in subscribing to this, but my therapist motivated me to take the plunge. Like most stories, I will only get to learn the reasons for my journey much later.

The healthcare industry seemed attractive as I held a degree in sciences. I landed my first position as a medical representative in interventional cardiology. I thoroughly enjoyed the training and studies – a prerequisite of accepting the job. However, more than that I was mostly intrigued by the whole concept of new business development.

Moving into healthcare

I found myself in the sales environment once again and my inner narrative still on repeat – “you are not good at sales”; “you are an introvert”; “introverts are not well-liked”; “you will not make it”, etc. My thought processes had to evolve as I acknowledged that the world revolved around sales. Every business deal runs through a sales cycle, whether you were selling a product, service, or a specific skill.

The corporate world came with many privileges like travelling, lavish sales meetings in beautiful places, sales training, and many new business acquaintances.

Going back to university will change the course

Two years into the corporate game, my inner student awoke, and I was ready to sign up for further studies.

I applied for the MBA program at our local university’s business school at the age of 46 years old. After being admitted to the program, I was confronted with a major obstacle: the company I was working for was not allowing me to study while in a sales position. I sat in front of the Dean of the Faculty with make-up running down my face. She was as shocked as I was and gave me a way around the problem. I would start six months later, but have to find a new job as soon as possible.

Read these books

During the six months ‘sabbatical’ I was given homework in form of two books to read – both of which I found tremendously significant in my personal and professional development. Alas, during this six months I continued to be filled with an anxiety which stirred so many thoughts and feelings until the opportunity wherein I’d be able to commence my MBA. The books were titled: ‘Hot, flat, and crowded’ by Thomas Friedman and ‘Good to Great’ by Jim Collins.

When I eventually started my degree in 2009, I was able to share the experience with my three grown sons as all four of us attended the same university during the same year.  

Growing by knowing yourself

Fortunately, this story has a positive outcome as I found a new job and was able started my studies as agreed with the dean. Flying out of the blocks with enthusiasm, I was eager to engage my inner student and start this new chapter of my life. Furthermore, two important things happened to me during this journey: I received my first ever Myers Briggs results on my personality type, with a full report on what kind of job would be a good fit. I cried when I read my report. For the first time in my life, I made sense to myself. The INTJ (Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging) was not only rare in females, but often misunderstood, misinterpreted, and mostly trying to explain to the world what they really meant by their words, actions, or facial expressions

Secondly, our lectures warned us that we would become more and more uneasy with our current jobs as our studies progressed. It happened to all of us during the time as we questioned decisions been made in our organization and we dug into our inner beings by questioned ourselves. I concluded that I wanted to know ALL ABOUT BUSINESS!

I was fortunate to move through the corporate ranks quickly. I’ve always been the “older” person on all of my teams, but it was such a privilege to have younger colleagues with and from whom I am able to engage and learn respectively.

Learn from your successes and mistakes

A few similarities between the mistakes I made as an entrepreneur and those made in corporate organizations appeared. Here are a few lessons I have learned in both environments:

  • The most important factor for business growth is the influence leadership styles have on company culture
  • Nothing can replace a personal relationship with a customer, therefor an engaged and well-trained sales and marketing team is non-negotiable
  • Customers want to know and trust you as a person, then as a business
  • Customer satisfaction data is part of your success or failure story
  • You will not beat the competition without a proper marketing strategy and budget
  • When you talk about your competitor to a potential customer, you are marketing your competitor and not yourself.
  • As a manager, you first work with a person, and then with an employee.
  • Inter-departmental alignment is key to strategic success
  • Your digital presence and alignment of digital platforms is one of the most important competitive advantages in the world of business today
  • The best teams are a mix of generations: Boomers, Gen X’ers, millennials and Gen Z’s, have so much to learn from each other. A successful team mix however, depends on the kind of business you are in, with a clear understanding that a successful team would need strong leadership skills. 

My line manager told me at the age of 56 that I was too old for the company to invest in me as an employee. I realized that I have to take the next career steps to ensure career longevity and embrace the digital era we live in.

Let me tell you in my next blog a bit more about where I am at now.

See you next time, and then we’ll talk more business!


PS: Leave some comments on your career journey and how you developed through the years.


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