Posted by Tim Stobbs on March 23, 2015
Sales Representative/Technical Support Specialist – Pushing Chemicals – Part 2 (Years 3 to 6 A.D. – After Degree)
Now that my wife and I had been voluntarily exiled to the Northern reaches of British Columbia, I settled into my new job and surroundings fairly well. My boss conveniently enough was in another town down the highway by two hours. So I was largely left to my co-workers to educate me on the nature of north.
I learned rather quickly that engineers in general were not well thought of out in the field. After all most of the engineers these people dealt with came from the head office, did some work and then left (usually wish something still not working just right). In general, they managed to leave a bad taste in most people’s mouth. So for the first time in my life I had to adjust to people thinking an engineer was a bad thing and keep my mouth shut up about some of the comments people made.
Overall the I loved about half my job. I was good at the technical support side of my job. I would troubleshoot customers dehydration and amine gas processing system for clients that used our product. The good news was I wasn’t expected to be an expert at once. I had other tech support guys who’s brains I could pick to help me out. Overall I got rather good at the job and even at one point convince a client to spend like $150,000 to test out a theory of why their amine unit wasn’t working properly. I was right and then even took a few photos when they sent a thank you email on it.
Part of my duties around tech support was doing training seminars for operators at various facilities. Given I was a strong introvert I didn’t like that part of the job that much. Add to that the dislike of engineers in the area, I tended to have hostile audience. So try to imagine trying to teach a group of adults who hate your guts before you have even opened up your mouth. That was part of my job. The upside of doing this like 100 times or more was I actually go fairly comfortable doing public speaking. I still feel nervous doing it to this day, but I don’t let it control me. Which is probably why to this day I do a fairly decent radio interview…I sound relaxed even if I’m not.
The other half of my job was sales which I determined very quickly…I don’t have natural sales bone in my body. The entire thing is rather alien to me. So while I understand the theories behind it, have practiced it endlessly for a few years…I still don’t like doing it. Which is why you have likely noticed I don’t push much on this blog. I tend to do the low key sales approach like: do good work and let others talk about it. It seems to work just fine when I really don’t care for the most part if you read my book or not.
I also should point out that the myth about sales guys buying lots of drinks and meals is partly true. I ate out so much as part of my job that I rarely remembered to take my wife out for supper once in a while. It got to the point I had to tell me wife to just force me to go out once in a while. Also it was the only job in my entire life where a co-worker said to me: “I really need to stop drinking so much at work”. This made perfect sense as you tend to take clients out for drinks a lot so you really had to learn to pace yourself. Otherwise it entirely possible to fall into a drinking habit without really realizing it. Lucky that never occurred to me…the fear of actually getting drunk in front of our clients scared the crap out of me so I avoided it like the plague.
The other part of my sales job was during the summer months to golf. Yes I got paid to play golf and drink beer…trust me it gets old rather fast when you do golf tournaments every other week it seems during the summer months. The side effect was this was literally the best my golf game ever got…I was actually not bad for a few summers.
Financially this was literally the golden age of my career. Our pay structure was odd in the fact my base salary was tiny, but I got huge bonus cheques every quarter on top of that. So while my base pay was about $45k, I was making closer to $90k/year with bonuses (actually if my memory is correct the biggest cheque I ever got was $12K in one quarter). So this is how I learned to live on less as we never depended on my bonus cheques. So I got used to living on a small amount of money and then began paying down student debt, and saving for a house down payment (and even buying our first house there).
Being a oil and gas town, I learned rather quickly to see certain things as normal. Like most people had work trucks and this meant going to Walmart you would see way more trucks than cars in the parking lot (approximately a 3:1 ratio). Also my wife and me noticed a LOT of small children around town. Then when talking to someone about it them mentioned that on a per capita basis our town had one of the highest birth rates in the entire province. During our first winter I finally got why…it’s REALLY cold up there. I mean I had to look up the temperature when anti-freeze froze for one customer and many of the wives of the guys who worked in the oil and gas didn’t get jobs, so to pass the cold nights there was apparently a LOT of sex happening in town and resulting a LOT of babies being born. Hell my wife and me even did the same thing and our first son was born up there.
Yet after my fist son was born it became painfully obvious that we were living far away from both of our extended families. I even tried to get a job transfer to be closer to our family, but I didn’t get the job (I learned I was #2 on their list). So in the end I began to look for another job closer to our families. Money was one thing, but some other things matter more. So in the end, I took a massive pay cut (~$20K) and we sold the house. We were heading back to Saskatchewan to be closer to our families.
- Public speaking is hugely useful skill to learn. While learning it sucks, its application is huge. I’ve done all sorts of presentations and interviews because I learned this skill.
- When selling something, given all other factors are equal. People will buy from someone they like better. So be nice to people.
- Eating out, drinking and golf can sound like perks to a job, but they lose their appeal after a while.
- I don’t have good records from this time, but I can say after we sold the house we cleared the last of our student debt. So that was $60,000 paid off mostly in three years. We also build up some retirement savings and managed a $40,000 down payment on our next house.
- Get in the habit early in life of living on less than you earn. This job was an excellent training ground for this concept and I kept up the practice ever since.