Becoming a Sales Engineer Part 3: Changing Course
I woke up in Guatemala today. Well, I was woken up by a neighborly rooster around 4 am lol but it’s okay because I was able to reflect on the series of events that lead me here.
Around this time two years ago, I was finishing up training for my relatively new job as a “Bridge Consultant”. This title was a way around calling me a Bridge Salesman. This new position was one that was pretty specialized, pretty hard to get, and actually kind of hard to learn to do and be good at. The job had opened up at just the right time after I had proven myself at a smaller company and made a name for myself in the industry (so to speak.)
By this time I landed that job, it had already been about two years since I started spending my free time outside of work learning skills in drawing, and painting. Before that, I was always aspiring to be able to spend more time doing those creative activities. It was always, “once I get into a good college,” “once I get control of these classes,” “once I graduate,” once I get a good job”… I can get back to drawing. It wasn’t until I had moved to Texas that I actually took it seriously to set aside time for this hobby. It was in huge part due to my wonderful girlfriend who could see below the surface and know that I needed this creative outlet. Thank god, because if I didn’t start then, I don’t think I’d be where I am now.
Before I had taken the role as Bridge Salesman, I had a similar role with a different product, let’s call them blocks. So, I was a block salesman. There were many reasons, I left this company, but one of them was that I had asked for a raise in my base salary, not because I “needed it,” but because I had been there for long enough to prove myself and had grown our market share in my territory. The CEO’s response was along the lines of, “Your sales have been going up so your commissions are impressive. I want you to keep growing the sales like you have been and that will result in higher commissions i.e. higher pay. As far as your base salary, we can start increasing that once you get your PE license.”
P.E. Stands for Professional Engineer. Kind of like a doctor or lawyer, it gives you the ability to approve or “stamp” a design. But in sales, all it does is give you a certain level of credibility when pitching or selling these technical solutions. To get this license, I would first have to pass the FE exam (fundamentals of engineering) then the PE exam. So this would take months if not a full year of studying if I didn’t want to pay for accelerated classes etc. And that meant that I would then have to redirect my drawing time to study engineering concepts. But “once I pass these tests,” I can get back to my art.
A friend of mine in sales wanted to make it a joint effort. We would both study for our exams and we’d both keep each other accountable. After a couple of weeks (or maybe just one week lol) of spending a few hours a night, a few nights a week going through these study guides, I realized how much I hated it. It wasn’t like other chores like washing the dishes or cleaning the bathroom, I can appreciate doing those tasks and sometimes enjoyed them. I truly despised my time with this study guide. I don’t know if things had changed since college, (because this was all stuff I had learned back then) or that I now had a reference to compare it to. Maybe I never realized how much I can truly enjoy my time until I was using it to be creative, getting back into an old hobby that I was good at. It was a world of difference.
I finally had to tell my friend that I wasn’t going to take the exams and he asked why I changed my mind. I was honest and I told him I’d rather spend that time drawing and I don’t really care about getting my PE. He asked, “Do you care about making money? I don’t like this stuff either but that’s why I’m doing it. To make more money.” I explained that I’ had already gone down the path of making more money, and I was making good money. I told him that the money doesn’t make me more happy though. It enabled me to invest in the materials and time to do something I love. I love drawing and I’d rather get better at that skill than develop one that wouldn’t make me any more happy.
He’s one of my best friends and he understood (not without trying to convince me a couple more times). He went on to passing the FE and is successful in his role in technical sales.
It wasn’t long into my role selling bridges, that I knew I was going to leave technical sales in the long term. I gave myself three years to learn all I can, save all I can, and set myself up to leave. After two years in the role, I quit my job and moved to Guatemala with my girlfriend to pursue this art thing full time. Today is my first day here. The funny thing is that it is now one of the best time to be in the arts as far as professional opportunities. Companies need creatives more than ever and technology like NFTs are now enabling artists to make money on “the block chain.” My first commission after quitting my job was for a friend in his home and, with the remote work revolution, more and more people would likely do the same or invest in art for decorations. I’m not saying that I’m making a lot of money doing what I’m doing or that I ever will, but the structures are there now to make it possible for more creatives to make a living and I didn’t know they would be when I made the decision. But I wouldn’t have been ready for this new world in art if I didn’t make that decision that felt right in my gut, to disregard what would have been the next logical step and it’s finally making sense when people say to follow your passion and do what you love. I intend to do so and I don’t plan on stopping.