Everybody’s career journey is entirely unique. You may have travelled via university or followed a winding road into full-time employment. Maybe you found yourself on a track that involved more practical experience, or perhaps you had to take a few unexpected breaks along the way. Whatever your path looked like, it got you where you are today, and we believe that should be celebrated.
We’ve introduced ‘Create Your Own Path’, a new blog series designed to shine a light on members of our community who took a path less travelled to find us, and to highlight some of the employment initiatives we’re most proud of.
We asked our volunteers what three words they would use to sum up their career journey so far, where they are now, and where they’re headed.
As part of our ‘Create your own Path’ series, the Country Manager for VMware Norway, explores his own career journey, his life as a water polo champion and how unexpected skills can be surprisingly handy in the tech industry.
Andy Stevens, Country Manager, VMware Norway
It’s no surprise that many individuals working in tech have followed a traditional path to get there. One of the best kept secrets in the industry, is just how many people didn’t follow the same path.
There is no one path into a career in technology, and I think my story helps demonstrate that. The choices I made after finishing my education weren’t particularly conventional for a tech professional, but here I am.
Every day I get to work with some of the best people I know.
At university, I studied communications and marketing while also playing water polo. In parallel, I was a member of the USA National Team. Upon graduating, I was faced with two choices. Either I head out into the corporate world, and start a career, or I could head to Europe and play Water Polo professionally.
A career in water polo would mean earning little money and placing my “professional” career on hold. It also meant gaining the experience of a lifetime by representing my country.
I chose the latter.
Skipping the graduation ceremony, I flew to Europe and travelled across Montenegro, Italy, Hungary, and Croatia training with 15 of the top professional teams. As you can imagine, it was everything a good adventure should be.
6 months later, I earned a place on Team USA’s World Championship team in Shanghai. For the next year we would enter into full-time training for the 2012 London Olympics. 6 days a week we would train for 6-8 hours to become the best team we could be.
Eventually we would have a 3-month break to recover. During the break, my goal was to train with the best team in the world “Pro Recco” in Italy. So I did my research, called a friend on the team, and it turned out their goalkeeper was injured and would need surgery (As luck would have it, I’m a goalkeeper).
Without any thought about where I was going to sleep, what I was going to eat, or how I was going to afford the trip, I got on a flight to Rome, then took a 5-hour train to a small town called Recco.
After almost 24 hours of traveling, I arrived late on Sunday night in a small coastal town of Italy’s Liguria region. This meant that there were no hotels open, no restaurants open, and nowhere to rest. I knew a night on the beach was probably my only option.
Putting aside any ego, and in the spirit of adventure, I settled in for a cold night camping on the beach. For me, this was ok because I knew the next morning I would wake up with an opportunity of a lifetime – a chance to train with the best players in the world. I also took some risk – but I figured if I could prove my value on day 1, they would sponsor the rest of my trip.
The next day I met the coach, met the team, had my first practice – and as luck would have it, they asked me to stay for the next 3 months.
You might ask, how is any of this relevant to my tech career? But the truth is, a willingness to put yourself out there, take a risk and have an adventure along the way lends itself nicely to a career in tech sales.
When you have to travel across different countries you find yourself meeting a lot of new people. You’re constantly having to rely on your ability to win these people over, regardless of culture, background, or language. In tech sales, you’re doing much of the same thing. Every day is “Day #1”.
If you do it right, you’ll find yourself with many trusted colleagues, partners, buyers, and friends.
Eventually my time as a water polo goalkeeper came to an end. I met my wife and moved into technology sales, something many of my teammates were already doing as well.
My first role was a Sales Development Representative. Among other things, each day involved cold calling CXO’s from Fortune 500 companies. From there, I worked my way into account management, and then sales management at a company called WeWork.
Before moving to Norway, I had helped open 15 new locations across Southern California, built-up our first local sales team, supported sales training for our team of 50+, and helped run our sales outreach for the Western US.
Eventually I found myself in Bergen, Norway – helping a new Google Sales Partner expand across the Nordics. After taking courses on Google Cloud, AWS, AI, and coding – I found VMware. An amazing company at the center of everything I was passionate about. VMware looked like an incredible opportunity to make a positive impact and help contribute to a positive culture.
After being here for over a year, it’s a great feeling to know our team is truly providing value to Norway’s citizens and businesses. From our National Infrastructure, Defence Sector, Telco, Healthcare, Finance, Retail – VMware is proud to be a strategic partner. The reason we are there, is because we have secure, proven solutions and a solid experienced team to help our customers. Locally, we are fortunate to have some of the best people in Europe.
Individual success in sports is celebrated – but to win a championship it takes the entire team. Everyone has a “superpower” so working together is always better. I think that’s why many ex-athletes are drawn into tech sales, it’s competitive, goal-driven, constantly changing, and team-oriented.
The ability to collaborate isn’t the only skill that lends itself well in our industry.
My advice to anyone looking to join a new industry is to set goals for your career. Defining your goals and mapping out the steps to get there is something I always did as an athlete, and it’s something I still do today.
From the age of 12 I was setting new challenges for myself, whether it was making the US National Team, or going to my first World Championship.
Something to also consider is your personal level of ambition, as well as your team’s level of ambition. Everyone wants to be on the winning team… but not everybody wants to be on the “Olympic Team”. Even if you’re satisfied and comfortable with your current role or career path, try to take on new challenges that push you or your team outside your comfort zone.
With the right growth-mindset, everyone can contribute to building a winning team, and a positive culture. Choose your level of ambition, set your targets, believe anything is possible, and encourage those around you.