Shannon was pursuing a career in dental hygiene, but after three years, she reached a professional plateau, and was concerned about the toll the job was taking on her body. She decided to switch into software sales, and discovered preHIRED’s online software sales bootcamp. Shannon tells us why she initially thought preHIRED sounded too good to be true, how the instructors kept her accountable while she was learning, and why she wants more women in the tech industry. Plus find out how skills from her dental background are proving useful in her new role at Quinncia as Director of Partnerships!
What is your background and what led you to enroll at preHIRED?
My bachelor’s degree is in psychology and pre-dentistry. After graduating, I went straight into dental hygiene school. While in school, I helped build a sports supplement company from the ground-up: from the guy’s basement to manufacturing to training and sales, and then management. I worked in dental hygiene for about three years but eventually felt like I had plateaued and I was losing my job satisfaction. I’m the kind of person who likes having goals, planning the next step, measuring, and improving, but that wasn’t happening anymore. While I was making good money, the job involves sitting and hunching over, which was actually taking a toll on my body. I was going to the chiropractor, and felt like I was 26 going on 90. The average hygienist only lasts 5 to 8 years because of the ergonomics.
I started thinking about the other skills I had. I liked sales but I didn’t know how to go about it. I dabbled in finance and insurance sales (which was commission-only), and then looked into pharmaceutical sales as a way to tie in my medical background. But I wanted to be passionate and believe in what I was selling, which I wouldn’t be about many drugs. And they often work 60-hour weeks, with travel. That eventually led me to software sales, and preHIRED.
Did you research other sales training courses or university courses?
Since I had my bachelors degree already and had taken some business courses, I knew I didn’t want to go back to college. I had experience and charisma, but didn’t have the base knowledge and fundamentals of sales to be proficient enough, so I started diving into preHIRED as soon as I saw their ads. Their 96% hiring rate really stuck out to me because I didn’t want to do all the work of retraining myself and then not know where to start on the other side. The fact that preHIRED really works to train you for the next level is important. I needed a career shift, I didn’t want something that was going to give me some skills but no results.
What was the preHIRED application and interview process like?
There’s an application test with 10 to 15 questions where you have to read and understand the gist of the program. Some of the questions were “What does a day-in-the-life of a sales rep look like?”, “What does preHIRED do?”, and “How do you pay for preHIRED?”
You have to get 90% in the test, then you can schedule an admissions interview. When I talked with Lael, the Admissions Advisor it felt like a two-way interview because I was still making sure it wasn’t too good to be true. I hammered him on questions about their Money-Back Guarantee, and how they helped us to stay accountable through the program. He questioned me right back to make sure I was a good fit for their program, that I was disciplined enough, could successfully complete the program, and secure a job. It was a good conversation and once we realized there was a fit, we started discussing finances.
How were you able to pay for preHIRED?
PreHIRED offers some financing options with Climb Credit, but I found the interest was lower on my credit card so between that and my savings, I was able to pay for it all upfront.
What was the learning experience like at preHIRED?
I liked how the program was developed. It was all online and broken down into modules. It starts with the basics, like what a CRM does, and then dives deeper into the fundamentals of tools and processes, and how to use and apply them. There are examples of tools you’ll use on the job like CRMs, productivity training, and lead generation. You learn their importance, how to use them, and then try free trials or demos to teach yourself some more. It was set up very well. I felt confident and didn’t have an issue taking a vacation and returning to it, and whenever I had questions, they were answered in the following module.
Once you learn and practice in the modules, you complete a certification with a number of components including demonstrating how to use a CRM, generating leads, and writing an email sequence using your job search as a practical example. You research different companies and job openings, write email sequences set up for contacting them, and submit it for your certification. The certification approval isn’t pass/fail – if it needs work, instructors send you a video response breaking down everything you did with suggestions for improvement and there’s the option to have a one-on-one conversation with a preHIRED staff member.
The program itself is 40 to 50 hours plus some independent practice work. It took me a little over a month to do it because I was working a full-time job (and took two vacations!) and the whole process from certification to job was two months.
How often did you interact with instructors and how did preHIRED help you stay on track?
Because it’s self-taught, the most interaction is when you’re getting set up, but they reach out once per week as you complete modules, they check in with us at the halfway point, and again at the end. They also use Slack so all current students, alumni, and preHIRED support staff are available for questions and the team responds very quickly.
After you complete the certification (which requires demonstrating the real-world skills taught), they check in on your job hunt once per week, ask about the companies you’re applying to, and where you’re getting stuck in the interview process. You can also schedule time with them to go over interview skills or other questions.
What types of interactions did you have with other preHIRED students?
We used Slack during the program and were able to troubleshoot issues together as needed. At one point in the program, we had to create video introductions of ourselves for prospective employers and we gave each other feedback and took inspiration for our own videos. As an alum, I’ve communicated with some prospective students over LinkedIn and answered some of their questions about the program.
Did you have a favorite project while at preHIRED?
I really enjoyed building out my Science-Based Sales® System email sequence because it showed me the more creative side of sales. Sales is no longer about cold calling, it’s about finding the problem and getting the buyer interested. PreHIRED’s system taught you how to be unique and how to properly tailor it to different people based on your ideal customer profile. I was looking for a specific type of company selling B2B software so my message to a startup CEO should be completely different than to a hiring manager at Google. I developed and submitted the profiles, then used them along with my creativity to make myself stand out.
How did the preHIRED team prepare you for the job hunting and interview process?
They broke down different personal, sales, and example questions and included them in the certification program – I had six pages of questions and answers! They also give you a list of questions to ask the employer. I didn’t realize how important it was to ask questions back that demonstrate your knowledge of the company and the role! If they ask you about your strengths, you can respond by asking how your strengths would fit into the team.
For the job search itself, the final project is setting up everything as you would in a sales sequence in a real job. It lets you use all the different processes, like finding the job posting and finding out who the decision maker is – a crucial part of the sales cycle. They show you how to speak to the decision maker on LinkedIn, whether it’s a hiring manager or a recruiter, and then the email sequence starts. You use a lead generation software to contact them over email in addition to the application and LinkedIn message. It demonstrates that you know how to pursue a lead and land the conversation – in this case an interview. That action can speak louder than a resume ever can (and can show you refuse to take “no” for an answer!).
So congrats on landing a job! Did that final project lead to this job?
After doing the whole email sales cycle with a bunch of companies (I reached out to 20 and landed interviews with 18), this job is with a company that actually directly reached out to me! The company is called Quinncia, it’s a career services platform startup. They had heard a lot of good things about the preHIRED program and reached out to me which made me feel great about my decision!
Tell us about your role.
My role is the Director of University Partnerships, a sales role focusing on universities. Most students think they need to focus on graduating before a job, but they could be using their entire college career to get ready. The Quinncia software platform keeps students on track for graduating, focuses on career readiness, removes the stress for the career advisors (who might have as many as 3,000 students to keep track of), and can be tailored to a college’s needs. The software helps with resume building, interview prep, and identifies soft skills and hard skills students might need for their chosen field. It can also refer them to career advisors for extra help, who will have access to the student’s profile in the platform. It’s such a great tool and I’m excited about it.
Will you use the skills you learned at preHIRED in the job or will you need to learn other skills as well?
Most of my skills will be things I learned at preHIRED. A couple of my Quinncia job interview projects were things I had learned at PreHIRED and could immediately submit to them. I’ll probably have to learn how to use some new marketing and task-oriented software, but with the training I’ve had on different technologies, watching demos, and teaching myself, I’m sure I won’t have a problem.
I didn’t realize how much growth software sales would provide me. preHIRED taught me how to be a Sales Development Representative (SDR) or a Business Development Representative (BDR) but I didn’t realize the range of skills I would gain. Not only will I be working with universities and sales, but I’ll also be in charge of email marketing campaigns, growth, and developing their sales processes. I just switched careers in three months and I’m already in a trusted position! They’ll be taking my input to build and grow these processes as it evolves. I don’t think I’ll have the same plateau feeling in three years that I felt as a dental hygienist.
Have you found your previous experience in psychology or dental hygiene has helped you in your new software sales career?
I didn’t realize how much would overlap. Psychology is a clear connection – it’s amazing how much further you can get if you just listen to people instead of talking at them. How are you going to fix the problem and find a good technology fit if you’re not listening, understanding who the customers are, and what’s important to them?
I also didn’t realize how skills from dental hygiene would overlap until interviewers asked for examples of overcoming objections. No one likes going to the dentist, so I had to give people bad news, communicate with facts, and treat them like a human beings. You also have to correct misinterpretations of what people think is going to happen which translates into software sales – if you have a problem diagnosis, you have to be able to explain it, communicate it to others, and sell the solution without them running out the door. It’s funny how much overlapped, but now I’m talking about software instead of teeth!
What has been your biggest challenge or roadblock to entering software sales?
Dental hygiene was going to be my career and I left after only three years. I feel like an imposter switching careers, but I’ve been getting good and positive feedback that has only affirmed my decision. The biggest challenge with the job hunt has been knowing what I want. There are so many opportunities, so I needed to discover what was going to make me happy. I think I’ve found it with Quinncia!
That’s great! Do you plan on staying in touch with students and staff at preHIRED?
It’s like a membership for life. You’re never kicked out of Slack so you can stay in touch with everyone and there’s an alumni channel where you can encourage each other. If I ever need anything, I can always reach out to the preHIRED staff and they will respond within 48 hours.
The preHIRED staff also grow with their alumni. Obviously, the first goal is to get students the basics of software sales and to get them a job. Once you’re into the higher salary range, you’re going to either be killing it as an SDR or you might switch into account management or enterprise roles. Josh is looking into more ways to keep us engaged, learning, and growing.
What advice do you have for others who are considering a career change through an intensive program like preHIRED?
If you’re making a career change, think about why you’re making the change. When you challenge yourself and grow, you need to remember and rely on those reasons. Taking a month out of my busy life was an amazing opportunity and 100% worth it. Making $60,000 to $80,000 in year 1 and $100,000 or more in year 2 onward, as preHIRED talks about, really could be possible.
Don’t forget to ask the program questions during the interview process so you can be sure you’re picking the right program. Especially women! I’m coming from a women-dominated hygiene field to a men-dominated tech field, and I want to see that change. It was so easy and there’s nothing to be afraid of – I’d love to see more women involved! Even though there are more women involved in sales side of tech, rather than the development side, it's still off balance. I feel if more women understood how much fun it is, and how much they can benefit the tech world in sales, coding, or administrative roles they would be more likely to challenge themselves with change. So just think back, look into your future, and know that there are tools like preHIRED available that will give you the outcomes you’re looking for.