Written By Jess Feldman
Clovette had many years of business experience, but knew she needed stronger hard skills in order to be competitive in today’s tech sales industry. Learn how Flockjay’s online tech sales bootcamp and career services gave Clovette the in-demand skills and reinforcement she needed to land a job as an Account Executive at Zoom. Clovette also shares which job search strategies worked best for her; plus how Flockjay’s support emboldened her to be a capable, confident woman of color in tech.
What inspired you to pivot into tech sales?
For the past 15 years, I’ve been a Certified Leadership & Development Coach. Prior to enrolling at Flockjay, I was working in financial services at State Farm. That job turned out to be a bad fit for me, which forced me back to the drawing board with my career. I was looking for a career that would check every box (instead of checking one or two boxes). After talking to a friend of mine, I decided to look into tech. Once I found Flockjay, I realized it was exactly what I was looking for, so I didn't want to waste any time and submitted my application that day.
Why did you choose to enroll in a tech sales bootcamp instead of coding bootcamp?
I considered coding, but ultimately I wanted to go to a bootcamp where I could learn a new skill set that partnered with skills I already had. I didn't see how I could do that if I went into coding.
What was the application process like at Flockjay?
There was an initial application and I also had to submit a short video. For the short video, I had to introduce myself and talk about why I would be a good tech salesperson. After that, there was an interview and then I had to complete some exercises. The exercises included answering questions about a major struggle or obstacle in my life that I've overcome and which past achievements I am most proud of.
There are quite a few tech sales bootcamps now — what stood out about Flockjay?
After working in personal development for so long, I have a keen eye for mission statements. Flockjay’s mission statement, “Flying together gets us higher” intrigued me. The first few weeks of the course are actually a trial period, so if someone wants to opt out, they can. What made me stay at Flockjay was because, on the very first day of the course, I realized my initial interview was with the CEO of Flockjay, Shaan Hathiramani! Shaan had been so humble and personable during my interview that you would not have known he was the CEO of this amazing community! After meeting Shaan on the first day of orientation, I was sold.
How did you pay for the Flockjay tuition?
I opted for the Income Share Agreement (ISA) in order to pay the tuition. Flockjay’s ISA is serviced by Leif, and to be considered for the ISA, you can’t have more than 3 active ISAs. The pros of going with the Flockjay’s ISA is that it allowed me to get the training I needed with no payment upfront, enabling me to focus on training. Keep in mind that you’ll pay back 10% of your income. For me, with three children, it took a while to balance the difference of paying my ISA payments with my entry-level paycheck.
What did you learn about tech sales at Flockjay?
Overall, the Flockjay program is separated into two tiers:
Individual-based: Completing exercises independently every week.
Team-oriented: Individuals are put into "flocks" of 5 people and given team challenges.
I came into Flockjay already adept at the art of sales: I’ve always been great with people, knowing how to take customers through a complete sales cycle from a conversational standpoint. I knew how to manage a book of business. What I didn’t know was the science of sales. Flockjay covered the major software applications used in the industry by today’s tech sales workforce, including: SalesLoft, Salesforce, and Outreach.
How many hours a week did you put into Flockjay? How long did it take you to graduate?
This is not typical, but I put in 60 hours/week. I was new to the tech field, doing extra research, and trying to get the most out of my time at Flockjay. I gave it my all and people knew I took it seriously. Many students in my cohort had full-time jobs. My fellow Flockmates, on average, spent 17-20 hours/week on the program (3-hour classes five days a week, plus 2-4 hours of homework on the weekend).
Did Flockjay’s teaching style match your learning style?
Yes. Flockjay accommodates different learning styles, so it wasn’t just lecture-based teaching. The classrooms were on Zoom, so everyone got hands-on attention and no one left the class without understanding course theology or expectations. Some people had to do more studying than others because they were not as tech savvy, but once we were in groups, the learning curve adjusted so that Flockmates also helped with accountability, explaining ideologies, and clarifying misunderstandings.
Since Flockjay is an online bootcamp, what was it like to communicate and collaborate with your fellow students?
For me, it was very easy to communicate with my peers. We connected through a central hub on Slack, and stayed connected on LinkedIn. I took the initiative to create the Atlanta hub so we even met in person to discuss our experiences. I still have accountability calls with my flockmates and remain in contact with a third of our class.
Tech and software engineering have not historically been diverse industries. From your perspective, do you see tech sales as a more diverse space?
When I enrolled at Flockjay, I dove all-in and registered for many events. One of the things that was disheartening was that in each of those events, out of hundreds of people, I was usually 1 of 5 melanated people in the room. The people in the front of the room didn’t look like me, yet they were talking about diversity and inclusion, even though it’s not represented in the room! Some companies are taking their diversity initiatives seriously. Zoom, ActiveCampaign, Google, and Facebook all seem to be leading the charge on diversity and inclusion. Zoom hired Damien Hooper-Campbell as our Chief Diversity Officer, and lately we have active conversations around it. I think having more diversity in the tech space will take time. In five or ten years, I think we’ll see closer to 40% of tech companies representing people broadly, as they address the intersections of race, class, gender and also age as tech companies mostly source college students.
What kinds of projects did your group complete at Flockjay?
Projects are where theory went into practice. All the learning modules that included Trailhead, Salesforce, and Salesloft, were put into practice. Each group was given leads that we had to reach out to, and then develop cadences and email campaigns.
How did Flockjay incorporate career services into their program?
I knew how to sell myself, but I didn’t know how to sell myself in the tech industry. For a typical job there may be one or two interviews with a company, but in tech, there are at least four. They may ask the same question in each interview, but expect different answers in each phase. Flockjay prepared us for each phase of the interview process, asking us questions a recruiter would ask us, offering us time to refine our answers. We went through 15 rounds of refinement! On top of that, we mock-interviewed with each other and Flockjay staff.
Every week we also had fireside chats with huge companies, like Salesloft, Salesforce, and Outreach. Those fireside chats gave us insight into what it's like in their roles, and how they went from sales development roles to account executive positions or head of sales positions.
After you graduated from Flockjay, what kinds of jobs did you feel qualified to apply for?
The standard entry-level tech job is the sales development role (SDR). If you have some business experience and are used to selling small to midsize business products, you might apply for a business development role (BDR). Personally, I knew I wanted an account executive role (AER) because I had prior experience that would support me in that role. Choosing to be a maverick and go outside the standard required confidence and experience to support it!
How did Flockjay continue to support you in your job search?
After graduation, Flockjay extended to us a formal job hunting intensive where we met up twice a week for six weeks, went over job sourcing on LinkedIn, refined our profiles, reached out to decision makers at companies, and discussed how many applications to submit to get the result we wanted. Afterwards we had office hours with the Flockjay career staff where we could schedule a time to work on resume refining and mock interviews.
Before every job interview, I did a mock with Flockjay. By doing this, I went into my actual interviews without nerves or jitters and with confidence. It was a perfect setup. I went from nailing a mock straight to the job interview feeling a thousand times more confident than if I had gone in blank.
How did you structure your job search amidst the chaos and uncertainty of this year?
Many of my flockmates were putting out 80 applications a day. I chose not to do that because I wanted a company to choose me like I’m choosing them. I want companies to know that I’m taking it seriously and I see them as special. To me, submitting 80 applications sends the opposite message. Because I had experience working with huge corporations like State Farm and Bank of America, I also knew what type of culture and work I was looking for. I passed up opportunities from Flockjay and others because they weren’t exactly what I wanted.
I submitted 10 applications a week. I used Jobscan to tailor my resumes and cover letters to each position. Just a month after graduating, I was able to land an AER role with an application development company, but COVID hit and the company couldn't justify the cost. Then I had to go back to the drawing board, and that’s when Flockjay introduced me to the Zoom career team.
Congrats on your new tech sales job at Zoom! What does a typical day look like for an account executive?
I work in a hybrid role within the online account executive segment. Everyday I’m addressing the influx of newly submitted demo and support forms, and I’m supporting inbound chats and calls from people who need immediate assistance. I have a book of business, which on average contains 20-30 leads a day. We just launched Zoom Rooms, and it’s been a big project! Zoom Rooms allows people to turn a room in their house into a Zoom Room to manage work efficiently and effectively. We also recently launched the Zoom Phone so that our users have business phone lines.
Are you using the skills you learned at Flockjay in your new job?
Zoom uses Salesforce and Outreach, which I learned at Flockjay. Once your mind is primed for using software, it quickly adapts to learn new software.
In your opinion, what qualities should a good tech salesperson have?
Adaptability - Be willing to adapt inside an environment where you may not know what you think you know. Tech is always changing, and because a lot of what we do is customer-centric, we have to adjust with the needs of the customer. A company like Zoom has the ability to change with lightning speed (and they do)! Adaptability is one of the most important qualities to have coming into this industry.
Authenticity - This is the foundation of everything! Know who you are. Know what you have to offer. Amplify your strengths, but don't shy away from your weaknesses. Coming into this industry, I was clear and honest about both. Be willing to demonstrate all sides of yourself confidently.
Initiative - Whether you’re a SDR, BDR, or AER, you have to be willing to take ownership of your role. In my book of business, those are my customers — they aren't looking at Eric Yuan, the owner of Zoom, to manage their account — it's on me! If you can set the precedent for the experience that your customers can expect, whether that’s answering their questions or predicting their needs, your customers will offer forgiveness, even if it takes longer to get back to them when you’re swamped. If you don't have the mindset to take initiative, you're just there to get a paycheck. I don’t know anyone who comes in at an entry level in tech and wants to stay there, so take the initiative to move up.
What has been your biggest roadblock in your journey into tech sales?
It was most challenging to manage the expectation of people that I’m personally connected to and act like expectation and doubt didn’t exist. It was hard to ignore other’s expectations in order to stay focused on what I was creating for myself.
What is your advice for people thinking of making a career change?
Keep an Optimistic Mindset: If you doubt something will work, it doesn't matter what tools someone hands you. Trust the experts. Mentally be prepared to win, even when you're failing. When COVID hit, jobs postings went from receiving 20 applications to 500 applications. It’s more than just submitting applications. Know your skill set, what you're good at, what you want to grow in, and go from there. No one else can tell you that.
Utilize tools: Resources like Jobscan, which tailor your resume to each job, compare and improve verbiage will help take you to the top of the pile.
Build a network: Outreach to SDRs and account executives at other companies. Built In offers job listings in most major cities in tech, so use that to identify key companies you’re interested in. Find relatable LinkedIn profiles, and ask to schedule 15-30 min get-to-know-you sessions with that person. All of this takes initiative but it pays off. Be inquisitive in your approach. Speak to someone who’s already been through the trenches. Ask about their role, what it's like for them in the industry. Most people are more than happy to extend 15 min of their calendar to have a 1:1 with anyone interested in getting into this field.
Looking back, was Flockjay worth it for you?
It was absolutely worth it! Coming in with the art of sales under my belt, Flockjay taught me the science of sales. Flockjay also informed me of the diversity and inclusion conversation going on today. It can be extremely intimidating making a career change: I'm melanated, I'm a woman, I'm a business owner, and I’m in my 40s. I’ve had people tell me I’m not a good fit because I’m a business owner. I walked into this experience with bias about what others thought I was capable of. Flockjay helped everyone in my cohort stand confidently and represent ourselves as individuals.
Jess Feldman is an accomplished writer and the Content Manager at Course Report, the leading platform for career changers who are exploring coding bootcamps.
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