My Education: BS, Electrical Engineering, Manhattan College MS, Electrical Engineering, University of Illinois
My Prior Experience: I started as a digital hardware design engineer for a small consumer electronics company in Connecticut. After burning out on the long hours, I took a job as a hardware design engineer at a small telephone test equipment company in New Jersey. After realizing that I was no better off there, I took a job as a design engineer at a publicly traded telecommunications equipment manufacturing company in California. After several releases of smaller/faster/cheaper hardware designs, I became more interested in why the last release did or did not sell than I was in the designing the next smaller/faster/cheaper version so I moved into product management to take a look at the business side of things. From there I started a new business unit within the company to service the cable TV market. This walked smack into the tech wreck in late 2000 - early 2001. After laying off 75 people and then being laid off myself, I wandered in the desert for about 3 years before taking a sales job with a CLEC in New Jersey selling wholesale telephone service to cable TV companies. That company went out of business in 2007. I spent 2 years doing independent consulting in telecommunications and other high tech services. One of my clients was a small company that was started by two former colleagues from my days in California. After consulting with them for a year, I took a financial stake in the company and a management position. That is where I am today. Simple, right?
My Company: My organization provides small telephone companies and broadband service providers with the equipment and services they need to offer voice over IP (VoIP) to subscribers. These companies may offer services to businesses or residences. They need our product to stay relevant in the age of FIOS, Google voice and iPhones.
Job/Career Overview: I am currently responsible for overseeing sales and marketing, customer support and product development, including the profit and loss associated with deciding to do, or not do, any given product.
When you work for a small company, it does not really matter what your title is. The people who do the best in this environment can see what needs be done to fill a gap, and will work to fill that gap as well they can.
Over the past week I traveled to meet with an existing sales partner and to start discussions with a potential new partner. I okayed the prices for quotes to several prospective customers and negotiated pricing on equipment we buy from other companies to use as part of our product. I called customers who were unhappy with our products and worked on plans for how we can avoid having the same problems with other customers in the future.
What did any of this have to do with a specific course I took in college? Nothing. What did college teach me? It taught me to have confidence in my ability to learn. 25 years later I am still learning.
I rate this career 6 out of 10.
The best part of this job is for the most part I work from home. You have to put in a lot of time to run a small company. 12 - 14 hour days are not uncommon. Being at home allows me to do that and still see my kids in the morning and at night, eat dinner with my family, and still be able to take care of business.
The worst part of the job is having to deal with disappointed or angry customers. I can understand their frustration when our product does not perform as it should, because when our stuff does not work, it causes these small companies to lose revenue. It has taken me many years to be able to take the blasts of anger that come from these people and get them beyond that to where we can begin to solve the problem and keep a working relationship.
Don't take it personally. People do things in business for reasons that have nothing to do with who you are.
Don't get too excited when things are good, and don't get too depressed when things are bad. When I got into sales, an old friend told me "If you are not a manic depressive now you soon will be"
Pay attention to what your customer is telling you, and also what he is NOT telling you.
Don't be afraid to say "I don't know". You'll always look better coming back with a good answer than trying to dig yourself out of a bad answer.