Paul studied an MEng degree in Mechanical Design, Materials and Manufacturing Engineering at the University of Nottingham
After graduation I applied for jobs in the technical departments of companies in the petrochemical, metals, aerospace and shipping industries because my degree focused on materials engineering.
I have always been interested in the engineering side of these industries, with a view to moving into management. The experience I have gained working at Johnson Matthey confirms that working in this industry requires strong product knowledge at all levels, and a background in engineering, materials or chemical engineering is beneficial.
Following two years of working as a materials scientist, I moved into the sales and marketing department as an internal sales key account executive. This job required a new set of skills and it was hard work getting started in a sales environment. The knowledge I had gained during the two years in the technical department provided an advantage when discussing an enquiry with a customer. I believe it also makes the customer feel more comfortable when their first point of contact has a good understanding of the company's products and engineering principles.
My aim was always to take on more responsibility. When a vacancy appeared, I moved product areas within the sales department. The new area was more project-based, but also required customer contact through our worldwide offices, agents and directly with customers.
This job provided a new challenge, with opportunities to make contacts and gain experience working with many different cultures and people. The work and experience I was accumulating led into a technical sales role. Fortunately, the requirements of the business enabled this to happen relatively quickly.
The role of technical sales specialist involves travelling worldwide to visit customer sites, solve problems and negotiate customer contracts. Sometimes you may form part of a sales team, working with the sales specialist or agents. Other times you work on your own. Customers may include plant operators, production managers, purchasing staff and senior financial personnel. About 60% of work time is spent in the office, where responsibilities include projects, report writing, internal, technical and commercial discussions and maintaining contact with customers. The job provides an insight into different cultures and businesses and is an interesting place to work.
The skills and experience gained through technical sales should be good for future opportunities in management because of the excellent product knowledge you develop, the ability to grasp technical and commercial concepts, worldwide travel experience and the ability to communicate with customers at all levels.
If you are thinking of entering technical sales as part of a career, a suitable degree and examples of working in a sales environment would be an excellent starting point that prospective employers would definitely recognise.
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