Case study

Technical sales engineer — Fran Billingsley

Fran is currently studying for an MBA at Sheffield Hallam University; she feels that the best way to secure a graduate job is to keep an open mind

How did you secure your current job?

I had a year out between sixth form and university, where I studied psychology with sociology. I went travelling for six months and I then had six months to kill once I arrived back home. I hate having nothing to do so I wanted to get working.

I started at ADE doing basic office admin. Working with generators wasn't exactly what I'd imagined when I was doing my degree, but it was a great job and I thought it would be a sensible move.

I now work in technical sales. My job is about having enough technical knowledge to answer clients' questions and to enable them to get the right product, without needing to know every last detail.

My biggest piece of advice would be to remain very open-minded about where you end up after graduation

What do you do day-to-day?

During a typical day I will book out my appointments. While I'm in the car I'll be making and receiving calls. These can be calls about projects that I've already won, or ones that are in progress. I might have to deal with technical questions such as confirming the airflow on a particular product.

Often one of the main things I'm doing is pushing the design advances that we've made and explaining how this would benefit a client.

How has your career progressed?

I've done lots of different roles working for all aspects of the company and I've gradually progressed to the point that I'm at now.

It's a great company to work for and it took me a long time to get an external sales role; now it's about progressing to be the best sales person in the team.

One day I'd like to be doing eight to ten million pounds of sales per year.

What are the challenges of working in customer service?

The most challenging thing is striking up that initial conversation and getting your foot in the door. Everyone is very busy and no one has time to listen to a pitch, so getting past that initial reluctance is always tricky.

Then there's the other side when you've got a project going with someone and they want you to pick up the phone to them every second of the day.

Any advice for other graduates who would like to get into this career?

My biggest piece of advice would be to remain very open-minded about where you end up after graduation. When I was doing my degree nearly everyone was thinking about going on to become clinical psychologists, but that's not going to work for everyone.

You need to keep your eyes open to the opportunities that are around you.

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