It’s Friday, July 28th, 2017, 7 PM, and I’m sitting down to start writing this blog post. It’s the last day of the quarter and I’ve just finished week six of my eleven-week summer internship at AppDynamics. Realizing that I’ve passed the halfway point, I figured now was as good a time as any to reflect on my experience here thus far and set new goals for my remaining five weeks.
I moved to Texas in June with a start date, one suitcase, one duffel bag, and zero friends or family. Since then I’ve had two car breakdowns and countless moments of uncertainty, but I’m still here, and proud that I’ve made it this far! Coming to Dallas and AppD was the first big risk I’ve taken in years and my first time without a built-in safety net to catch me.
Because I’ve been pushed so far outside of my comfort zone, this entire experience (a sales job, life in Texas, and staring senior year/graduation in my face) has taught me more than I ever expected. I can pretty much place all of my life and career lessons of the summer into four buckets…
1: Set Your Own Goals, Then Exceed Expectations.
When I introduced myself to my manager on day one, neither of us knew what I could handle or how I would perform. I’m pretty sure he thought it was funny when I told him, “If you want me to get three New Business Meetings, I want to get six! My goal for the summer is to double any performance metric you give me.” Looking back I probably would’ve had to suppress a laugh if I were him.
But while doubling metrics is probably too lofty to be consistent, that meeting helped set the tone with my manager from the get-go and, more importantly, helped me set a high bar for my own expectations. Once I had said it out loud to a member of leadership, I had to produce or run the risk of looking like an idiot. It also gave me a confidence boost. By setting high goals for myself, other people began to expect more from me.
2: Always Say “Yes” to (and Ask for) New Challenges.
Numbers and analytics have not traditionally been my strong suit. I’ve never had a passion for math and before this summer my excel proficiency was limited. But when your manager asks you to do regressions and data analysis, you figure it out!
In just six weeks I’ve been asked to do all sorts of projects that don’t align with what I believed to be my primary skill sets. It took a lot of Googling and flashbacks to high school statistics, but I was able to produce the content I was asked for. Now I’m actually proficient in excel and understand what goes into doing a business-centric data analysis on KPI’s. I was even able to present my findings to 90+ people at the quarterly sales review! I would never have cultivated these new skills if I had said no simply because I hadn’t done it before or because I wasn’t a “math person.”
Candidly, at first, I said yes to every project simply because I was too afraid to say no. But that evolved into another huge life lesson; you might have to ask for help, but you can figure it out. Additionally, the best projects I’ve worked on this summer are ones I’ve asked for. If you have extra bandwidth, you may as well use it to challenge yourself. Always say yes to projects that present new challenges because they give you the chance to grow and (shout out to lesson #1) exceed your own expectations.
3: Say “Hi” and Ask Questions
According to some reps, they thought I was shy my first week at AppD. I quickly realized I needed to put myself out there with people if I was going to become part of the team and get the most out of the potential mentors sitting a few desks down.
After week one I got advice from my dad who said, “Just say hi to everyone and ask lots of questions.” Really simple, but something that I can take with me in all aspects of life. The information and insight I’ve gained just by asking questions in passing and interacting with AppD employees have been overwhelming in the best way.
The people I’ve met here have helped me make the transition to Dallas easier than I could have ever hoped. They’ve also equipped me with insights into the tech industry and business world that no classroom could ever provide. This is what happens when good people make up a great team and all strive for a common goal.
4: There is No Silver Bullet
One of my favorite things about being an intern is getting to shadow and learn from so many different people. And while there are consistencies and patterns of how the best reps achieve success, there definitely isn’t a silver bullet.
I’ve watched the high-energy, extroverted “sales shark” excel, but have also worked with equally successful people who are quiet in nature and take a remarkably different approach with their customers. Despite personality differences, there are three things I’ve seen every successful rep display: persistence, adaptability, and an unending desire to learn and improve.
At AppD I’ve observed a culture fostering this positive individual growth. There might not be a silver bullet for prospecting or closing deals, but the sales organization and leadership has found a way to enable success for reps of all personalities and tenure. This is the kind of culture that breeds achievement and builds high-performance teams.
Higher Expectations Going Forward
I’ve experienced unprecedented personal and professional growth in the past six weeks at AppDynamics, and it has inspired me to expect more from myself and made me even more hungry to learn. Upon reflection, all four of my life lesson “buckets” from this summer seems a bit simplistic. My experience here, however, has been anything but. Only after reflection did I really notice that this summer has clearly come down to working hard and asking for opportunities.
If my internship at AppD has taught me anything so far, it’s given me a new perspective on my career as I enter my senior year of college. I’m no longer looking for a first job. I don’t want to just take whatever position comes with the highest salary. Instead, I want my first position to act as the launching point for my entire career. I will pursue an AppD culture; somewhere I can learn, expand my responsibilities and thrive. I want to live by the mantra, “If you’re the smartest person in the room then you’re in the wrong room.”
Finding a place where I can learn and grow as a young professional is now my #1 priority. Going forward I won’t look or ask for jobs, but opportunities to prove my potential and show the value I can add. Thank you to the AppDynamics team for providing me with a launching pad for my sales career.
I’ll end with the infamous words from GlennGary Glenn Ross and the ultimate sales lesson: Always Be Closing.
Abby Stratton is a rising senior at Northwestern University. She is originally from Excelsior, MN and is excited to apply the learnings from her summer internship as she pursues a career in technology sales.