Sales career leads to fulfillment and financial rewards for this computer engineer
John Hayes posted on April 19, 2013 | 5447 views

At a glance:

Name:                  Mary Farley
School:                 Stevens Institute of Technology
Degree:                B.E. Computer Engineering -2003
Degree:                M.E. Systems Engineering - 2009
Job role:               Account representative / Sales
Industry:               Health Care
Products:             Equipment & Services
Grad Year:           2003
Compensation: $240,000+
Location:              California

10 years after graduating as an engineer, Mary Farley is a successful account executive for GE Healthcare.  And she loves her job. 

What does an account representative do?

As a sales person, Mary represents a wide range of sophisticated GE equipment, from MRI and CT scanners to Anaesthesia equipment and consulting services.  Her clients are standalone hospitals and hospital systems in California. 

And while the hours may be long, they are flexible.  Mary typically works from home one day per week.  The rest of her time is spent meeting with hospital executives, doctors and department managers to uncover what they are planning for their patient care.  She is usually involved early in large hospital construction projects; projects  that can span many years and result in tens of millions of revenue for GE.

Mary says being a sales person is intellectually stimulating because, “You have to combine business acumen to help hospitals meet their budget goals, while also understanding patient care objectives and then match those needs to the wide range of engineering technology that GE offers.  This is cutting edge stuff and it’s constantly changing, so staying up to speed is tough, but worth it.” 

What skills does an account representative need?

Mary pointed out that two keys to success for any sales person are to be self-motivated and good at time management.  For large complex sales like these, it is also critical to be good at managing a large team of pre-sales people who bring the specific expertise that the hospital needs.  Listening carefully to the customer’s often ambiguous requirements and matching those to solutions that your company offers takes communications and analytic skills.  And of course you need to have strong people skills, something that many engineers don’t put at the top of their skills list. 

One of the rewards of many complex sales jobs is that they pay well, and Mary’s job is no different.  It’s normal for people in the medical equipment sales field to make over $150,000 and earning more than $500,000 isn’t out of reach. 

How does engineering training help?

Complex sales cycles present a unique problem every time, and a good sales person has to systematically find solutions.  Mary said that her engineering training at Stevens helps her systematically break down a problem and apply strong solutions.  And since this is a technology field, having an engineering background gives her a leg up compared to other sales people.    

The career path to sales

While at Stevens Institute of Technology, Mary had computer engineering internships at Lehmans and at a contractor to the US Army.  She was attracted to the health care field so she took an information management job with Johnson & Johnson when she graduated.  That job helped her understand how to run IT projects.  It also landed her in California at a time when she was considering transitioning to a sales role.  Networking among her colleagues connected her to GE, and she is happy to have made the move. 

Her advice to others who might want to follow her into sales?  “Try to be as well rounded as possible.  Engineering skills are transferable, even for someone who has never sold anything more than an internal project.  Engineers don’t give themselves enough credit for their excellent skills.”

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