If someone would have told me five years ago that I would be in tech sales after the military, I would have laughed. Me? A salesman? I was a Captain in the Army. I had eight years of leadership experience, and I was confident a career with the FBI would work out perfectly following my transition. It’s hard to believe that I almost passed up the opportunity that literally changed my life, but let me back up to the beginning:
My name is Graham Carssow, I live in Durham, N.C. with my wife and 15-month old daughter, and this is my story.
I commissioned as a 2LT, Field Artillery, United States Army (active duty) upon graduating from VMI. After Officer Basic and Ranger School, I was assigned to 1st Brigade, 25th ID in Ft. Lewis, WA. My unit was moved to Germany as part of BRAC (Base Regiment and Closure Initiative), and from there I did a 15-month deployment to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I served as a Rifle Platoon Leader, Fire Support Officer, and ISF Security Liaison during my time there. Following that, I attended the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA (Russian Basic Course), and then following CCC, I moved to Ft. Bliss in El Paso, TX. I took command of C Battery, 2-3 Field Artillery, and then served as the Rear Detachment Commander before I ETS’d.
My transition wasn’t easy. For years, I had been planning on going into the FBI following my departure from the Military. I had applied well before my ETS date and was fast-tracking in the process. I was essentially told I would be getting accepted. 2 weeks prior to my ETS date, the FBI pulled the rug out from under me, and I had no idea what to do next.
Being the giant stick in the mud I was, I immediately grabbed the first job I could find that seemed appealing and moved to Denver to begin my work for Tolin Mechanical. (In retrospect, I wish I had taken more time to plan and think about what I wanted to do, and I really wish that Tech Qualled had been there when I got out…but we will get to that!)
Following my time at Tolin Mechanical as an HVAC-R Service Manager, I got into coding as the Director of Tech Support for a small software company.
When I was job hunting for tech jobs following my time at Galvanize, I connected with Lowell Patterson and Ryan Benson, both of them VMI Graduates and Tech Qualled Graduates. I learned about Tech Qualled from them and was interested in the program, but opted to stick with coding and programming for a while. When it looked like the small software company I was working for was not going to make it, it seemed like a perfect time to explore the possibility of Tech Qualled.
Bridge to Tech Sales:
Launchpad Academy truly was excellent. Yes, a lot of it is videos, some death by Powerpoint, and taking online quizzes. But it distinguishes itself by the emphasis on live-action role-playing and putting into practice the things you learn. The instructors are phenomenal; people with decades of experience in Tech Sales who clearly genuinely care about seeing Veterans succeed. The fact that the program is free was, for me, the biggest selling point. Not only for the obvious fact of just being free, but that’s what immediately communicated to me the faith that Tech Qualled had in its graduates and their ability to sustain themselves entirely on placement fees. Some people are able to do Launchpad Academy while still working full-time, but I would strongly recommend devoting yourself entirely to the program; I believe you’ll learn a great deal more.
Tech Qualled has its own portal that you apply through, which immediately told me that companies value our product. Likewise, if you distinguish yourself in the program, don’t be surprised if companies come to you! Tech Qualled continues to support you after you have graduated, will help you make sense of the offers, and make sure your resume/LinkedIn look the best they can. I never felt unprepared for my interviews with companies after (and even during) Tech Qualled.
My Sales Career:
I currently work as an Inside Account Executive (IAE) for Nutanix, responsible for Connecticut and Western Massachusetts.
I’ve only been at Nutanix for about 3 weeks, but when you get here it’s definitely drinking from the firehose. You need to take the initiative and learn the products as best you can, get help from your peers and SEs who have been doing this for a long time, and essentially take the reins. This is NOT a job for reactive people; you’re expected to be proactive and be asking what the next step is, not wait for someone to tell you. One of Nutanix’s beliefs is “get comfortable being uncomfortable”, and that is very true. Be prepared to call customers and fall on your face, or not know what to say, or screw up. You’ll be on a three-month draw, so take advantage of it.
Advice for Transitioning Veterans:
- This especially applies if you’re single or don’t have kids, but take some time to genuinely think about what you want to do when you get out.
- Do some research on Sales, specifically Tech Sales. When I got out, I thought Sales was nothing but cold-calling or being a sleazy Used Car Salesman. What we do is much more complex than that: ultimately we sell solutions, not products.
- Despite conventional wisdom, you don’t necessarily have to be a social butterfly to work and succeed in Sales. I am by no means the guy who walks into the room and immediately makes themselves the center of attention. As long as you can hold a conversation, be professional, know your stuff and what you have to offer, and have the will to succeed, you can do it.
- Talk to other Tech Qualled Grads about their experiences. You’ll learn quickly that who you know is of the utmost importance (in this industry and others). Likewise, ask them for interview advice! There is no reason to reinvent the wheel.
- This is the real deal, Tech Qualled really did change my life. You’re going to hear a lot about how being a Veteran means companies are just going to throw jobs at you. It is, by and large, baloney. The simple fact is that most companies don’t really understand what you have to offer them, and how what you did can be translated into the skills they need. TQ helps translate for you. I went from being on the verge of having to become a stay-at-home Dad to getting 3 offers (and that was within 2 weeks of graduation), including one offer for well over six figures. I’m not going to promise you that your experience will be the same, but I can absolutely tell you this program is worth it.
Graham Carssow lives in Durham, NC with his wife and daughter. As a graduate of Tech Qualled’s Cohort 15, he now works as an Inside Account Executive (IAE) for Nutanix, responsible for Connecticut and Western Massachusetts. Graham is also a 2004 graduate of the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) with a B.A. in Economics and Business as well as a graduate of the Galvanize Web Development program.
Nutanix software unifies private, public, and distributed clouds, and empowers IT to deliver applications and data that power their businesses.