From SALES (ugh, not that word), to Quasi-Product Owner

This isn't an autobiography, as there's a moral to this story...

I am a photographer by trade. I grew up near Philly, camera in-hand, and finished that evolution with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography. I shot professionally for a few years, post-college, and by God’s grace, or sheer chance, found myself in a quasi-Product Owner’s role. There is a lot of “SALES” in the middle of my story, but contrary to public opinion, sales folks can be great Product Owners. (I will premise with this: there are many salespeople out there looking to just make a quick buck with any tactics necessary, but then there are the rest of us that have a genuine interest in our customers, and more importantly; their success)

After a shoot in South Philly (yup…Eagles, Phillies, Flyers, 76ers kind of South Philly), I was contacted about an opportunity to subcontract to Verizon, becoming a third-party salesforce for their new Fiber Optic venture. I took that opportunity. Once an introvert, I was trained by some of the best in sales, psychology thereof, and telecommunications/technology. Thinking back, Verizon FiOS/Verizon Business was selling “Cloud” before anyone knew it was “cool” to have Cloud in their environment. I excelled at Cloud, Fiber Optics, and Telecomm sales, despite my introvert/hide-behind-the-camera nature.

Verizon fizzled out, I needed a new gig, and IT Staffing seemed to be “hot”, so I joined a Top 5 IT Staffing Firm, and landed in Tampa. Not to boast, but I excelled in that arena too. I hold a few records (not nationally, just Tampa) for my sales productivity in a foreign, and very difficult, world. Analytics (to use a sexy IT buzz word) will tell you that over 80% of my placements, over a 4-year period, were in .NET Development or on the App Dev side-of-the-fence. It was a skillset I wrapped my mind around, understood, and slam-dunked.

In the whole “placement world”, you meet many Applications Development Managers, Directors, VP’s, and yes; CANDIDATES. I like to drink beers, so I learned the most about the SDLC from this pool of associates over drinks; and let me tell you, I learned a lot. Which leads me to Clearly Agile…

We are small, but rapidly growing. That is NO accident. We are experts in our space, harbor a sense of transparency our customers are not used to, and partner with them in a sense that surprises them. So, as the only NON-Technical “resource” (I highly dislike that term, how about “person”) in our organization, I am responsible for all Business Development, Sales, Marketing content, Social Media platforms, Public Relations, Networking, Account Management, etc. Who better to be a Product Owner?

Who knows your client, their culture, their business model, their personnel, and their PRODUCT better than YOU, sales guy/gal? We’ve been trained to connect on a business, personal, and emotional level; so let us (salespeople) convey to our IT Leadership customers, “We know your business, what you want to achieve, and have the people/Developers in our back office to help you do that, Mr. Client”. (Some) Salespeople are phenomenal PO’s.

Clearly Agile is in the Services Industry, so inevitably our customers will always be the Product Owners. Their internal Stakeholders/PO’s will always be the voice of the business, will always have the final say, but in the event the client PO is not available (and an Executive Decision needs to be made), who falls next in the line of command to give guidance? The Sales Guy/Gal. We know our customers, what they want to achieve, and probably want that project to be successful more than anyone.

So moral of the story, (in lieu of the title) take the “UGH” out of (some of) the salesperson’s Persona (another sexy IT term), and embrace what they/we do. Most of us (at least the good ones, and there are many horribly cheesy ones out there, I get it) aren’t only trained in, but sincerely care about your company, your goals, and that Applications project you NEED to achieve. We are capable of being a quasi-Product Owner, and as technology rapidly advances, so do your sales folks.

#WeStudy #GiveUsAChance #HashtaggingThingsToDeath

Thanks for reading…hope I didn’t waste your time. High five.