The Year I Learned to Forget Everything I Have Ever Learned….
“Sit here, Princess, & watch me work”
I love working, I always have, and I feel certain I always will. So much so, that I’ve had a job since I was 14yrs old. Before that, I went to work with my Dad every chance I had. He is a contractor, and not one of those, “sit here princess and watch me work” he is a, “grab that tool and let me show you how to use it” kind-of Dad. There were times I hated this about him. Now, looking back, I could never be more grateful that he decided I wasn’t breakable. Fast forward to my adult years, I’m married, I have kids, and I kick ass at work. None of these things have happened accidently… except maybe the second kid, that was definitely an accident. Back to the point, I was raised in East Texas… the land of teaching women 2 vital and necessary skills: Feed & Breed. So when it came time to be the stay at home wife & mom I was raised to be, I felt broken when I hated it. I truly hated it. How could I not like staying at home? Why did I miss working so much? It took me some time to come to terms with the fact that I was wired differently than I thought I should have been. I have my very supportive husband to thank for helping me sort through my feelings over this realization. Once I was settled with all this, I went back to work. I’ll save you the timeline of events and simply catch you up by saying the following: I got my first sales job and knew, almost instantly, I was made for this.
What’s it going to take to get you on my team?
That’s what the text message read, from my current CEO, on the night she decided she wanted me to work for her company. I sat there staring at my phone, knowing that I was about to jump in headfirst. I told my husband a few months before the text, that if she ever asked me, I would want to work for her. It’s funny how life throws you curve balls, and I love it. I have this weird appetite for completely upending my comfort to accept new challenges. Looking back over the year I have now spent here; I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
I walked into Arpco Valves & Controls for the first time as their sales manager mid-January 2019. I had these ideas of what a sales team should look like, how I wanted to work with my vendors, and what key leverage points I would use to structure my plan. I wasn’t scared, actually more to the point, I was arrogant. I was sure that all my sales training and experience would easily translate to this industry. That would prove to be the largest hurdle I would have the first year. Getting out of my own way turned out to be almost impossible. I’ve always been a very black and white person. Not a lot of room for gray area when it came to how I thought things out. This also did not serve me well my first year. How had I entered into a world of handshakes still solidifying deals? I kid you not, deals are still made with nothing more than verbally agreed upon terms & a shaking of hands. This blew my mind. It blew my mind the things we would do for our clients, and the things they would do for us and no money ever exchanged hands. How did this help our bottom line? (This is where that black and white thing really started to show and really really wasn’t a good look) I would ask questions like, “what is your hour worth & should we really be spending time on this”. In return I would get these looks as if to say, “who let her talk”. Which brings me to another issue… I could dance around it, but I won’t: I am a 33 yr. old woman sales manager in the oil and gas industry. Talk about a hurdle.
I’ve heard people say, “I bet it’s so much easier being a woman in sales when you’re in a predominantly male industry”. Those people don’t know anything about what I am trying to build. I don’t want to be the woman who is able to sweet talk her way into a sale. I want to be a partner to a company that adds REAL value. I want to become irreplaceable, and let me just tell you, if I am relying on my looks or charm, that bet isn’t looking to hot. Pun intended. I understand how the world works, whether it be intentional or unintentional, there is a biased against woman. If we aren’t after the easy sale based on the amount of cleavage, now we run into the problem of having to overcome the “sit here princess and watch me work” mentality. I feel like I have to know twice as much, make half the mistakes, and take ZERO shit, just to start off on an even playing field.
I’ve been asked if I was the assistant when walking into a meeting. I’ve been asked if my family owned the company, which I can only assume is implying that would be the only way I would get the job. I’ve been told that I should go to location, because it might be too muddy. I’ve been asked what I drive, and if I thought I could make it down a lease road. All of these things would never be asked of any of my male co-workers. I make some of these bold statements because they are true. Just because it isn’t pretty, politically correct, or how we would hope things would be… doesn’t make the truth any less real for me every day.
Square peg, Round hole.
That’s what I felt like most days. I was a square peg, and my new world was a round hole. I’ve spent this last year figuring out how to be a leader instead of just doing everything myself. I had to give up some things that I was so die hard on before entering this industry. I ate crow over a few of them. I had said over and over EVERY OTHER INDUSTRY DOES THIS, IT WILLL WORK. Then it doesn’t, and I’m faced with the decision to dig my heels in or give up what I thought I knew. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t choose the dig my heels in method a few times. It got old, quickly. I’ve been lucky enough to have 2 boss’ that have allowed me to scrap my knees but not hit my head. Those are their words, not mine, but they are 100% accurate. Looking back on this year, I cannot help but be proud. We had the best year the company has ever had. It seems surreal to even write that. The BEST year, they’ve ever had. Man, I’m glad I didn’t let the odds scare me. The fear of the unknown has a tendency to get the best of us all from time to time. So, take it from the lady who had to forget everything she thought she knew to win big… Bet on yourself. I’m certain you are worth it.