You didn’t begin your career as a learning leader. You were in customer-facing roles at Pitney Bowes. Can you tell us about the trigger moment that brought you into L&D?
I graduated from Michigan State University with a science degree. I was interested in pursuing a role as an account manager sales executive in the pharmaceutical industry. Looking to get some experience, I started with Pitney Bowes. I worked in the sales capacity for several years and one of the things I noticed very early on in my career, specifically in a sales role, [was] those sellers that are successful are educating their customers. They are working to become that trusted adviser to the clients that they support. You really have to know your stuff to do that and really understand the industry trends and those drivers to bring those forward to your customer. I realized that I had a passion for that. I enjoyed bringing my knowledge forward to the customer and it helped me make money — which is a beautiful thing. I was able to transfer into a learning role, which brought me from Detroit to Peachtree City, Georgia, where our national training center was at the time. At that point I became what they call a classroom educator.
How did you make the jump to NCR?
At the time the market was really contracting. It was when the housing market was starting to drop and fall out and Pitney Bowes was going through some organizational changes. I saw the opportunity to look further to see what I wanted to do with my career. It still is amazing that I was able to become an employee at NCR. My position was originally aligned to Duluth in Gwinnett County where NCR’s headquarters was. I was hired by someone who worked out of the London office at the time. Thankfully, the person who hired me, even though he was British, knew how bad the traffic was in Atlanta! I thank him, almost on a daily basis, because he reassigned my role to Peachtree City and I was able to go up to Duluth as I needed to. The customers I was supporting, being a sales organization, were primarily virtual.
I had this saying when I was going through this transition that I had on a whiteboard — something that really stuck with me: “When God closes a door, he opens a window. You just have to have the courage to fly through.” I did not take it off that board until I was done going through that transition to my new role at NCR. That was a really cool thing to see happen at that point. From a career perspective, it also gave me an opportunity to expand my responsibilities. I was also traveling a lot with Pitney Bowes — upward of 80 percent of the time and I had just had a baby. I was looking for something that was more virtual where I could just stay put.
Coming from outside L&D, what did you bring that someone who had grown up in an L&D organization may not have brought to the role?
It’s that real-life, real-world experience, that — in my case — swinging a bag, knocking on doors, being face-to-face with ultimately our end-customer. [It’s] recognizing the fact that I may know a lot but I also need to understand and listen to the customer. One of the key things is developing those listening skills as you’re working with customers. Now when I think about what we do in learning and development, a lot of what we do is consulting. I have a team of learning business partners and their whole job is to sit and listen and consult with the internal customer. That’s such a critical skill. We know a lot and we want to share a lot. Especially when you’re in sales — you want to tell them everything you have in your portfolio, how amazing it is, how innovative — but we have to listen. We’re really excited about it but it doesn’t mean customers are excited about it. That’s a critical skill I learned early on — to use my knowledge in a way that is helpful to the customer, but I’m also listening and receiving what they are saying at the same time and really taking that in and using that as a diagnosis.
Filed under: Leadership DevelopmentTagged with: career advice, Julie Betts, NCR Corp