Make It To The Top: Using Your Mistakes to Grow Professionally

Camille Shaw-Pigeon
June 24, 2015

Not everyone is quick to admit when they’re not good at something or they’ve made a mistake. It’s not always easy to accept failure, and often times even harder to view it as a learning experience. However, for Sam Whelan, Director of Sales at Resilient Systems, he cites his mistakes as being some of his greatest assets and knows that through failure came professional growth and his now successful career in the technology industry.

After graduating from college with an undergraduate business degree, Sam was at a loss for what to do with his career. He had taken classes in everything from accounting and finance to marketing, but nothing felt like the right fit; “I knew finance was out and I didn’t mind marketing, but just wasn’t earning the best grades.” So when it came to graduation day, Sam had no clue what his next step should be.  “I was worried. I remember looking around and the majority of my classmates already had great job offers, I felt lost”. It wasn’t until his mentor, and now father-in-law, suggested that he go into sales did Sam even consider it; “[my mentor] told me I had the pedigree to fit really well into sales- I was hungry for success, wanted to make money and was willing to work for it.” Having never taken a course in sales throughout his undergraduate career, Sam decided to give it a shot and went for it. Though it wasn’t immediate success, “my first job was rough, I struggled a lot and ultimately the company went out of business and I got fired. It was by far the best thing that could have happened, even if I didn’t know it at the time” From there, he went on to a BDR role at a tech company in the midst of major changes and that’s where his career took off.  Within 5 years, Sam had worked his way up from a Business Development Representative to Account Executive (quota carrying rep) to a Manager and then Director, and has since moved to Resilient Systems where he’s the Director of Sales.

Although he found success in the sales industry, it wasn’t without struggles and plenty of mistakes. Sam credits his failures as being key to how he became the strong sales director that he is today. “I’ve made every mistake possible, but, I never made those mistakes twice. I learned from what I did wrong and made myself better.”  In his role as a manager and then Director, Sam was exposed to managing people and became a leader- something he had to learn as he went. Failure is an inevitable part life, and Sam made sure to stay positive when things didn’t turn out as planned. With sales especially, not every call will be a good one, he keeps up the mentality of “on to the next one” when a deal doesn’t happen or he doesn’t get the lead.

To candidates thinking about going into sales, Sam suggests finding a mentor that can guide and coach you on what it takes to be successful within that role.  Along those lines, have an open mind, be coachable and thirsty to learn and improve your craft.  Lastly, be the best at what you can control, primarily the effort you put in.

From mistakes and failure come great things, and Sam Whelan is a prime example of this. Sales can be a risk, but not one without the rewards to go along with it. Sales is a demanding career path, but gives you the opportunity to create a sustainable and profitable career that’s both challenging and full of room to learn and grow.