“Pick an industry that you are truly interested in and learn it.” -Steven Perez
Steven Perez has worn several hats during his four and a half years at Twilio. What initially started as an individual contributor role as a sales representative has turned into a propelling journey from salesperson to regional director. We often meet candidates who have questions about pivoting in their careers, and we discuss what it takes to work in tech without a technical background. Steven is a testament to exactly that. As someone who has solid experience in marketing, Steven has successfully designed and advanced his career by speaking up to get the opportunities that have taken his skills to the next level. As someone from a business administration and finance background, Steven has proven that the tech space is not limited to programmers and software engineers.
Twilio is the world’s leading cloud communication platform that enables you to engage customers across channels: SMS, voice, video, WhatsApp, email, and more. While classified as a tech company, many roles within Twilio aren’t technical positions. We spoke with Steven Perez, Twilio’s Regional Sales Director, about his professional background, advice to anyone interested in a career in tech sales, and his transition from sales rep to regional director. Continue reading to learn more.
Steven: I manage a team that sells Twilio’s cloud communications platform to its enterprise customers. My team works the entire sales process and life cycle from top-of-the-funnel lead generation through product evaluations with customers, contracting, and post-sales account management. I spend most of my time collaborating with my team and working with customers directly to close new sales for the company. There are plenty of internal planning discussions, lots of customer meetings, and connecting my customers with resources to help them solve their business challenges. I also spend a fair amount of time managing my region’s sales forecasts and business outlook for every fiscal quarter and year. Those forecasts are used by senior management to forecast revenue for the entire company. There’s also a fair amount of process management — I’m constantly trying to make it easier for my team to do their jobs and coaching my team to perform at their best.
Steven: I’ve been in sales and marketing for over twenty years. For most of my career, I’ve been in an individual contributor role, and I expressed an interest in moving into management when I got to Twilio. I got my bearings here, had some success in my role, and then spoke with my manager about my career aspirations. They supported my desire to move into management, especially because I had a deep understanding of Twilio’s business. I felt like it was a great time to make the move, and wanted to help others achieve success at Twilio and help the business grow. The first step towards that growth was becoming a team lead, where I was still in the individual contributor role, but I was a go-to resource for the team when questions would come up.
Steven: Typically, companies will promote individuals who are already doing a great job, so first, focus on doing your current job really well. Ideally, you'll have proven some level of success in your individual contributor role and then be able to take that success and scale it across a team. If you're interested in management, express that interest to your supervisors. Understand how your company evaluates candidates for managerial roles and determine if they offer resources to help individual contributors who aspire to become managers. This should give you a good idea of what your company expects when hiring or promoting someone into management, and you can start doing those things.
Because Twilio is a fast-paced tech company, we need to grow and scale quickly. A good starting point can be to volunteer to take on extra projects outside of your regular responsibilities. Try leveraging what has helped you succeed in your individual contributor role to develop a program or process you can share with your team to help them do their job more effectively. Taking on more responsibility and helping your team grow is a great first step towards management.
Steven: I've been fortunate that Twilio provides some amazing systems and programs to support career development. We offer a manager development program called BetterUp. It provides management training and peer councils, as well as personal coaching resources. It has been a great ongoing resource to help me grow and improve as a manager. Twilio has also created a branch program of BetterUp offered to Black and Latinx employees that aspire to become managers called RiseUp.
Some other tools that I've found extremely effective with the teams I've managed are creating informal team settings that promote peer collaboration, like Slack groups. It helps the team draw from their collective knowledge and experience, crowdsource ideas, make decisions, and motivate each other. I also believe the more data you have to make decisions, the better. I try to ask my team for feedback, input, and ideas often. I've found surveys can be a good way to make sure everyone has the opportunity to be heard.
Steven: Mentorship has been extremely valuable to my career development, and it does go both ways — being a mentee and a mentor. I believe that everyone can learn something from someone else. Being open to reciprocating on both sides is what helps people in their careers. If you have the opportunity to be involved with formal mentorship programs, definitely take it. Even if it's not a formal program, ask someone that you respect for advice. It doesn't even have to start as a mentorship. Offer to buy them a cup of coffee. You never know; one meeting can lead to regular meetings, and the next thing you know, you're in a mentorship.
Steven: In college, I studied business administration with a concentration in finance. If you asked me back then, I thought for sure I'd go into corporate finance or investment banking out of college. Instead, I landed an internship my senior year where I was working on a project developing internet services using search technology. It was when consumer e-commerce was just starting to take off, and large corporations were still trying to figure out how internet technology would transform business. I decided to pivot into technology. My first job out of college was product marketing. I bounced around in a lot of different marketing roles and eventually took a job as a field marketer working directly with sales teams where I ran programs to help them close business faster. What I really liked about that job was the direct interaction with customers. It was at that point that I decided to pivot to sales. I also wanted my compensation to directly correlate with the time and effort I was putting into my job.
Steven: You don't have to be technical to work in technology. It's very fast-moving and innovative. My perspective is that having diversity in tech sales actually brings more opportunities to push the limits of technology. Incorporating diverse professional backgrounds and cultures and tapping into underrepresented groups brings new ideas and adds more collective data to draw from. I believe that more diversity drives tech innovation faster.
Twilio is on a hiring spree with open roles across multiple functions worldwide. We’d love to be part of your next career move. Check out open opportunities at Twilio today.