Hey! My name is Rodoula Trakada. My first name combined with my last name can be a tongue twister. Even for a Greek, hardly anyone meeting me for the first time can pronounce it correctly. The same comes with my job title. I am currently National Accounts Sales & Shopper Marketing Manager, Retail & E-Commerce for Jacobs Douwe Egberts. If you can say both name and title correctly, you are just awesome! So, this complexity seems to follow my life and mind since I was a little girl, and for something to grab and retain my attention needs a kind of complexity as well…
Having said that, when I was young, I was dreaming of becoming an actress, a ballerina, and same time traveling all around the world as a reporter journalist. After finishing school, I achieved to get into Tourism Business Management University and despite this was not my first choice (Media Management was back then), I convinced myself to give it a try since it would combine at least traveling, which was part of my aspiration and rest could be my hobbies -not bad. Communicating with people was also perceived as an extension of acting, so there was just ballet, which retained its nonprofessional character. I enjoyed my studies the whole 4 years with interesting lessons, where Business Management and Strategy were my core preferences.
1st JOB Experience – Accounts Sales:
The working reality was not exactly as expected, though. I have to admit that neither school nor university prepares you adequately for what you will face out there. The first working years as of 2001 were full of learning, traveling, meeting new destinations negotiating with outbound travel agents. Even though the tourism industry back in 2000-2004 was booming, the industry set up in Greece was mainly family-owned businesses, with no or limited talent development in further fields, so limited room for growth. My conflict back then was not the “current status” but my “future vision.” This was the first time I realized what visioning yourself was. Hence, after 5 years in the same environment, I could not envision myself, so I had to take some action. For that reason, I decided to expand my studies with an MBA at the University of Piraeus in Greece, broadening my knowledge perspective and strengthening my CV further towards other industries.
I had been highly endorsed for my communicational skills and sales effectiveness, though never consciously/actively pursuing a sales career. This field was always frustrating me due to high exposure and out of comfort zone tasks, so I was not so welcoming myself this perspective back then. The sales market was booming. Many opportunities to penetrate industries were underlying through this field expertise, so my need for a change got me to jump on the sales train without thinking (something naturally occurring when you are 24). The next stop after the Travel agent’s job was the FMCGs industry in the sales department, which was considered the optimal start to develop yourself as a commercial stakeholder. It was literally a second Master’s on the job, with strong critical experiences gained, providing a solid start for further career path development. I had no idea, though, of what I was about to start with.
I must admit 18years after that. It was the toughest period of my working experience. In terms of feeling out of my comfort zone, I would almost call it a burn zone for my (back then) skill set. I had left my nit and clean office, my formal suits to get myself on the field, fighting literally every day for a better brand’s strategy execution. The most difficult part was once again people management. I had passed from negotiating with happily married couples to go to Maldives or Bali for a honeymoon to negotiating with bad-tempered (most of the time) store managers that had no intention to even talk to me. So, I had to find a way to achieve my daily goal agenda after accepting that a “Goodmorning” was not always a returned wish. Trust and Patience were the key success factors.
I will always feel thankful for being 2years in that position because the learning was so compressed and integrated that it could not be gained in any other way! Believe me, what you learn on the field cannot be learned in the office, and once in the office, it is even harder to get out there, so do it when you are “young and restless” and sometimes have no idea of what is expected to happen. I had to face several challenges. This on-the-job training taught me how to position myself in the future towards several audiences, remaining focused on my goals and accelerating my agility to adapt when needed. Always hear first, be inclusive but never lose your position unless you are convinced. It is the evolution to change but not to be embedded, and if you are not listened to the first time, for sure, there must be something better that you could have done to make your narrative more impactful. Always stay true to yourself, and even when your mission is not accomplished, communication and negotiation are never futile since, in the end, there is always knowledge gained until you reach your exit position. Feel free to adjust your tactics and also a battle that is lost. Feel comfortable to accept it and let go. Just keep the lesson learned for your future reference.
Of course, as I told you in the beginning, things shall always be somehow complex, so pure sales were not what I would enjoy at maximum, and for me, success feelings shall always be combined with JOY. If you are good at your job, you can succeed, but if you enjoy it as well, you may THRIVE! So, what I liked a lot, as I mentioned from university time, was a strategy. Marketing combined with Sales, which more or less, is Trade or Shopper Marketing, has stoles my heart from day 1 as sales oriented as I wanted (not too much as the front liner) as strategy oriented as I wanted (not too much, always thinking strategy combined with action).
I have not prepared myself lots of times for an interview since I am a more long relationship employee, though always having my ears and eyes open to potential new opportunities (even as a confirmation of my choice and career path), I had some exciting meetings, with both Head hunters and HR VPs.
My Key Learnings Are:
- Always first know who you are, who you want to be and be able to present yourself in a professional way.
It is essential to spend qualitative time defining your point of departure and having a vision of who you want to be. Knowing yourself and be able to present it professionally is a core part of each interview. Somehow this is something that, as feedback, always came back in a very positive way on my interviews. Being transparent and genuine always creates a sense of trust, not forgetting though that you need all these to be included in a well-framed business positioning relying on the conversation content.
- Be thoroughly prepared.
Presenting yourself can be done in several ways. Still, if you want to be an effective communicator, you should always consider your audience, its potential background, and its preferences, as well as considering the relevant context since your target is conveying your message and not just talking. So do not just get into an interview and say who you are. Go into the interview, present who you are, unleash all your relevant dynamics, and show your full potential. Show all those things that you consider important and at the same time identify are the important things you want to know. It’s a 2 parts relationship and interaction. As much as you would desire the job the same way, they might desire your talent. In negotiations, we use to say that to position yourself, get into your negotiator’s mind and relieve the stress you might feel. In this case, there is no power game though both sides shall feel somehow satisfied with what will be achieved. Be yourself, show who you really are, but always keep in mind the context you are communicating and your targeted outcome.
- Have clear view of what are YOUR demands.
Most of the time in an interview, we focus so much on making a good first impression, and we forget to focus on what is important for us. As I mentioned in key point 2, it takes two to tango, so your demands as a potential employee should be clearly articulated since if this match did not fit, it would be a lose-lose process.
- Nothing ends if you don’t get the job.
Relief yourself from over/non-productive stress. Most of the time, we pay so much attention, and we feel our whole life might be depending on a job offer we have to get, and that interview is a one-shot opportunity. This might be a one-shot opportunity, but you are also driving your career path for sure other opportunities will be created in the future. Focus on the experience you gain, the interaction you will have during this meeting, and the person you will communicate with and always request truthful feedback after the process ending. It is great learning to get feedback on what worked/didn’t work to spot your weak points or blind spots and further prepare for next time.
Finally, you got the job, and you are on your own path of building your career. Keep in mind as well. It is a marathon, not a sprint. This means you must train hard and always have a plan. You must be resilient, agile and always keep up your shape. Nourish yourself, your mind, your soul, your body; it is a full 360 experience. Continuous learning, agility, skills development are key facts for your evolution as a professional. Please work with your company and its stakeholders closely and openly on building your path and always search for your development areas and opportunities. Never stop learning. Learning is not always relying on training, which is really great, hence in a modern world, the HR department struggles with budgeting issues. Learnings rely on everyday interactions.
On-the-job training shall be at least 70% of your training curve, and every day is a new lesson that has something to add to your personal and professional profile cumulatively. Always read books, papers relevant and not relevant to your current business scope. Develop further than that since you are a human, not just an employee. Deep dive into different areas moving either in-depth, diving into specific functional expertise core parts, or build either in breadth by learning other interesting broader learning modules. Keep your mind trained and updated. Sources of knowledge are so huge that I really cannot narrow down my list, find people you admire and follow on social, read their tweets, and follow what they follow. You will be surprised how much information will reach your newsfeed and lead you from one connection to another to magical learning paths, accelerating your learning curve.
- Last but not the least do not be afraid to be yourself!
Even if you believe you are not where you want to be, this is perfectly fine, have a plan, and do not lose trust in yourself. Build your personal story and be open to reframe and revise whenever is needed. Present/promote your CV with the same flexibility you chose to show yourself on social media. Just consider your audience’s relevance. Pursue your goals, enjoy your wins, learn from your setbacks, and do not stop fighting.
You are not where you want to be but keep watching where you want to go. This is your PATH. My secret in 3 words is VISION, RESILIENCE, and PATIENCE. Oops, not a secret anymore!
Rodoula Trakada Sales & Marketing Manager in FMCG company. Coach and Mentor, founder of U Rise UP. Passionate about interacting with people, enabling them to envision a better, bigger future, building upon their potentialities, reaching their dreams. You can reach out to her via LinkedIn.