With graduation season coming there will be many chemical engineers on the market looking for their first jobs. There are many opportunities with operating companies, engineering companies, startups, venture capitalists (yes, engineers in the financial industry), and consulting firms. Nevertheless, my first choice is technical sales.
Why technical sales? It’s an interesting field for process engineers for several reasons as you get the opportunity to:
- Combine technical expertise with people skills and business knowledge to help customers solve problems
- Define customer’s technical requirements
- Explain, test, and demonstrate the company’s products to meet the requirements and solve the customer’s problems
- Employ a flexible approach to technical/commercial situations
- Interact with a variety of people and positions
The best process engineers for technical sales possess a desire to get involved in the business aspects of many different industries/application and are willing to cultivate long-term selling relationships with varied types of people.
But Will I Still be a Process Engineer?
In school you learned all of the technical skills. Now, in technical sales, you use all of your process engineering skills. How so?
- Selling requires logical analysis and documentation to the client to make them feel comfortable with the product
- Performing calculations allows you to be successful in risk taking and feel confident in your decisions
- Continuing to trouble shoot the process and solve difficult problems even after you have sold the equipment
Graduating with the technical skills under control, there are certain attributes that can help you transition to a technical sales role as a process engineer. Those looking to hire you for technical sales will want to see:
- Are you a good listener?
- Are you motivated?
- Do you have thick-skin so that if the client is not satisfied you can accept criticisms?
- Can you be part of a team?
- Are you a good writer?
- Do you like to be in front of people making presentations?
- Are you both curious and creative?
My Path to Technical Sales
I embarked on this career path with degrees in chemistry and environmental science and technology. I joined the US Environmental Protection Agency in 1976 when we were a young agency. I did air sampling (clean shaven and no beard) and rule development and was able to learn about many industries and applications. After getting by MBA at night (over four long years), I joined Pall Corporation in technical marketing. This role was fun, creative but now here I am working with BHS-Sonthofen. Some 35 years later, technical sales and marketing are ingrained in my psyche.
Let me know if I can help you with your career decisions and training. Good hunting.