Unorthodox Path to Corporate Strategy Position

WSO users:

This is my first post to WSO and I'm looking for a little guidance.

Background on me: BBA in Management (trust me, I've heard all the jokes about MGMT majors, I get it, whatever) from TCU and work in sales for a fairly large construction equipment manufacturer. I'm really enjoying my sales role, and plan to probably stay in it for a few years to get some real ground-level experience in the industry. I'm by far the youngest sales guy in the company (24), with most of my counterparts well into their 40s and 50s with 20-30 years of sales experience in the industry. I enjoy the travel, but can see how that might get old as I get older (don't want to be a 50 year old sales guy). I like the "Big Picture" and planning aspect of the business, tracking industry trends, entering new markets, introducing new products, etc., so I'm really trying to go into more of a Corporate Strategy role after a few years in sales. I figured WSO would be the best place to come to get some advice on what I can do to put myself in the best position possible to make the jump from sales to strategy.

I 100% plan on getting my MBA, but I won't do that until I've got a few years of experience under my belt. In the meantime, I've been looking at a couple part-time and online MSF programs (IU-Kelley, UMiami, Auburn) that I could do in the meantime to give me the finance background I'd need to be competent in a corporate strategy role. Would getting an MSF now (and MBA later) and a few years of sales experience be a smart move if I'm looking to one day go from sales to strategy? My thought process is an outside sales guy who also has a strong grasp of finance and accounting is pretty rare, and could be pretty attractive to an employer. Any advice on different routes from this that would help me land a strategy position later on?

I know I'm just an outsider looking in to you guys, but I'd really appreciate some candid feedback. I'm speaking purely for internal-hiring purposes for a mid-large construction equipment manufacturer (not looking to land a job at a BB or flashy consulting firm, I'm not an Ivy Leaguer and don't care to be). I'm just looking for some help. Thanks!

Comments (9)

Dec 11, 2018 - 12:50am

PNWguy94, bummer your thread hasn't had a response yet. Sometimes bots are smarter than humans anyways:

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  • Buy Side: An unorthodox route position (apparently most jobs in finance over there are secured this way). However he did not want to rely ... the pre-requisites involved. According to Brian at M&I there were three ways. 1. Following ... I followed that path, but I just though that a story such as this might be an encouraging reminder to those ...
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  • More suggestions...

Hope that helps.

Dec 14, 2018 - 1:08am

Let me give you some advice, corporate "strategy" is not all it is cracked up to be. Mostly ex-consultants who spend their time herding cats to get information to put in ppt decks for senior ops guys and the CEO. Not bad experience but not a goal in of itself. Most strategy guys would love to have the opportunity to transition to an business role in marketing, operations or SALES.

Sales is a great skill set to have (especially industrial/commercial sales. With a sales background you can run a business unit, start your own co, move into marketing or other business roles etc.

Plus, frankly if you are a good sales person you are making more money early in your career than anyone in a support role like strategy.

You're young, I would give sales 5 years then if you hate it go get an MBA and go into finance. Although i'll remind you that partners/mds are valued for their sales ability more than anything else.

Jan 7, 2019 - 2:19pm

this is on point...currently looking to transition to sales.

CD or strategy aren't a bad place to start as it allows you to quickly build your internal network and understand the business/industry. but not really an end game.

Most Helpful
Jan 29, 2019 - 9:45am

Because CD and Strat roles typically require IB or consulting-type of experience. Both of those are difficult to land. Also, CD or Strat teams hire ad-hoc whereas Sales is always hiring. So supply/demand.

Here's the cultural difference – IB and consulting firms are revenue generating services. Pivot to corporate, CD and strat don't (directly) generate revenue for the company. Sales (maybe marketing depending on the company) generates revenue for a company. Hence, Sales teams are prioritized, not CD or Strat initiatives. Now before everybody gets up in arms here, this could widely vary firm-to-firm.

For some folks, it's probably a culture shock going from IB/consulting – where you're considered the top priority and dare I even say put on a pedestal by other groups (back office, middle office) – to corporate where other teams – Sales – are given the spotlight.

Background: Buy-side => CD => Sales.

  • 5
Jan 30, 2019 - 11:24pm

Thanks for the insight! That's definitely true and I'm worried if I move that I won't be happy because I am not "front office" anymore, but corporate strategy is really attractive me and I feel like people are generally okay with not being the pedestal anymore because the role is still considered difficult to get. I could be talking myself into this because I feel like I'd be good at it and it's a good way to get out from banking...

Jan 31, 2019 - 9:38am

Strat is a good place to start - the work in interesting, good exposure, decent pay w/ work/life balance - wasn't trying to suggest it's a bad gig.

If you develop a solid reputation and network across the company, then you should have plenty of opportunities to move around, or take a Strat gig at another company, move to a startup, B-school, whatever. Just don't be surprised by the culture change noted above.

  • 1
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