Unorthodox Path to Corporate Strategy Position

PNWguy94's picture
PNWguy94 - Certified Professional
Rank: Chimp | banana points 8

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

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

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  • More suggestions...

Hope that helps.

Dec 14, 2018

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.

    • 1
Jan 7, 2019

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.

Jan 28, 2019

Interesting and fair point. Why do you think CD and corporate strategy roles are so competitive then, It's arguably more difficult to get into those groups in terms of "prestige" backgrounds compared to marketing, sales at your Google, Apple, even Cisco?

Most Helpful
Jan 7, 2019

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.

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Jan 28, 2019

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 7, 2019

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.

Jan 28, 2019

Great, understood. I appreciate the insight and will certainly the culture change in mind when I'm looking at exits now. I am considering B-School, so think that banking with a unique corporate strategy experience may help me get to the post-MBA opps I'm interested in.

Jan 31, 2019