Sadie Connors graduated from Leeds in 2012 with a BA in Business Management and is now Head of Key Accounts at Headbox, an online marketplace for events and meeting venues. In this post she outlines the path she took to her current role and shares her tips for other students and graduates.
What does your role entail?
I work at a London tech startup called HeadBox as Head of Key Accounts, looking after a team of Junior and Senior Account Managers. HeadBox is the UK’s first online marketplace for creative off-site, meeting and event spaces so we’re constantly having to keep up to date with the latest event and venue trends. My team and I work diligently to nurture relationships with large corporate clients, managing all of their event space needs.
What was your path to this role?
The journey that led me to my current role is an unconventional one. When I’d graduated I certainly would not have predicted being where I am now. Before working at HeadBox I worked in a conference company running a cyber security conference.
During this time Andrew Needham, HeadBox’s founder and CEO, was the CEO of another tech startup, Pulsar, where I interviewed for a sales role which I subsequently politely declined. After the interview process, I’d connected with Andrew on LinkedIn and noticed that he’d left Pulsar to start HeadBox and that he was recruiting. I emailed Andrew on LinkedIn to find out more about this new venture and decided to meet him for a coffee to hear more about the concept and what roles were available. Once he pitched HeadBox to me, I decided almost instantly that this was a journey I wanted to be a part of and handed in my resignation to help launch the platform. I was one of the five founding members of HeadBox and began my startup journey in a junior sales role, on-boarding the first 1000 venues before our launch in October 2015. Since joining the HeadBox team I have progressed up the ranks as the team has grown over the past two years: from Customer Acquisition, to Senior Account Executive, to Head of Account Management, to my current role as Head of Key Accounts.
Working at a company during its infancy is an extremely challenging but rewarding experience that pushes you to develop. You need to be constantly on the ball, working long hours to meet your collective targets and to stay one step ahead of the competition in a market as competitive as ours. The great thing about working at a startup like HeadBox is that your efforts are rewarded. By putting in the time and work, the prospect for job progression and more responsibility is far greater than it would be elsewhere.
Any broader reflections on your experiences of securing this job?
On reflection, whilst I didn’t interview in a particularly orthodox way, there are a few things that did contribute to my securing a role at HeadBox. When declining the original offer for Andrew’s old company I was sure to make a good impression and was polite in turning down that role. My advice would be to always be conscious of presenting yourself in a positive way, even when turning down a job as you always want to keep the door open for any future opportunities that might pop up.
I took a risk in leaving my old company to work for a startup. For me, that gamble has absolutely paid off. When you’re young and there’s nothing to lose, when you have no real commitments or outgoings, now is the time to take a risk and pursue your passions. My interest in the tech industry drove my decision to be part of a company shaking up the events industry through technology.
How easy or difficult you found it, any support or help you accessed?
Prior to Headbox I found the job hunt after graduating quite taxing. I was prolific in sending out CVs and applications but I found sending my experience to recruitment agencies to be the best course of action for me providing much speedier results.
What advice would you give current students?
My advice to current students – and recent graduates – would be to be open minded. Seek out and take every opportunity that you can. If you have a passion for a certain industry, do your research to keep up to date with emerging trends and developments. Find the right places to network and make lasting connections – there are always breakfast briefings, panel discussions, and networking events you can attend . Also talk to your friends who have jobs – they might know about any upcoming openings. Keep your ear to the ground and your finger on the pulse.
Would you do anything differently if doing it again?
In terms of whether I would do things differently, my answer is no! It’s all worked out remarkably well, I really wouldn’t have predicted being where I am now. As long as you are hardworking and knowledgeable in your industry, an opportunity will always arise. I have to say that the first few years in sales was pretty tough but I’m so glad I stuck it out. Progression in sales becomes much more about nurturing and building relationships than cold calling for 8 hours a day.
Any advice for students wanting to get into your type of job or sector?
If you’re looking to get into sales or the tech industry, subscribe to industry publications. Keep up with Startups 100 to learn about innovative startups to get involved with. Finally, make the most of Linkedin! It’s a fantastic resource that is often greatly underutilised!
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If you want to follow Sadie’s advice about making the most of LinkedIn, take a look at our relevant blog posts, attend one of our workshops or book an appointment to speak to us. Our events and appointments are all bookable through MyCareer.