- Working at large companies allows you to gain experience and confidence, but working at smaller organizations, especially startups, enables you to have a more significant impact.
- Regardless of the space you work in, connect with people and build your network. Success is all about helping each other instead of comparing ourselves.
- Once you start working at a tech company, learn as much as possible about the product you are selling.
Whether we want to admit it or not, jobs occupy a considerable part of our lives and significantly impact their quality. But, many people settle for less than they deserve or are capable of, due to the fear of failure and financial security.
People say to follow your passion, but that’s easier said than done. However, there are so many examples that prove that this is not just another cliche phrase. Our guest is one such example.
Kirsten Reynolds is the Head of Partnerships at Airvet, a company on a mission to make a difference in the vet space by combining traditional approaches and innovations. Prior to joining Airvet, Kirsten spent almost five years at Morton Salt and nearly six years at Mattel, Inc.
However, Kirsten knew her true calling was somewhere else. So she joined the National Veterinary Association, met many influential people from the industry, and soon after, got a job offer she couldn’t refuse. That’s how her story with Airvet began.
In this episode of Taking the Lead podcast, Kirsten discusses her professional journey, explains the differences between working at large companies and startups, and the role tech plays in the vet space.
From Working at Large Companies to Working at a Startup — Kirsten’s Incredible Career Path
Kirsten describes herself as ”a big company girl.” Even before her professional journey began, she learned everyone should have big names on their resume. So, that’s what she did.
First, she moved to Chicago and worked at Morton Salt. She spent almost five years there. Then, she relocated to L.A. and joined Mattel, Inc. Although it may look like an illogical shift, going from salt to children’s toys, it was not. Moreover, everything she learned in the first company helped her advance in the new one.
”I had done pricing strategy at Morton Salt; I came in and did pricing strategy for Mattel. I don’t know if many other people have had this experience, but if you’re really good at stuff, they will let you do other stuff, and you should ask them if you can do more stuff.
And so, I just kept asking to do more things and found myself in a great place in mergers and acquisitions. The most corporate thing you could do is M&A; it’s crazy, but it was fun.
I learned a ton and found a passion for partnerships and making things work. So analyzing that buy/build partner strategy, all of those different types of things which got me to where I am today. It’s just picking up a passion along the way and following it.”
Passion drives success, Kirsten believes, so once she realized it was time for her to do what she loves the most, she joined the NVA — National Veterinary Association. Being part of such an organization allowed her to meet influential people from the vet space, including the CEO of Airvet.
”Now I am working with animals, dogs and cats and veterinarians. So, if you’ve ever had a pet and you’ve gone into a veterinary office, please hug your veterinarian; they are amazing people, and they need help.
And this is an industry that is ripe for opportunity, and just so many lessons can be imparted here, and it doesn’t help that I’m just obsessed with my dogs. So, passion and function match in this situation.”
Tech Is the Answer
She was certain that she wanted to make a difference. She soon realized that one of the best places to make a difference is in tech.
So, as Kirsten explains, she never planned to work in the tech space, but joining Airvet allowed her to dive into something new that combined her love for animals and innovations.
”I went into tech in my late thirties, like, who goes to your first startup and your first tech company in your late thirties? And I was like, ‘Yeah, I got this.”’
It’s All About Networking
But even before she became part of Airvet, Kirsten worked at NVA. That job opened many doors and helped her meet influential people from the industry. For example, she remembers the situation when she met the CEO of Airvet and recapitulated their conversation.
”I was talking to Brandon, he’s our CEO, and I was like, ‘You’re super connected in the vet space. I want to stay here, but I want to make a difference, and can you help me find something that will give me that opportunity?’
Just going in and saying, ‘Help me out here, and here are the reasons why I want to leave NVA, and here are the things that I’m looking for. I’m not getting enough of this; I want more of this.’ […] He was like, ‘I will help you right over to Airvet.’ And I was like, ‘Yes, but I need a paycheck.’ And he goes, ‘We’re closing our Series A; we can hire you after that.’
I didn’t really know fully what that meant when he said it, how small it would be, but, yes, somebody wants to take a chance on me, I’m taking a chance on this.”
Take One Day at a Time
Kirsten is the Head of Partnerships at Airvet, which means she’s had a lot of responsibilities right from the start. There were challenges, but she knew it was up to her to find the best way to overcome them. She was cautious, ready for all kinds of situations, but she believed in her team and the company’s vision.
”I took this approach, ‘I’m going to be here, I am a leader at this company, I want to analyze the entire company. What are the opportunities? How do we do this?’ Jump in like you own the place because, at this point, there are only so many of us, so we all kind of own the place.
And, so, going in and saying, ‘This is the industry, here’s an industry outlook, here’s what we should be doing, here are some great opportunities.’ And then, you start parsing what you can do now versus, ‘This is a great opportunity, but I don’t have a promo code, so I can’t do any of this. So I’m going to go on a crusade for a promo code and push all of these things over to the side and say, I can do these things when I have them.”’
Surround Yourself With People You Can Learn a Lot From
Although she has an executive role, Kirsten is never afraid to ask questions and admit she doesn’t understand something. If you don’t ask questions and approach the right people, you’ll never learn and advance.
”So, I found a couple of people, and I was like, ‘What do you do when you have a question? How do you ask people?’ Because we were a tiny company, we had a head of product, she was crazy busy, so I was like, ‘I need to learn things about the product. I need to learn more about SaaS sales strategies.’
So, I went to our sales ops manager, and a couple of other people who had been in tech and been in startups before and asked, ‘Where do you go for this info?’ And they gave me a whole bunch of suggestions.”
The lesson she learned along the way is that there’s room for everyone, especially in the tech space. You don’t need prior knowledge to build your career in this field.
Of course, experience is critical, but if you want to go into tech and get an opportunity to work for a tech company, the first thing you should do is learn as much as possible about the product you are selling, regardless of your position.
Also, build a community, connect with people you can learn from, and be curious yet patient. And, as Kirsten concludes, don’t compare yourself to others; we all have different paths even if we are in the same industry.
Instead of comparing ourselves, we should help each other because that’s the proven formula for success.
This article is based on an episode of Sales Assembly’s podcast, Taking The Lead, which features top female B2B Tech Revenue Leaders, VCs, Advisors, and Icons. Bi-weekly episodes dive into a tactical topic to help listeners (regardless of gender or seniority level) learn how to be better, faster, and smarter as they navigate the craziness of the Revenue world within B2B Tech.