It can be hard, when you’re just starting out in your careers, to see a future where you succeed in it. Sometimes, hearing from someone who’s already followed that path can make all the difference.
Sales manager Oscar Grobbenhaar has risen through the ranks at Oracle. He tells us about his journey.
What first stirred your interest in a career in tech?
I have been interested in a career in tech since childhood. Everything that had a button, screen or wire would be taken apart and, sometimes, fully reassembled. PCs, especially, were devices that amazed me. I used them for everything from making music and playing video games to creating documents. (This was before the Internet.)
My passion has always been technology and electronics, and it very much still is. Looking at the power of tech and the amazing rate at which the tech industry has developed in the last 20 years, it is the most compelling industry to grow a career in.
When I started my first job working as a relationship manager for a big pension insurer in The Netherlands, I realized I wanted something different. I started thinking of what interested me most, and that was IT. I therefore pursued a move to the IT service desk within the same company. This was a job I loved.
What education and/or other jobs led you to the role you now have?
I ran my father’s company for about two years, while he was very ill. To manage a high-tech manufacturing company with around 50 people on staff at the age of 27 was not an easy task, especially during the financial crisis.
During this period, I learned that I love managing people in a changing and challenging situation, while still endeavouring to be successful and grow the company.
After my father returned to the company, I decided to pursue my own career again. Because I knew I wanted to go back into tech, that was the industry I was focusing on while looking for a new career opportunity.
In my first role since placing my focus on tech, I was responsible for selling flash memory into the DACH region (Germany, Austria and Switzerland) for one of Taiwan’s biggest flash manufacturers. This was a very interesting role and got me introduced to the big players in the German and international IT hardware flash industry.
After almost two years, I was headhunted by Salesforce for a position based in Dublin. This presented me with the opportunity to work for one of the most successful cloud companies of that time.
At Salesforce, I learned that cloud was definitely the way all companies would go, or were already going. As CRM was getting more of a commodity than an easy sell, I wanted to focus on a broader cloud solution and, especially, marketing cloud.
That was when I knew that pursuing a career with Oracle was the right move for me. Oracle is the leader in marketing automation, and I wanted to be part of the accelerated growth that they had planned. I moved to Oracle in March 2015 and now, almost a year later, I manage the same team that I was hired into.
I applied to Oracle as soon as I saw an opening. I knew I would have tough competition for this role, both internally and externally, but this was my chance to demonstrate my belief that I was able to support the changes and expansion that Oracle was and is continuing to go through.
My belief and determination was quickly recognized by Oracle and, as a consequence, they promoted me into the role I am in today, where I am responsible for managing a team of seven sales reps selling CX Cloud Applications throughout northern Europe.
What were the biggest surprises or challenges you encountered on your career path and how did you deal with them?
When I arrived at my father’s company, the financial situation was extremely bad. The company was close to bankruptcy. Within six months, the company was profitable again.
That was the biggest surprise and challenge – what one person can do, and how much you and your actions can influence behaviour, motivation, passion and dedication.
Without a good team and a good product, you will never be able to succeed, but those things have always been there for me, at my father’s company and now with Oracle.
Was there any one person who was particularly influential as your career developed?
As you have probably gathered, my parents were very influential in my life. The experience I gained leading my father’s business certainly had a big influence on my work ethic and helped to carve the credentials that are essential to my job today. I also have the good fortune of being surrounded by strong leaders who have not only shown me what I can achieve, but supported me in achieving it.
What do you enjoy about your job?
There is never a dull day at Oracle. The company is changing, and not just a little. We are currently undergoing the biggest transformation Oracle has gone through since its inception almost 40 years ago, and it is fascinating to be a part of.
I love the pace, the energy, the people, the product, and Oracle’s ambition.
What aspects of your personality do you feel make you suited to this job?
My Dutch parents adopted me at just five weeks old from my native Sri Lanka, and raised me in a small village in The Netherlands. As I grew, I came to realise that I could have faced many challenges that are still so prevalent in society around race and discrimination. However, my flexibility and ability to adapt to different situations and environments empowered me, and I turned every challenge into an opportunity.
To be successful in any company, especially within the tech sector, you have to be flexible, be open to change and be able to demonstrate dynamism. I believe that my current role requires all of these traits, and honing these has enabled me to develop my career, lead by example and meet the demands of Oracle’s accelerated growth.
How did your current company support you on your career path, if at all?
Oracle has been and continues to be a tremendous support in developing my career.
Oracle is a large, complex organisation that has a number of standardised processes – as you would expect of any company of this scale – but when it comes to support with your career development, it’s a much more bespoke experience. The company got to know me and what motivates me, and were quick to identify my strengths, which resulted in a very quick transition from sales rep to manager.
Oracle operates a very autonomous environment and, while you have to be a self-starter, you also have the bandwidth to work in an entrepreneurial way, which presents you many opportunities to innovate and excel.
What advice would you give to those considering a career in tech, or just starting out in one?
Go into tech because you love it. Pick a company or product that you are passionate about and believe in, and don’t be afraid to evolve as tech does. In the age of digital disruption, you need to embrace new ways of working and be at the forefront of transformational discussions.
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Updated on 9 May 2016 at 9.20am.