A young man wearing a grey hoodie standing in front of a large bush outside. He is smiling at the camera.
Cathal Marsh. Image: Personio

Making the career switch from rugby to inbound sales in tech

24 May 2022

Former rugby player Cathal Marsh talks about the skills he has brought from his athletic career to his new role at Personio and why it’s important to be bold when making a career switch.

Cathal Marsh is a senior inbound sales representative at HR software company Personio. He acts as the first port of call for companies that approach Personio and want to find out more, so his role is extremely customer-led.

However, tech and sales are not where he started off. Before working in Personio, Marsh was professional rugby player for Leinster Academy while studying business, economics and social studies at Trinity College Dublin.

“I played with the team for a further six years after graduation, and even moved across the pond to New York to play for Rugby United NY in the new American professional league,” he told SiliconRepublic.com.

‘There’s a lot more crossover between my career in rugby and my role as a sales representative than you’d think’

What made you decide to switch careers and move into the tech industry?

Of course, all good things have to come to an end and with the pandemic bringing the rugby industry to a halt at the beginning of 2020, I moved back to Dublin and started considering what comes next for me. What did I want to do beyond sport? What role could I see myself thriving in?

I came across Personio and began following their journey, noticing their recent funding rounds and how successful the company was becoming. But of particular interest to me was how their Dublin office was growing at rapid pace.

I thought Personio looked like a great place to work, where I could be part of something big and help shape the company as it experiences such an intense period of hypergrowth. And that’s how I ended up working at Personio – a dramatic career switch but one that’s definitely paid off!

Are there any skills that you have brought from your rugby career that you now use in your current role?

Funnily enough, there’s a lot more crossover between my career in rugby and my role as a sales representative than you’d think! For example, the time management skills integral to success on the rugby pitch are really important to me now – scheduling, prioritising and organisation are skills crucial to doing my job effectively.

Motivation and drive are also important skills needed for success in both rugby and in my position at Personio. Wanting to make a huge impact and really contribute to the team you are working in is key to success in both roles.

And being coachable, able to take on feedback and able to grow yourself accordingly is a skill I use at Personio that I brought with me from my time as an athlete.

What were the biggest challenges making the career pivot and how did you overcome them?

Of course, moving from rugby to being an inbound sales rep at Personio wasn’t all smooth sailing. It was a steep learning curve that required me to adapt, learn and take on new and daunting challenges.

When I first joined, it was a challenge to get used to all of the software we use at Personio, make customer calls confidently and to make sure I was keeping up to speed with how the company was growing and developing.

But I overcame them with the help of my colleagues who were super supportive of me and the transition I’d made, understanding how big of a jump it was for me personally.

They were on hand to answer all of my questions so I was able to overcome the challenges by taking on board all the information and feedback given to me, and using it to mould and develop myself accordingly.

What do you enjoy most about your current job?

I really enjoy how customer facing the role is, and the way this allows me to have so many interesting conversations with exciting companies looking for support with their people operations.

And beyond that, the culture at Personio is fantastic. The team spirit we have within our sales development team, but also the wider company, is really amazing to be a part of.

As Personio continues to grow at a rapid pace, the team spirit and prioritisation of people never slips, which is rare. I also love the Culture Week, which happens every year and allows all Personios across the European offices to meet in Munich for a week and celebrate our culture and our work – it’s great fun and very rewarding!

What advice would you give to others considering switching their careers?

My key advice is research, research, research. It’s so important to be curious and inquisitive – ask all the questions you feel you need to, no matter if they seem small or silly.

There will be people who have had similar experiences to you, so reach out to them to find out more. Do a deep dive into the sector you are interested in, find out the positives and the negatives and weigh it against your strengths and weaknesses to see if it’s a good match.

And my final and most important piece of advice is to be bold. It may seem daunting, but if you’ve done your research, diving into the deep end and switching careers just may well be the best thing you ever do!

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