A young man stands outdoors in front of a misty mountain. He is smiling at the camera.
Séan Gallagher. Image: Intercom

‘It was a long road for me trying to break into tech’

4 days ago

Intercom’s Seán Gallagher shares his advice for graduates and explains why he believes ‘be yourself’ is not a very good tip.

Click here for more advice for the sci-tech class of 2022.

Seán Gallagher works as a customer growth relationship manager for Irish-founded software unicorn Intercom. Having started out with his own business in videography, his journey into the tech sector took time.

When he tried to move into software-based sales, he struggled to convince companies to take a chance on him.

He then joined online career guidance, mentorship and recruitment platform Gradguide, which helped him work on his CV and interview skills. He has since returned to Gradguide as a mentor.

“It feels great now to be on the other side and part of the solution and helping people that are just a few years behind me in getting their first start into technology,” he told SiliconRepublic.com.

“As a mentee, often you just want to be able to get your simple questions answered from someone who has been in the same situation as you, and when you can mentor someone you’re really able to give them the best chance to launch their careers, and I get a lot of personal meaning from this and I’m so proud of the people I’ve worked with so far.”

‘Be extremely specific in your goals about where you want to go in your career and have the next five years in mind’
– SEÁN GALLAGHER

What was your experience like moving into this industry as a graduate?

It was a long road for me trying to break into tech. I’m now 30, but started really trying to put a plan in place to break into sales back when I was about 26.

I was fortunate to be offered a place on a Springboard course in NCI, which helped me improve my CV after I had originally dropped out of a course in IADT a few years previously.

I had my own business working in videography in the meantime for a number of years and it didn’t work out, so I was back to square one and always wanted to learn how to sell successfully as it was the main reason that my business really struggled to sustain itself.

After getting my first sales job, I was again very fortunate that they supported me in upskilling with a postgraduate diploma in digital marketing, and from there I upgraded this to a full master’s and have recently graduated from this course.

Although these courses were not necessary for me to obtain my current role in tech, or for anyone else to get a role in tech sales, I actually enjoyed the journey of learning and I wouldn’t change it as it built my confidence a lot alongside building my sales experience.

As I tried to get a more software-based sales role, it was a real challenge for me as it was very competitive. It seemed that even though I had some sales experience (2.5 years), companies weren’t sure about me as I wasn’t the usual candidate and graduate, and I didn’t know how to best portray myself to get them to feel comfortable with taking a chance on me.

This is where Gradguide really helped me and why I think it’s a brilliant initiative. I was in the early stages of the interview process with Intercom and signed up for Gradguide to get mentored.

Gradguide was able to help me to tailor my CV, my messaging, what to say and not say and how to approach the interview process (STAR method in particular). One of the most important aspects was getting paired with my mentor James, who works in Intercom.

Being able to ask him questions during my interview process was invaluable and I think this really stood to me getting this job because he put me at ease and steered me in the right direction as someone three years ahead in his sales career at Intercom.

Can you describe a typical day in your current role?

As a customer growth relationship manager, I am working at the intersection of being an account executive and relationship manager for all of our growing customers in EMEA. I consult with them and help them grow and scale by driving more value with Intercom.

Is there anything you know about the tech industry that you wish you knew as a graduate?

I wish I knew how high the standard really was and how far apart I was with my CV and my preparation. Some of the worst advice I’ve heard is ‘be yourself’.

I wish my advice that I received was much more direct, detailed and realistic so I could really look at where my gaps were, and really tailor my CV and interview for the role and company.

I had one experience where someone gave me some really good candid advice when I didn’t get the role and this was a huge turning point for me during interviews. If you show up to an interview with a huge amount of research about the role and company, it’s going to go much better than if you show up without much preparation.

Being able to portray yourself as the most prepared and professional version of yourself is what I needed to hear, and I think more graduates need to hear this because often things are left to chance and great candidates miss out on great starts in their career because they never really commit to really going for their dream role with all of their heart.

What would be your top advice to graduates now?

Be extremely specific in your goals about where you want to go in your career and have the next five years in mind. Understand your own strengths and how you work with people, find an entry level role that is suited to this career trajectory.

Once you know what that entry-level role is, understand in great detail what the key competencies are and build out a detailed CV with examples of how you are demonstrating these hard and soft skills with measurable examples backed by data.

There are many free resources out there like Gradguide or online courses that can demonstrate your enthusiasm to a potential employer.

Focus on what you can control and if you can be really prepared, and have a very clear vision for the employers of why you meet their criteria and why you want to work for this company specifically, then you will get your role.

Generally, you can’t overdo it with enthusiasm for seeking out a role, and don’t shy away from letting them know exactly what’s in it for them if they hire you.

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Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the deputy editor of Silicon Republic in 2020, having worked as the careers editor until June 2019. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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