By Michelle Choquette, Regional Sales Manager, Oncology, Bayer U.S.
If you asked me when I joined Bayer six years ago what I’d be doing now, I would’ve told you I was going to end up in Learning and Development (L&D). Two years after accepting a Sales Representative role in San Francisco, I relocated to New Jersey to join L&D and serve as a Sales Trainer for a new product launch. Four years and three L&D roles later, I’m back in the field leading a regional team from Texas.
I often get asked how I managed so many moves in such a short period of time and why I chose to move out and then back into a sales leadership role. Three things have guided my decisions: owning my career, taking risks and finding time to recharge.
Own your career
Think about the accomplishments you would like highlighted when you retire and start outlining the types of experiences you need to achieve those career goals. After nearly 10 years in sales, I knew I wanted to get into L&D at Bayer. To make that move, I also knew I needed to deliver in my current role, which is why I was laser-focused on performing at the highest level and ultimately winning the President’s Circle award in 2014.
President’s Circle Awards are given annually to the top 10 percent of the sales team.
During my time in L&D, I had exposure to all areas of our Pharmaceuticals division, obtaining a global view of our business strategy, growing my leadership skills and building equity with senior leaders. I also had the opportunity to speak with a lot of people about their own career progression. I had already met my goal of moving into training, so these conversations led me to self-reflect on where I wanted to be in the next 5–10 years. I realized I wanted to run a business unit, which is why I transitioned back to the field leading a sales team.
I hate the cold, so moving to New Jersey didn’t top my list of preferred places to live. However, I knew a new role in L&D would broaden my skill set so, if I decided to return to the field, I would have more knowledge and thus greater earning potential. Training also challenged me to shift my focus from personal sales goals to leading and supporting an entire team. What I discovered is that L&D offered me the opportunity to bring people together (in-person and virtually) and shape the cultural values of the organization, ultimately improving how we delivered our products to customers. Switching jobs is never easy, especially when changing functions, but if you work for a company like Bayer, then you have the support network you need to make the shift. If you think it might be of interest, then try it.
When transitioning from the field to the office, I discovered the pace of the role was incredibly different. I had to learn when to delegate, when to collaborate with others and when to say no. I also learned that to achieve my business objectives, I had to recharge. When I moved to a new state, it was easy to drop some of my previous hobbies, but it hurt my productivity. I love hiking, running and fitness in general, which is how I now start my day. I also love to travel, so I take at least one international trip a year where I completely disconnect and turn off all technology. I am proud to work for an employer that embraces this type of vacation and a team that supports this time to recharge.
Finally, don’t forget to use your mentors. I still go to my mentor today to be my sounding board when I have questions, mess up or need guidance from someone who has been in my shoes. Owning your career also means knowing when to ask for help. Mentors can help you assess the risk of a job change and guide you through your transition.
So where will I be six years from now? The possibilities are endless; you may even find me back in L&D.