From music teacher to sales: John Schnelle on making a career change

Switching careers isn’t that uncommon anymore. In fact, it brings an interesting perspective by working in a role you haven’t done before. Over a year ago, John Schnelle realized he wanted more opportunity to grow his career than he had in teaching. First, he decided to become a student again and enroll in a design and web development course. He later switched his track into sales and joined the sales team at Formlabs, where he now works as a Solutions Specialist. Read on to learn about his journey and what it is like to sell in an rapidly evolving industry.

Before Formlabs, you studied music, and taught chorus and drama to middle school kids. What pushed you to make a career change?

As much as I loved being a classroom teacher, I realized that there wasn’t any upward mobility or opportunities for career growth. More often than not, you’re doing the same thing year after year.

John playing a 3D printed violin, printed on a Form 2!

In my life, I never want to become stale or stagnant. A good teacher is always a student and learns something new.

I enrolled in Startup Institute, a career accelerator in Boston. Initially, I was in a front-end development and design track (Javascript, HTML, and CSS). 75% of the way through, one of my mentors suggested I check out the sales classes. The sales track felt like a natural fit for where and who I wanted to be. Try standing in front of a classroom of 60 sixth grade kids and tell me you aren’t trying to sell your idea.

Being able to present an idea or a concept and being a good listener are super important.

That is how I got to Formlabs: Matt Hurley, a Startup Institute alum, had posted that Formlabs was looking for salespeople. I reached out and started the conversation there.

Now that you’re in sales, what is your role?

I started as an outbound sales representative for my first six months and then grew into a small/medium business account manager. We take all incoming calls and chat messages from the website, and process purchase orders. It took me a long time to learn how to do all of that after making some spectacular mistakes.

My day involves reaching out to people who express interest in our technology. Whether they are dentists, doctors, engineers, designers, or jewelers, I get to talk to different people every day. I get to learn about their industries, challenges, and goals. Mostly, we talk about whether our technology can help them. In a way, sales is like being a teacher: uncovering what someone needs and helping them find a solution.

In three words, how do you describe your team?

Ambitious, brilliant, and easy going.

Sales is hard. You take rejection constantly. We can be goofy, quirky, and a little weird. For me, that makes this a fun place to work. Sales environments can often be cutthroat. I love coming to work every single day and that is something I have not been able to say previously in my career.

What does being a Formling mean to you?

For me, it is being part of a mission to make impactful, powerful products. Every day, I get to impact dentists, engineers, and designers who use our products successfully to save money, cut turnaround times, take control of their processes, and improve lives.

Working at Formlabs has been one of the most fulfilling and transformative experiences I’ve had in my professional life. I just celebrated my first year anniversary. I feel very comfortable growing here and my managers have supported that growth.

Do you have any advice for candidates or new Formlings?

Let go of your pride and be open to making mistakes.

It’s going to make you better in the long run and it is the only way to grow. You’re constantly learning whether it’s about our industries, our printers, how to troubleshoot things, or how to sell and have conversations with people. You can’t approach something thinking you already know everything. If you do, you’re blocking the experience.

Formlabs is growing fast. Join us.