“It wasn’t a case of wanting to work in e-commerce. But I did know that Sana was the right company for me.” Find out why Jordi Vermeer can’t imagine working anywhere else.
Since joining Sana two years ago, Jordi has grown from part-time business development agent to departmental manager, and he’s about to take the next step in his career. We asked him about his time at Sana, how he ended up in the e-commerce sector, and why having an affinity with company culture is so important to him.
Your background is in public administration and communications. How did you end up with a career in sales?
Jordi Vermeer: Good question! I’ve always done whatever seemed interesting at the time. So I actually started studying business administration, but lost interest. Public administration was a better fit for me because of the focus on helping people.
Meanwhile I was doing sales activities at my student association, Laurentius. I started as part of a charity commission, where I was responsible for raising funds. Then I moved on to acquisition for our yearbook, which went well: we raised double the funds compared to the previous year.
That’s when Laurentius asked me to join their commercial relations committee, which I did full time for 10 months. Meetings with big multinational corporations, dinner sessions, and much more. I raised a record amount and really enjoyed my work. After that, I knew I wanted a job related to sales.
There are plenty of opportunities for students with proven sales skills. Why did you choose Sana?
JV: I knew a few people working here so I already had a pretty good idea of what it was like: a flat organization with an energetic atmosphere. So it wasn’t a case of wanting to work in e-commerce.
But I did know that Sana is the right company for me. That’s why I applied for a managerial assistant position — which is how our CEO got started here.
That wasn’t a great fit for me, so Sana said: why don’t you join us as a business development agent? And that’s how I got started at Sana.
Looking at your career, it’s not just the company that benefits from this approach but individual employees, too: you grew from a part-timer to a departmental manager in just one year.
JV: I’ve always been rather ambitious.
When I joined the company, I thought I’d be in a pretty straightforward call center job. I soon saw that it’s a pretty next level role — it’s basically sales. And our product is pretty complex, so you need to know a lot in order to succeed in these first conversations with potential clients.
I had to put in a lot of work. Luckily I already had sales experience, and I was in my final year of university. I also knew I wanted to stay with Sana, and when I decide that I want something, I go for it 100%.
Aside from learning all about Sana Commerce as a product, what did you do to ensure you’d grow in the company?
JV: First of all I let HR and my manager know about my ambitions — this was after two months on the job. I actually told my manager that I would love to have his job.
How did he respond to you telling him you wanted his job?
JV: Positively! That’s one of the things I really like about Sana: there are managers who are fine with people aiming for their positions. It’s part of the culture here, I think. You’re asked: what do you want to do? What do you enjoy? What interests you?
Sana is a very dynamic work environment, there are a lot of opportunities. But you do have to chase these opportunities yourself. You can’t wait for projects or advancements to be dropped in your lap — you have to put in the work and make your ambitions clear. So that’s what I did.
When my manager asked me what I wanted to do, I told him, well, your job sounds amazing. He said, “I totally understand, I really love it too.” He liked my honesty, and we worked together to create a plan that would help me achieve my goal. It later turned out that at that point he already knew that he was looking to take the next step in his career soon.
What happened then?
JV: My manager said, go for it. But if you want to manage the business development center, or BDC as it’s known here, you first have to become team captain for Benelux — the BDC has teams focusing on different regions. And in order to make team captain, I had to be the best in my team. Then I had to be the best in the entire BDC and make sure that my team played a more important role.
I was able to make it happen, and after six or seven months I became team captain. It was around then that it became clear my manager was leaving, so I knew I had to do something.
But it wasn’t just that I put in effort: my manager was also empowering me. He started delegating small tasks to me, then responsibility for projects. That let me prove that I could handle the managerial and more project-oriented side of the job, which was invaluable during my job interviews. There were external candidates too, so it wasn’t that I was guaranteed the position.
But four months after becoming team captain, I landed my dream job. Like I said, when I want something, I do everything I can to achieve it.
Was your drive the only thing that helped you get to where you wanted to be?
JV: No, definitely not. It’s also that Sana was the right place for me to succeed.
The company has three core values: if you work here, you have to be committed, entrepreneurial and result-driven. And I think that that describes me perfectly.
I’m committed: when I want something, I give it my all. So I’m also result-driven: I always focus on my end goal. And as for entrepreneurial, I like to think I’m creative. Not as in being able to draw or paint, but that I’m good at solving problems. I like coming up with new ideas or new ways to look at challenges — which can be a huge help in improving your organization.
So I match with Sana very well on all three points.
You’ve achieved the goal you set yourself after just one year on the job. What are you aiming for next?
JV: I’m figuring that out as we speak!
At the beginning of the year, Sana made some changes in the sales organization. That meant that I got a new manager, but also that the way we approach sales is changing. As part of that, my specific role will start to become less relevant.
That meant change was inevitable for me. So I had to make the decision: do I want to switch roles within Sana, or look for a position in another organization? If you work at a place like Sana, there’s no lack of interest from other companies.
Of course there are challenges about working at Sana that you have to be OK with. The organization is growing so fast, and the people who work here are so ambitious, that we don’t always have access to the resources we need to implement our ideas. People are often too busy to pick up something new, or it’s hard to secure a budget. But it was always clear that I wanted to stay at Sana.
Editor’s note: curious to see what Jordi chose? Keep an eye on his LinkedIn profile!
What is it about Sana as an employer that appeals to you, aside from the culture fit?
JV: I can honestly say I work with my friends. I helped a colleague with some renovation work in his house after he mentioned it during our weekly Friday drinks at the office, for instance. Another colleague inspired me to get my motorcycle license — I even ended up buying one of his bikes from him. And I recently even went surfing with my manager. Sana isn’t that hierarchical, and the lines between work and friendship are blurred, but in a very positive way.
It just gives you a bit of extra energy, coming into the office the next day and talking about a great shared experience. It makes work more fun. Another thing is the personal development aspect.
As someone who’s grown from an individual contributor to a manager, you’ve been on both sides of that, right?
JV: Exactly. When you start your first job, you might not be 100% sure what you want to do, or how you want to do it or get to where you want to be. Sana supports its employees in this — provides coaching. It’s something that just feels really positive: they help you reach your long-term goals, instead of pointing out what you’re doing right or wrong in your current role. They’re not just looking to improve performance — they want to help you improve yourself.
For instance, like I said, I’m switching roles within the organization, but I’m not currently sure which direction I want to go exactly. Maybe sales, maybe customer success. Sana is giving me the opportunity to find out what would work best for me. I’m able to join colleagues for on-the-job experience to see what’s right for me.
I strive to take the same approach with my own team. I want to help them perform to the best of their ability, and I’ve noticed that the more energy you invest in people, the better they do. I love seeing that. If I can help them achieve something, it’s really energizing.
For instance, in December my team gave me a sweater that says “Be smart, be like Pablo.” That’s because during our Friday drinks, they always call me “el Patrón,” you know, from Narcos. I try to wear it for our drinks now. Them giving me that gift was a highlight of my time as a manager, and underlined how positive our relationship is — you don’t give your manager a sweater for no reason, after all. It’s this kind of interaction with my team that gives me energy, which I can then invest in them again.
That sounds like a connection that goes beyond just management.
JV: I think that’s true for everything about Sana. It’s the way the organization works: you motivate your employees and stimulate them to think along to achieve their personal goals as well as great business results, but also to have fun along the way. That we’re sitting in the company bar having this conversation, that we organize boot camps and sports days, that it’s such an animated organization: all these things make it fantastic to work for Sana.
Want to Develop Your Sales Talent at Sana?
Inspired by Jordi’s story? Then you might be the right fit for our Sales Traineeship! View the vacancy here and find out whether you’ve got what it takes.
7 July, 2017