Until now, Monica Chieffo’s entire career has centered around music. She earned a PhD in Musicology–an academic discipline involving the cultural and social study of music–from UCLA and is a part-time lecturer at UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music. She was also a professional harpist, playing at weddings and private parties in greater Los Angeles.
When the Great Resignation began hitting the higher education industry and faculty headcounts shrinking, Monica began considering a departure from academia. She had been an academic since college, and she wanted to work in the industry and learn about business strategy. At first, she wasn’t sure what to do next with her career. She toyed briefly with UX design and data science before settling on tech sales after talking with an admissions counselor at Springboard.
Now she’s a sales development representative at Zappar, a software company that runs a proprietary augmented reality (AR) platform and a consulting arm that works with businesses to help them create better customer experiences using AR technology.
Musicology has nothing to do with performance art in terms of becoming an orchestral musician or a performer. Rather, it’s the cultural and social study of music. As a researcher, you can go in any direction you want.
Basically, I studied the effects of music and sound on prayer and spirituality for a group of individuals in Rome in the late Renaissance. I studied a small contingent and the music they composed and how that music helped build their own form of spirituality.
I’ve been in academia as a lecturer and PhD student for nearly my entire career since college. I was craving the opportunity to learn more about business and do something more people-facing. Being a scholar involves a lot of solo work, and achievement is wrapped up in what you accomplish as an individual. I was interested in learning about business strategy and things that don’t necessarily fall within the value system of academia and higher education.
I just completed my onboarding phase. I went into it with confidence because I had spent so much time in the Tech Sales Career Track learning the skills that I would need in this role. During my onboarding, I’ve been learning a lot about augmented reality, the nature of the business, how the sales team operates. I’m learning how to use Hubspot, Cognism, and the LinkedIn Sales Navigator.
The company has its own proprietary AR platform, but I’m prospecting leads for the agency side, where we help businesses use AR in more strategic ways for marketing campaigns, user experience design, or learning and development.
It's been great. I'm actually really excited and this career transition has been smooth and seamless. But at the same time, I have to sometimes pause and think, I just learned a whole lot of new information.
I’m surrounded by people who are so used to the lingo of SaaS sales and the rhythm of the business. They seem to have a sixth sense about things. Sometimes I have to stop and tell myself to slow down and give myself time to catch up with everybody else.
I looked into a lot of different bootcamps. At first I thought I wanted to study UX design or data science. When I discovered Springboard, I found that the marketing materials were very specific and the pricing was upfront. I just had a good feeling about it.
The Tech Sales Career Track seemed different from any other certificate program I had seen, so I was intrigued. I had a good conversation with the admissions counselor, so I just went for it.
When I was at UCLA, I was teaching classes online, so studying online was not that different. Springboard had a very structured curriculum with a dashboard that tracks your progress and a well-designed interface, and that was very different for me as a teacher and a learner.
The live classes really stuck with me and were the most effective for me personally. I was really glad we had the weekly live classes where we would do spontaneous roleplaying. That was the core learning experience for me.
My career coach was really good at holding me accountable and making sure I went through all the steps–networking, building a LinkedIn profile, making sure your resume reflects the role you’re going after. She also gave me tips on how to negotiate and what to do if you receive multiple offers. I definitely got a lot of value out of those coaching calls.
I don't have an immediate goal. I just want to settle into the role and learn more about the AR industry. I don’t have an aspiration to be the sales team lead or VP of sales by next year. As an academic, I didn’t have those motivations. I don’t know yet how “corporate” me or “sales” me is going to be six months down the line when I’m savvy in my new role. I’m interested to see what happens.
In the beginning, I was a little scared of sales. I think a lot of people have preconceived notions about sales. I didn't want to be the stereotypical aggressive salesperson, like the used car salesman portrayed in movies.
That fear quickly dissipated, especially with the kinds of conversations we had during the live classes and the way our instructor, Antoine, approaches sales as coming from a place of curiosity and solving problems for people. I just love that because it’s something I like to do with friends. I love giving advice.