Approaching graduation is an exciting time, especially after so many years of hard work! But entering the professional sphere can be daunting. Even the most motivated, confident grads can still experience moments of Imposter Syndrome.
If you’re in the same boat, Daniela Milicevic, Account Manager for global cloud data services company NetApp, has some great tips for overcoming these feelings.
As the youngest and only woman in her sales representative team, Daniela builds relationships with NSW, VIC and TAS government customers and prospects. Her role is to develop, manage and grow the sales pipeline in this sector by engaging new stakeholders and nurturing existing relationships.
“I provide product expertise and serve as a liaison between our partners and internal teams, identifying strategies to grow accounts with new products and services. My early career path has been both unexpected, and extremely educational,” said Daniela.
Here’s what she has to share about changing industries, working in tech and backing yourself.
1. Don’t be afraid to pivot
Daniela graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political, Economic and Social Science, convinced she would end up in public service.
“I began my career at Mission Australia, working in the mental health sector. I wanted to aid vulnerable people, while building my professional skills at the same time.”
When a family friend recommended NetApp’s S3 Graduate Academy to her, the prospect of working in a tech company seemed intimidating.
“Even so, I’d heard such positive things about the academy. I decided it was worth taking the chance to change industries. Shortly after completing the academy, I began working as a Customer Success Manager. This taught me to implement what I’d learned and helped me grow into my current account management role.”
2. Choose the right organization to support your growth
For new grads, joining a supportive organization can be instrumental to your success. It was NetApp’s values, particularly reflected through positive customer testimonials, that encouraged Daniela to join.
“NetApp not only puts the customer at the center, they also have a huge amount of care for their communities, both internally and through giving programs. We’re a progressive company working to make things better. This was attractive to me, given my educational background and how I began my career.”
Did you know NetApp has great community engagement support?
Find out more about NetApp’s annual paid volunteer days and other benefits and policies.
A standout moment was when a peer expressed goals and aspirations for her, that she hadn’t personally yet considered.
“Knowing my peers could see my potential, were willing to help me set and achieve goals, and push me to learn was uplifting. I even had a coffee with the Managing Director for our region. Doing away with traditional hierarchies made me feel valued as a woman in the company.”
Most notably, the S3 Academy has helped Daniela grow in her career. The intensive, 3-month graduate program develops young talent by providing them with the tools and network they need to succeed.
“The program and its facilitators made me feel comfortable learning about a new industry. They taught us that’s okay to fail. They created such a supportive and nurturing environment that every conversation was a learning opportunity. This made my transition to my new role smooth and exciting. As a whole, NetApp truly supports women and creates a diverse, rich environment for all its employees.”
3. Believe in yourself and trust your skills
While being part of a supportive organization with the encouragement of peers and mentors can be great for your early career development – at the end of the day, you have to trust yourself.
Sometimes, it’s not your technical knowledge, but your soft skills that will help you succeed.
“When I joined the company, I had Imposter Syndrome. I wasn’t sure how my skillset would translate in a new industry. With the help of mentors and colleagues, I learned and developed skills that translated into huge wins! My confidence grew to the point where I could trust myself, and the people around me, to complete tasks at hand.”
Now, she feels confident in sharing her perspective with the team.
“I feel respected, valued and encouraged. This support allows me to help our customers and the team achieve objectives and goals.”
Daniela also leads the Executive Speaker Series at NetApp for early-career professionals each month. This strengthens internal relationships by allowing emerging talent to ask executives questions.
So far, NetApp has seen tangible benefits and there’s been fantastic feedback from participants.
4. Find opportunities to learn
Learning doesn’t end at university. Rather, it’s just the beginning.
For Daniela, working in a large company has provided exposure to a diverse range of vibrant, differing personalities.
“Cultural diversity and differing opinions have challenged my ways of thinking and working. It’s made me more critical and analytical of opinions and biases.”
Often, the best opportunities to learn come from working with others. Daniela’s favorite moments at work come from attending the office, closing deals, and having productive conversations with her team, partners and customers.
“Constantly learning is an important daily outcome for me. So as long as I have learned something new or developed a skill, I count that day as a win.”
In her experience, you don’t need to come from a tech background to succeed at NetApp. It’s your people and communication skills that count.
“I fell into the trap of thinking I needed to be a tech expert to succeed, or that I wouldn’t be able to progress because of this. Wrong! I learned it’s your uniqueness that makes the role. At the end of the day, people work with and buy from people. So being a good person who cares about others and wants to do right by them will get you far.”
So, if you’re experiencing some pangs of Imposter Syndrome, take advice from Daniela!
“Take a risk. You learn so much by getting out of your comfort zone. Embracing the unexpected has given me experiences I never thought were possible at the start of my career.”