Community for women of color in sales and business
and her story is a testament of faith, audacity, and a calling to serve. As soon as Sidney and I spoke, I knew there was something unique about her simply by the sound of her voice; so innocent and genuine. She is a people-centric sales professional on a mission to change the narrative on how salespeople should treat their clients.
Sidney began her sales career unexpectedly. With a background in Biochemistry, this interview proved to me that no matter what you may think you are unqualified to do, more than likely you are overqualified for that task or role.
Currently, Sidney is a “heart-centered sales coach dedicated to helping individuals grow their business by combining strategy, science and a healthy sense of spirit.” She yearns to humanize the whole sales experience from the inside out. Please join me in this journey of understanding this amazing spirit-filled saleswoman, Sidney Garcia.
Q: What's your academic and professional background?
A: My background is a bit unusual since I have my Bachelors and Masters in Biochemistry from The University of California- San Diego. I was drawn to biology because there is something about understanding life on a deeper level. I have always been a curious person and honestly, I am such a nerd! I like the small stuff and how cells work and since I really loved it, I decided to get my Masters in it as well. I know this has nothing to do with sales but it is still a big part of who I am. I’ve always been so fascinated by how the world works. I had no plans on what to do with my degrees after graduation, but I knew that I loved science. Sometimes it’s ok to be afraid and not know what's coming next. Due to my family’s immigrant mindsets, I am currently encouraging my college-bound nieces that are trying to chase the safe route with the “right and safe majors,” that you should always follow your heart because you have no idea what is out there for you. You need to remain open to whatever it is and that only happens when you are following your heart.
At this moment is when I realized that I was speaking to a very rare individual. Someone who thinks as I do in reference to my mantra, “chase the passion, not the money.” She is someone that follows her heart no matter what and since she leads with that, things tend to work in her favor.
Sidney is of Mexican descent (grandparents from Guadalajara, Mexico and parents from Baja California, Mexico), and is the first person in her family to attend college; she had no idea what the world looked like after she completed her degrees. So, she decided to gravitate towards things that she was passionate about and naturally drawn to. Due to this type of interest, she acquired an unexpected mentor by the way of her professor that informed her about the lack of female scientists, and told her, “ if you love it, you should pursue it.” Although she was not aware of what a scientist was, Sidney did just that! She took advantage of the college resources and began to expose herself to the different groups on campus. One of the minority groups helped her develop an academic career in biomedical research by displaying what is possible in that specific industry. At that moment she felt like she had hope for her future and career.
Q: What made you get into sales?
A: I fell into sales by accident. While pursuing my Masters, for almost a whole year, I would spend 6-12 hours alone in a microscope room- a dark, closed, claustrophobic room with large pieces of hot equipment. I was in that room so often because I was trying to finish a project, and in those moments I realized how important human interaction was to me. During that time, I had a huge family event that took place and it turned our world upside down right before I graduated from my Master's program. When that event took place, I realized I was frustrated with being in a microscope room all day and wanted to change my life. A part of it was “running away” to pursue a fresh start.
I began to interview people in the science industry as well as other industries since I didn't have a plan and didn't know what other professions there were out there. I tapped into my LinkedIn network and found people working in various industries such as government, policy, and consulting. Then, a friend of mine who worked in biotech sales described her sales profession to me, and my ears perked up! I felt like it was a great fit for me since I love people, love solving problems, and I can talk about science all day; “this is the job for me,” I thought. I later applied for an inside sales job in Carlsbad, California, and was hired for a biotech company; that is where my sales career started. All of this was amazing because it all happened within a month of me making a decision to do something new.
What’s amazing to me is how bold Sidney was in pursuing a change in her life. By taking a leap of faith she was able to embark upon an opportunity that would help shift the trajectory of her life both personally and professionally. What Sidney did has proven to me that transferable skills are extremely important to focus on while on a job interview or even in just everyday life. She is a solutions-oriented person that loves to interact with people, she is wise, articulate, a problem solver, and persuasive enough to get a job in sales with no professional experience in it! If you ask me, she was a natural born saleswoman that had no idea she possessed the skills to be just that.
Initially, Sidney did not love cold calling, even going so far to admit that it was the hardest for her. But, then she began to see how cool the sales industry was, how helpful colleagues were, and how amazing Employee Resource Groups were as well; she had a close-knit team and work-family which is exactly what she needed. She was an Inside Sales Account Executive at the biotech company for about a year, and then met her now husband. While dating he took on a role in Houston, Texas and in that moment the “romantic dreamer” in her decided to take another leap of faith and she followed her heart all the way to Houston, Texas. She secured a role as an Associate Account Manager at the company she worked for and was employed there for two years. They then decided to move to Denver, Colorado, get married, and she then took on her current role as a Strategic Account Manager for another company.
The stars just aligned in both her love and professional life, which encouraged her to keep relying on her faith and her instincts.
Q: Tell me about your biggest deal, and how did it close?
A: My proudest deal was a really large one that happened my first year as the Strategic Account Manager in the biotech industry; a 200k capital equipment deal to a hospital. It took us 8 months to close it, from first receiving the lead to it actually closing, and I learned so much about complex selling because of that deal!
Hospitals have so many hoops to jump through between legal, procurement, all the technical buyers, and I had to sell 13 people on the the idea. It entailed a lot of quarterbacking and balancing the science background and Account Management experience, as well. We sold over 20,000 products in that role, so I coordinated with a team of specialists to find and understand the needs of the different technical buyers, and we tried to find all the internal resources to help make that deal a huge win! I learned what complex selling really means and what it takes to close complex sales, so it was definitely one of my biggest and proudest deals to date.
Sidney is passionate about helping women understand what their accomplishments are and how powerful they actually are because at times, she tends to downplay her accomplishments as most women do. Even while speaking with me, you can hear how she had a hard time owning it, and she believes this is because as women, we were told not to brag or be too cocky about anything that we accomplish. This is something that I struggle with but as I told Sidney, it is very important for us WOC to take the time to applaud ourselves for jobs well done. It is even more important because when we are faced with challenges that we do not know how we will conquer, we need to use those amazing successful moments as our point of reference to remind ourselves that we did that and we can do it again! You must remind yourself of who you are and that you are capable of making amazing things happen. Sidney keeps and writes all her accomplishments in a “brag book,” as well as reading and repeating aloud all her affirmations, to remind herself of how great she is, and to celebrate her wins no matter what; as she and we should!
Q: What do you like most about being in sales?
A: I think what I love the most about sales, is really taking the time to understand people and their needs. I genuinely get excited by learning and understanding what’s important to people; this is why I love complex sales so much. I am fascinated by the psychology of others and by being able to make a solution resonate to someone by doing it in a passionate way that allows you to build a partnership. I almost get a high from understanding people and finding solutions for them. My customers are not a number, they are people that I want to understand and bring them what they need.
Like me, Sidney is spiritually based and knows how to rely on her faith and intuition to guide her throughout life. Since she is now transitioning into being a full-time sales trainer/coach, she is realizing more and more how there is a strong spiritual side to selling. When you are working towards something, the Universe will show you that you are going down the right path once you start to notice things aligning for you in your life. Trust those feelings, they never steer you wrong.
Q: How did you become a sales trainer?
A: I feel like I can be super vulnerable with you, so I want to share how I came to a place when I hired my career coach. When I lived in Houston, Texas, I experienced a really dark period in my life where everything on the surface was “perfect”. I loved what I was doing for my job, I knew I loved this guy that ended up being my husband, had my own studio apartment in a cool city, and I was having the time of my life! Then, I remember going to church one day, getting down on my knees, and crying. I didn't know why at the moment, but I found out later that it was because I felt like there was something missing in my life. I believe that we all have gifts that we are born with, God’s gifts to us, and we are supposed to share those gifts. I remember crying that day and wishing I understood what it is I can do and who was I supposed to inspire, and what can I do to lift this world up!
A few weeks later, the stars aligned for me again, and I met a mentor that had just created a career development program. He just quit a job and wanted to go full time as a coach to help people that were experiencing career burnout and teach them how to build the life of their dreams, aligned with their values. I worked with him for a year and a half, and I learned so much about myself. The program is a lot of self-exploration and learning: how to stop listening to what everyone else is telling you to do in your life, filtering out of the noise, and to start listening to the spirit you have within you-- the true reason you are here.
Sidney, like me, is a first-generation American. We are raised to do things or make decisions that make other people happy, specifically our parents. She was trained to always want to do things the right way, but Sidney learned how to listen to the voice within her, realizing that she has always been going down the right guided path. Everything was starting to come together for her, and then another opportunity to “pay it forward” came along after her mentor helped her out. She realized how much she wanted to help other sales professionals reach the highest level of their true selves. Sidney realized that this epiphany came about because she learned how to listen to her inner wisdom for guidance especially in the sales industry where you have to please a lot of people. She decided she would create her sales coaching/training business that will help people that truly want to make a difference in the lives of the clients they are servicing and not completely money-driven.
So in the spirit of being led by faith and listening to that inner voice, on February 28th, 2019, Sidney is leaving her cushy 6 figure Account Management role, with a company car to chase her dreams of entrepreneurship as a sales coach. She wrote 12 pages in her journal about this knowing that this is exactly what she was supposed to do. She put together an 8-week program in 6 months, and this is all because of that moment of darkness leading her to the true light in her life.
Q: What do you think are the challenges of being a WOC in sales?
A: Biggest challenges have been internal, like both the thoughts I have about myself in my head, and of course internal organizational challenges as well. It took me a long time to get comfortable in my skin after I left college. During University, I was a member of that minority group I mentioned that helped Hispanics and other minorities have opportunities in the biomedical/academic studies and industry. But when I went into the corporate culture, it was hard because I saw the average person doing my job was twice my age and they were white males. In senior leadership, again, white males were sometimes 2-3 times my age since I was young when I started. The challenges there were feeling able to relate to them, and me having a lack of self-confidence in knowing that I had value to bring to the table. Since I didn't feel like I could relate to leaders it was a bit of a struggle to express my concerns. I figured ‘I don’t know what I’m talking about, my experience is so different than theirs’. In academia, it is very diverse in terms of both people and resources to turn to during tough times. But in the corporate world, I could not find that same type of mentorship.
It took me a while to communicate my opinions or experience because I didn’t think I could relate in some groups and I didn't think that I would be taken seriously since I was young as well. I had to really remind myself that I have experience and I have a voice! Bigger challenges can also be internal in terms of a lack of representation. I felt connected to my colleagues at the first company I worked for because of the ERG’s, but at the second company, I felt alone again because they had no ERG’s. Confidence to use my voice in stating where things could be much better and efficient, as well as owning my accomplishments was a big challenge.
The main theme I pulled from this response is that representation and voice matters. The only way you can use your voice is if you find and keep your self-confidence. Representation is needed to assist in that self-confidence since seeing people that look like you in places of leadership helps to build more self-confidence in knowing that can be you too!
Q: What would you say to a WOC interested in pursuing a career in sales?
A: There is no such thing as a traditional background in sales. I encourage anyone to pursue a career in sales because it's so rewarding and fulfilling. I hate that we have a bad reputation of being “greedy” or “pushy”, but I would want WOC to educate themselves in the more rewarding parts about it. Ownership over your career and helping people is a plus, and it's also all about how hard you want to work, and how much you want to serve value to your customers; it's up to you how much you grow in the profession. Being in sales is the best way to take ownership of your life. I’d also say to take the time to find the right company to work for, so you are well aware of the culture and if it’s a fit for you. Continue to be confident in yourself, motivated to succeed, stay true to yourself, and have faith that you will find the right opportunity.
Q: Finally, why do you think a community like Sistas In Sales, is important for WOC like yourself? What other communities are you apart of that keep you grounded and help you find sisterhood?
A: I think SIS is incredibly important since it is a reminder that we are not the only ones facing these challenges. It acknowledges that not everything is perfect but has us realizing that we can lift and build each other up as long as we tap into our SIS community. People are drawn and magnetized to the message of empowerment because it brings people together to help become a more positive instrument of change.
I am new to Denver so it has been hard for me to find local communities. I have found a non-denominational church that has been very helpful to me because I found other women there as part of a support group. The women are nice, professional, and the group encourages us to stay grounded. It is amazing to be around ambitious women who want to be something different in the world. I hope to start my own group in the Denver community in the next year. My family also grounds me and has learned to trust me; and my actions have proven that I can weather any storm.
Q: Anything else you would like to share?
A: I want to encourage people that know and feel they are on the right track to keep listening to the small voice within them because you are being guided; just stay true to yourself and own it!.
Sidney Garcia personifies a person that has always known that God has so much more in store for her, and it was her making the decision to lean into her faith in order for things to come to fruition for her. She never let any outside challenges affect her mission towards greatness and that is a true testament of being led by faith and not by sight.
The SIS community congratulates Sidney on her recent marriage, and for taking the bold step towards full time entrepreneurship later this month. As I mentioned to her during this interview, all is well, and because she has chosen to move by faith, she will always succeed with any or all of her future endeavors.
To learn more about Sidney’s coaching business, check out her website: www.blumbusinessacademy.com, and follow her on social media: @sidneyoliviag