Finding Professional Fulfillment in Sales with Fiona Nguyen

About This Episode

Earlier this year, Fiona Nguyen walked away from a career in nursing to forge a new career path in sales. Why? She was unfulfilled in her work and knew that her goal-oriented mindset was better suited for something else. Two months into her role as an SDR at ringDNA, Fiona achieved 236% of her quarterly ramp quota and is on the fast-track for an Account Executive role.

We welcomed Fiona onto Decision Point to discuss the leap of faith she took when changing careers in the midst of a pandemic and get her take on how others feeling unfulfilled in their work can find a better opportunity. We also asked Fiona about the early lessons she’s learned in her new sales career and how she’s putting her strengths to work in this new environment. Take a listen!

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Decision Point: Finding Professional Fulfillment in Sales with Fiona Nguyen

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Fiona: [00:00:00] If you want something, do it, and you gotta make yourself different and memorable. That’s my motto for life. And so I was like, all right, you know, I would do this on a normal basis. If it even wasn’t a sales job. And if I wanted a job really bad, this is the way I’m going to go. 

[00:00:15] Brad: [00:00:15] Welcome to a Decision Point, a podcast about mental toughness and overcoming adversity in sales. I’m Brad Seaman.

[00:00:24] Hey, this is Brad Seaman. Welcome to Decision Point. We have a great interview this afternoon with Fiona Nguyen, who used to be a nurse, and she took the leap and transitioned into a sales development and sales role. And I’m excited to have her on the show today. Specifically, because she’s going to walk us through how she made this transition.

[00:00:49] And I think more importantly talking about fulfillment and what it looks like when you identify that you’re not where you’re supposed to be and how to make that transition into a [00:01:00] new career. So exciting, 30 minutes here. Hope you guys enjoy. 

[00:01:07] Good deal. Well, I’m super excited to interview you. I know that you, um, I caught your, I think, as we were talking here, kind of before we hit record, I had seen your LinkedIn posts that you made about transitioning from nursing.

[00:01:21] To sales. And it was particularly fascinating for me because my wife went the other way around. She went from sales and marketing into, into nursing, and I thought, Hey, this would be a really good person to talk to you about the career transition. So tell us, kind of tell us about the transition and your background and where you’re, where you came from, how you got nursing and then how you got the bug for sales and go from there.

[00:01:45] Fiona: [00:01:45] Cool. Yeah. Uh, it’s going to be a long story, cause it sounds like I’m all over the place to be honest. Um, so I think, I always think that like, you know, you get out of high school and there, they expect you to tell everyone what you want to do. What do you want to do when [00:02:00] you grow up? And so I just never really knew. 

[00:02:02] And so I got to college and I they’re like declare your major. And I’m like, I don’t know still. So, you know, I was just talking with my mom and she’s like, why don’t you do nursing? Like, you know, it’s stable, you’re going to have a job forever. And I was like, okay, cool. Like I like sciences to sounds great.

[00:02:17] You know, I always have loved watching like surgery and stuff like that. So that was my. First like thought, like if I’m going to be a nurse, I’m going to be an operating room nurse. So I did that, went through schooling and funny thing is the first three months of nursing school was I think everyone knows as like a nurse, like nursing school.

[00:02:37] It was just brutal. It’s so hard. And I just was like, I don’t want to do this. And so I actually went to the Dean of med school and thought about becoming a doctor instead, but I stuck it out. Finished nursing school. And the first six months, I kind of honed down all the skills that I needed to do in an operating room.

[00:02:57] Um, it’s not the skills that you’ve learned in school. It’s a completely [00:03:00] different specialty. And I really did like it at the beginning. And I think there’s such a negative stigma to not like nursing. And that’s why I think I was like very ashamed of even trying to switch jobs. But at that point I knew that this was something that wasn’t going to make me happy long term.

[00:03:15] And so I actually try to go to dental school and I did all the schooling for that. And again, I was like, I just don’t think healthcare is through me. Like I don’t, I don’t want to do this. And so I did travel nursing so that I could then move to LA move to San Francisco, go to these cities. I’ve always wanted to live at and explore other career paths, have me exposed to more careers.

[00:03:40] Does that make sense? 

[00:03:41] Brad: [00:03:41] Yeah, that totally makes sense. So as you, so when you decide, Hey, I’m going to, I’m going to look at other careers. What, what got you interested in sales and did you try other stuff or you sorta hunting around looking for something else that you’re interested in? 

[00:03:57] Fiona: [00:03:57] I mean, this was a four year process for [00:04:00] me to figure out what I wanted to do.

[00:04:01] It did not come easy. I think if you grew up in the South, It feels like you are presented very traditional jobs, like be a teacher, be a lawyer, a doctor, et cetera. Right. So it wasn’t until I was in the big cities where I started learning about tech, jobs, sales, and marketing, all those things I had never really heard about.

[00:04:21] And I didn’t really understand. And so, yeah. So the more friends that I came to and learned about what they did, it kind of sparked my interest. Like, um, I would say I’m very. Artsy and creative. And so I did definitely look into like doing UX design UI, and eventually I moved to sales because everyone has always said that I was just naturally good at talking to people like you should do this.

[00:04:43] And I was like, okay, I’ll do it. And the pandemic at one point, like I was unemployed for about two months because the operating rooms weren’t going. And so I took the time and started researching and just hope for the best when I applied and. I am glad I [00:05:00] am in sales now. So yeah. 

[00:05:02] Brad: [00:05:02] So when you’re going through the interview process, What are the what’s, what are those interviews sound like?

[00:05:08] I would assume that you probably interviewed for more than, than ringDNA. 

[00:05:13] Fiona: [00:05:13] I actually, I was pretty lucky with this. Um, so yeah, I didn’t apply it to as many. I would only apply to jobs where I could understand the technology, because if I couldn’t understand it, Well for myself, how would I explain it to other people?

[00:05:28] So I only applied to ones that I liked and understood, and I actually only interviewed at one other place, ended a full interview, which I’ve never done, I guess. An interview like this before, like nursing is about like 15 minutes and like you’re done, this was like, I’ve never had like three interviews with like two hours and like different people.

[00:05:47] So that was a lot. And that was my first practice, I guess. And then I got ringDNA and I didn’t even do, and then a traditional interview, I. Talked with our CSO [00:06:00] one time. And I guess I impressed him well enough and I got an offer in an hour. 

[00:06:05] Brad: [00:06:05] That’s that’s awesome. So you didn’t even have to, I was sort of expecting kind of this more elongated, like, Hey, you’d really tried all these different jobs.

[00:06:13] I was curious how people viewed, you know, a transition from nursing to sales and whether you got pushback, but it sounds like you just sort of found a natural fit and breeze through all of them. 

[00:06:25] Fiona: [00:06:25] Yeah. I definitely got. It was hard. He, he, Cameron is hard. He’s a hard interviewer. And I didn’t, I think it was an interview when I first met him to be quite honest, like I was not prepped out at all.

[00:06:37] I thought it was just a casual talk, you know? Um, I think the reason why I didn’t do the traditional interview with my company today is that, you know, I went out of my way and I’m very obsessive. So I reached out to the CEO and then I got. Pushed onto the CSO and we talked on the phone, but then he never got back to me.

[00:06:59] And so [00:07:00] then I sent a video message and that’s how we got the in-person. 

[00:07:03] Brad: [00:07:03] Yeah. Okay. So what made you th okay, so ringDNA, how do you even know ringDNA exist? I guess that’s my first question. How did, how did you, how did they come on your radar? 

[00:07:12] Fiona: [00:07:12] I am, I used. Uh, the website that I was looking at a lot of jobs where aside from LinkedIn was built in LA or built NSF and it caught my eye just because they had watched a documentary on.

[00:07:26] Artificial intelligence. And I was like, Oh, this was really cool. I was reading the description and I’m a big work culture person. So I, I looked online and read the reviews from employees and it just seemed like a really good fit. And then oddly enough, I was actually looking for places to live in LA again.

[00:07:43] And, um, I met up with Eli, who’s my coworker now, but she worked at ringDNA and I was like, Oh my gosh. I think I, I think I just applied there. Um, and that’s kind of how it came about. 

[00:07:53] Oh, that’s that’s. That’s awesome. So when you go through the interview process, was this the interview with Randy and ed? It was very [00:08:00] conversational.

[00:08:01] It was, I wouldn’t say it was conversation. So I was told that we’re going to just have a casual talk, the in-person and it was a full fledged, like interview question, kind of like, you know, your initial. With anyone for an interview. And so, yeah. And like, why, why, why do you think you want to be in sales and all these questions?

[00:08:28] Like the normal and I, I really did not think that that was going to be the conversation. So, um, I only had prepped for like, Oh, like just like meeting up and just seeing my personality. But, so I just like on the whim had to like, Be able to respond to all of this. And Cameron told me the turning point for him was he was like, why would we hire you?

[00:08:51] Because you’re you have a nursing background. And that was like, pretty much every question I’ve ever had with interviews before for sales. [00:09:00] And I was like, well, Howard or CEO used to be a psychiatrist. So I was like, he has a medical background. 

[00:09:09] Brad: [00:09:09] That was your answer. 

[00:09:10] Fiona: [00:09:10] That was my in. 

[00:09:12] Brad: [00:09:12] Well, and you went through the, I mean, it sounds like you had done what a good sales person for, right.

[00:09:17] You identified your account, you laid out a, you know, a general strategy, and then you started working the account. You sent the email, you sent the video email, what video email app did you and why video email, like what? So I find this fascinating because you had the nursing background. That you were short of Swiss army knife thing, all these sales tactics into trying to get this job.

[00:09:40] Fiona: [00:09:40] Yeah. I didn’t even know at the time I was doing any sales tactics. I am a very, like, if you’re going to, you want something do it and you gotta make yourself different and memorable. That’s my motto for life. And so I was like, all right, you know, I would do this on a normal basis of it. Even wasn’t a sales job.

[00:09:58] And if I wanted a job really [00:10:00] bad, This is the way I’m going to go. Um, the video message came up actually, because one of my friends is a manager at a tech company. And he was like, Oh, by the way, you know, video messages are in now. Cause you know, I never used LinkedIn before this job cause they didn’t need to.

[00:10:14] So I didn’t realize how big LinkedIn had gotten because I made an account back when I was in college and it was barely anything on anyone’s radar. Yeah, it was part of class. And I had a teacher all about social media and she was like, you guys need to make one. And I did, and I never touched it. I like didn’t change it for years because no one looks at it and healthcare.

[00:10:36] And so it was just empty for a while. And not until I started applying to jobs that I fixed it, but I didn’t even know LinkedIn, like how to do LinkedIn. And now actually at my job, I’m like the LinkedIn. Like queen at it. And that’s how I prospect. 

[00:10:51] Brad: [00:10:51] So tell me a little bit about the transition. So you get the job, you start, you start the work.

[00:10:57] Tell me a little bit about the company and then [00:11:00] your, what role are you playing in the sale? 

[00:11:02] Fiona: [00:11:02] Yeah, so. ringDNA. Um, we are a sales enablement platform kind of like all the other ones on the market to help, you know, be more productive with Salesforce. I am an SDR. So it’s like the entry-level role. Um, the, I will say the first two weeks was very overwhelming because I had so many sales terms that I just did not understand.

[00:11:28] And. I think someone coming from a completely different background would also be very overwhelmed, but because I’m so vocal about asking questions, I think that was easier for me to catch on. 

[00:11:41] Brad: [00:11:41] Well, I guess the other question is, so you’re in a, you’re in a, you’re in a role where you’re having to pick the phone up and call prospects, I assume, which is not your background because you’ve been a nurse.

[00:11:52] So talk a little bit about that. Are you scared? 

[00:11:56] Fiona: [00:11:56] Yes. So I, I think with, everyone’s [00:12:00] suggesting me to be in sales, I am the person who’s not afraid to talk to strangers. If I was in person anyways. So talking over the phone didn’t seem so scary to me. Um, I will say the first day I ever cold called, I literally forgot how to speak English.

[00:12:15] Like it couldn’t everything I said was just jumbled. And I, there was like a worst day ever. I was like, I don’t think I should do this. Like so terrible games be on the fed. And then the day after I just started practicing and it got easier and like, There are days where I would be stressed. I think the first month I was just like, how am I going to do this?

[00:12:35] And then the moment you get your meeting and you hit that criteria, you hit your quota. You’re like, wait, I can do this. And so the first month I doubled my quota. And so from there I felt more confident, but it, it took a week or so for me to feel that way. 

[00:12:50] Brad: [00:12:50] And I think the first couple of you know, the thing about phone prospecting is.

[00:12:54] You know, it’s a little awkward, but so is any introduction, you know, if, if you, if you [00:13:00] meet somebody, um, for the first time, there’s always a little, little awkward as either from you or from them and, and you just got to get more comfortable and it sort of eases all that out of the, you know, eases all that out of the, uh, um, kind of the scenario.

[00:13:15] Fiona: [00:13:15] So yeah, you have to kind of make it your own for a while. I was just kind of mirroring other people’s calls that they had listened to before. And. You could tell the other person can tell that you’re nervous. And the moment I started becoming comfortable and I made my own talk track because for me, everyone, I guess in sales is very professional.

[00:13:35] I like to take an informal approach and that’s kind of, what’s worked for me and it makes it less of like a sales pitch. I don’t, 

[00:13:43] Brad: [00:13:43] What’s an informal approach look like, like how would you differ your strategy from maybe what your colleagues are doing? 

[00:13:50] Fiona: [00:13:50] I keep it very humorous and fun. And like, I don’t even focus about our products sometimes.

[00:13:56] I’m just like, honestly, I don’t want to sell this to you. Like I’m [00:14:00] only here to like, tell you to learn about it and be like it later we can talk about it, but like, not really, like, I would rather learn about them in like, not even about their work so that, you know, I genuinely, I think the thing that’s worked through me and I.

[00:14:16] Maybe other people’s sales people do the same, but like if you bring genuineness and like curiosity and that you show that you actually care, then sales is going to work for you. You know, I think that if you’re, you’re trying to sell and push people there, they can tell and they don’t want that. And so I, for me, what I brought from nursing is that I have a lot of empathy and.

[00:14:42] I do care. And I do want to learn about other people’s companies because I am new in sales. So having a conversation about somebody else’s company is a lot more worthwhile for me in the end also. So it’s a learning experience. 

[00:14:54] Brad: [00:14:54] I think that, um, having not just the, you know, I [00:15:00] think empathy is very, very important, but I think curiosity as a salesperson is super important.

[00:15:07] Because it is hard. It is. If you’re not curious, I mean, curious is sort of what drives my opinion. What sort of drives you to get the sales, the sale going? There’s just this natural curiosity and people are just are, some people are just generally not interested, but curious. They don’t really care that you go to a party.

[00:15:24] They don’t ask questions, but you know, they don’t, you know, it, it does curiosity, I think is important. And I think it’s, I think it’s important to be. Um, not only curious, but I think particularly when you’re prospecting, you’ve gotta be able to accept rejection and accept. No. So tell me a little bit about that.

[00:15:43] What was your, what was your first like big “No” experience like? 

[00:15:47] Fiona: [00:15:47] There was a day where everyone was just hanging up and not wanting to talk to me. And I had not experienced that yet. And it was I, and everyone had to remind me like, this is a roller coaster. Like you’re going to [00:16:00] have ups and downs and it does, you know, hit your ego pretty hard.

[00:16:04] But I think over time, I just tell myself like, okay, I don’t know these people, they don’t know me. Like I hate sales when I get a call. I hate it too. And now I have a little bit more empathy. If somebody does call me, like, I am nice to them on the phone because I’ve experienced that before. And so I don’t take it to heart anymore.

[00:16:21] I did at the beginning, but now I’d be like, it’s okay. Like, They’re busy, like besides the pandemic that there’s other things going on too in their lives. So, 

[00:16:30] Brad: [00:16:30] so what’s your kind of your prospecting strategy? Sounds like you’re really relying hard, heavy on LinkedIn. So when you, so you’re, I’m assuming your sales manager brings. Are you working key accounts or is it kind of open, you got open field. How do you decide who you’re going to go after? 

[00:16:47] Fiona: [00:16:47] Yeah, I am an outbound rep, so now I, um, we filter in a list through our ZoomInfo and then I start prospecting and I look at their LinkedIn to see if they’d be a worthwhile fit.

[00:17:00] [00:16:59] And I honestly just message them and I do a informal approach. I don’t sell pitch them. I just. You know, do my funny intro and I pertain it to them and hope they respond. And if they find it funny too, then we can start from there. 

[00:17:19] Brad: [00:17:19] What’s your, what’s your, are you, is it a secret, can you talk about the funny answer?

[00:17:23] Fiona: [00:17:23] I’m going to keep it as secret because everyone’s going to start using it and then it’s no longer my O.G. Line. 

[00:17:29] Brad: [00:17:29] Oh, good. You got an O.G. Line that you, that you lead with and you try to get, get the prospects, you know, of kind of laughing. 

[00:17:37] Fiona: [00:17:37] Yeah. And, and then I always am always like, I know, I’m so sorry. I, this is a buzzkill.

[00:17:44] I know like I’m about to pitch you, like, at least they know what they’re about to get. Cause I never went to BLI inside do that to them. Cause I wouldn’t like that at all. So then I can kind of gauge other, you know, they’d be open to entertaining it. And then, [00:18:00] then from that, The phone conversations a lot easier and they know I’m not like forcing anything on them.

[00:18:05] Cause I would never want to do that either. 

[00:18:08] Brad: [00:18:08] No, that’s it. That sounds good. It’s a David David Ogilvy, Ogilvy. It matters. He said that it can’t make your client laugh. You can’t sell them. So you gotta be able to, you gotta be able to make somebody smile. 

[00:18:19] Fiona: [00:18:19] Yeah, I totally agree. I think humor, I think the new technique for sales has to be informal formal and that’s like, that’s my new thing.

[00:18:28] Brad: [00:18:28] Informal formal. Right. I’m going to re I’m going to write the, I’m going to write that down. What’s um, you know, as we kind of get to the end here with the interview, what are some of your, you know, is there anything specific that you wanted to talk about or anything specific that you want to cover? That I didn’t, that I didn’t highlight.

[00:18:44] Fiona: [00:18:44] I do want, like, for this podcast and like anyone that is confused about switching jobs and like maybe highlight. That it’s okay in that it’s going to be scary. And it’s not that I switched over right away. It was like a four year [00:19:00] process where I just kept going back and forth. And especially with nursing and healthcare workers, there’s such a negative stigma.

[00:19:07] And you feel so guilty for not liking your job because you’re essentially helping people. And everyone’s like, why would you not like that? And I do, I do love to help people. I do care, but yeah. I get to do the same thing, but with sales, I still get to help people. And I think that’s the scary part of switching jobs is having a negative connotation.

[00:19:28] Brad: [00:19:28] Not only is it negative, but you probably are going from one of the most admired professions to one that has to constantly fight to be admired. So when you told somebody, Hey, I’m moving from nursing to sales, depending on what somebody is, uh, sales. You know, context is they could be going in their mind from you kind of be in on this, this pedestal with light all around you.

[00:19:53] And all of a sudden you’re moving to this, uh, kind of dark area. That’s, that’s littered with used car salesman, a bad movie. 

[00:20:00] [00:20:00] Fiona: [00:20:00] Yeah. That too. And I also. Love to explain that like, sometimes people sit in their jobs and they wonder why they’re so unhappy. And I think, uh, and I’ve, I’ve labeled this as, like, there are some jobs that are very task oriented and other jobs that are very goal oriented and based on your personality, you’re going to excel in that or not like it at all. Based on those two factors, 

[00:20:24] Brad: [00:20:24] Did you feel that’s what was missing in nursing is that there was a, that you were missing the goal orientation. 

[00:20:31] Fiona: [00:20:31] I am very driven and you know, I see myself when I was in college. Like I was a person who wanted an A, like, I just wanted to be the top, the best and nursing.

[00:20:44] I didn’t get that because, you know, you can do the best care and. Best you can, but that’s it. You hit like the measurement and you’re done. You don’t get anything. There’s nothing above it or below it, you know? 

[00:20:58] Brad: [00:20:58] Fascinating. And this has been a great, [00:21:00] this has been a phenomenal interview. I’ve really, I’ve really enjoyed it.

[00:21:04] Fiona: [00:21:04] Awesome. Well I’m glad I could be a part of this. I was excited to see that. 

[00:21:11] Brad: [00:21:11] All right. What an, what an interview. So. Fiona had lots of really good stuff to say. I know that it was probably a little scary for trying to make the leap, but you could hear there in the interview, how she was walking kind of mentally through what it would look like to make a career transition.

[00:21:30] She’d figured out that she wasn’t fulfilled. And I think the one thing that she said, she said a couple things. That really jumped out to me. The first one she said, or in that I noticed was that she really understood herself. And she had come to kind of a place of self-realization in which she realized that the career that she was in was not fulfilling her.

[00:21:53] And the one thing that she identified was that she was very goal oriented and that she had [00:22:00] found herself in a task oriented job. And so if you’re out there. And you’re listening to this podcast in you’re in a task oriented job and it’s killing you. Um, you know, make it call us, call monster connect, call a coffee on a call, somebody to help you kind of make the transition or maybe think through what it would look like.

[00:22:20] Because, um, as she noted, life is too short for you to not be, not be fulfilled. And I think that happens a lot as she noted in the podcast, there a lot of pressure when you come out of college, To pick a career. So it’s natural to pick kind of noble professions, teaching, coaching, um, nursing, healthcare law, and you get in those roles, you realize that you’re not that you’re not happy, but she laid out a really good kind of step kinda mental blueprint for how she thought about making the Tran the transition and how she did that.

[00:22:55] So I thought that was insurance. I think the other thing that she said. There was really [00:23:00] interesting, not just about knowing herself, but she said her life mantra was be interesting. And I think she used that be interesting. Yeah. I think that’s great for any sales person, right. You got to, to be interesting, um, kind of be remarkable.

[00:23:15] But she used that mantra to really get the job that she got with ringDNA. And so, um, that was, were kind of my, my takeaways. Just knowing yourself, knowing who you are. Um, she talked a little bit about the super secret, um, SDR intro that she uses to get people, to get people going. But I think that’s, um, that’s something I want to highlight here is really knowing, you know, kind of understanding yourself and knowing what makes you tick and what other people like, like about you.

[00:23:47] And I think that sort of comes through, you know, just interacting with people, trying to try and pay attention and see how people interact with you and, uh, what kind of things they highlight in your, in your personality and what kind of [00:24:00] things that you’re. That you’re good at, uh, I think you get that through through observation.

[00:24:05] And I think she’s very self-aware so that’s it for today. I hope you guys enjoy the transition from nurse to SDR. I know I enjoyed it. I hope you guys enjoy it. Remember if you want more content. Go out to And as always, don’t let what you can’t do interfere with what you can.

[00:00:00] Fiona: [00:00:00] If you want something, do it, and you gotta make yourself different and memorable. That’s my motto for life. And so I was like, all right, you know, I would do this on a normal basis. If it even wasn’t a sales job. And if I wanted a job really bad, this is the way I’m going to go. 

[00:00:15] Brad: [00:00:15] Welcome to a Decision Point, a podcast about mental toughness and overcoming adversity in sales. I’m Brad Seaman.

[00:00:24] Hey, this is Brad Seaman. Welcome to Decision Point. We have a great interview this afternoon with Fiona Nguyen, who used to be a nurse, and she took the leap and transitioned into a sales development and sales role. And I’m excited to have her on the show today. Specifically, because she’s going to walk us through how she made this transition.

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