A reluctant career
Trained as a wholesale merchant, Stefan Schmidt is very content with his job. However, his talent and ambition are clear to see. Directly after finishing his training, he climbed the career ladder to a middle management position with a medium-sized company. Shortly after that, he was given major budgetary responsibility. As a key account manager at the age of only 29, he now manages one of the SELLBYTEL Group’s oldest and largest clients. He is jointly responsible for all that client’s’ projects both in Germany and abroad. Stefan Schmidt’s story tells us what is possible when talent meets the right environment.
Mr Schmidt, your career is impressive. Do you really want us to believe that this is not what you wanted at all?
At the beginning of my professional life, a career wasn’t important to me. Of course I took the opportunities when they arose. First and foremost, though, I wanted to do a great job. I don’t like losing.
Tell us about all the things you need to do right to become a key account manager at 29.
First of all you need to do a good job and work accurately. Taking on responsibility is very important. At the age of 23, I became the head of purchasing for raw materials. That was shortly after I finished my training. The position was vacant and, as my then boss trusted me, I got the job. Back then, I had an 80-hour working week, because I wanted to and had to ensure that I was able to take on this huge responsibility. It worked out brilliantly, but I always felt that it was basically too much at that young age. Nobody can’t take an 80-hour working week in the long run.
Then I pressed the stop button – which was something nobody understood, as I was extremely successful. It turned out to be the right decision though. Being burned out by your mid-twenties is no good for anyone. You have to find the right balance.
And is it right at the SELLBYTEL Group?
I started with the SELLBYTEL Group as a sales manager in a client project. That meant far fewer responsibilities than I’d had before. After four months I was offered a position in international bid management. I was excited about accepting this new position. It’s part of my nature to invest 150 per cent in what I have to deliver. I want the best possible results and I do everything within my power. This attitude is greatly appreciated in the SELLBYTEL Group. One year later, I was promoted to key account manager. With that came enormous responsibilities. However, I did receive everything I needed to handle the tasks successfully. That started with a great boss, account director Nicolas Bocsi, who gives me both support and challenges.
The overall framework is just right. I was able to develop professionally; in the meantime I have an extremely good understanding of what the clients want, but also of what our employees need to do an excellent job. I work very strategically, travel a lot and speak with our clients as equals. I am an adviser and manager.
What do you especially like about your job?
There are limitless opportunities. That’s my experience. I’ve never before seen a company that gives you the freedom to “become” something if you have talent and show ambition. For example, I am the absolute exception in the company because I haven’t been to university. However, I am in charge of clients in Germany and several projects in Europe. My performance is measured day by day and I like to be tested. The SELLBYTEL Group knows how to get the balance right between supporting and challenging its staff. That is something special.