I caught up with Nic at The Lokal, our favourite eatery next to the Personna office. He has a gift of placing people at ease. Almost nothing shocks him.
Nic found his passion as a platform builder, but it took a winding journey, six roles in eight years, before getting to where he is today. Despite the risk of being labelled a job hopper, he continued his journey to find the right fit. Here is his story.
For easy reading, my questions are in Italics, and Nicholas’ answers are in regular.
How would you describe yourself?
I’m a covalent bonder of business relationships. I build platforms for new businesses to scale fast.
What attracted you to sales initially?
I have had the gift of speaking well since I was young. Fresh out of university, sales looked like a fit. However, after my fourth sales job, I realized the qualities of a great salesman were not what I had originally thought.
I tried to be myself but it came in conflict with things in the job, such as forcing the numbers – “You have to bring in the money this month, you have to force them to close the deals.”
What did you do next?
I experimented. I love gaming and did try twice to go into the industry. I came to the conclusion that it’s not right for me to merge my hobby and career.
I had a big break at Verifone. My boss, Ng Kay Hong, gave me the chance to be myself. For the first time, I joined a strategic project team to build a platform. I got people on the same page; I built win-win relationships with multiple stakeholders. The project was a success. The guys appreciated my contributions and I felt amazing.
What was your takeaway from that role?
I stopped shoehorning myself into sales jobs. I don’t do sales, I do relationships. It merges my strengths in empathy and efficiency.
I was independent and rebellious as a kid. I questioned systems, starting with the education in Singapore, and then found myself suppressing a lot of “me” to get through NS (National Service). I resisted being forced into a mould. I want to make things more efficient and logical.
I also love interacting with people. Everybody has a story. Back in the day, I gave tuition to younger kids who, like myself, came from difficult backgrounds. I spent several of the lessons just listening to their stories, lending a shoulder to cry on.
It’s powerful. When people tell their story, sit and listen. That’s how a relationship forms. Don’t expect anything in return.
How did you find a role with the right fit?
The key was being honest and articulating what I wanted.
I had to stand up for myself and make difficult decisions. Once, I left a company without a job, because they couldn’t offer a role I wanted.
As I was honest and authentic, the friendships I built over the years opened doors for me. I have to thank my previous boss from NCR who referred me to my current job. Without him, I wouldn’t have been considered. When I met with my current boss, I articulated what I was and what I was looking for. Turned out, it was a perfect match for what they wanted.
What’s the best thing about your work?
The friendships. I’m still close with friends from all my previous jobs. The friendships lasted because we were authentic.
There’s no distinction between work and life. I’m formal when I meet someone new. After that, I’ll share about myself and get to know them better, know their story. Those who reciprocate will become friends, we go out for coffee, and we meet each other’s families. We become great colleagues and great friends.
Who has made the biggest impact?
Nicole, my wife. She taught me a lot about myself, and that relationships are a two way street. An honest and authentic relationship becomes a virtuous circle. That’s not something people talk about enough.
What’s a message you would like to share with someone looking for the right role?
Nobody’s job is 100% aligned with what they want to do. No matter what, you need to be professional and intelligent. Sometimes when it’s not aligned, people switch off, which is a stupid thing to do.
When you realise it’s time to move on, make the decision to move on and fulfil your duties professionally. Build and maintain relationships, as you never know when those will come in handy in the future.
Likewise, a lot of people end up in places they don’t love; it’s just a function or a job that pays the bills. The work they create will be of inferior quality, the relationships they create will be of inferior quality.
If you can be true to yourself, you’ll be a source of positive energy, and it’ll tremendously impact how people interact with you.
Big thanks to Nicholas for sharing his story!
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About Roger Grant, CEO of PERSONNA
Roger helps organisations turn ideas into real business impact. The change comes from the inside out.
He has more than 20 years of experience leading large diverse teams to create innovative customer-centric technology services, including the launch of Nokia’s first enterprise mobile device support service.