In this edition of ARN's 'One on One' interview series, we speak to Exclusive Networks national sales manager Kaarena Chapman, who shares her early lessons about customer service being a successful sales tool and how she embarked on a career in the IT industry through some friendly encouragement.
What was your first job?
I was walking from door to door selling lollies for a charity project. At the time I was around 14 years old and spent everything I earned on pizza for my family. I was very proud to pay for dinner. It's funny how quickly I realised that customer service is the key to your success in sales. The nicer I was, the more lollies people would buy off me.
How did you get started in the IT industry and progress to where you are today at Exclusive Networks?
Fortunately for me, I had some awesome cheerleaders who kept telling me to move in the IT industry, and with that, I made the jump and started with a little reseller. I then went to 3D Networks, and after going well there, I was encouraged by a friend to try this small distributor on the northern beaches [of Sydney], just 15 minutes from home, called WhiteGold
I have never looked back. I was working closely with the three founders, Jonathan [Odria], Sharon [Whitehand] and Dominic [Whitehand] and, in them, I had so much experience to draw on and insight to gain. I started as a junior sales rep, moving quickly into a senior sales rep role, and then promoted to state manager, Fortinet vendor manager. Following Jonathan's promotion, I then took over as national sales manager.
What has been your biggest business mistake, and the lessons you've learnt from that experience?
I’m a very passionate person, and putting my heart into everything hasn’t always helped me.
Learning how to balance my passion and expectations, both in a sale and whilst managing people, has been challenging at times. I now take a step back to understand people better and to have faith and confidence in my team, all of which has allowed for a less stressful existence.
What are some of your plans for Exclusive Networks in the coming months?
To keep doing what we’re doing – staying focused on process, automation and how we can better serve our awesome partners while continuing to grow the business in these challenging times.
We’re jumping on new tech and bringing it to market; this is an exhilarating process, and fun. Stay tuned, we are working on innovative models that will be exciting to bring to the region leveraging group initiatives. Distribution is different from one day to the next and that’s what I love.
What are some of your biggest ambitions — personally and professionally?
Personally, my focus is on my family. Raising my beautiful daughter to be a kind, strong and considerate woman, which can be tough at times – especially during a meltdown. The times we are living in require the next generation to be special, as the future of our planet is in their hands.
Professionally, I just want to continue to be successful. I’m definitely looking to help the next generation of women in IT but, more so, to be a part of an industry in which gender isn’t a barrier to success.
What has been the best piece of advice you've ever received?
Never burn bridges, friendships are gold.