The tech boom. You’d have to be living under a rock for the last 25 years or so to avoid some knowledge of the phrase. Software and technology development jobs continue to be one of the growth sectors for jobs in the US.
And yet most people in the US have received little to no formal education on coding or programming. For that reason, people might assume they can’t move into tech or get a job in tech. But that’s not entirely true.
How it Began
SV Academy was founded by two tech industry veterans, Joel Scott and Rahim Fazal, who have very different backgrounds but shared a common goal: to make the tech industry more accessible to folks not interested in coding or development. Scott trained as an attorney and spent many years working for large corporations like Hewlett Packard before joining the start up game. Rahim Fazal has a very different story. Largely self taught, Fazal grew up in subsidized housing and went on to create a software company that was sold to Oracle in 2012.
Despite these different journeys, Scott and Fazal saw an amazing opportunity to help hardworking and motivated people from any background break into tech. They created SV Academy to train folks in sales at no personal cost. This deal may seem too good to be true, but with careful vetting and a high demand from companies around the US, SV Academy has grown their applicant pool significantly over a few years.
With new software and technology emerging at a rapid pace, tech companies need to find educated and persuasive representatives to sell their products. That’s where Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) come in. An SDR is responsible for generating new leads with businesses that can utilize their company’s products. This position is vital to the health of any company, particularly a start-up, as it brings in revenue and establishes on-going relationships with business partners.
Sales is always in demand, especially SDRs. Because it is typically an entry-level position, it is a great way to break into the tech industry (with training like SV Academy’s) and continue to grow your career. Of course, as people move up or move to other sectors within a company, more SDRs are needed.
If you need a career change, you’re looking to get into tech, or you need to move beyond “just a job,” the SDR could be a good fit. You probably already have a lot of skills that will make you a strong SDR. Being a strong communicator is a huge asset to any sales role. Communication is such a broad term, so make sure you think about all the ways you communicate: phone calls, talking to team members about new products, email, presentations, networking, one-on-one meetings… the list goes on. Chances are you are strong in one if not more of those areas.
It’s hard to say what’s most important for this role, but work ethic has to be one of the top skills. Sales roles require persistence and resilience. You’ll be cold calling people, working to convince folks your product is preferable to similar products, and dealing with a lot of rejection. Being able to push through and work towards your goals will be a huge asset in becoming a successful SDR.
Applying to SV Academy
You think you have what it takes to become an SDR. Now you need to determine if SV Academy will be a good fit for you and vice versa.
A successful applicant will possess a variety of traits and qualifications in addition to persistence and resilience. You don’t necessarily need to check every box on the list, but some are non-negotiable. SV Academy is best suited to folks with a bachelor’s degree. If you are a recent grad of ASU or FIU, you may be eligible for a post-grad certificate as well. In keeping with their mission, they give particular consideration to first gen college graduates. Additionally, SV Academy recognizes the enrichment that comes from a diverse community in the classroom and enrolls 60% women and 50% BIPOC.
Being a community leader is one intangible skill SV Academy seeks in all applicants. This could look different for different candidates, but it’s that important X-factor that can set you over the edge. Sebastian Bernal, an SV Academy graduate, described it like this, “The world lacks a lot of passion and when you put passion into an interview or an application, I believe it comes off to whoever looks it over.” If you have the passion and you think you can bring it to your role as an SDR, whether it’s your love of helping people or your interest in technology, that can set you apart.
The application process for SV Academy is rigorous. Because of their unique financing program, when you apply and interview for SV Academy you’re applying to their bootcamp and the first round of your future job.
The application process begins with a short form you can complete online on their website. This form captures your basic information and determines whether you meet the basic qualifications to become an SV Academy fellow.
Qualified applicants are typically invited to the next stage of the process within 1-week of their initial application. This will be a phone interview with the SV admissions team to determine if this program is the right fit.
Before your phone interview, you’ll want to take some time to prepare. Start by researching more about the SDR role and SV Academy. Prepare for this like you would your dream job, because essentially, that’s what you’re applying for! It’s important to remember this interview is a part of your interview process with your future employer.
Sebastian’s fellow alumni agreed: taking the interview process seriously was the first step in beginning their SV Academy experience. In addition to the interview with the SV Academy admissions team, you’ll be asked to do a brief written assessment. If you’re nervous, take the time to prep and run through a trial interview with a friend. There are plenty of resources online about preparing for an interview; take a look at these: Indeed, Harvard Career Services, or Careerbuilder.
From start to finish, your application and interview process could take only seven days. It’s important you’ve done your research and are ready to start your new career; it will go by quickly.
What’s SV Academy Like?
Once you’re accepted and enroll, you’ll be an SV Academy fellow. This distinction is important. You’re more than just a student and industry veterans will recognize the SV name. When you finish SV Academy, you will interview with and earn placement at one of SV Academy’s pre-screened employers. SV Academy has over 500 in-network employers across all major metropolitan U.S. cities including San Francisco, New York, D.C., Atlanta, and Chicago. Once you commit to an employer, they supplement your tuition. This financing model demonstrates SV Academy’s confidence in its program, its candidates, and its pre-screened employers.
As we discussed, you won’t be spending hours learning how to code in this program. You have the option to do a 4 week full-time program or a 12 week part-time program. Either way, the curriculum focuses on skill building that will make you a successful SDR and help you as you build your career. We’ll look more closely at the 4 week program. One of your first classes will be a day in the life of an SDR. This practical lesson will help you understand where you can utilize skills learned in future classes.
The next two weeks will focus more on the philosophies and skills needed in the sales role. You’ll learn strategies to guide your selling, as well as skills to develop new leads. During this time, you’ll be introduced to common sales software including LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Salesforce, SalesLoft, ConnectandSell, and more. If that sounds like a lot to do in two weeks, don’t worry. Recent grad Sebastian addressed this directly saying, “Make sure you learn the concepts and logic behind the tech tools and don’t get too caught up in mastering the tool as each company [will use different tools].”
In addition to skills used directly in the SDR role, you’ll learn invaluable transferable skills. Alumni that we talked to all mentioned that SV Academy strengthened and developed their communication skills, particularly effective business communication. Gagan Bhatia, a graduate of SV Academy, says, “I learned many things from the classes, but one of the things I use every day is how to write concise emails that will catch your prospect’s attention.” Whether you’re in sales or starting your own company, writing a strong, readable, and distinctive email is a helpful skill.
Your final week will be focused on interview prep. If you consider your interview with SV Academy as a first round interview, now it’s time to prepare for your second round interview at one of several pre-screened companies.
SV Academy devotes a whole week to building strong candidates. You have the knowledge, now you learn how to package it for a great interview. Topics include personal branding, interviewing with confidence, and the art of storytelling.
In your final week, you’ll begin planning for your future as well. At this time, you’ll be introduced to your career placement coach. Together you’ll map out a plan for your first few months in your new job and beyond. In addition to helping answer that pesky interview question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”, this will give you a strategy to advance in your new career.
Now it’s time to apply to a variety of pre-screened companies including Handshake, Optimizely, SurveyMonkey, and more. You’ll have the support of your cohort and your Career Placement Coach as you navigate the next steps in the process. In the end, it’s about finding the right fit for you and for your new employer.
Beginning Your Career
Congrats, graduate! Unlike traditional schools, SV Academy doesn’t abandon you once you graduate. In addition to helping you land your first tech job, SV Academy sets you up with a career success coach who will work with you for 12 months after you graduate.
You will connect with your career success coach in the coming months as you navigate your transition. Career success coaches support graduates in a variety of ways- strategically, interpersonally, and more. This additional support may account for the 70% of SV Academy alumni who are promoted in their first year on the job.
When talking about his career coach, Gagan, says, “It’s great because [my career coach] always helps and guides me with any issue I may be having at work. She also makes sure that I am on track to meet my goals and helps come up with a plan to reach them.” Gagan’s experience demonstrates that your career coach is really there to help you in your career, not just finding a job. And when Gagan was part of an unexpected layoff of over 100 people, his career coach helped him find his next job at another company he loves in under 2 months.
When reflecting on his experience with a career coach, Sebastian said “Each time I meet with my career success coach, I have a new responsibility to my job description. Kate has flowed with me and provided excellent coaching in not only sales, but all aspects of the company that I am involved in.” SV Academy career coaches are invested in your development and strive to meet you where you are.
Paying it Forward
SV Academy offers a unique opportunity to break into tech; fellows and graduates know this and care about SV Academy as a result. As Sebastian said, “I’m in this great position in my life because I had many people that advised me, that coached me, that helped me and that gave me a chance. If I can do any of those things for someone else, it would be my honor.”
SV Academy takes a chance on their fellows and in return, alumni give back to the SV Academy community. This relationship works because everyone is equally invested: SV Academy, fellows, employers, and alumni. If you’re ready to break into tech, you can learn more about SV Academy here.