Hired! When Lightning Strikes Twice

For Linda Schroeder, a job in IT attracted her from the get-go. And when times got tough, that IT focus proved her greatest strength.


For Linda Schroeder, a job in IT attracted her from the get-go. And when times got tough, that IT focus proved her greatest strength.

While still a student at North Dakota State University, she interned in a company called Computerland. Schroeder didn’t care that she was in the HR department as long as she could gain experience working with information technology. She also loved sales and gained experience in both the telecommunications and travel industries, but Schroeder was always most inspired when working with a company’s software systems.

While working at her next job, Worldspan, a provider of travel technology to airlines and travel agencies, Schroeder was part of a Siebel software implementation. Now she was hooked on IT, and she moved on to work at Microsoft Great Plains and then later at Siebel.

Three years ago, the Dallas resident decided she needed a change. Through her membership on SalesLadder, she reapplied her skills and was offered a job as a sales manager for TalentKeepers, a company that offered Web-based, integrated employee-retention solutions. Although it was a departure from her work in IT sales, she enjoyed it. “I was with TalentKeepers for about two-and-a-half years and then, sadly, I got a call at the end of September letting me know that they were going to have to go out of business. So it was a whirlwind.”

Schroeder had been aware that the economy had diminished the company’s fortunes and suspected there would be layoffs ahead. She didn’t anticipate a total shutdown. “So, thankfully, I had been looking a little on Ladders. But after the company closed, I started aggressively looking, and it didn’t even take a month to find a job. It was not even four weeks, so I felt very, very fortunate. That was the second job I found through Ladders.”

Coming home to IT sales
In a weak economy, Schroeder reasoned, it was best to play to her strongest suit and return to IT sales. “Although TalentKeepers had software and assessments online, it certainly wasn’t the front office/back office type of software that I was used to. I was really excited when Exact offered me the chance to get back into this.”

As senior sales executive for Exact Software, Schroeder said she can assist companies struggling to stay afloat in a troubled economy: “With reductions going on and people trying to save money, we can show many industries that they are in fact losing money by not having systems in place to invoice effectively [or] keep track of their sales and their orders.” Rather than face liquidation, companies should consider investing in systems to manage themselves more effectively and more seamlessly, Schroeder suggested. “Most companies are working on a more slimmed-down scale. In most cases, they have had a reduction in force; they have fewer people trying to do more. All you need then are systems in place to help you do that.”

Exact competes successfully with large companies such as Oracle, SAP and JD Edwards by claiming an international niche. Based in Delft, Netherlands, Exact releases its IT products in about 40 languages, all compliant with each country’s specifications. Schroeder recently visited the Netherlands for orientation and was impressed by the company’s diversity: “They put all of their new hires through a class together, and we had people in the class from Malaysia, the Czech Republic, Russia, Belgium, and Mexico. It was like the United Nations.”

As many companies reduce spending and cut staff, Schroeder said, the key to surviving in software is understanding what matters most to customers. “There was a time during the dot-com boom when everybody wanted CRM or everybody wanted ERP and you were able to dump your solution at people. And they wanted it. Everybody had it, and so they had to have it, too. It is not like that any more. You have to be able to go in and understand specifically what the need is of each is person within that organization. You need to be really consultative. You need to do your homework. You need to be able to show what differentiates you from other companies. And you also need to show that you are going to be a partner to them, and that you are going to be able to provide them with the support and the assistance to help them have a very successful implementation.”

With many top earners in the financial field out of work, some may consider a switch to a career in software. “I would counsel anybody who was thinking of getting into this industry to make sure that this is something that they can be passionate about and really enjoy,” Schroeder said. When confronted with a pink slip, Linda Schroeder knew that rediscovering that core of inspiration was key to finding her path again.