Carrie Schrock is a recent graduate with a dual degree in Mechanical Engineering and Physics. She went against the grain in college by choosing to go into technical sales instead of a traditional engineering route. Carrie believes that engineering is a great springboard to a career in… anything!
Engineering gives you a strong foundation with infinite pathways toward a fulfilling career. Looking back, there’s so many options. You can go into operations, manufacturing, design, start your own business, anything! You don’t have to love math.
I wanted a lifestyle where I didn’t have to sit behind a desk all day and got to interact with people. I chose to go into technical sales, and it’s been the perfect role for me!
Did you always know what you wanted to do?
Honestly, no, not at all. I was unsure of my journey. Initially I didn’t know what to major in, I just really enjoyed my high school physics and math classes. I always found it fascinating how our world is ruled by equations, laws, and theories. I ultimately decided to pursue both Physics and Mechanical engineering through a 3-2 program between two schools.
To clarify, for the first 3 years, I studied physics at a smaller university, where I also got to be on the college swim team. Then, I transferred schools to do 2 more years of studying engineering to get my Mechanical Engineering degree.
When did you decide that you wanted to do sales?
I didn’t figure this out until the very, very end. I had an internship in manufacturing as a plant engineer, and another one in new product development. Neither of which I saw myself in long term.
Don’t get me wrong, the experiences were great. From both, I gained a holistic view of product development from ideation all the way through production, however, something just didn’t feel right. I was drawn to the sales and marketing groups at both companies, the relationship building, and helping people. Halfway through the product development internship I asked if I could spend part of my time with the sales team – and I was immediately hooked.
In my current role, I find that having an engineering background combined with being in the customer’s shoes from past experiences helps me to understand and empathize with their problems and/or questions – It’s been fun to be on the other side of the coin helping!
Fascinating! What helped you land your first job?
Kind of a funny story, I was working part time at a boutique hotel in college. We would get a lot of business guests, and I would ask them what they did, who they worked for, and I was fascinated by their background stories and what they ended up doing in their careers. One night I happened to check in a sales manager from Rockwell Automation. We started chatting about his experience, I ended up sending him my resume, and the rest is history!
Funny how a seemingly isolated event helped to shape your career!
You know, back in school I was very hard on myself because I couldn’t figure out who I wanted to be. It bothered me that I didn’t have a clear direction on what I wanted to do in life. I didn’t have an internship until after my fourth year of school. I took an opportunity to work as a beach lifeguard one summer in South Carolina. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything!
I realize now there’s so much more than school that shapes who we are as people. I’m drawn to teaching from being a swimming instructor while I was a teenager and through college. I fell in love with customer service by working in the hotel industry – and that experience helped me realize that sales engineering was even a potential career path.
Engineering is still very much a male dominated profession, did you feel welcomed?
In college it sometimes felt there was more pressure to being a woman in engineering. I used to think that I needed to prove myself and know all the answers to be “accepted.” There were only a handful of women in the engineering class I graduated with, and I was the only one (to my knowledge) who decided to ditch what may be consider a more ‘traditional’ route and go into sales. It felt isolating, but I was excited!
Upon starting with Rockwell Automation, I joined an employee resource group focused on Women in the Field. There, I was able to connect with women all over the country, share experiences, strategies, approaches, and war stories.
Do you feel a sense of optimism for the future?
Yes! I see so many more women participating in STEM related fields, there is no long a stigma to be a long trailblazer. There is a sense of community in that we’re in this exciting world together. I love the buzz and excitement!
It helps to know that the world isn’t hoisted on my shoulders and that I have support, and it’s taken time for me to realize that it’s okay to balance my career with things that make me happy. One of my goals is to get back to my love of swimming to become a part time teacher once again!