Embracing Failure and Other Insights on the Winding Road to Success

by Valerie Nadi
In May 2018, Salesforce completed its acquisition of MuleSoft, one of the world's leading platforms for building application networks. With MuleSoft, Salesforce can accelerate their customers’ digital transformation efforts, enabling them to unlock data across legacy systems, cloud apps, and devices. In this blog, we feature Regional Lead, Account Development Alex Maierhofer, who works out of the London office supporting DACH — Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

With no sales experience, and after only seven months at MuleSoft, Alex Maierhofer was promoted from Account Development Representative to Account Development Executive. And just five months after that, he landed another new role as Regional Lead, Account Development. At first blush, that sounds like the path of someone used to success. Perhaps. But a closer look at his background shows plenty of indecision, false starts, and yes, failure, along the way.

Right out of university, Alex landed in government service. He liked the international exposure and interesting people, but the pace was too slow. Next, he pursued a master’s degree in international management, but the most popular career aspirations of his classmates — consulting or banking — left him cold.

Wracked with uncertainty as graduation neared, Alex became an application mill — not a strategy he (or Salesforce) would recommend. Then a friend shared a post about MuleSoft. He knew nothing about the company but he was interested, so he applied.

“I had that aha moment when the MuleSoft recruiter, who is now my manager, called me immediately after I applied. We had a great conversation. He told me everything about the company and the team. Two days later, I was in London. I felt valued as I went through the interviews.”

Alex was convinced that MuleSoft was the place and within 10 days of signing his contract offer, he attended training in California.

“There's a quote I’ve come across, ‘In your first job especially, you shouldn't choose a company, you should really choose a manager.’ This applied perfectly to me with MuleSoft.”

From a combination of his personal and professional experience, Alex draws four principles that guide his day-to-day life.


Embrace failure

The first time Alex took the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) to qualify for a good Master’s programme, he performed poorly. Initially, he was devastated. But he regrouped, focused his studies exclusively on practical application, and greatly surpassed his goal score.

“Without that first failure, I probably wouldn't have achieved such a good score and been accepted to the program I wanted. The lesson I think is to use failure as a step toward success.”

Alex also experienced failure soon after joining MuleSoft.

“My first role was to qualify prospects and bring them to my Account Executive (AE). But I looked too much at my own quotas and not at what was best for the team and the AE who needed to move the prospect through the sales cycle. Of course, the customer should always be first. Then the account team. That’s the path to success. And I learned that through failure.”

Ask the hard questions

For Alex, consensus is only valuable if all the relevant issues have been raised and addressed. Whether the issue is a performance evaluation, how to proceed with a prospect or a change to an internal process, Alex always seeks clarity. 

“Sometimes you need a bit of friction to get to the important points. The more specific the discussion, the more helpful it becomes.”

He took the same approach during interviews prior to joining MuleSoft

“I really wanted to get to the root of what we were doing. Because in interviews everything tends to be represented as perfect. But every job has its downsides. So, I asked a lot of people, ‘What don’t you like?’ That can come across as negative. But at MuleSoft, asking those critical questions is seen as a positive. Radical candor. If I want to know something, I dig deep.”

Follow your passions, not your peers

When Alex was in business school, he applied for the same positions in the same industries as his peers, even though he had no genuine interest in them. He felt pressured to follow a prescribed path.

“They wanted to enter those fields because everyone around them was doing it. And now, not many seem happy. Being open to something completely new is valuable. When I look at my team, we have a former professional basketball player, a lawyer, an auditor — people from different work and cultural backgrounds. Giving people like that a chance offers companies huge potential.”

So, Alex’s advice to job candidates: go for it. Try something that excites and interests you even if you may not have the ideal experience and qualifications. Look for a company that will look beyond that and take a chance.

Share your strengths

Recently, Alex’s team took on a large volunteer project at an orphanage in South Vietnam. The team will help the children improve their spoken and written English and gain new computer skills that will prepare them for higher education outside the orphanage.

Volunteering is a good example of sharing your strengths, which applies equally well to work and life outside of work.

“We have a great team spirit in my group. We support each other and work towards common goals. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. We’re better together.”

Poised for a transformative future

Alex sees unlimited opportunity in the combined vision and capabilities of MuleSoft and Salesforce.

“Tech is infiltrating every part of business. And we can offer the strategy and tools for the complete digital transformation of business.”

If Alex’s story has sparked your interest, then let us know you’d like to learn more about careers at Salesforce. Or if you’re already convinced, apply for a role today!

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