From hockey to a business degree to Shopify. Growing up, Mike MacKenzie didn’t know he would one day want to work in sales. Shopify’s sales training program played a pivotal role in firing up his sales career in the tech space.
By Mike MacKenzie, SFN Sales at Shopify
“Alright I am graduating in less than a year - what in the world is next?”
Five years ago, that was the question I was asking myself along with my classmates and other upper-year postsecondary students.
Like many, I was still trying to figure out how to take those first steps in my professional career.
My early career aspirations
Growing up in Ottawa, Canada I had the same dream as many other young Canadians to play hockey for a living and one day, hopefully, end up in the NHL. Hockey was my life as a kid and by the time I was about nine years old, I played and trained year round.
I was fortunate enough to have some great coaches and teammates while being able to travel across North America to compete. While taking a year break after high school to play junior hockey locally and work at a hockey shop, I knew my time playing hockey competitively was soon coming to an end.
I began exploring universities, and having always had an interest in the business aspect of hockey through a marketing lens, I ultimately decided to attend university the following fall to study commerce.
In the end, my university program served as a catalyst both personally and professionally. Although I did okay in the quantitative-type courses such as accounting, finance, and calculus, I took a liking to those that were more qualitative including business communications, marketing, and negotiations.
In my upper years, I continued to focus on similar courses and had amazing sales management and digital marketing professors who really helped me get a solid handle on what direction I wanted to go in post-graduation.
Becoming interested in sales
I’m no different from most who are in the field - it was not my childhood dream to be in sales!
I got my first taste of retail sales while working at that hockey shop. While in university, more opportunities to work in sales arose such as assisting with business development for a close friend’s startup and working as a sales rep in the logistics space.
Although I wasn’t considering sales as a full-time career at those moments - more as opportunities to support myself through school - I was starting to get hooked.
What really made me fall in love with sales was the combination of finding and building new connections every single day, working collaboratively to understand and identify business objectives, and ideally to provide a solution that helps someone meet or exceed those objectives. By the time I finished my second internship in the logistics space at the end of my third year in university, I knew I wanted to continue on and grow as a sales professional.
Starting my search for a career
As I was graduating university, I was feeling nervous and overwhelmed about my first full-time job hunt, but also very excited.
I still had a lot to figure out, but after my coursework and job experiences, I did have complete confidence in what profession I wanted to pursue: sales and business development.
Discovering sales at Shopify
It was around this time that Shopify visited my sales management class on campus and introduced its first sales training program. What really got me excited was Shopify’s upfront commitment to developing young sales talent, combining educational workshops with mentorship programs and the opportunity to start selling Shopify to businesses around the world.
This was a first-of-its-kind program that I truly thought combined the best of both formal education and practical sales experience. This unique aspect paired with Shopify’s mission to empower entrepreneurs and explosive growth trajectory made applying a no brainer for me.
Next came a virtual pitch, a life story conversation with Shopify’s talent acquisition team, and meetings with sales reps and leaders. I was hired soon after and was thrilled to begin my sales training and Shopify journey with five other classmates.
I found the sales training program (now called Revenue School in the School of Commerce) incredibly beneficial for an unpolished new grad like myself. The classroom sessions introduced me to a ton of new sales topics and tactics, but what I found most impactful was the practical experience.
I was fortunate to be paired with one of Shopify’s enterprise reps so I could watch her work with a variety of large accounts including brands that were born on Shopify and Fortune 500 businesses, while getting the opportunity to champion my own sales initiative with a fellow cohort member.
My sales career now
Looking back now, I truly had no idea what the next three-and-a-half years after the sales training program would bring.
After I completed the program, I joined our Plus Sales team. In 2020, the entire company transitioned to working digitally after the pandemic started. Now I’m working for our fulfillment network sales team.
It has been quite the journey to say the least. I am very fortunate to have “grown up” at Shopify and cross paths with a ton of incredible coworkers and merchants in our ecosystem. Working in sales can be challenging, but also incredibly rewarding. It allows you to grow in many different ways and gives you the opportunity to truly help people on a daily basis.
I am a firm believer that it is a career path that new grads need to explore more. And, I’d recommend Revenue School to any new grad with an interest in business or sales because of the in-class learnings combined with the real-life practical experience.