Every month, Stella Connect recognizes one of our outstanding team members for raising the bar in their role. This month, we’re applauding Karen Darling! Currently a Senior Account Executive, Karen has been a force to be reckoned with since she first started at Stella Connect. In her three year tenure, Karen has consistently exceeded her goals and achieved record-breaking sales numbers – including having the best quarter of any AE in Stella Connect’s history! Karen’s tenacity is equally matched with her collaboration and willingness to mentor others. We sat down with Karen to learn, among other things, how her career prior to joining Stella prepared her for her current role and how she spends her time outside of the (virtual) office!
You’ve had an interesting path to software sales. How did you decide that a career in sales was the right move for you?
At the very beginning of my career, I moved from Chicago (my hometown) to Oklahoma to teach language arts and social studies in a 5th grade North Tulsa classroom. Being a teacher was challenging and rewarding, but ultimately what I loved about the job was taking complex topics and making them interesting and meaningful for kids. That’s a skill that became very important later in my career.
I eventually decided the classroom wasn’t the place for me and I started working in nonprofits. I did fundraising at The University of Tulsa and the Gilcrease Museum and then pursued a Masters in Nonprofit Management, which brought me to New York City.
Ultimately, I decided to make the career transition to a tech startup because I was excited by the fast-paced, innovative nature of a startup. My time in fundraising gave me experience wearing multiple hats which was great preparation for working in a tech startup. More importantly, it provided me with my first-ever exposure to what today I’d call sales: engineering lasting, positive outcomes for everyone involved in a deal.
What’s something you’ve found inspiring or impactful recently?
I’ll forever remain a student of sales because I find the balance between the art and science of a deal to be endlessly fascinating. Last week I finished a book by Darius Lahoutifard called Always Be Qualifying. It takes a fresh perspective on a long-trusted approach to understanding how prospective clients view their business challenges and the solutions that can overcome them.
What Stella Connect core value resonates the most with you? Why?
“One Team One Mission”. Our culture of collaboration is something we showcase at every stage of the employee lifecycle, all the way from the start of our hiring process. We have a positive and productive culture, where every new challenge is a shared challenge that the whole company gets behind. Everyone is rooting for each other, and everyone is there to make sure that you have what you need to succeed.
When you’re not closing deals, what hobbies or interests do you spend time doing?
Violin is my greatest passion. For a long time, I even thought about becoming a professional musician. In the past few months, as I’ve quarantined, I’ve had the opportunity to spend more time playing, which has been a blessing and a terrific outlet during this challenging time.