Kelly Safis, Director, Sales Training , shares her 30+ years experience at Whirlpool Corp. with the next generation.
Kelly Safis’ relationship with Whirlpool Corp. goes back decades. She is a third generation Whirlpool Corp. employee, a winner of the Whirlpool Sons & Daughters Scholarship, and this June will mark her 33rd year with the company.
“I didn’t think I’d be here for 33 years. When you’re 21 and fresh out of college, you don’t imagine yourself staying anywhere that long but at this point, I can’t imagine leaving the people. Our (Whirlpool Corp.) real difference is our people–people who care and feel passionately about what they do and people who want to make a real difference in people’s lives.”
Speaking of making a difference in people’s lives, Kelly has spends much of her time making a difference for the newest employees at Whirlpool Corp., both through direct mentoring and her work with the Real Whirled program, now embarking on the 60th class in 2018.
All of Whirlpool Corp.’s early training curriculum for sales rolls up to Kelly, and is managed by Ashley Czubak. The Real Whirled program is a particularly unique experience. Small groups of recent college graduates embark on a 10-week, hands on training program where they actually cohabitate with the other participants. Over the 10 weeks, they complete sales skills training and gain insight into Whirlpool Corp. products through daily usage in their condo apartment. After completing the program, they are assigned to a U.S. sales territory as a sales development representative.
Many of the Real Whirled participants start off as interns. For those who spend 12 weeks as an intern and then 10 weeks in Real Whirled, the amount of training received is considerable. Kelly credits this preparation for the high retention rate for those who go through the program.
Whirlpool Corp. actually recently earned a ranking on the Selling Power 50 Best Companies to Sell For list. Rankings are determined based on (1) Compensation and Benefits, (2) Hiring, Sales Training, and Sales Enablement, and (3) Customer Retention. Ranked at 14 out of 50, Whirlpool Corp. was the only large company in the top 20 and one of only a few companies not in the tech or service industries.
Kelly’s enthusiasm for teaching and mentoring is evident when speaking to her. “I’m passionate about watching people succeed. I love watching people be successful and helping to shape their careers and connecting them with the right people.”
I asked Kelly what she credits with her success. “Having a lot of different jobs” she said. “It’s important to expand your base of knowledge and to not be afraid to change jobs. Go horizontal before you go vertical. The job gets a lot harder as you move up the ladder, but if you’ve had diverse experiences early in your career, you’ll be the most qualified.”
A mentor to many, Kelly is also a big advocate for having a mentor. “A strong mentor will know what you’re good at before you do. That’s how I ended up in training–a mentor connected me with the opportunity because they saw me as a natural educator which makes sense because I do really enjoy helping people learn how to do new things.”
Kelly offered one final piece of advice. “Be your own best advocate. If I look back and think about what I wish I would have done differently, it’s not advocating for myself enough. Some of that is just my generation and not wanting to be forceful enough in saying ‘yes, I am the most qualified for the job’ so for the next generation, my best advice is to not sell yourself short.”
Written by Emily Kirchner