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Advice / Career Paths / Career Stories

Here’s How Working at a Startup Can Speed Up Career Growth

Manami Kidera, a senior account executive and team lead at Abnormal Security
Manami Kidera, a senior account executive and team lead at Abnormal Security.
| Courtesy of Abnormal Security

Manami Kidera didn’t set out to pursue a sales career, but after working as a customer service rep, she realized her strengths were a great fit. “I found that I was a relationship builder and I’ve always liked helping people,” she says. After her first sales role, she was hooked. 

Since pivoting to sales in 2017, Kidera has worked in a variety of industries, including travel, gaming, and cybersecurity—each with its own unique experiences. “Sales has allowed me to meet new people, experience different cultures, and travel to places I likely wouldn’t have gotten the chance to visit if it hadn’t been for my job,” she says.

But perhaps the biggest turning point in Kidera’s sales career is when she joined Abnormal Security, an early stage startup in the cybersecurity space. It didn’t take long for Kidera to reap the benefits of being at a smaller, younger company: After her first year, she was promoted to build out and lead her own team of account executives.

“I’m really glad I took that leap of faith,” says Kidera, a senior account executive and team lead. “Abnormal has been the only company to recognize my abilities and promote me so quickly right out of the gate.”

Here, Kidera shares how working for a startup can speed up career growth, why there’s more to succeeding in sales than being a “hustler,” and the Abnormal Security perk she can’t live without.

What inspired you to pivot to cybersecurity after working in other industries, and what led to your job at Abnormal Security?

Cybersecurity resonated with me because I felt that I was able to solve a real, tangible business problem for my clients. During my first few years in cybersecurity at another email security vendor, I learned from the ground up. As someone with an affinity for foreign languages, studying the vocabulary and vernacular got me excited in the way that learning a new language would.

A few years into my tenure, I was recruited by a former manager to join Abnormal Security, and it was the best decision. I could use this language of cybersecurity in a new capacity with a smaller team, more visibility, and more impact.

As someone who previously worked for larger organizations, what are some of the benefits of being at a smaller company like Abnormal Security?

When I joined the company back in 2020, the company had less than 100 employees and it felt like a close-knit family. Being in a smaller organization has provided me with some significant growth opportunities in my career. It has also given me the flexibility to move projects along quickly, as well as the chance to establish close working relationships with people across different departments.

What are you responsible for as a senior account executive and team lead?

I am an individual contributor for the Houston market, where I cover mid-sized accounts. I am responsible for prospecting, nurturing, and partnering with new and existing customers in the territory.

I also lead a team of eight account executives who cover mid-sized accounts spanning the western part of the U.S. including California, the Pacific Northwest, the Rockies, and the Southwest. I serve as a resource for questions, I help work through deals and forecasting in order to achieve our targets, and I encourage the collaboration and melding of ideas on the team.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career and how did you overcome it?

At my first job out of college, I worked as a bilingual customer service rep for an airline. I answered phone and email concerns and tried to find workable solutions. Even though I was new to the job market and handling problems in both Japanese and English, I learned quickly to become the face of the company while speaking to customers and to empathize with them so that they were satisfied with the outcomes. I even developed relationships through phone conversations with some of our mileage members!

What does it take to be a good salesperson? 

I think a lot of people say that a good salesperson is a “hustler” and a great presenter. Although I do think that’s part of the job, I also feel that the best salespeople are those who are resilient and empathetic and who take the time to listen to what the core issue is—rather than jumping to conclusions—to find the right solution for the customer.

Sales can often be a demanding job. How does Abnormal Security encourage work-life balance?

Abnormal Security has wellness benefits that I take advantage of. I love that we get a monthly wellness stipend, which I use to feed my group fitness addiction. When I’m not at my desk, you can find me at Soulcycle, Barry’s Bootcamp, hot yoga, or pilates classes.

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?

“Exude confidence in everything you do and be your own best advocate.” Regardless of the circumstances, you need to be your own cheerleader in your career. That means being able to express yourself clearly and advocating for your own interests and needs. Frankly, this is still something I am working on and trying to embody daily.