Johnny’s Journey from Banker to Account Executive at Swipely

John Stefani is an alumnus of the Fall 2012 class of Startup Institute Boston (Sales & Business Development). He is now working at Swipely, a simple way for local merchants to accept payments, understand customers and grow sales.

One of the toughest questions people are always asked is, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”  A very fortunate few are actually able to say that they have a career doing exactly what they love and set out to be.  For the rest of us, it can be a tiresome and unrewarding process that ends up leading to a long list of jobs and career changes.  In order to be successful and find that “dream job,” you have you have to do some serious soul searching and uncover what is important to you, and ask how do you get there.

My journey started as a freshman in college having no idea what I wanted to do.  I choose Finance as a major because I knew I wanted to be some sort of businessman and thought; finance is a challenging major, that should look good on a resume.  However, after four years I left school and felt lost about where I should try and apply my college degree.  It also did not help that I graduated in the spring of 2009 when the economic crisis really started to rear its ugly head.  Financial veterans were being let go left and right with far more experience and far fewer jobs that needed to be filled, especially by someone with as little experience as me.  

Johnny Headshot

Eventually I found my first real job as an Assistant Bank Manager for a local bank in upstate New York.  In time I worked my way through the ranks and was promoted to being in charge of my own branch.  This position required many different responsibilities, but most importantly I discovered I was very good at talking with customers and helping them with all of their banking needs. In doing this I uncovered my passion for sales.  I truly enjoyed every aspect of the sales process from qualifying, to consulting, to negotiating the deal.  I worked with a lot of great people and learned a great deal along the way, but I knew in my heart that banking was not my career path.  With a larger company, I felt like just another wheel in a big machine.  After reaching and exceeding my sales quotas month after month, along with juggling all of my other day to day operations, I was still left feeling unfulfilled.  

That is when it all clicked.  I wanted to be a part of something greater.  I wanted to build or help build a young company and be a major part of its success.  That is when I discovered the thriving tech startup scene in Boston, MA.  I knew I wanted to break into that industry, but how could I?  I didn’t know anyone else working in startups and had no idea how to reach out to these companies other than researching and sending out a resume and cover letter into the dark abyss of the internet.  So I devised a plan to move home, start saving my money, and start looking for a place to live in Boston.

I was lucky enough to have two great friends from home who were also looking for a change.  I found an amazing apartment in Boston’s North End neighborhood, and then I was off to start my new adventure.  It was a true leap of faith.  I had expensive rent, no job, and no real job prospects, but I knew I was where I needed to be.  

Once I was in Boston I knew it would still be no easy task and there was a lot of work to be done.  I began researching more and more companies that I thought sounded interesting and continued to send out as many resumes as I could.  I was able to land several interviews with some awesome companies that were tackling big industries, but after two or three rounds of interviews I continued to fall short.  Although it was somewhat discouraging I continued to battle through to reach my goals.  Then I found the Startup Institute Boston.

Going in to day one I had no idea what to expect, but the energy and buzz in the room on that November 5th morning was unlike anything I had ever experienced before.  There were 60 other amazing students in the school all with the same drive and passion that I had.  From that first day I added a whole new network of colleagues and friends.  Everyday we were able to meet brilliant people in the startup community that wanted to share their knowledge and stories with us.  We had hands on learning experiences from CEO’s, VP’s, head engineers, marketing gurus, rockstar salesmen, and former students, who taught us how we can make an instant impact and get stuff done from day one.  

The Startup Institue also opened my eyes to many new companies and opportunities that would have probably never been on my radar.  We had informal “coffee talks,” several sessions of round table interviews, and classroom time to ask our instructors anything we wanted about their companies.  Needless to say, I was very drawn to several companies and I now had a relationship with a member of their team and a great understanding of what they are trying to accomplish.  At the end of school and after the Student Expose, I had a ton of options and conversations started with companies. Some were involved with the program and others were not.  One company in particular I wanted to pursue a role with was with one of the hiring partners, Swipely.  

Swipely is taking on a HUGE market in a very disruptive way by accepting credit card payments so businesses can understand their customers and business trends to help grow revenue.  After meeting several of their employees, I was blown away with the talent on their team and knew I had to be a part of it.  I reached out to several of the people I had met and was given an opportunity to interview.  I went to the office and met with the Sales Manager and also met several of the account executives where I was able to ask them questions about what they liked and didn’t like about working there.  After that, I knew the team, culture, and product were all a perfect fit.  I made it through the interview process and was given an offer.

I couldn’t have been happier with the challenges and the ups and downs I had to face while chasing down a career where I felt I belonged.  I taught myself that if you have a dream and are willing to put in the time and dedication that you can truly succeed at anything you put your mind to.  I was nervous and excited to start at Swipely. In the first several weeks that I have worked there, I know I am improving my skills and continuing to learn each day with the awesome support and help of my team.  I now have a sense of fulfillment and look forward to getting to work every morning.  

Trust me when I say this, if I can do this, anyone can.  You just need to have an idea what you are looking for and strap in for a crazy ride.

Apply to Startup Institute in New York and Boston. Summer session starts in June. The sooner you apply the better your chances of getting in.