Canonical is the company behind Ubuntu, but who are the people behind Canonical? This blog will be the first in a series getting to know some of the different employees that make up our company. We will be talking to people across roles and departments, starting with Alice Cambridge.
Alice joined Canonical as a new graduate last year, and she has thrived in the Sales team – so much so that she was promoted after just four months. We’ve asked Alice to tell us about her experience starting out at Canonical, how her linguistic expertise transfers into her work, and the opportunities she’s had since she joined.
To start with, please tell us a bit about your background.
I was born in Derby, in the UK, and grew up in Somerset. At school, I was always most passionate about languages, which led me to study Modern Languages and Linguistics at Oxford, focusing on German – and yes, I’ve heard all the jokes about my name!
During my time at Oxford, I decided to go on a year abroad in Berlin. While I was living in Germany, I studied part-time at Humboldt University and worked at a language app company called “Babbel”. I really developed my German skills throughout that year, and this confirmed to me that I wanted to find a German-speaking role after university.
In terms of hobbies and what I am passionate about, I like keeping fit in my spare time by going to the gym and running. I also cycle on the city’s bikes to work and back everyday!
Linguistics to Linux is a bit of a jump. What made you want to join Canonical?
When I was job hunting, my main priority was finding a role where I could keep using my German, and at Canonical I get to speak German with customers every day. I also love interacting with people, and success in sales is all about building relationships.
Canonical’s strength in the open source market was another major draw. Open source is what all companies are moving towards – if you’re not, you’re behind the curve – so I was keen to work in an organisation at the forefront of the movement.
What does a typical day look like for you?
We have a meeting each morning where the whole team shares what they did the day before, and what they plan to do that day. It provides a lot of structure and helps keep us focused. Afterwards, I’ll have some customer calls with existing clients or new contacts, then my afternoons are usually spent prospecting: reaching out to potential customers and trying to find opportunities for business. Towards the end of the quarter, closing business becomes my main priority.
Do you work remotely, or at the office?
While Canonical is largely a remote company, the EMEA Sales and Marketing teams are mostly office-based, with one day a week at home. Given the nature of our work, it’s important to have face-to-face time with colleagues.
The London office is in a lovely location. It overlooks the Thames next to the Tate Modern, and it has convenient tube links. We also share the office with a number of other tech companies, so it’s great being surrounded by like-minded people.
How would you describe the environment within your team and within the wider organisation?
I think of the DACH (Germany, Austria, and Switzerland) group as my immediate team. We have a really strong, collaborative relationship. We’re always sharing ideas, and working together on campaigns to target specific companies and verticals.
I’ve recently joined the Inside Sales team and received excellent support from my manager and teammates. Being the youngest on the team, it’s been good to learn from the others’ invaluable experience. I’ve been performing well and I feel like I’ve integrated smoothly into the team.
As to Canonical as a whole, everyone is very friendly and willing to help out – even across teams. The strong sense of community that permeates the wider open source world is really reflected in Canonical’s company culture. Everyone can contribute ideas, and we’re all working towards the same goals.
What skills have you developed since starting at Canonical?
I’ve built up my technology and sales expertise almost completely from scratch. It’s great that Canonical is willing to take on employees without much background in tech. For sales in particular, it was more important to have strong language and interpersonal skills. The initial, two-week onboarding gave me a solid foundation in both tech and sales, and I’ve been able to build on that with regular training sessions from Product Management and Engineering.
I’ve also gained a lot of confidence since I started here, since I speak with C-level execs, department heads, and managers on a daily basis. I feel that you need to have quite a bit of confidence as a woman in this industry, so that experience has been invaluable.
Can you tell us more about the opportunities you’ve had at Canonical, and how you’ve progressed?
The travel opportunities have been fantastic. I’ve been at Canonical for less than a year, and I’ve already visited Berlin, Frankfurt, Copenhagen, and South Africa.
Progression-wise, I started at Canonical as a Sales Development Representative, and I performed well enough that I was promoted just four months later. It came as a very pleasant surprise. I didn’t imagine that I would be promoted so quickly into a role with so much responsibility, but Canonical has supported me really well with one-to-one training, and I recently closed my first two big opportunities!
What advice would you give someone who’s interested in joining Canonical?
Be passionate about tech! If you are coming from a non-tech background, be ready to learn and get stuck in.