Adam Gulla received his Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in creative writing from Ball State in 2014. He currently works for Briljent as a Business Development Manager. When not working on business projects, Adam can be found writing fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and screenplays. He currently lives with his wife, son, two dogs, two cats, and a rabbit in a castle in Indianapolis. Really. 

What was your first job after graduation, and how did that lead you to your current position?

My first job after graduation was Business Development Specialist at Fineline Printing Group. My role was to build the company’s first public-sector business development division with guidance from our consultant and the executive leadership team. I was responsible for developing a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, business reporting, marketing, and building a public-sector sales pipeline for long-term revenue.

As a Business Development Specialist, I learned the fundamentals of business and how the public sector worked. I learned how to create and leverage CRM frameworks as well as how to measure metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to monitor revenue growth. I was able to test different marketing and sales tactics to discover what worked and what didn’t.

Most important, I built experience, a strong network, and learned from several excellent mentors. I had the chance to work with many top organizations in Indianapolis and across the country. One of the partners I worked closest with was Briljent, a professional services consultant. I spent three years getting to know their team and their organization. When the opportunity came for me to take the next step in my career, my former job allowed me to secure the experience and connections to get through the door and into my current role.

What does a typical week look like for you?

It can vary based on what’s going on, but a typical work week involves several activities:

  • prospecting
  • leverage state procurement sites, public-sector market intelligence, and intel
  • schedule calls and face-to-face meetings
  • attend networking events and conferences
  • consulting
  • CRM data entry
  • account management
  • meet with internal and external teams
  • writing marketing content
  • developing promo items and strategies for events.
  • administrative and legal work thrown into the mix as well
  • write business proposals and coordinate Request For Proposal (RFP) responses
What is the most fulfilling part of your job?

There are several fulfilling aspects to my job. One of the most fulfilling is the opportunity to support so many meaningful public projects. Briljent designs and administers training for new system implementations. We make a difference for healthcare and education programs across the country, so it’s great to know that all your hard work is making an impact. I’m helping people learn and grow and get better at their jobs so that they can help those who rely on their services.

Another rewarding aspect of my role is getting to work on many different areas of the business. Working for a smaller company, I get to wear multiple hats, with opportunities to touch business development, marketing, sales, HR, operations, finance, and corporate strategy. I get to learn and grow in so many different areas, each supporting the other, each building my skillset and a comprehensive business background.

I enjoy being able to get out of the office and meet people face to face. I enjoy visiting different businesses, learning what they’re all about, and discovering opportunities for us to partner and make a difference. In this space you get to meet a lot of interesting people with diverse backgrounds, and it’s always great learning from them and hearing their stories.

Winning large contracts is also fulfilling. It’s great to see a big impact on the company from all your hard work. It’s also great to get bonuses and commissions after working hard on projects. I like having more control over my compensation, and there’s a real thrill in chasing down and winning opportunities.

Do you have any advice for English majors who are trying to figure out their next step?

First, I think it’s important to take stock of your passions and interests and consider what you want out of a career and ultimately what you want out of life. Think about what problems you want to solve and what kind of difference you want to make. You can use those insights as your compass moving forward. Stay true to your compass but also practice flexibility—things have a tendency to change over time and you often discover new insights about yourself along the way.

I advise interviewing and shadowing folks who currently have the job or career you think you want before diving headfirst. Sometimes, the jobs we want don’t fulfill us as much as we thought—sometimes they fulfill us more. Often, finding something that clicks is a matter of trial and error.

When applying and interviewing for a job, think of what you can do for potential employers. What problems can you solve? What value can you add? How can you make a difference for the organization? What skills and experience do you bring to the table and how can you leverage those to create results? What makes you different? What makes you a valuable asset?

At the end of the day, your career is a journey. You’ll discover things along the way. Always keep an ear and eye out for opportunities and don’t shy away from trying something new and stepping outside your comfort zone. Very often, you find something new and exciting about yourself when traveling off the beaten path.

What are the most valuable skills you learned as an English major? How have they helped you post–graduation?

Communication, critical thinking, and rhetoric.

Communication is everything. Whether it’s emails, calls, proposals, or pitches, communication is the vehicle to get you everywhere, and that’s what’s great about an English degree—you’re learning the ins and outs of language and the most effective ways to communicate with words. This made all the difference in the world for me when I entered the post-graduate workforce. I had honed my written and verbal communication skills in college and internships, and by the time I stepped into my first business development role, I was well equipped to handle all my sales and marketing responsibilities.

Critical thinking is an important skill for any job. All the research papers, debates, class discussions, and philosophy lectures in college helped develop my ability to analyze and process. In business, every client project is an opportunity to solve a problem. Finding the best solutions and innovating requires analyzing a problem from all angles. If you want to disrupt industries and develop something new, critical and creative thinking will you get you there, and those are skills my English degree helped cultivate.

Rhetoric is indispensable, not only in your job but in life. At any given moment, you’re going to have to convince someone of something, especially in a sales or marketing role. With an English degree, you’re constantly writing papers and having debates and class discussions that hinge on your ability to convince others of your insights and arguments. You do that all the time in life.

An English degree provides you with plenty of valuable skills. I found internships and immersive learning helped me round those skills out with experience. When it comes time to interview for a job, it’s important to take stock and sell those skills to employers.

You can connect with Adam Gulla on LinkedIn. Interested in how to transition from the English classroom to business? Check out this “Stars to Steer By” post, too.