The University of Montana - B.S., Liberal Studies + Spanish
Emily Joy has a job most people only dream of. As a sales representative at Cork Works Wine Company she not only gets to drink wine and talk wine every day, but she also gets to establish some rock-solid relationships and travel all over the United States (and the world). In addition, she speaks two languages and has lived overseas twice to teach and study. Perhaps the best thing is Emily left a job that she was a rock star at to follow her heart and pursue a different industry after a client prodded her to join their team. It’s further proof that you should not only dream big, but follow your instincts every time.
Life enables you to dream impossible things, and then do them!
How did you discover your current job?
Bartending always seemed like a fun way to earn fast cash. I was managing the bar at the local country club to pay my way through college and was thrown into the wine buying position at age 21. Fortunately, I found that I had a good palate and that wine was a fascinating and ancient tradition that begged for further introspection. I had the opportunity to taste many different wines every week and studied up on each and every one, the winemaking processes, the geographical growing regions and everything in between. I also had a lot of generous mentors in the wine community here in Missoula that guided me through my self-taught wine education. While running another high-end restaurant in Missoula, I was offered the position as a sales rep for Cork Works Wine Company and jumped at the opportunity.
What has been your path so far to get you where you are today?
I’m a little surprised that I have two liberal arts degrees, speak Spanish and have lived overseas twice to teach and study; yet I find myself in Missoula, Mont., selling wine! I figure that is the fun part about life; never knowing what path you may find yourself on. I always was extremely devoted to my university education and focused on travel and teaching abroad. The wine industry was truly something I happened to fall into, even though the same hard-working values and self-motivation I applied at school have taken me where I am know. Luckily, my current boss recognizes these traits and reciprocates my efforts accordingly. Managing two fine dining restaurants was a great introduction to the world of wine, but I also have taken the first level of Master Sommelier classes to receive a formal certification as an “expert of wine.” Traveling to various growing regions also has helped immensely in understanding where the wine comes from, the influence of the dirt the grapes grow in, and the impact of the winemakers’ style. I have been to vineyards in Oregon, Washington, Chile, Argentina and Spain ... California is still on the “to do” list!
Was there any one situation that helped you along your way?
The strong support that I have received over time from friends, family, coworkers and mentors has been a huge driving force for me. One experience for me is notable in this position. Quitting my prior job unexpectedly to take on my current position was a difficult debate, and I felt a little selfish leaving the restaurant that I had been running. My former boss gave me a hug and a card and wished me good luck. The card read, “You will be great at whatever you do.” This not only boosted my confidence but also made me feel warranted in the decision I had made.
What is your typical day like? Does it ever change?
My job is very dynamic. Although I have a rough schedule, every week there is something different. My sales territory is the Western part of Montana, about a 500-mile radius in all, which I cover each week. In addition to sales, I am constantly representing my company at events, such as wine tastings, wine dinners, wine auctions and fundraisers, and even wine training and mixology classes.
What is the dreamiest part of your job?
Most definitely the travel. I was sent to Spain on an all-expenses-paid tour around the north-central growing regions with one of our importers. This was an amazing experience, and I was compensated for meeting with winemakers and sampling incredible wines and foods along the wine route in Spain.
What is the most challenging part?
Time management. I love the opportunity I have to be able to work for myself. I only see my boss a couple times a month, so everything that I do is completely self-directed, and I have a bad habit of over-extending myself. There are winemakers that come to visit and expect to be shown a good ol’ Montana time, different events going on every week and the day-to-day sales work that also is time consuming but extremely important to keep up with. Working from home also means that your job is always right there, so it is easy to be attached to the job and work at all hours of the day. The balance between personal time and working time is important but challenging at times when you are working for yourself.
What is one lesson you’ve learned in your job that sticks with you?
Relationships are everything. Communicating with people in the sales industry is a requirement of the job, but finding common interests and cultivating business relations on a personal level is the best way that I have found to build trust, and as a result, increase sales. One of my accounts gave me the clearest example of how relating to and spending the time to get to know your clients pays off. He told me that the relationship we had built was more valuable than the product I was selling, and if one of my competitors offered a similar product at a lower price, he would still go with mine because our relationship was worth the expense.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge for women today, particularly females in your industry?
From my experience in Montana, men dominate the field I work in, whether they are other sales reps or the clients I sell to. I think the biggest challenge for a woman, especially of my age in this job, is to be taken seriously. I’ve had to prove to many people that my taste in wine is accurate, and I am educated in my field. Overcoming the snobbery and “good ol’ boy” mentality that sometimes rears its head in this industry has been a big challenge, but also a successful endeavor in most cases, which makes me feel that much more accomplished as a female professional.
Who are your role models?
I can’t really tell you there is one iconic figure or celebrity that I look up to. I am lucky to have been influenced by very caring and intelligent people in my life. I look up to those who are generous, informed, strong-willed and open to understanding this world. A few of my college professors stand out as incredible men and women that I admire and look up to.
Is there a quote or mantra that you live by?
Live life to the fullest. Even though that may not be too profound, I wake up every day appreciating and utilizing the time I have available to me. Life enables you to dream impossible things, and then do them!
What advice do you have for girls who want to be in your industry?
If you are passionate about wine, go for it! Wine should not be a pretentious mystery. Taste wines and study them -- what grape is the wine made from, where it is grown and what does it taste like to you? Wine is a subjective pleasure. If you find you have an adept palate and a passion for it, you are already a connoisseur.