Today, we’re featuring a PT who made the switch into a non-clinical role as a Territory Manager at Penumbra.
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What is your full name and title at your current job?
April Hoffman, PT, DPT
Territory Manager/Care Specialist at Penumbra
Where are you located?
San Diego, CA
Where did you go to PT school, and what year did you graduate?
University of St Augustine, San Marcos CA, 2011
What did you do when you first finished school, and for how long?
I went directly into the highest-paying job setting I could find: skilled nursing. I was offered the job while still in school from one of my clinical rotations.
What did you do after that, and for how long?
I worked for that company for about 4 years in different locations and settings all geriatrics. Then, I moved to Los Angeles and pursued other opportunities in small outpatient clinics and got into home health for extra income.
Then, I returned to San Diego and started working for a large network of outpatient clinics with athletes and a very diverse younger population.
I then started my own small cash pay business, as well as becoming a rehab supervisor for a home health agency.
The last role prior to my current job was contracting as a school-based physical therapist. (I did a little bit of everything I could in those early years.)
What did you enjoy about patient care?
I enjoyed working for a larger company that gave me opportunities to grow and move up and explore settings. I enjoyed home health for the flexibility and ability to make extra money easily with PRN work. I also really enjoyed using my manual skills to work in outpatient with athletes and a younger population, which enabled me to be very creative with my treatments.
I liked running my own cash pay business, since I didn’t have to worry about insurance and authorization or units. I also enjoyed the stable schedule with the school district.
What didn’t you enjoy about your clinical roles?
What I didn’t enjoy most about almost every setting was what you probably expect: the amount of documentation and pressure to have things fit into a system or certain wording to satisfy insurance.
I hated the pressure of productivity in skilled nursing, and the number of patients I was expected to see each day in outpatient was absolutely exhausting.
With my small business, it was a constant balance of having to market myself, do the manual work, and worry about billing. I felt that the school setting wasn’t really challenging my skills or knowledge.
All in all, none of the settings really allowed me to grow or build or create anything. I felt like I wanted to explore all that I was capable of.
At what point did you realize you wanted to do something non-clinical with your background, and why?
About two years ago, while working in home health and several settings, it became more about assistants doing the actual treatments and the PTs doing just the evaluations/assessments.
At first, I realized it was a great way to make more money and be more flexible, so I didn’t mind. I didn’t have a family or many obligations, so I would stack load my home health patients and take 4-day weekends and take days off as I pleased. I was PRN and worked as much or little as I wanted.
Then I had my son, bought a home and moved in with my partner. He is military so it made me realize I needed to find something more stable. I was spending hours on hours doing documentation at night and on the weekends to keep up with all the assessments I was doing, I realized I was no longer being creative.
I was no longer actually feeling like I was helping or making an impact on patients’ lives. I was copy and pasting plans of care and goals and changing small things, pumping people into the system and passing them on to assistants. I stopped even knowing who any of my patients were, and was ultimately just there to “manage cases” with zero connection. I was working myself into the ground with little to know way of moving up or growing.
So, I started searching for other opportunities, my goal was to find something even if it was partially clinical that challenged me, allowed me to grow and be creative. I wanted to have the freedom and flexibility to continue to actually help people, along with good benefits and tons of opportunity to move up within a company.
I spent almost a year looking applying and hunting, networking.
What are you doing these days?
I am currently working full time as a Territory Manager/Care Specialist for Penumbra.
Are you still treating patients at Penumbra, or are you non-clinical?
I’m 100% non-clinical these days.
How long have you been a Territory Manager/Care Specialist at Penumbra?
I’ve been at Penumbra for just under a year and a half.
How did you find your job? Did you apply or find it through a connection?
I was driving between home health patients and at this point was desperately searching daily even between patients in my car for new jobs. I saw the tag and immediately pulled over on the side of the road and reached out via LinkedIn to the recruiter who initially posted about the position.
Did you do anything special to your resume and cover letter to land the Territory Manager job?
Absolutely, I rewrote my resume from scratch, updated my LinkedIn, added a photo, wrote a 30-60-90 day business plan, and created a “Brag Book.”
What was the interview like for the Territory Manager role?
It was a very exhausting and long process.
In the clinical world, we are very used to things happening very quickly. You either have the qualifications and or you don’t, and it saves a lot of questions and time to just focus an interview on the current setting.
This Territory Manager role is a unique position requiring a PT or OT degree. However, they also wanted leadership, sales, and management skills, as well as a very unique personality to fit the job.
My first interview was actually with the recruiter to see if I was even a good candidate for the job. The second official interview was a phone interview with a fellow PT who was already hired for the same position. The third interview was with my now regional sales manager, also over the phone.
The final interview was in person; they flew me to Minneapolis for one day to interview with the national and regional managers and sales director for the company. Overall, it was about a 6-month process with a lot of waiting.
Then, I was hired and started extremely quickly.
Did you get any special certifications or training along the way to help you get into your current role?
I pulled together any old sales experience I could find, even from old networking experience. Once I was hired, they had us take a sales course, as well as go through extensive training on the medical device we represent.
How have people reacted to you leaving patient care?
It was more that people were curious about why I would leave.
They asked me why a lot in the beginning. Now that I’ve been out for awhile, they want to know if I miss patient care.
I do not miss patient care at all.
I was so burned out and felt I wasn’t able to provide excellent patient care after a certain point, so it was for the best for me to leave and pursue something more fulfilling.
What’s a typical day or week in the life like for you? What types of tasks and responsibilities fill your time?
Currently, we are each building our unique territories. There is only 1 Territory Manager/Care Specialist in each territory.
My territory is currently all of Southern California, as well as Arizona.
We started with a lot of training and learning about the device (it’s a virtual reality full-immersion device for rehab) while creating a full business plan, identifying leads and contacts and reaching out to those contacts.
Now, it’s setting up lots of demonstrations and in-services and working to build accounts and opportunities, eventually managing those cases. We have a lot of conference calls and, ultimately, we are on our own—so there’s a lot of flexibility partially working from home and or driving or flying to potential/clients as needed.
What are some of the challenges of your role? What are the rewards?
The challenges are overcoming my previous stigma toward sales, and being able to manage my time and be productive with no direct supervision.
To succeed in this role, you will need to be very outgoing and able to connect with people. You’ll also want to be comfortable presenting and doing a lot of demonstrations. It has been a learning curve for me to learn new technologies, as well as documentation platforms like Salesforce.
How do you think working as a PT prepared you for this role? Which skills transferred?
The position required a PT/OT degree since we are directly selling to rehab settings. The ability to connect and relate to other therapists and address their needs and concerns—as well as be able to implement the device and continue to train rehab specialists on how to use the device—have helped me very much.
Fortunately, my degree was directly linked to the type of work I do as a territory manager.
Roughly speaking, how are the hours and pay compared to patient care?
The pay is very comparable. I earn a salary, which was hard for me to get used to since I was 1099 and PRN for last 7 years.
I have had to adjust a bit with taking home a little less each month—but there’s so much more potential as far as making bonuses and compensations. We also get full benefits, car allowance, and lots of perks (all expenses paid, travel, phone, gas, food etc.).
What type of person do you think would do well in your role?
A very outgoing, organized, and strong personality is needed in order to manage objections and obstacles.
You should be able to self-manage well and be open to learning a whole new world and skill set.
Being creative, good in sales and marketing, and able to talk to anyone and everyone—and adapt to multiple personalities and not take anything personally in the process—is key.
Do you work remotely or on-site?
I work remotely in a sense. The headquarters is in San Francisco. We do travel to certain trade shows/events which are required, like APTA’s CSM and AOTA and other medical conferences.
You are required to travel to hospitals and clinics within your territory, but those meetings can be set on your own schedule.
Does your organization hire PT, OT, or SLP professionals into non-clinical roles? If so, what type of roles?
Yes, it is required to be a PT/OT. In some locations, they are hiring PTAs/COTAs.
Did you read any books, take any courses, or do anything special overall to get you where you are today?
I joined every non-clinical page possible. I attended meetings and spent several hours a week searching online and networking and I reached out to a recruiter on LinkedIn. She was looking to fill the Territory Manager/Care Specialist job and Meredith posted it and tagged me as part of her Non-Clinical 101 alumni benefits.
What is a typical career path for someone in your role?
An early goal is to build a territory with several clients. We then managing those clients since this is a subscription model, and it is our job to maintain engagement and ensure our clients get what they want from the products. As new products are developed, we to continue to train and sell, as well as potentially move up into positions with more responsibilities.
What is next for you? What do you want to do with your career long-term?
I want to build a very successful territory and have a comfortable residual income, while spending more time with my family and feeling like I have constant growth opportunities.
What would you recommend to someone who is considering going into a role like yours?
Do not be afraid to try something new, and do not shy away from something that may make you feel uncomfortable. Reach out to others in roles you may be interested in. Build your network and make sure to join LinkedIn.
[Editor’s Note: There is TONS of information on how to use and leverage LinkedIn in Non-Clinical 101!]
Reach out to recruiters and ask lots and lots of questions. My first thought applying for this job was, “There’s no way I’ll get it, but why not try?”
I knew I had nothing to lose by just applying, and here we are!
What would you like to change most in your profession, and why? How would you propose doing so?
As far as the PT profession, I would change the pressure on therapists to maintain such high productivity levels. I’d also address the lack of growth and demanding documentation, and I’d push for higher pay or student loan forgiveness incentives.
If you could give yourself one piece of career advice you wish you had during your PT school program, what would it be?
Don’t go straight for the highest-paying job. Stay at least 1 year at any setting and then explore multiple settings.
Always keep in touch with your professors and old employers. Ten years after graduation, I am reaching back out to all my old employers to potentially have them become clients. Because I built such good relationships, they all trust and respect me and it has tremendously helped me in my current role.
Had I stayed in one job for the past 10 years, this job would be much more challenging. Network. Network. Network!
Do you have any special advice for others who want to follow in your footsteps?
Be open minded, shift your expectations, and realize you have lots of amazing tools you may not realize yet. You will need to get very creative on your resume and skills. Try to zoom out and include experiences prior to grad school. Don’t be afraid to apply for something out of your comfort zone; you never know who people are looking for.