Olympic volleyball bronze medalist Murphy Troy poses with Cal State Fullerton Sales Leadership Center students during his visit to campus on Feb. 5, 2019.

Olympian Murphy Troy (second from left) poses with Cal State Fullerton sales students after the Spring Kick-Off on Feb. 5, 2019.

Murphy Troy, a member of the bronze-winning U.S. volleyball team at the 2016 Olympics, discussed the victories and challenges in his sports career and his current account executive role at Irvine-based software firm Alteryx.

While Missouri native Murphy Troy was studying physics at USC at the beginning of this decade, his mind was focused on a single goal: landing a spot on the winning Olympic volleyball team. After his graduation in 2011, Troy maintained his focus, playing his sport professionally and seeking opportunities to enter international competition.

“Three years after I graduated from college with my physics degree, I had no idea what I wanted to do in physics, but I wanted to keep playing volleyball. I knew I wanted to go to the Olympics and have a medal,” Troy told students at the Cal State Fullerton Sales Leadership Center Spring Kick-Off on Feb. 5. “They took 12 people, and I wanted to be one of those 12 people and be good enough to make that team. Even narrowing it down, I only played one position and they only took two guys at that position, so I had to be one of those two.”

Though Troy’s path would eventually lead to a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, success would not come easily.

In 2014, while the U.S. team won the World League, a major non-Olympic volleyball competition, Troy did not make the team. But after spending two years in Poland, away from his family and girlfriend but perfecting his skill through professional competition, he landed a coveted spot on the U.S. men’s team for the 2016 Olympics.

“Getting in the room with the coach and him telling me ‘congratulations, you made the team’ was one of the absolute highlights of my life,” he recalled.

Murphy Troy discusses Olympic excellence and sales careers at Cal State Fullerton on Feb. 5, 2019.

“You don’t want to set the bar low, but put it all out there on the line knowing that you could lose, and it could crush you, but you want to do it anyway,” said Murphy Troy at the Sales Leadership Center Spring Kick-Off.

To the Brink and Back in Rio

In Rio, Troy met storied Olympians, including swimmer Michael Phelps, and participated in the opening ceremonies, honored to have the opportunity to compete in a sport that he had devoted himself to since his high school days in St. Louis.

But a gold medal would be elusive for him and the U.S. team, and even the path to the bronze was fraught with challenges.

“The way the system works in the Olympics is you have to win your pool,” said Troy. “Only the top three teams in the pool qualify for medal runs. Our team was stacked with all the hard teams, Canada and one other team we should have won.”

Facing elimination, Troy and his team resolved to make every effort to come back in their quest for victory.

“Our conversations were that we can’t necessarily affect the outcome, but we can affect point by point how we play, and that’s what we had to commit to. That was our only shot,” he said.

With the help of a 39-year-old player – years the senior of most members of the team – Troy and his team defeated their Russian counterparts to land a bronze medal.

“Walking away with a medal was one of the greatest feelings in my life,” he reminisced. “I learned so much throughout my life in failures, and if I hadn’t gone through those experiences in college, where our team got our hopes up so high and were crushed, and after college when I thought I was so close to making the team and didn’t, I wouldn’t have been prepared in that moment in Brazil when we were so close to getting the gold medal and it was swept out from under us.”

From Scoring Volleyball Points to Meeting Sales Goals

Despite a lifelong passion for athletics, Troy decided to leave professional competition and seek other employment after his Olympic performance (though he is still considering attending the 2020 games in Tokyo as a guest). The young man had married his longtime girlfriend (the couple is expecting their first child) and volleyball did not offer a lucrative career path in the U.S.

“There are no professional indoor volleyball leagues in the U.S., and we weren’t signing the types of contracts that NBA free agents are signing. So I knew at some point I would have to get a real job,” he said.

Soul-searching on the best career path would ultimately lead to an account executive role at Alteryx, which provides data analytics software primarily used for corporate tax reporting.

While lacking the singularity of purpose that he had experienced in the lead-up to the Olympics, Troy resolved to maximize his chances for a rewarding and successful post-athletics career.

“I knew I didn’t have that narrow focus, and I don’t think I do now either,” he said. “I don’t know what I want to do in five years, but what I thought of then was I wanted a company where I could learn and grow, and two years from now, if I got fired or hate my job and want to quit, that I have attained skills that will help me branch off into another job that I will like. Is my job giving me skills that are transferable?”

Troy’s role focuses on large organizational customers and leads throughout the western U.S., including California, the Pacific Northwest, Arizona and Utah. In addition to calling on companies that already use Alteryx software, he also engages in personal and corporate research – often using LinkedIn – on potential leads.

“It is typically a lot easier to sell something to an organization that already sells some of your products and wants to buy more,” he said. “Being in sales, you can have the greatest product in the world, but that doesn’t matter to company A, B or C, since they are focused on their own business and how they can improve. So we have to figure out what they are really focused on. Become a student of what they are doing and learn to ask the right questions.”

Whether in the Olympics or in sales, Troy has recognized that top performers have a desire to persevere, whatever the results may be, and are not defeated by failure.

“You don’t want to set the bar low, but put it all out there on the line knowing that you could lose, and it could crush you, but you want to do it anyway,” he said. “This is something I have taken with me in my job, since working in sales, you have a number that the business is tasking you with, and you have to find a way to get there. You’re running your own business and there is going to be pressure, and there should be, and you need to be OK with that.”

A Cal State Fullerton student holds a bronze Olympic medal belonging to Murphy Troy, a volleyball medalist who spoke on campus on Feb. 5, 2019.

A Mihaylo College student holds the bronze medal that Murphy Troy received at the 2016 Summer Olympics. Weighing more than one pound, the medal itself is actually 97% copper.

Launching Your Career in Sales

Troy believes that Cal State Fullerton’s Sales Leadership Center, offered through the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics and open to students of all majors, provides opportunities in that he wishes he had as an undergraduate. He encouraged students to take advantage of the professional development and applied learning opportunities the center offers, while also recognizing that careers are often not linear, and there is great benefit in taking on diverse experiences.

“No major or college class can fully prepare you for the career you are going into. It can give a solid foundation and tools to fall back on in a lot of different careers,” he said. “I tried to dive in and immerse myself in the new process and learn from people who have been in the company and done similar things in the past.”

The Sales Leadership Center offers a certificate program in professional sales, networking opportunities, sales competitions and job fairs. A full list of their upcoming events for spring 2019 is available online.

For more on the Sales Leadership Center, send an email to slc@fullerton.edu or visit them online. Or read more of our articles on sales and related career paths.