Everyone’s educational and professional journey is unique, based on their strengths, interests, goals and life circumstances. No one personifies this truth more than CU Boulder alumnus Hamed Yazdi.
Yazdi’s path to success in the field of enterprise software sales has taken him from his hometown of Boulder, Colorado to schools and countries around the world and back again. And his story goes to show that there’s never just one way to earn a master’s degree — or use engineering management skills.
Gaining a Global Perspective — And Taking on a Double Challenge
Originally from Boulder, Yazdi moved from his home in the U.S. to Iran, where he finished high school. From there, he attended the American University of Beirut in Lebanon, where he started his undergraduate education in engineering.
After taking a few years off from school and working while living in Lebanon, Yazdi moved back to Colorado, transferring to CU Boulder to complete his undergraduate degree. “I attended CU Boulder largely because it was my hometown college,” he says. “I started in civil engineering and transferred to mechanical engineering.”
While he was working toward his bachelor of science degree, Yazdi discovered some of the undergraduate courses offered as part of CU Boulder’s Lockheed Martin Engineering Management Program (EMP) that were available as electives.
“I was always interested in business, and I had run my own businesses in the past and been involved in sales and marketing,” Yazdi says. “And I realized that those classes resonated with me more than my engineering electives. So I pursued my EMP certificate.”
Knowledge and Skills that Last a Lifetime
As an EMP student pursuing his master’s degree, Yazdi immediately saw value in what the program had to offer. While his background and mechanical engineering pursuits at the undergraduate level were very technical in nature, he was always drawn to sales and envisioned a future in sales related to enterprise software solutions.
Several of his EMP courses delivered knowledge and skills in areas that he knew would be directly and immediately applicable in a sales capacity.
“I enjoyed the courses a lot, I got a lot out of them, especially the leadership courses. If I had to think about one course that helps me more than any other course in my current position and career, it would be the leadership class. My leadership class taught by Professor Barbara Lawton was my favorite class because it had a profound impact on my approach toward leadership, personal development, and soft skills,” Yazdi says.
While his main interest focused on sales, Yazdi knew there was a good chance that at some point in his career he would find himself managing others and felt that developing leadership skills would be essential.
“The understanding of emotional intelligence, conflict resolution, understanding change in an organization, those were topics that were very impactful,” he says. “And the mindset that was taught in that class, was important; for instance, how to transition to a position where you’re responsible for anything that happens. There were some tactical teachings, but it was more life and leadership skills that can be used in any position. I think it just had a more lasting effect on me.”
The leadership class has a very direct impact on Yazdi’s work. “I think the soft skills in today’s business environment, the people skills, are what differentiates those who can be successful and excel beyond the technical aspects,” Yazdi says. “I deal with a lot of people working in sales, and those soft skills are very valuable.”
Other coursework areas in the Program that Yazdi points to as being particularly valuable for him and his career in enterprise software sales include ethics and business simulation, where students build a company in simulated environments. “We learned a lot about marketing and demand generation and making great financial decisions,” he says. “The accounting class and learning the basics of financial management was also very helpful.”
Launching His Future in Software Solutions Sales
After completing the engineering management Program, Yazdi started in a sales role and moved into an account manager position with Tech-30, a value-added reseller offering a wide-ranging portfolio of solutions designed to help organizations improve operations and efficiency.
At the time Yazdi joined Tech-30, the company was in dire financial straits and on the verge of bankruptcy. Fortunately, Yazdi was part of the team that was able to turn things around to the point where Tech-30 was in good financial health once again.
“At the time, my title was Director of Business Development,” Yazdi says. “Our goal was to sell software solutions in addition to training and implementation services. So we had application engineers and salespeople on staff, along with other resources like marketing, HR, IT. But my focus was to manage the sales and technical teams.”
In fact, Tech-30’s fortunes improved to the point where it became an attractive acquisition target for other value-added resellers. This is exactly what happened in June 2020, when the company was acquired by a larger competitor.
At that point, Yazdi’s professional focus turned exclusively to sales. “I gave up my managerial responsibilities so I could focus on sales because that’s what I love doing — being with the customers and working with them to find out how to position our solutions to best solve their problems,” he says.
Transitioning to Enterprise Software Sales
While transactional sales typically involve a shorter overall sales cycle, crucial for newer companies and startups looking to build their business, enterprise sales involve cultivating relationships over many months with multiple decision-makers and developing larger-scale corporate solutions.
With a background primarily focused on transactional sales, Yazdi saw an opportunity after the acquisition to transition his work to more of an enterprise software sales role.
“My title today is Sales Director at Sconce, and I’m 100 percent focused on sales,” he says. “Sconce has been a value-added reseller and software developer and services provider for about 20 years.”
Yazdi’s new company is a much larger value-added reseller than his original company and that opened new opportunities for him.
“One of the things I wanted to do was get more experience doing ‘enterprise’ selling,” he says. “My boss, our VP of Sales, has over 20 years of experience selling solutions to very large companies, and I wanted to gain that experience.”
Delivering a Wide Range of Software Technology and Solutions
At Sconce, Yazdi cultivates long-term relationships with major corporations, selling a wide range of software technology and solutions. They focus primarily on companies in the manufacturing sector, servicing everything from medical devices and automotive parts to industrial products, consumer products, oil and gas, and high-tech companies.
“The solutions that we focus on primarily serve manufacturing, any company that does any kind of manufacturing is a candidate that we can talk to,” Yazdi says.
In his role at Sconce, Yazdi works closely with customers to understand their organization’s distinct needs and develops a solutions-based approach to deliver the types of technology and software that will best meet those needs. Major companies that Sconce works with include Lockheed Martin, Medtronic, Komatsu, Pfizer and Woodward, among many others, Yazdi says.
In addition to computer-aided design (CAD) software solutions, other technologies that are widely used by Sconce customers include product lifecycle management software, industrial Internet of Things (IoT) applications and augmented reality platforms.
“Product lifecycle management is a product that manages all that CAD data,” Yazdi says. “You have to manage it properly, create workflows for revision control and releasing data to manufacturing, things of that nature.”
“We also have a product called MathCAD, which a lot of CU Boulder engineering students will be familiar with,” Yazdi says. “We also have Onshape, which I think was recently adopted by CU Boulder also, it’s a SaaS-based CAD tool.”
“We’ve also grown into other areas, which have become my primary focus, which are industrial Internet of Things (IoT) applications, we also refer to it as Industry 4.0 technologies,” he says. “Our IoT platform is called Thingworx. And one other product that’s part of our portfolio is an augmented reality platform called Vuforia.”
What makes all of the products and software solutions Yazdi sells work together is a concept Sconce refers to as “digital thread.”
“Digital thread means, how do you get company information, whether it be CAD data, documentation, anything that allows you to define a product, to go through the entire enterprise and support a faster time to market, a higher quality product and a more efficient operation?” he says. “We sell all these different solutions to help our customers become more innovative, reduce costs, improve value and efficiencies within their operations.”
The EMP Effect
Yazdi says there isn’t a day that goes by when he doesn’t find himself applying many of the skills he gained as an EMP student at CU Boulder, especially the concepts he learned in the Program’s leadership coursework and the soft skills covered within the program.
“I use these skills daily, whether it’s dealing with my internal team, trying to get application engineers to deliver what I had requested, working with them, empathizing with them, or making sure that they view us as a team and we’re all working towards a common goal.”
“It also comes into play when I’m managing expectations internally and giving forecasts in our sales pipeline,” he says. “I need to make sure I’m forecasting accurately and communicating that information effectively so my boss has the right information he needs and that ownership can understand from a financial standpoint how our company is doing.”
“These skills also play a major role in working with our customers,” he says. “Being able to understand their needs and challenges and how our software solutions can meet them. Really digging deeper and, within our customer account, understanding what each person is responsible for and what their goals are. So on many different levels, understanding how to communicate, collaborate and empathize helps me become more successful.”
His technical engineering background also plays a big part. Yazdi says that one factor that contributed to the success he achieved in enterprise software sales in a relatively short amount of time is the technical background he was able to bring to the sales field. This gives him a deeper understanding of his customers’ needs and perspectives. At the same time, his sales experience and soft skills enable him to effectively communicate with those who don’t have a technical background.
“I was fortunate to understand a lot of what my customers were doing because of my engineering background. It helps to understand the industry. Being able to couple that with a solid understanding of the business and management aspects is invaluable,” Yazdi says. “If I’m working with an application engineer, they’re focused on the technical side of things and I have to be able to work with them on that front. If I’m working with executives or the CEO, they’re less interested in the technical aspects and are more focused on the impact to the bottom line.”
And while he’s enjoying his current role being 100 percent focused on enterprise software sales, he says he wouldn’t rule out a return to management at some point down the road.
“I’m managing a lot of things, I’m just not managing people directly,” Yazdi says. “When I did manage a sales team I enjoyed it. I love teaching and I love coaching and mentoring. But I was not going to be able to become the salesperson that I knew I needed to grow into if I stayed in that role. I wanted to learn enterprise sales, and that’s something that I hadn’t been able to experience.”
If Yazdi were to advise someone considering the EMP to advance their career, he would tell them to complete the Program while continuing to work in their current position.
“I’d suggest to anyone considering the EMP to pursue it in parallel with their employment,” he says. “It’s great to be working while taking these courses, and that’s what a majority of the students in the Program are doing. There’s a good chance your employer will pay for it. And it’s really valuable being able to apply the skills you’re learning on the job the next day. The material is very relevant.”
One additional piece of advice: “Try to implement everything you learn in some aspect of your personal or professional life as quickly as possible, so you can solidify the concepts for yourself. It’s definitely a program where the more you put into it, the more you get out of it.“
If you would like to learn more about CU Boulder’s EMP offerings, you can speak with an advisor or request more information. Just visit the CU Boulder EMP website or contact: Kendra.Thibeault@colorado.edu or call 303.492.0954.