Engineer Your Way To Success
By Gennifer Biggs, Business Solutions magazine.
There are a lot of business and technology decisions that can have meaningful impact on the growth of an IT business. What works for one VAR may not work for another. But one large systems integrator based in Southern California feels like it has a simple recipe for success that any business can follow: Hire and then empower the right people, and the rest will fall into place.
During my conversation with David Hekimian, CTO of Trace3, a systems integrator that has been enjoying double-digit growth for several years, we talked at length about how having a staff of focused, competitive, go-getters — Trace3 calls them "A-players" — has been a key factor in the company's multimillion-dollar revenue numbers. Now, you might expect this article to be about Trace3's sales team, and while it is, tangentially, it is actually the systems integrator's engineers who have been integral to those growth figures. More specifically, the ability of those engineers to craft solutions that align with business goals and drivers within customers' environments has been a lynchpin in Trace3's success. "The biggest driver behind our growth has been a focus on our customers and a change in our attitude about selling from the product up," says Hekimian.
He explains that in the past, Trace3 had sold products that eventually plugged into a solution that was part of an initiative in the customer's environment. The problem, he says, was that Trace3 didn't know what that problem was, so it couldn't offer more value. For example, a systems integrator may sell a load balancer to an airline, but never knows that the load balancer is part of an initiative to merge that airline's IT network with that of a newly acquired partner airline. "Do you need to know that? No. But if you understood the bigger picture — the full initiative — imagine the opportunity," says Hekimian. Now, what does this have to do with engineers? "When we started focusing on the initiatives and then working our way down to the products, what we needed to understand on the product level started to increase in complexity," he explains. That led Trace3 to invest heavily into growing its engineering staff to the point it outnumbers the account managers nearly five to one.
One significant element in Trace3's creation of its engineering crew — there are 120 of them in the company — was looking outside the channel when it was time to hire. "We get our engineers from corporate America — not out of the channel," stresses Hekimian.
In addition to their corporate background, Hekimian says Trace3 looks for A-players — those top-tier engineering minds that also have the right drive and personalities. "We aren't just looking for engineers who are technically gifted, but those who are leaders, require far less oversight, and see opportunity and know when to fight for it," explains Hekimian.