Leila Mozaffarian is a Senior Account Executive, based out of Seattle, Washington. She specializes in the entire sales process for business to business sales on a business and enterprise level across the United States and Canada at a SaaS company, Zipwhip. She has a passion for growing Zipwhip and her career path. You can find out more about her here: www.linkedin.com/in/leilamozaffarian/
How was your University time?
From the day I stepped foot onto the University of Oregon campus, I wanted to leave with no regrets. From working hard in the classrooms to dedicating time to outside curriculars, my main goal was to have no regrets on an educational, work, and personal level.
My first year I focused specifically on my studies and want to ensure that I did well in getting accustomed to living in a new city and environment. My second through fourth year, I slowly added more and more to my work load. I didn’t waste any time but I didn’t have so much to do that I couldn’t keep up. I ended up graduating with a BS in Business Administration with a double concentration in Entrepreneurship and Marketing and a Minor in Psychology.
By the time I had reached my senior year, I had two part time jobs in marketing, was enrolled as a full time business student, was on the committee for the University of Oregon Relay for Life team, and was involved in multiple business clubs. Lastly, I had started an LLC with a licensing deal to use the University of Oregon “O” logo. I partook in business competitions to get funding so I could launch my product in the retail and online Duck Store locations for my launch once I graduated.
I was honored to have the Lundquist College of Business have me represent the school with a Graduate Profile: https://around.uoregon.edu/content/graduate-profile-leila-mozaffarian highlighting some of my achievements.
Why did you seek out a career in tech?
While I may seem confident on the outside when giving presentations as a business student or to get funding for my business or representing the Relay for Life team – everything I do comes with a lot of hard work, preparation, and practice. Let me be clear, I am not a confident person but that does not mean that you cannot have success! I never imagined myself to be capable of working in a technology company once I graduated. I did not think I would make it. I always felt as though there was someone out there who would be more qualified.
When I found Zipwhip, a text messaging platform that uses your existing landline, VoIP, or toll free phone number to help businesses connect with customers, I was not sure what they would think of me. It was a small company at the time and word would spread about my background to everyone. What would they think of me? How would they react when I got there? Do I have enough experience? What would happen if I failed? Will I be able to find another job?
At the time, with the Space Needle as its umbrella in the heart of Seattle, I figured I would regret not giving this a go. I had just started launching my own business and didn’t know what I was really doing; so I wanted to work in an environment that was fast pace and growing so that I could better grasp failures and successes to run my own business one day.
How did you prepare for an interview at zipwhip?
I practiced. I practiced a lot. I had family, friends, coworkers, my mentors, and even professors do practice interviews with me. I even attended on and off site workshops for interview skills. I was applying to different jobs at the time, so I made sure to make a list of 100 top questions you get asked on a general and more detailed level. I would have mentors randomly choose questions and coach me on how I speak with better tone, ensure that I have higher quality answers, and seem more confident.
I even joined the Human Resources Association and met with HR speakers who taught what it meant to do good interviews. I read books, I watched YouTube videos, the time I put in is the results I received.
Something to keep in mind? I had watched so many of my older friends apply to jobs that they didn’t want. Don’t waste your time preparing for something you do not want. My friends were not passionate about the company or their role but they wanted to just have a “start” out of college. It was important to me to be in a place in which I would grow. I was scared because I didn’t know if the company was going to be successful or not as a startup. However, my mindset was that I wanted to be in a position five years from when I started and have the ability to say “Yes, I helped our team get here” – I wanted to be one of the members to have built the company exponentially.
How many interviews did you have?
I had met one of the recruiters at the University of Oregon Career Fair. I then had one initial phone screening call, followed by another video call. I was asked to also meet in person but at the time I was unable to fly over because I was near graduation and had a tight schedule. They allowed me permission to do one more video interview instead of waiting until I got back from graduation. Do not be afraid to explain your situation – I was but when I was honest about what I had going on, they understood.
Books that helped you? And other resources that might have helped?
There were so many business textbooks I read throughout my college career that I thought would give me all the answers. I read a lot of “business success” books as well. I would say that there is no short list when it comes to books you can read about business, building careers, preparing for interviews, and even books that are tailored towards specific genders or races when applying to the work field.
Read. Read books, read blogs, read articles, listen to podcasts, watch business success movies, watch shows like SharkTank, spend your time learning from the industries you want to partake in. I think aside from work experience, joining every club possible, getting involved in community service, connecting with people, and listening to those who have already been there is one of the best ways of engaging what you need to do to move into an industry and grow as well.
Advice for someone looking for job?
Never sell yourself short. You have no idea what you can accomplish. If you are going to work somewhere, work your hardest. No matter where you work or what you do you are always going to be given two sides: 1) You are working too hard and not paid enough or 2) You are not doing enough and you are need additional responsibilities. From my experience, there is no winning with people. But you can win by doing what YOU want.
I always wanted to be in the second position. I always was hungry for more. My requirements at this company have been to sell but that does not mean that was all I did. I wanted to become known for what I was doing and that was why I was able to be a consistent top performer and performer of the year for 2017. I published 2 articles in Automotive Magazines when I was not even directly working in the industry. Become the expert, do your research, ask questions – a lot of them – and never be afraid to ask for more responsibilities.
If you let other peoples’ thoughts get in the way of you want to do, it will be hard to be happy. Also, don’t think you are not qualified – recruiting process will let you know. Apply. See what happens! If you are applying somewhere, do it to learn and to grow. Don’t go after the money or to say that you work at some “brand name” location – unless that is what you want. Find somewhere you want to work so that you don’t have to set an alarm clock in the morning because you are excited to get up and see what you can accomplish the next day.
Why do you think you were selected among other candidates?
Maybe it was luck? Maybe it was preparation? Honestly, I think it was because I was excited. There have been times I felt as though I was the perfect candidate for something and was rejected. Other times, I thought I wouldn’t make it and I came out on top. I did have small details to make myself stand out. I put the company logo on my resume and I did informational interviews with professionals within the industry to see their experiences.
I think in anything you do in life, if you are excited and passionate, you will have better results and in return be noticed. You may not have the skills and understanding of someone who has years of experience, but everyone is always learning. So, when you are told to read an article, read three. When you are told to research a competitor, research five. Always do more than those around you. And lastly, listen. Ask questions and really listen to understand.
Lessons from jobs that you couldn’t get.
For me, I was entering the tech space – a male dominated industry, in sales – a male dominated industry, specifically targeting automotive – a male dominated industry. I was a young, 21 year old, Persian girl, coming straight from college and I had no experience in technology, business, or even really sales.
There will always be comments those around you make and excuses you can make for yourself as to why you will fail. I was constantly told I wouldn’t make it because of my age, experience, gender, and sometimes even race. I had a lot of fear that no book or person could necessarily help me conquer what was ahead.
All I could do was prove myself. So I worked really hard and pushed myself to gain respect with those around me instead of feeling that I was not as valuable by trying to do my best.
In the end, I think it comes down to experiences that you have in your life prior to working. Gain as much experience as you possibly can in anything you are interested in and never be afraid to try new things. This cannot be said enough. I loved doing community experience and it caused me to learn a lot about leadership – it doesn’t always have to be a job.
I had an amazing mentor who once told me, “each day you are given a $20 bill, if at the end of that day you do not feel that you have given it everything you could have and have any regrets, take out that bill and rip it in shreds.” Don’t waste your time, it is precious.
There will always be ups and downs in your personal and business life but it is about mindset. Failures are unavoidable but how will you bounce back? I will leave you with a quote by Charles R. Swindoll that has kept me going for the last through years has been, “Life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% of how you react to it.” And a thought from me, no matter how many times you fall, you will always have a higher number of times you can stand back up.