Recent graduate Sonia Hernandez and senior Alexander Zahabizadeh took top honors in the 2016 International Collegiate Sales Competition at Florida State University. In addition, The University of Texas at Dallas placed seventh overall, among the 69 competing schools.
Held Nov. 2 to Nov. 5, the four-day international competition gave students a chance to hone their sales skills in real-life situations, in front of judges from well-known companies from around the country.
Hernandez, who graduated in December with a double major in marketing and business administration, won first place — out of 120 participating students — in the Speed Selling competition.
She will begin working in the Dallas office of Qualtrics as a sales account executive early this year. The company is a fast-growing market research firm based in Provo, Utah.
Zahabizadeh, who is majoring in electrical engineering with a minor in marketing, finished sixth overall — out of 137 competitors — in the Role Play competition.
He has a position waiting for him at Texas Instruments upon his graduation next May.
“These competitions are invaluable to anyone considering a sales career,” says Hernandez. “They not only allow you to utilize skills learned in class in a realistic environment but also provide numerous networking opportunities for students. Many times multiple employers will approach students about opportunities after seeing them compete.”
From Texas City, Hernandez earned an associate degree in natural science while in high school, thanks to a program that allowed her to simultaneously attend college. She also participated in sports, debate and was a member of multiple campus clubs.
“These experiences made me push myself and allowed me to be surrounded by individuals who were just as driven as me,” she says. “When I visited UTD for the first time, I knew it would be a very similar environment. I chose to come to UTD because of the academically driven culture and extremely talented student body.”
Zahabizadeh, who is from League City, Texas, always has had sales aspirations in addition to his interest in engineering.
“Too many great engineering ideas die or are slowed by poor salesmanship; something few engineers are good at,” he says.
He describes his upcoming position at TI as “doing all the sales, marketing, forecasting and product planning any product line will need.”
“Most people only know TI for its calculators, but 97 percent of its revenue come from selling the little black chips you see on a circuit board in your computer or phone,” Zahabizadeh says. “TI has roughly 150 product lines, with each acting as a mini company with 50 to 200 engineers. I will be acting as the marketing and sales team member of one of those product lines. The interesting thing is that they only hire electrical engineers for the role, so I will be the first from the UT Dallas sales program to enter the job role, while also being the first engineer graduating from our sales program.”
Other students from UT Dallas participating in the recent competition included Jessica Olarewaju, Saumya Gopal, Brian Hanks and Marta Castaneda. Semira Amirpour, senior lecturer in marketing at the Naveen Jindal School of Management, served as team coach.