• Member Spotlight: Q&A with Sohail Iftikhar

    Sohail_IftikharThis month's Q&A is with Sohail Iftikhar, Global Business Development Manager at Honeywell, a Fortune 100 company that invents and manufactures technologies and also serves as an ISA corporate partner. Iftikhar recently joined Honeywell from INTECH Process Automation, where he served as Business Development Manager.

    Iftikhar's well-rounded international experience, strong engineering education and long-standing involvement at ISA provide him the right skills to be a successful sales person. He currently serves as vice president of ISA's Houston Section and will assume the role of president beginning July 2014. Iftikhar also serves as the Director-elect of ISA's Process Measurement and Control Division and is a member of the ISA Chemical & Petroleum Industries Division.

    Please provide us a brief introduction of yourself, your educational background, and your current place in the industry.

    I am an engineer by education and a technical salesperson by profession. An extrovert by nature who has a knack with technology, I find myself at home selling automation and controls solutions. I graduated as an engineer in 1997 and after six months on the job, I decided to go back and pursue my MBA (master's degree in business administration). I have spent about half of my career with Shell, selling downstream products to the oil and gas and power generation industries. The other half has been spent with INTECH selling instrumentation and controls turnkey solutions. I am at a turning point in my career as I leave INTECH to join Honeywell as Global Business Development Manager, Shale.

    How can you describe your career in automation and control sales and marketing? What are some of the challenges and rewards?

    Selling in the high-tech industry requires salespeople to have a little more than basic product and technology knowledge. Working at the contractor level, salespeople must earn the respect from existing and potential clientele solely from their own personality. The cliché "If they buy you, they will buy from your company" applies perfectly. Presenting yourself as a problem-solving consultant earns you the respect and sets you apart from the dozens that are also knocking on the doors of a very symmetric and dense marketplace. While this can be challenging, nothing is more rewarding than going out in the field and seeing an asset produce using the solution that you provided. The same applies to seeing a customer boast of the financial and operational gains they achieved by trusting in you and your company.

    How has your international education and experience influenced your career in the US?

    I speak four languages, have lived in five different countries, and have visited over two dozen countries. Being international has its rewards, and presents some challenges as well. Having worldly exposure makes one an interesting person who can engage in enthralling conversations and draw parallels that can help develop exciting relationships clients and vendors. Yet because I didn't attend school in the US, I lack an automatic network of alumni and school friends. Working in an industry where who you know matters, not having that network is a formidable challenge.

    What has been your experience with ISA and how is it helping your profession?

    I joined ISA in 2008. Since then, ISA has been instrumental in helping me develop a network of friends and mentors that compensated for not having a group of alumni supporting me. As my involvement with ISA has grown, and I prepare to move into the president's position at the ISA Houston Section, so has my appreciation for what the Society gives back to its volunteers and members. Through my participation with ISA, I have experienced a remarkable rise in my leadership and team-building capabilities. The continual training and exposure to technology I have received through ISA has improved my skill set-an essential asset in any professional's arsenal. And getting involved with ISA's Process Measurement and Control Division has taught me how to manage and conduct a technical symposium. No business or technical school can impart such skills!