Hired! Creative Possibilities in Software Sales

One director of business development lands a new job at an enterprise software company in Philadelphia.


You want to go to a restaurant, so you make your reservation by cell phone. You’ve got a table waiting for you — as well as the meal you’ve already ordered online.

Wade Lee, sales director at Arris Systems Inc., sees a future filled with such consumer conveniences. Lee doesn’t work in the restaurant industry. His specialty is strategically selling and marketing computer software. That’s why he’s constantly pondering innovative and visionary ways in which technology can be applied to our daily activities. “There are all kinds of manual processes in every walk of life that could be streamlined. Everywhere I look I see those,” he said. “That is an example of why I do what I do.”

“And at Arris Systems,” said Lee, “what we do is come up with business and technology solutions for clients that are looking for different sorts of things.” Arris Systems Inc., based in Wayne, Pa., creates custom enterprise software to handle business-process analysis, supply and demand chains, and customer relationship management. “I am a business-development guy in the services sector,” Lee said, “and there is nothing more important in the services sector than delivery. The thing that attracted me most to this company as its service integrity: walking the talk and getting stuff done on time and within budget.”

Following through on meeting needs
After more than four-and-a-half years as the director of business development for a small but fast-growing, privately held software company in Philadelphia, Lee was looking to move to a company where he would be able to place service integrity at the very top of his and the firm’s list of priorities. In the small-company environment of his former employer — which he describes as “very visionary and one of the coolest companies I have ever worked for” — Lee wore multiple hats and “did everything that was not developing software or administering the financial part of the company.”

While that position afforded him plenty of latitude, Lee said he felt the company was concentrating more on internal processes than external results and, consequently, client satisfaction. “I have to be able to look that client in the eye and tell him that we are doing everything within our means to make sure that his needs are being met,” he said. Lee felt that the company initially pursued interesting internal improvements that translated into very good client results. “But over time that was happening less and less. And that is when I started to look.”

For Lee, signing up for SalesLadder was a no-brainer. “I thought the impact was huge relative to the amount of money that I was spending,” especially when a recruiter reached out to him for the position with Arris.

Lee, 54, said he was impressed by Arris’ pragmatic approach; while the company is well-grounded in standard software-development procedures, it is also receptive to nontraditional methods. Building software, he said, is not like building a car where you can break down the process into separate pieces and roll them out on an assembly line. “That works if you know exactly what the end product is supposed to look like,” Lee said. “Software is more of an art than an exact science.”

Lee said Arris has evolved a hybrid model that lets the company spend a lot more time than traditional agile software-development shops architecting what the solution should look like. “Now, that doesn’t mean that we’ve crossed every ‘t’ and dotted every ‘i’ and made sure that everything is specced out up front. But we have a good understanding of what the architecture of the solution looks like” as opposed to a “kind of ball of string that you have to spread things through — which gets very, very difficult. We architect it a little more toward heavyweight than the traditional agile guys.”

Opportunity in crisis
In the face of a rocky economic landscape, Lee said, the winners will be the business visionaries who see an opportunity to strengthen themselves and establish a strategic market position. Nevertheless, “everything out there right now either directly or indirectly is impacted by the economic downturn.”

Consequently, Arris is predominantly serving companies’ mission-critical projects. “The good news is we are doing enough that we are able to successfully weather the storm.”

Looking beyond the current crunch, Lee (who describes himself as “a holistic kind of a guy”) also encourages anyone in software to look for opportunities where technology can solve problems. “Sometimes problems aren’t big enough to warrant the investment — yet. But then the dynamics of the world change, and all of a sudden technology solutions start to pop up.” The solution for the next technological hurdle — or simply a new way to streamline your wait for a table at a restaurant — may be just around the corner.