The latest installment of the Wells Fargo Executive Leadership Series was held on March 4 and featured Sepi Saidi, founder and CEO of SEPI, Inc. Saidi is an NC State alumna who received her Bachelor of Science in civil engineering and biological and agricultural engineering. The discussion with Saidi was led by Frank Buckless, Stephen P. Zelnak Jr. Dean of the NC State Poole College of Management.
Saidi founded SEPI, Inc. in 2001 and has led the company to become a premier full-service consulting and design firm based in Raleigh, North Carolina. Today, SEPI, Inc. has over 250 employees and is an ENR Top 500 ranked firm with eight consecutive Zweig Group Hot Firm List Awards. She was also named the Triangle Business Journal’s Business Person of the Year in 2018 and was appointed to the Federal Reserve Board.
1. Take responsibility for equality
Saidi was born in Tehran, Iran, with both a mother and grandmother who were college-educated, a rarity for Iranian women then. Both women encouraged Saidi and her sister to pursue an education that would lead them to careers they could be passionate about and how to overcome challenges women face in the workforce.
“It is our responsibility as business leaders to create the clarity for equality for women in the workforce today,” said Saidi.
2. Build your relationships in college
“Make sure you build relationships with other students,” said Saidi. “The importance of the relationships you build with peers, faculty and advisors is incredible. You will build and expand your future networks.”
Saidi credits the relationships she built while at NC State to helping her create SEPI, Inc. in 2001 as she used her network to find mentors and partners. Now, she uses her connections at NC State to find new talent among the college of engineering.
3. Work on your communication skills
Saidi believes that communication is key to expanding horizons in your professional career. Learning how to listen and collaborate with colleagues will take you far and grow your network. She also suggests stepping out of your comfort zone to speak in front of others will help your career in the long run.
4. Embrace challenges
When taking the leap to create SEPI, Inc., Saidi found the unknown of building a new business as the most exciting part of the challenge. It allowed her to embrace new skills and sectors of the industry she was not exposed to beforehand.
“When you push your limits to learn something new, the pursuit can be the most exciting part,” said Saidi. “As long as I feel excited about a project, I feel assured in my decisions.”
5. Build trust in your vision
“If you have a clear vision, then you can articulate that vision to new hires and a financial institution to support you,” said Saidi.
At the end of the day, business partners and employees are there to support your decisions, leadership and vision. Saidi prides herself in building trust in her company’s vision through her approachable leadership style and collaborative work environment.
6. Become a better version of yourself
When developing her leadership style, Saidi took advantage of leadership coaches and classes to help build her own personal brand. She believes that opening yourself to other leadership styles and business practices can help you “be yourself but better yourself”.