Alumni Career Stories: Q&A with Roz Seyednejad (BASc '98, MEng '00)

Roz Seyednejad is the founder and managing partner of Stratesol Consulting, where she and her team provide Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) tax credit and government grant expertise to help simplify innovation funding for entrepreneurs. Over the past 12 years, Stratesol has helped its clients claim over $100 million in government grants and funding. 

Roz is also the co-founder and chief operating officer of Offerland, a real estate intelligence company backed by AI-powered solutions, whose platform empowers homeowners and buyers by providing them with a market value of their homes, insights into whether a given property is worth investing in, and how much rent homeowners can ask for. Roz is the proud parent of two teenage daughters who have yet to decide whether they will pursue an engineering degree, but she is ever hopeful.

How has your career journey differed from the “typical” engineering graduate?

Having both a bachelor's and master's degree in Civil/Structural Engineering from UBC, I assumed that my educational background would lead to a traditional engineering role. Instead, my first job introduced me to a variety of stakeholders, networks, and situations that encouraged my interest in strategy, business, and start-ups.  Shortly after completing my Executive MBA (EMBA), I saw an opportunity to start my own business by providing tax credit expertise to help engineering firms and other businesses maximize their use of innovation funding, so they could focus on the activities that would move their businesses forward. My constant desire to learn has always guided me to seek out connections and careers with innovation at its core.  

What was your first role after graduation? Was it the type of job you were expecting?

I began my career as a project coordinator for the Millennium Line’s Rapid Transit Project. I thought I’d be stuck in a corner using software tools and crunching numbers, but it was so much better and so much more than what I expected. The experience was a bit like working for a start-up, with new teams building the plan from the ground up. They wanted everyone to pitch in and to hear good ideas from everyone – not just the executive.  

It was there that I met some of the key mentors who saw my value and helped me capitalize on my earlier success by inviting me to my first few networking events.  Years later, these experiences and a gentle nudge from a mentor encouraged me to join the BC Construction Roundtable, an association where I became a board member for eight years. Not only was it a solid opportunity for my own growth, this affiliation helped grow my business, Stratesol, as well.

What is something you wish you had known when you graduated?

I can’t say enough about how critical it is to know how to network. Going to an event and standing by the bar just isn’t enough. Before you walk into a room, have your intro/elevator pitch and one probing question at the ready. It could be something fun like, “if your college roommate was standing here beside you, what do you think he or she would say about where you ended up?” A thoughtful question will help you stand out and encourage that person to share something meaningful and take interest in getting to know you.  

I also make a point of setting a goal for myself to meet five new people at any event. I then follow up with each person by sending a LinkedIn request or a simple email referencing something we talked about.  It’s the people you meet that can change your career trajectory and you won’t meet them by sitting at home. You need to join associations, attend events, and be brave! 

In the early years after graduation, what were some of the key steps you took that you believe really helped to move your career forward?

In addition to attending networking events and obtaining my EMBA, I ended up reconnecting with UBC and the faculty. I get it, once you graduate, you need a bit of space and so many of us put our alma maters in the rear-view mirror with no intention of ever looking back. That said, UBC is a great place to meet people, to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening across a wide spectrum of industries, and tap into some free resources to help you in your career.

Turns out, someone I met while on the Rapid Transit Project began working for UBC’s Applied Science alumni office. After running into each other at an engineering conference, she reached out and invited me to sit at the Dean’s table at the faculty's Engineering Excellence Awards. It was there that I met other alumni that were further along in their careers who, over the years, have provided me with valuable advice, direction, and critical introductions that helped move my career forward. It may not seem like it at first, but finding ways to keep in touch and get involved with UBC and your faculty can open up some great (and unexpected) opportunities in the future.

What are the most important skills/qualities you’ve cultivated to help you get to where you are now?

I have more than a few, but I think that growth starts with learning the importance of being flexible. Things can change and you have to be able to pivot and demonstrate that there is more than one way to solve a problem or unlock a solution. This is best accomplished by being humble, respectful, and open to new ideas.

When the financial crisis hit in 2008/09 my degree and past experiences in larger engineering firms helped me lay the groundwork for my own business. An undergraduate degree in engineering is perhaps the most adaptable degree someone can have, because it teaches you how to work a problem, and in the end, every job you ever have or aspire to will require this skill.  

Describe a situation where you had to make a decision that felt career-defining. 

My decision to pursue my EMBA was definitely career-defining. I already had my Masters of Engineering, but I wanted something with a business/strategy angle that would help me start a business. When I decided to enrol, I was working a full-time job and had to finance the program myself. This was followed by the exciting news, just halfway through the program, that we were expecting our first baby.

Roz Seyednejad EMBA graduation with seven-month-old daughter
Roz at graduation with her daugher

I could have put my studies on hold, but even though it was a tremendous amount of work, I stuck with it. It was such a great feeling of accomplishment to receive my degree while holding my seven-month-old daughter in my arms. This was one of the most empowering moments of my life, and to this day, it’s a memory that I like sharing with her. The strategy skills I learned from my EMBA helped to shape my career and both of my successful businesses today, and that experience really strengthened my belief that I can accomplish most anything.

Were there any lasting lessons learned from your time at UBC that have stuck with you over the years?

Try your best to say yes to opportunities you are offered, more often than you say no. It is never easy to leave the comfort of what you know, to raise your hand and ask a question, to volunteer an answer, or ask to lead a project, but it’s the uncomfortable things that will help you grow and lead you to new and greater heights in your career: be it starting your first business, finishing or starting another degree, or interviewing for a new role. 

If you could go back in time, what advice would you offer your younger self? 

If I could go back in time, I would tell my younger self not to rush through life! Take your time to reflect, trust in your gut feelings and listen to your heart when making decisions. Especially career decisions!  

I had many amazing mentors throughout my life, or I should say they were friends of all ages and genders. I know the purpose is to take advice from your mentor, but keep in mind that their advice is only from their perspective, so take it with a grain of salt! Listen, learn, and process things using your own intuition. You’ll be successful and happier in life if you follow your heart and your passion!

And finally, be kind to yourself. “Time is the only limited resource and you can’t get it back” .. this is what we hear all the time and it sure is true. But also, when you get to my age you can’t get back your youth, so try your best to enjoy it! And I know I’ll be saying the same thing to myself again in 20 years. Remember to strike a perfect balance. Manage your time well and get out and play!

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