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UH launches sales program with a special technology focus

The Sales Academy at the University of Houston is a eight-week program for graduates with an interest in technology sales. Photo via uh.edu

The University of Houston is looking to train the future workforce of technology sales with a new educational program.

The Sales Academy — an eight-week sales program that focuses on sales and lead generation skills for technology companies — is open to anyone who has a Bachelor's degree and an interest in technology and sales. The program aims to prepare its students for careers at startups and even large technology companies.

"We're designing this certification course to put people directly into a role that is extremely necessary for startups as they are growing and as their biggest investment needs to be in sales and lead generation roles," John Pingel, a Bauer College of Business professor who's behind the program, tells InnovationMap.

The idea for the program came out of the fact that tech companies are struggling to find employees with the skillset to sell and generate leads. Companies in Silicon Valley are finding it expensive and challenging to fill these sales roles, Pingel says, and Houston is an affordable city with tons of education opportunities.

"The city of Houston wants to attract new tech companies, and they also want to retain the companies that are starting up in town," Pingel says. "We want to play the role of sales talent."

The program, which launched its first class a week ago, will have 30 students in each class. Currently, Pingel says the program is looking for recent grads who maybe didn't find a job they are satisfied with their degree and are looking for a new path. The goal, Pingel says, is to run as many iterations per year as the organization can handle.

One of the most unique aspects of the program is its deferred tuition plan. Students can enroll in the program for free, and then The Sales Academy's team has 60 days after the program's completion to find the student a job. If the program can't place the student in time, the tuition is waived.

This initiative gives the students the financial freedom to develop new skills and start a new career. UH has seen success in the business school's Professional Excellence in Selling — a minor that prepares undergraduate students for sales position — that the school has run for 22 years. Pingel says that PES has a 98 percent placement rate for its students. Plus, The Sales Academy has worked all year to develop connections with companies interested in hiring students from the program.

"It's a risk, but it's still a calculated risk," Pingel says. "If we select the right student, and give them the right skills, that they are going to have the same type of success."

UH's business school just received its second largest gift ever. Photo courtesy of University of Houston

University of Houston's C.T. Bauer College of Business has received its second largest donation to benefit its entrepreneurship program.

The Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship, which was recently ranked the top undergraduate entrepreneurship program in the country, received the $13 million gift from its namesake foundation — The Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Family Foundation — and the state of Texas is expected to match an additional $2 million, bringing the total impact to $15 million.

"Our family is deeply committed to the ideals of entrepreneurship," says Cyvia Wolff in a news release. "Our business personified everything that it means to be an entrepreneur. The skills, the thinking, the mindset are fundamental to success for business leaders today and in the future. On behalf of my late husband, we are truly honored to ensure the entrepreneurial legacy not only endures but remains accessible for students. We are truly honored to be part of this program and university."

The money will be used to create three endowments for the program. The Dave Cook Leadership Endowment, named for the center's director, Dave Cook, will be created and funded with $7 million of the donation to support leadership within the organization. For $4 million, the center will create the Wolff Legacy Endowment, which aims to increase students involved in the center, as well as the companies coming out of the program. The last $2 million will be used to create the Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Endowed Chair(s)/Professorship(s) in Entrepreneurship. This initiative will support research and community outreach.

"We are passionate about entrepreneurship and how it can forever change students' lives," says Bauer Dean Paul A. Pavlou in the release. "We seek to further promote entrepreneurship as a university-wide, even citywide effort, by collaborating within and across the university in a multitude of areas, such as technology, health care, arts and sports."

The program was created in the mid '90s and was later renamed after Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff in 2007, and has seen great success over the past decade. In that time, Wolff students have created 1,270 businesses, with identified funding of just over $268 million. According to the release, the program has been ranked in the top two spots of the Princeton Review's top undergraduate entrepreneurship programs for nine of the past 12 years.

"Entrepreneurship is crucial for the future of our country, as well as our city and state," says UH President Renu Khator in the release. "We are proud to be at the forefront of work around entrepreneurial training and research. The uniqueness of our program has and continues to make it the model program. This extraordinary gift ensures our leadership in this space will continue and will support the creation of businesses, change communities and impact our students' lives."

At UH, 2,500 students take at least one entrepreneurship course a year, and more than 700 students complete certificate programs.

"What we are doing is transformative in the lives of students, mentors and stakeholders in a way that elevates everyone towards excellence," Cook, who was named the director of the program in 2017, says in the release. "The impact of this gift allows us to remain the leader and to move forward with confidence, purpose and permanence."