"From an owner's point of view, it's a no-brainer," said Chris Macon, manager of
project delivery systems for the University of Texas, which is using Skire's software
to manage more than $7.5 billion in construction projects. "We have hundreds of projects
active at any given time, and it absolutely saves us time and money."
"They seem to have done well in higher education and government operations where they
manage capital programs," said Matt Light, an analyst at Gartner. "They are trying to
provide more and more features for people to drill down" into details.
The company has grown for a decade and has Fortune 1000 companies as its customers.
Skire's software is handling the management of the Mineta San Jose International
Airport expansion and the MGM Mirage's City Center luxury condo development in
Las Vegas. Out on the golf course, Mehdipour has to court and network with some
of the most powerful people in the world.
That's prestigious work for a woman with humble beginnings. Born into a family with
a trucking business, the only technology she ever encountered in Iran were the
airplanes that flew over her head. Her skill in math was her ticket to the United States.
She moved to Canada at age 18 in 1968 to study, the first one in her family to
leave Iran. She was the only Iranian woman in her electrical engineering classes
at McGill University in Montreal. She hoped to design satellites and went to
graduate school at the University of California-Berkeley. But instead she went
into work in engineering construction at Bechtel in San Francisco.
There, she said, she oversaw construction of Intel's first major custom chip factory
in Santa Clara in 1986. Mehdipour foresaw that semiconductor factories would become
a huge business. In 1988, she left Bechtel to start Quasar Services, her own
construction engineering firm, to cater to both chip and biotech companies. Skire,
the software business, evolved from that company.
Mehdipour says the company succeeded in part because it didn't act as a software
company, building a software product first. Rather, Mehdipour recruited people
with expertise in construction and pushed them to learn technology.
Even with that approach, the work has been hard because the construction industry
is so reluctant to use technology, she said. Skire had to design a very complicated
piece of software that just about anybody could use on a handheld, laptop or
desktop computer. On top of that, Mehdipour has had to teach the executives in
the industry how to embrace software that automates tasks that they used to do
with pen and paper. Evidently it worked. The business became profitable in its
third year, she said.
While many women in business have complained of encountering a glass ceiling,
Mehdipour says she hasn't run into discrimination in the course of her career.
"Maybe I'm blind," she said. "There was nothing that I could feel. I tend to look
at the glass half full, instead of half empty."
Mehdipour wants her company to be a $100 million business, about five times bigger
than current sales. But this mother of two adult children already has a lot to be
proud of. She enabled most of her family to emigrate from Iran to the United States.
Half of her employees are immigrants.
She has never returned to Iran.
"I've been too busy building a business," she said. Another reason she has not
returned is that Iran is not a democracy where everyone, including girls and women,
can pursue the kind of career that she has enjoyed.
Contact Dean Takahashi at email@example.com or (408) 920-5739.