Yev Saidachev is a people manager in the truest sense of the word. As a manager of sales development at AppDynamics, Saidachev devotes his time to helping his team succeed in opening conversations with prospects and advancing their careers. As a lifelong hockey player, he now coaches youth hockey to give players the same team experiences he had.
And as an Everwise protégé in his mentoring program, Saidachev received support and guidance in taking his passion for coaching to the next level: he worked with his mentor, Jeff, to successfully handle the transition into managing a team of 20+ people.
Across his career, hockey, and his Everwise experience, Saidachev’s personal focus remains the same: “Whether you’re coaching, leading, or just giving advice, remember: it’s about them.”
Read on to learn how he applies that focus towards coaching others, and how he further developed the skill through Everwise.
How has hockey played into your professional experiences up to this point?
My journey to the United States has come via hockey. I’ve played since I was four or five years old. I came to the U.S. to play on a youth organization and I’ve been here since.
Hockey has always been a part of me. It’s allowed me to meet a lot of great people, go to a phenomenal high school in Indiana, and attend and play at Middlebury College. I played professionally after college for a few years and now I coach youth hockey; I believe it’s important to give back to the community that has given so much to me.
Between work and hockey, you have a lot of experience working in a team setting. What are those experiences managing and coaching teams like?
With hockey, I’m the head coach and general manager of a junior team. I can recruit and train, fire and trade, as needed. In the corporate world, a lot more process exists. And with good reason: Your decisions can impact a lot of different parts of the company.
Motivating others by learning what drives them is the common thread between the two. Hockey taught me how to do that. Now I’m adapting to applying it in a corporate setting, with all the processes, nuances, and structure that allows companies to be successful.
Helping people advance and be successful is the best part of my job today. This includes promoting people, sure. But you can’t just look at one subset of people on your team. You can’t just look at people who are struggling or just at people who are excelling.
I try to think about supporting different aspects of the business — through some people excelling, some people staying steady, some people spending more time learning what works for them. To be successful in the corporate setting, I believe you have to leverage the ecosystem and rely on the people you have.
You recently participated in an Everwise program. What did you and your mentor focus on?
When I joined, I didn’t even know what my ideal mentor would even look like. I didn’t know who I would get paired with. But I thought ‘Why be picky about what type of mentor I want, if I’m the one asking for coaching?” So I took a step back and pushed myself to embrace the experience with open arms.
Jeff has been phenomenal from day one. We both came in open minded. We didn’t come in to cross items off our checklist and move one — that would have led to a very linear conversation.
Instead, Jeff kicked off our time together learning about one another. By doing that, we went from a very wide net to narrowing down to what matters to me. Jeff asked questions like: “At the end of the day, what matters to you? What do you want to work on next? Where do you want to end up down the road?”
I’m glad Everwise allowed that mentor/protégé dialogue to take place on its own, without us being rushed through a process. We were able to start with a wide net and stay flexible that way. I’ve had challenges arise that would tweak our conversations, and I liked that Jeff provided that flexibility while staying focused on the ultimate goal. I never felt he was just there because Everwise asked him to be. He volunteered his time and expected that I do the same.
Is there a specific thing you worked on together?
When I asked to be a part of the Everwise program, I wasn’t sure I had the capacity to fully participate. AppDynamics is in a big building phase, especially around the team I was fortunate enough to take over.
I was individually managing more than 20 people as a first-time manager. I love coaching and I welcomed the challenge as more than just a new task or job. I didn’t want people to think I can’t handle the challenge.
Sharing that thought during my Everwise exercises was hard. But then we could focus on the transition from being a peer to being a leader. This was a learning experience for myself and for peers of mine. I had to separate the leadership conversations from the friendship conversations. That’s a fine line. And I needed that help from Everwise to make sure I was walking it.
What advice would you give to someone starting out with a new mentor?
Be open minded about the mentor you want to be paired with. You may have a profile in mind that you think you want. I wanted an athlete because I’m an athlete, for example. I wanted someone who could relate to me on multiple levels. But I learned there are multiple ways to relate to someone. While Jeff didn’t have the profile of an athlete, he was open to talking about it. He understood the world. His son played hockey.
So be open minded about what you need. If I wasn’t, I don’t think we could have gone in the right direction. Jeff did the same thing; he dedicated his time to helping someone he didn’t know. That open mindedness went both ways.
From there, show understanding and acceptance. Remember that your mentor is dedicating his or her time. If you want to get something out of the experience, take a pen and paper. Whether you use it or not, it’s a sign that you’re committed to getting the most of our your mentor’s time. That’s what I did. I sent follow up notes afterwards to make sure we were in sync. Jeff read the notes and gave me feedback or a note back with a book and article. This small gesture showed mutual respect both ways.
What have you learned from coaching and mentoring others, through hockey and professionally?
This might sound simple, but I’ve learned that it’s not about me. It’s about the individual with whom I’m talking. Sometimes people just want to be heard and not talked to. As a coach or mentor, you just have to be a good listener.
And when you’re listening, you can’t jump to a conclusion unless you’ve really thought it through. Don’t jump into ‘Well this is how I’ve done it’ or ‘This is how I would proceed.’ This is your chance to offer personalized advice on a topic that’s important to someone. Jeff did this really well. He’d walk through his similar experiences. But he made sure to clarify that his experience is different from mine.
Whether you’re coaching, leading, or just giving advice, remember: it’s about them. It’s not an opportunity to share how successful you are with the topic at hand.
Listening well has to come from your heart. If you’re listening and you already have a canned response, you’re not really listening. You genuinely have to take the time to listen. I think that taking notes puts you in that element of listening before you reply back quickly.
What are your next goals?
My short-term goal is always to help people excel and get promoted. At AppDynamics, promoting people to the next level involves them transitioning into a full sales role and running their own deals. My role is entirely committed to helping my team develop the skills they need to get to the next level. We learn how to prospect and break into accounts. I do call shadows, prospecting best practices, role plays, education on value-based conversations, hiring.
Longer term, I want to continue growing the right team. AppDynamics’ goal is to continue hiring people — the right people. This means we’re not just looking for the best performers tactically. We look for coachability, intelligence, character, and experience and that special something that separates them from the rest. I want to continue finding people that share those qualities.