Comfy Life

Profile: Brian Alward, Director of Sales

Posted by Comfy N. Lovinit on Feb. 10, 2017

Brian manages one of Comfy’s global sales teams and works closely with enterprise customers like Microsoft and WeWork. Previously, he was a go-to-market leader at EnerNOC—engaging strategic customers and building agricultural demand response programs. He holds an MBA from Cornell University, a BA from Hamilton College, and has earned the Wilderness First Responder designation as an outdoor educator. Spoiler alert: Brian is a total Excel nerd.


Tell me about the path that led you to join Comfy.

Well a long time ago in a world far, far away (New York), I started my career in the financial sector, working at Credit Suisse. Like a lot of folks coming out of undergrad, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to “do with my life,” but I was attracted to finance because I was told it was really difficult and challenging...and I really like difficult things. While there certainly was a steep and rewarding learning curve to climb (cue the rock climbing metaphors), I had already begun to feel the pull of the energy sector, so I decided to go earn my MBA at Cornell with a focus on sustainability.

In most MBA programs, summer internships are a really big deal. For a lot of people it’s where they end up working full-time after school, and it’s taken quite seriously. But for me, the standard internships were, to be frank, kind of boring. So I decided to do something a bit different and headed out to Jackson Hole to spend the summer working with a very small sustainability consultancy. It was a  group of really creative people taking a design-thinking approach to various energy and resource problems. I’d spend my mornings working at a coffee shop, building really interesting financial models, and skyping with people all over the world. Then it was time to climb mountains, usually late into the Wyoming evening. The days were long, but exciting and balanced and really challenged my view of what was possible.

After business school I jumped headfirst into the energy sector and spent several years on some great sales teams at EnerNOC. While there, I was introduced to the—then very small—Comfy team and realized immediately upon seeing the product that it was going to be game-changing. The influence of design thinking on the Comfy team was inspiring; it was exactly what I had been looking for since spending all those days pounding coffee and climbing rocks in the Tetons.


Describe a day in the life of your job.

The best part about sales is spending time with customers. Nothing is more rewarding than learning about a customer’s business and then asking them to do really interesting things with our technology. A “typical” day in the life for me at Comfy is basically a big race to try to spend as much time as possible doing exactly that; spending time with customers. So much organizing, planning, and coordinating (internal meetings, anyone?) occurs in the background of any job, and sales is no different. All of those things are important to selling, but ultimately for me, when you have something as awesome as Comfy—yes, I’m gushing—you really feel a responsibility to bring it out to the world.

"...the most interesting thing happening in the [buildings] industry right now is the shift in focus from the building itself to the people inside, the occupants."


What are you seeing in the industry that’s exciting?

I think by far, the most interesting thing happening in the [buildings] industry right now is the shift in focus from the building itself to the people inside, the occupants. And there’s evidence of this everywhere, just look at the growing popularity of the WELL standard. The thing is, when you think about investments made in buildings, they’re typically focused on reducing various types of “waste,” whether that’s energy, money, space, or time. Sure, some teams may care about one thing more than another, but there’s a common agreement across organizations that nobody likes waste. So, the ability for companies like Comfy to provide insight into how a space is performing and how it can be used better is a real value that everyone understands.

Whether you’re a carbon accountant trying to reduce your company’s footprint or a workplace strategist trying to accommodate a more nomadic workforce—everyone gets excited about the ability to identify areas of improvement. And now with advanced computing, machine learning, and the prevalence of mobile devices, a whole lot more is possible.


Is there something you do regularly to get better at your job?

I really enjoy building friendships throughout the office, especially with people who work on different teams. It’s actually, I think, one of the coolest parts about working at Comfy. And these friendships are something I lean on heavily when I have to get better at some element of my job.  Maybe that’s not considered formal professional development, but it certainly is a way I can push a little harder.

It’s one thing to read a stack of white papers about account-based marketing or cloud computing architecture, and another to have your friends explain it to you time and time again—on the elevator up to the office, on a team backpacking trip, or over a beer (thank you Kelly and Eric). It’s really cool to see this happen here at Comfy and I’ve never seen or experienced it anywhere else. It’s a totally different learning experience and a much better one, I think.


What can you geek out on for hours?

Oh this is a fun one…Microsoft Excel, 100%. Whenever I spend time with teams up at Microsoft, I’m always a little nervous (meeting-a-rockstar type of nervous) just being in the vicinity of where Excel is developed. I mean, the only thing my little brother and I talk about more than snowboarding is Excel functions. We can literally spend hours talking about the merits of classics like SUMIF, NOW and LEN, and other outrageous functions like HLOOKUP. I feel like the one downside to working in sales is that I don’t get to spend nearly as much time in Excel. So what do you do when you don’t regularly use Excel at work? You find ways to organize other parts of your life with spreadsheets. I’ve tried to model our gear garage in Excel. Have you ever struggled to reserve campgrounds in California? Spreadsheets can help with that. So yeah, I’m a closet Excel nerd.

I guess it’s obvious that I’m pretty obsessed with the outdoors; it’s the other area I will happily geek out in. Shredding (snowboarding), free-heel skinny-snowboarding (telemark skiing), hiking, mountain biking...anything that involves being on a mountaintop, usually struggling to keep up with my wife, and very often carrying my two-and-a-half year old daughter in a backpack. Or more likely, her trying to climb out of said backpack. I’ll be relocating to Utah next month, working remotely for Comfy, and while I’ll miss seeing the team everyday, I’m definitely looking forward to living closer to the mountains. There will be a lot more work days that start with “dawn patrol” climbs and hikes...but please don’t tell Dave that.

Want to work with Brian? Well, we're hiring! Check out all open positions and apply here.

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