1. What did your path look like growing up?
My family moved to Germany, where I was born, as refugees from Iran. At a very young age, we all moved to sunny Southern California to live the American Dream with little money but huge ambitions. At least that’s what my Father said he was thinking.
In a way, I’ve always led a double life growing up. At home I was very much Persian, surrounded with incredible food, language, and wonderful middle eastern traditions. But with my friends, I was just any other kid in the 90s, listening to The Offspring and Dr. Dre on our Discman and failing miserably at skate tricks in the local suburban park.
Being Persian, my family pushed my brother and I to be pretty competitive at school, since we all moved to this country to be Doctors and Lawyers, of course. Lucky for me, I was pretty good at school, and so I enjoyed challenging myself (as much as one could in a poor desert suburb). I luckily got a scholarship to Berkeley, and became the first of my extended family to move away from home for school, never even having visited the Bay.
2. You kind of got a dream job out of school, and you did well at it. What is your philosophy on work and how did that help you get and do well at your past job?
I put in a lot of passion and take a lot of pride in my work. I think if you're going to do something at all, do it whole-hearted, not half-assed. Never be afraid to be passionate. I’ve come to observe two types of work in the modern world: your passion, the type of work that keeps you up at night because you're so obsessed with the problem you’re solving, and your job, the type of work you do in order to fulfill the other passions in your life. Find your passion, pursue it, kick ass at it, and hopefully it becomes your means to making a living as well.
I like to dive deep into things that fascinate me and challenge me. Doing so in college helped me learn and explore with everything from continuum mechanics to American poetry, even if they had nothing to do with my future career. I’ve always been an extremely curious person, and I think it’s natural for us to stay curious. I guess my job had similar values. The people there are incredibly dedicated, and appreciate a level of creative curiosity: so it has been a good fit.
3. Did your view on money and life change while at work? What is the story behind why you left?
Ha, well, ironically, I never took my position for the money, unknowing how unique of an opportunity I had at the time. I had always grown up being taught that in our culture, money was taboo to talk about, and so I had been embarrassed discussing these types of things with friends, family, and even my colleagues or managers.
My views on money did not change dramatically once I started making it, as I have always tried to spend on things that really bring value to me and my relationships. Just wish I would've had more knowledge about investing instead of saving in cash for my first several years after college! That is a huge missing lesson when you first start a career, and a lesson that I think should be taught by employers. It’s something I will try to impart upon friends, colleagues and employees.
“I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next.” -Steve Jobs
I am a true believer in surrounding yourself with people that inspire you and you admire: both in personal relationships and professionally. I am lucky to have some of the most inspiring friends in the world. Walking into my first day at work, I was surrounded by inspiration! I got to work with some of the smartest people in California, and was learning and growing at an incredible rate. After 4 years, now as a senior designer, it’s unfortunate to say that the same level of challenge and inspiration has slowly faded.
I’ve witnessed a lot of senior management’s personal values shift and suffer over the years. They have let power and money start to interfere with their personal lives, and that’s not something I want to become. The addiction to power and status have taken the place of their hobbies, their desire to travel and explore, and their time with their loved ones. The challenge is that money and especially power can become more and more addictive when you surround yourself by others who give it greater value than the less tangible things, such as time, human connection and experiencing nature. It’s become concerning to observe the shift towards more and more luxury as if it brings meaning or fulfillment somehow.
I decided that it is time for me to move on to a new adventure. I had this necessity to explore some of my passions, in particular to design, to create, to travel, and to connect. Humans need change. It’s healthy for the soul. It can be scary at times, but that is what makes it beautiful. We should embrace that nervous anticipation, and excitement. I believe we should chase our passions just as we chase our relationships. Those nervous butterflies in your stomach are usually a good sign, and try to follow your instincts when you can.
4. We all have a family story we tell ourselves. Though sometimes we feel inclined to stray a bit from it so that we can create our own. How has your family story impacted your life and this decision?
It’s been tough for my family to swallow this transition, and I can’t exactly resent them for that. After all, my mother and father risked a lot to get me here. They both left a successful and fulfilling careers in Iran, picked up their entire life and moved to one of the most expensive states to start from scratch. It was the hardest part of the decision for me: worrying it would be both disrespectful and inconsiderate to them. After all, they made all of it happen. For big decisions in my life, I make sure to listen to my heart first and foremost, and hopefully that jibes well with my families best interests. Let’s just say, it’s something we’re working on together daily, and that’s what makes family beautiful: they still have my back.
5. How do you plan to view money on your trip, and then again once you get back?