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One of the most difficult situations I have ever had faced during my tenure as VP of my company was the decision whether to fire —, an experienced employee, who I had worked with closely for two years. The decision arrived at my desk after a new CEO was appointed, and I became his VP, in charge of most employees. Together, we decided that we were going to transform our small and quiet company into a leading research firm with a target of 50% sales growth over the next 2 years. For that, we needed a devoted team that was committed to this goal.

This vision did not fit xxx. She left a large corporation where she worked long hours, and one of the main reasons she chose to join us was the laid-back and relaxed atmosphere of a small company- exactly what we were determined to change. Although talented, she did only the minimum necessary and was not willing to make any sacrifices and commit to our goal.

I faced a tough decision. On the one hand, firing a talented and experienced employee, in a time when most of the employees were new (as we wanted to drive growth we recruited new people), seemed unwise. In addition, I knew that our relationships with major clients might get hurt and a substantial knowledge base would be lost

On the other hand, not firing her would mean establishing double standards for our employees – most were required to work hard, whereas — was leaving early and refused to contribute extra efforts. Her opposition to the change had already begun creating undesired effects, as a few of the employees resented her.

In order to solve the problem, I tried to make — relate to the new goals and change her attitude. In addition, we also improved the company's bonus program, based also on her comments, in order to reward the extra efforts. When all milder measures failed, I had to make a decision.

I decided to fire —-. Although I knew that in the short run things would be difficult, I concluded there was no other way. I needed the most dedicated team possible, a team that was personally committed to the growth of the company. —, as head of a major division, would have undermined this effort in the long run.

Personally, making the decision was very hard. It meant firing someone with whom I had worked closely for a long time. However, In terms of team spirit, matters improved greatly, and we succeeded in building the right team to lead the company forward. The new division head that replaced — was a highly motivated manager, and with her, I had a team that could reach the ambitious goals we set, and indeed, in two years we have doubled the company's project capacity, with a great improvement of research quality and customer satisfaction.

When I entered my current position, as VP of Content and Service at our company, I knew I would need to make changes in the company's structure and methodologies. Up till then, the company was a "one-man-show". The previous CEO had worked directly opposite all analysts, and no middle management level existed. In addition, no organized work processes and research methodology existed: the company relied solely on the analyst's personal abilities, which caused inconsistency in projects' quality, and customers' dissatisfaction.

In order to create a middle management level, I hired nine new employees. In order to improve both client management and research quality, I introduced new positions such as client manager and research manager for each division. I also spearheaded the formulation of a new research methodology by building a global network of industry experts and developing research capabilities in multiple languages. This methodology enabled us to provide much broader and deeper insights and gave us an edge over our competitors. After two years we had doubled revenues from research projects and established the company as a brand name for quality research.

The process also created a fundamental change in our team's morale. Our analysts felt that they had an established apparatus to guide them through complex projects while receiving professional feedback. It also made training new analysts easier, as we had a solid methodology for them to follow. The result was a much more motivated and committed team.

Riots burn cities. Ideas build bridges.

I found my calling in the middle of a crisis – the Bangalore Riots of 2016. On my way home from meetings for my telemedicine startup, I was blocked by an angry mob that had set fire to a bus. Having just returned from Australia, I was deeply pained by not being able to move freely in my own country. Soon a curfew was imposed, and the city came to a standstill. The stranded thousands were in need of supplies and medical help, but with the city on lockdown, we were unable to get it. I opened an emergency medical line through my startup, but its reach was limited. I learned through social media that there were others in my position – with resources to offer but nowhere to direct them.

I couldn’t shake the realization that in a world where we are leveraging technology to solve every problem, we hadn’t yet used it to organize the flow of goods and human resources during disasters, which have affected 1.7 billion people in the last decade!

Following the riots, I founded a first-of-its-kind national platform designed to crowd-source and streamline $1.2 billion in the disaster-relief supply chain. After many endeavors, I managed to win the support of the Ministry of Home Affairs, various NGOs, and startups. Recognized by India’s Government as a “Top 10 Innovation in Disaster Management,” the self-sustaining platform is set to become operational by February 2018.

Milk Ad Stokes Thirst for Firsts

I was born into an advertising legacy – a company founded by my grandfather and chaired by my father, which is one of the largest advertising groups in my country. Our family business was integral in my upbringing – its employees, the first people to challenge my creativity and problem-solving skills.

At age nine, in exchange for earning high grades, my father allowed me to become the firm’s most junior account manager, helping in any administrative task I could. My first campaign was no ordinary milk ad, but the first-ever TV commercial to be filmed in outer space. My dad took me with him for the Moscow space center shoot. I remember tears of joy running down my cheeks as I peered through dozens of small monitors at the cosmonaut bubbling milk through space and into his mouth.

To me, our milk in space commercial epitomized what our company should always be – a company that dazzles the imagination, a company of firsts.

I see it as my highest personal and professional calling to ensure that our company does not settle into mechanical, well-defined advertising processes, as other agencies have. To keep our talent, ensure customer value, and maintain our competitive edge, we must upsize our efforts to ensure our company remains a leader in innovation, a company of firsts. My mission is to lead our company, the companies we represent, and the employees who’ve tied their fates to us into the digital age, securing a prosperous future for all.

My army unit was responsible for an instructional base, where all Air Force officer cadets passed their first months of training. In 2010, the Head of Communications and Information Systems on that base finished his service, and as team leader, it was my responsibility to choose his replacement.

I had one very promising soldier in mind. However, one day before announcing my decision, I got a visit from a senior commander. He ‘requested’ that I choose ‘Eli,’ a soldier who was also his relative.

I faced a serious dilemma. Eli was not my first choice for the job, which carried a great deal of responsibility; and if done incorrectly could damage the progress of many officers-in-training.

However, my relationship with this senior commander was crucial; being in his good graces meant that I could rely on his support for future initiatives.

No one would doubt my choice of Eli, who was qualified. However, I couldn’t see jeopardizing the training process of so many officers, just to benefit my department. I chose the soldier whom I trusted to get the job done

As expected, my remaining service was considerably harder; many equipment requests were declined or delayed. I also had to deal with Eli, who developed behavioral issues. On the other hand, the candidate I selected proved to be brilliant at his job.

I have never regretted standing my ground, and today, whenever I face a tough decision, I always remain true to my conscience as a first principle.

You look down and just when you thought things were going well, you find yourself in the middle of white water. This time you’re certain your paddle will be flawless, standing stellar, and riding smoother than ever. Then you find yourself in white water again. Before you know it, you’re paddling, standing up, and riding a wave much bigger than you had imagined.

Reflecting on my life, what I used to view as a source of anxiety, I now view as an opportunity for adventure that leads to more life experiences. Even if the path was bumpy, it was these turning points that led me to adapt, learn, and grow. Facing challenges and learning new things is when I’ve felt the most alive.

At 15, I looked up at the airport departure board in Amsterdam and saw the ‘Boarding’ sign for Boston. I knew returning to Iran wasn’t an option for over a decade. The beginnings of my new life were challenging but I started to see positive changes in myself, as I developed new perspectives, opportunities, and world views.

New Year’s Day started with an email from the CEO of SquareTrade to lead a high visibility function. After all, this meant managing a third of the company’s revenues at the time. I had my reservations but decided to take the plunge anyway. The start was challenging but this time, I was quick to recognize my transformation.

More than a decade later, I was looking at another airport sign — this time, it read Mexico City. A new city but a similar sense of adventure. This time though, I wasn’t concerned. Not because I knew what would happen — in fact, quite the opposite. This time, I knew I was in for an experience.

  • I’ve come to realize that a people-centric approach is a key differentiator in leadership. For instance, I switched the format of my weekly staff meetings to encourage all members of the team, especially those more junior, to highlight one workstream that we could improve on. Using this approach has allowed the team to voice opinions much more openly and has created a more collaborative environment. As a result of changes in working dynamics, we explored and implemented new logic for applying promotional codes, leading to a $4m annual savings without any impact on retention.Growing up in Iran and having lived in Mexico and the US, I’ve learned the importance of understanding cultures and making business decisions that fit the mark. Leading a team of at least five nationalities has shown me that we all have a different way of getting our points across. The Haas International Business Development opportunity would allow me to become a more socially aware leader and help incorporate tech-enabled solutions across the globe.The LAUNCH program would allow me to not only get a business off the ground, but also become a better business leader in technology by getting a closer grasp of new product ideation, development, and go-to-market strategies.The Technology Club and FinTech Club would enable me to build more authority within my domain and become a more effective leader through collaboration with like-minded individuals. Additionally, access to thought leaders, investors, and executives in the technology sector through the Haas network would further hone my leadership skills and enable me to learn from the brightest minds in the business.These rich resources at Haas, including LAUNCH, technology-focused clubs, and opportunities to learn from the brightest minds in business through the Dean’s Speaker Series, would foster my leadership in the short term. The extensive global network of Haas would further open opportunities for both domestic and international business development in the long term.

I am certain that the Berkeley Haas MBA Program will help me to gain the leadership and technical skills and the network that would enable me to make a global impact with my marketing consultant company by bringing the most effective marketing strategies of top American firms to Eastern Europe. I aspire to accomplish this when I return to my company after spending my deferral years at a top consulting firm, such as McKinsey & Company or Boston Consulting Group.

Talking to Dr. Péter Garai (Haas ‘2015) made me confident that Haas is the school where I could attain the knowledge needed to make my marketing consultant company a market leader in the long term. At Haas, I would like to learn how to invest in the most efficient technology, recruit the right team, and create a strong company culture, which is often lacking in Eastern European companies. Therefore, I would take the Opportunity Recognition: Technology & Entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley and the Leading High Impact Teams electives.

Even though I think I have developed a strong sense of self-awareness, I believe that I need to improve my communication and interpersonal skills, which immersing myself in the Interpersonal Skills and Embodied Leadership course and Haas’s International Business Development Experience would push me to do. Furthermore, the diverse global network of Haas will help me to make the right connections, who would empower me to always keep evolving and pushing my boundaries as an entrepreneur and as an individual.

The conversation with Péter and the FTMBA Info Session showed me that an MBA at Haas is very holistic. Thus, the program would enable me to not only reach my career goals but also have the impact I strive to make.

For my deferral period, I plan to join McKinsey & Company as a business analyst or Boston Consulting Group as an associate.

I feel like I have reached a plateau in my entrepreneurial journey when I need to witness more about high-level business to achieve my long-term goal, which is to make my marketing consulting company a market leader in 15 years. So far, I have only experienced what it is like to work with SMEs. At a top consulting firm, I aim to enhance my technical and leadership skills by gaining experience in how marketing and strategy are conducted at Fortune 500 firms and by consulting with top executives. Based on the discussions I had with partners at the aforementioned offices, I seek to join the teams that design the agile marketing organizations and lead the marketing efficiency implementation of Fortune 500 companies.

I was born into a family of stage actors, and I grew up in a small town. I witnessed at a young age how my parents evoked powerful emotions in the audience by bringing forth stories on the stage. Storytelling captivated me and led me to discover my three greatest passions: marketing, business, and filmmaking. I would say I am a storyteller and a marketer in business, a storyteller and a business student at university, and a storyteller and an amateur filmmaker in my free time.

Entrepreneurship did not run in my family. Growing up, I was told that business was too risky. Nevertheless, the concept of marketing, that is, giving value to others and capturing value in return, intrigued me. First, I learned about marketing from books and courses. To support the family budget and put my passion for marketing into practice, I started out in freelance marketing consulting in high school. As a marketing consultant, I gained a glimpse into the businesses of my SME clients, instilling in me a passion for business. Hence, it was a natural choice for me to pursue the International Business and Economics undergraduate degree.

Besides university, I have continued to pursue entrepreneurship and storytelling, leading me to the career goals I have today, and thus my motivation to obtain an MBA at Berkeley Haas.

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