You were born in Iran, but moved to Tennessee as a teenager. What led you to come to the United States?
I left Tehran under martial law, three days after the so-called Black Friday (Sep 8, 1978)
. My motivations for being in the US were education and fleeing from an impending revolution. On Sep 11, 1978, I arrived in NYC, then on to my final destination in Cookeville, TN, to meet up with family friends.
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What was your first job?
My first job in the US was a dishwasher at the Opryland Hotel, in Nashville, while I was going to college to get my Mechanical Engineering degree.
What is your first political memory?
My first political memory in the US was the defeat of President Carter by President Reagan and the ensuing transformational policies and approach by Ronald Reagan, which I understood to be transformational not only for the US but also globally.
What is your favorite book?
The Count of Monte Cristo.
You graduated summa cum laude with a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Tennessee Tech University. I’m sure you could have entered into your discipline of choice. What led you to, and has kept you devoted to, the medical devices field?
I was keen on being a part of a discipline that made a direct and positive impact on people’s lives.
One hears a lot about standards and regulatory concerns vis-à-vis medical devices. They are certainly some of the most regulated products coming out of Silicon Valley. How do you find a balance between safety and innovation?
Innovation, by nature, is stepping out of the box and going into uncharted waters. However when developing medical devices, especially the life-saving ones, safety always remain the number one consideration. That’s a sacred rule that should never be compromised!
Who are your role models and why?
I have a number of role models, and they have the following common denominators. They:
- are often the underdogs and don’t mind it – in fact they embrace it;
- are humble and keep their feet close to the ground despite their successes;
- are compassionate and fun;
- are not afraid of going out on the limb knowing they could get hurt; and
- they believe in lifting up other people and not themselves.
As you look at your community, city/state/country, how do you view your role/responsibility as a citizen? Within that context, how do you view your role as citizen in relation to our Government and Democracy?
For a 17-year-old Kurdish boy arriving in Cookeville, TN in Sep 1978, I’ve had the privilege of experiencing both Freedom & Equality in this country. I would not have this opportunity anywhere else in the world, and most definitely not in the place of my birth. But things are not perfect in our country. In fact, far from it these days. So, like most immigrants who have gone through meandering paths and tremendous ups and downs to achieve their success on a foundation that’s been laid by our immigrant forebears, it’s critically important to me to do whatever I can (albeit an infinitesimal contribution) to help maintain a system of government that continues to foster and improves the unique sense of Freedom & Equality (the combination of which is most exclusive) in the United States. That “… everyone gets a fair shot and gets to play by the same rules …”
Just about everyone (regardless of political affiliation) sees a large gap between our politics (Washington, DC as well as state capitals) and the reality on the issues we face as a Country. Why do you think that is? I know it's a tough question, but what do you think can be done to close that gap?
I see us in a transitory period, like many others that this country has experienced in the last few centuries. So as long as we remain true to the notion of (albeit imperfectly) giving every one a shot, I’m really not worried about it. I feel that we are going through yet another stage in which our tremendous youth in this country are changing the world, once again, in a way that none of us, no matter how visionary or innovative, could have imagined 30-40 years ago. The plurality of thinking and debates we see today, as corrosive as they may feel, are reshaping a future of fairness and equal rights for women, a new generation of productive and dynamic immigrants, the LGBT community, etc. I’m not sure whether we can change the course of the debate much, as the differences are not merely gaps, but really chasms. What we can impact is the right education policies, the right immigration policies, and the way we enable entrepreneurship. If we lay down a solid ground, the next generation will take it to new heights that would be unimaginable by us today.
Are political parties becoming less relevant today, particularly for young adults? Whatever your answer, why do you think that is?
Quite to the contrary. What gives me immense hope in the future is that our young adults today are more engaged, more connected, and more balanced and steady (even in their confusion), than ever before. So, no not at all – and as I said before, the world will change for the better by the astounding power of our youth!
What is your favorite journey?
The painful part of my life’s journey that made me realize that its not about me!
If you could be anyone else for a day, who would you be?
My mother & father who allowed me to observe (but not yet having mastered) what it meant to be able to think deeply, love much, laugh a lot, work hard, give freely, and be kind!
What is your proudest moment?
Everytime I have had the opportunity to enable the next generation of entrepreneurs and leaders, I get goosebumps!