August 1-2, 2015, Santa Clara University – PAAIA NexGen held its second Leadership Conference. With over 50 Iranian-American young professionals convening from around the country to learn from others’ experiences and to network, the event featured speakers and panels discussing the theme of Taking Risks and Failing on the Path to Success.
Dr. Firouz Naderi, PAAIA Board Member and Director for Solar System Exploration at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, opened the conference with a description of the origins and evolution of NexGen and its importance to providing a network of support and inspiration to Iranian American young professionals. He was quick to encourage attendees to think bigger than themselves: “Don’t buy into the notion that your life purpose is only about you…There is nothing more satisfying than changing someone’s life for the better.”
Attendees were treated to an inspiring keynote address from the Honorable Cyrus Habib, Washington State Senator. He shared the inspiring story of his childhood in which he became blind at age 8 and recounted the many obstacles he overcame on the way to becoming the first and only Iranian-American elected to a state office in the United States. Senator Habib urged attendees to become more active in the political arena and to aim to make change.
The 2015 conference also included three TED-style talks, in which pre-selected attendees shared their stories and tips for success. Arshya Vahabzadeh, M.D. urged attendees to take risks, stressing “there is risk in not taking a risk.” Dr. Vahabzadeh talked about the importance of risk, failure, and innovation. Lt. Col. Cameron Dadgar used anecdotes from his career as a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot to advocate for the importance of trusting one’s instincts on the path to success. Lastly, Tara Kangarlou, Journalist with Al-Jazeera America, shared vital lessons she has learned in life, most important of which is for Iranian-Americans to support one another so that the Iranian-American community can grow as a whole.
The conference further included a panel on entrepreneurship featuring Alen Takhsh, Founder of Takhsh Law, P.C. and Arad Rostampour, CEO and Founder of Zen Health. Takhsh and Rostampour shared how they began their entrepreneurial careers and the failures they experienced on their paths to success and imparted inspiring advice about life as an entrepreneur and the importance of taking risks.
The first day of the conference ended with an interactive professional development workshop with Dr. Pejman Azarmina, Founder of Thinkocrats. Through a series of thought provoking sessions, Dr. Azarmina helped attendees better understand what it means to be a leader and how to bring out the leader within them.
The second day of the conference began with an empowering keynote address from Lily Sarafan, President and Chief Operating Officer of Home Care Assistance. With an abundance of energy and enthusiasm, Sarafan conveyed that “magic happens at the intersection of disciplines,” and pushed attendees to be open to taking a path less traveled.
Forough Hosseini, Philanthropist and Executive VP of Information Systems of ICI Homes, closed the conference with the important message of giving back to the community through strategic philanthropy. Hosseini’s passion for philanthropy poured out as she discussed Food Brings Hope, a non-profit organization she founded to provide assistance to homeless and economically disadvantaged students in Volusia County, Florida schools. After discussing the path to success throughout the conference, it was only fitting to hear the significance of and ways to share that success through giving back.
PAAIA NexGen is proud to have brought together a group of high potential, current and future leaders of the Iranian American community. Please visit our website (http://www.paaianexgen.org/), and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates from PAAIA NexGen.
This event would not have been possible without the generous support of our sponsors. PAAIA NexGen especially thanks the Hosseini Family Foundation, Dr. Firouz Naderi, and Vector IP Law Group for their generosity.