Welcome back to our “6 questions” series where we ask someone 6 career-centric questions about themselves.
This week we’re chatting with Shirin Behzadi, CEO, Entrepreneur, Board Member and Advisor.
What are the three things that have contributed to your success?
There are many reasons for my success and so many of them are hard to measure. But if I had to choose three top reasons for my success, I would say that staying true to my principles, doing my very best at whatever I do and following my own gut would be the top three.
I’ve learned many lessons in life and have crossed paths with many people from all walks of life. Through it all, I’ve remained focused on what is most significant to my value system. Today, I can package that into “doing well by doing good.” This principle has been foundational in all of my decision making from the career path I chose to have the ability to create my own work life balance so that I could be an engaged mother to how I coached and promoted people in business. I firmly believe it’s all about people and how by taking good care of those that matter in one’s life, you can reap substantial rewards.
To get good at anything, one has to work at it. When I choose to take on anything from a skill to a project, I set my mind to making sure I have enough practice and understanding of the subject matter to do as good a job as I can. I don’t pretend to know everything and nor do I think it’s possible to. Rather, I keep my focus on the specific areas of expertise and work I want to focus on and become a real student of it.
Over the years, I’ve refined my ability to stay close to my principles while getting better at what I do by learning and working. In this process, I’ve faced many decisions as most of us who continue to grow do. Whenever I’ve measured decisions against my own intuition – my gut – and pursued only if my gut and my logic agreed, I’ve been the most successful. It was only times when I went against my own gut that I found myself making bad decisions for me. This is not easy to do and I’m still perfecting the skill but it’s definitely worth learning.
As a woman being in a predominantly male industry, how did you excel in your position and what advice would you give to others who are entering a predominantly male industry?
Career advancement and work environments have definitely been more challenging for me as a woman and this has especially been true in male dominated industries I’ve been involved with. First, I’ve learned to make sure I was very good at what I did. It’s harder to argue against good work. Second, I haven’t focused on what others say or do especially as it relates to my value. Frankly, I really don’t care if anyone thinks I’m not capable of doing something or accomplishing something because they pre-judge me. And that’s precisely my advice to other women: go for it! Do good work and own it! Don’t shy away from envisioning and expecting success for yourself. Regardless of what others think or say, you have value and you, too, can be successful.
Going through hardships in life such as being an immigrant, a woman in a male industry, and beating brain cancer, what motivates you every day to continue to get up and go to work?
I go to work to provide growth opportunities for companies and individuals I touch through them while promoting a culture of care – to do good! It’s through my personal journey that I’ve learned what matters to me most. I want to be productive and I’m passionate about doing good in the world. For me, one way that I can make a positive contribution and do good is to utilize my years of experience to help companies and individuals grow while remaining committed to doing it with a lot of care for others. I’m passionate about being associated with organizations and people that have principles that show care and regard for people and our communities. I want to help spread that mindset to the world.
Being a CEO, especially of a large company, comes with a lot of different task and challenges. What is an average day in your role?
Whether in my previous position as the CEO of a large company or in my position on various boards and advisory boards, my days are filled with people. Most of what I do is to help orchestrate individuals and groups to achieve their best and keep them harmonized. I help create strategies as well as actionable steps by helping define long-term visions. The best way to do this work is to bring people and teams together to collaborate. My job has always been to empower as many people as I can to have them understand and embrace the organizations visions and come up with creative ways of executing towards them. I’ve found that by having every person feel like they have a seat at the table we get the best results. Sometimes the most creative and helpful ideas come from the most unexpected sources and the only way to hear them is to include and empower each person.
What is one piece of advice you would give your younger self?
Own your successes…own what you’re good at…and declare them.
Advice for someone aspiring for a career like yours?
I would advise anyone, especially women, who want to advance their careers, earn higher income, move up the ranks, or embark upon an entrepreneurial journey to believe it will happen. Set your mind to achieving what you desire, envision it, live it and believe it. There will obstacles on the road and some set backs but as long as you believe it’s going to be in your reach, it will be. Stick with it…if you run into problems, revisit your approach only to find a better way to get to your goal. And you will achieve!
Shirin Behzadi is a seasoned entrepreneur and a former CEO. Today, she serves as an advisor, board member and investor to a number of companies and brands, including BOMANI Cold Buzz, the first alcohol-infused cold brew coffee. She attributes her successes in business with the same mindset under which she raised her two children and lives her life: Doing Well by Doing Good. Alongside her philanthropic work, Shirin is a passionate mentor and speaker, with a special focus on women’s career empowerment and entrepreneurship.