AMA with Narbeh Mirzaei

Narbeh Mirzaei is a software engineer, entrepreneur and technologist with over a decade of experience in consumer startups, specifically in hospitality, e-commerce and travel industries. He is currently leading the payments tech team at HelloFresh. 

His AMA will be held on Olmo on 10/1, 2pm ET. Read below for his thoughts on his career and advice he’d give to others starting out.

1. What piece of advice do you wish you knew when you started your career?

I want to share three pieces that are somehow related. 

First, make sure you have a clear understanding of your priorities and what matters to you the most. You cannot be everything to everyone – that’s not pragmatic. You need to figure out what is it that you love doing and that people also value highly. This must be something you are absolutely passionate about. Then you need to put all your time and energy to immerse yourself in it.

Second, don’t plan too much. We naively think we know how to plan our careers but in reality, you never know what life has in store for you. Instead, move forward steadily with a solid direction but at the same time be flexible to change and reiterate.

Last but not least, be impatient to act and patient to see the results. You should work hard with perseverance but expect for the outcome to show up later. Life naturally isn’t formed around instant verdicts. Everything is a process and so is building your career. It will take time but you will figure it out eventually as long as you keep working on it.

2. How do you define success?

Success is when you are at peace with yourself. I believe this happens on the intersection of your expectations and reality. To achieve it, some people change their expectations, others the reality, the rest change both.

Now that’s my philosophical definition of it. Practically, my expectations are consist of several pillars around having an ultimate purpose in life, building fruitful relationships and making significant contributions to our society.

3. What is the biggest misconception about what you do?

I’m not sure about the biggest misconception but I’ve seen some confusion around what leadership really means. For me, leadership is neither a title nor a career. It’s not what you pursue, it’s instead who you become. It’s a collection of character traits that you practice and hopefully develop. It requires having a lot of empathy, patience, love for people and optimism and probably much more. Management on the other hand, is a career. While a successful manager can be a good leader, not all leaders pursue a management path.

4. What traits or skills do you believe one needs to have the same job as you or to do what you do?

I want to mention a few traits that I believe are generally applicable, regardless of the title.

  • Stay curious – It is ultimately what pushes us forward. Asking questions and trying to constantly learn is the essence of advancement.
  • Don’t waste time – The hours wasted destroy your life just as surely at the beginning as at the end, only at the end it’s more obvious. The better way to live your days is to ruthlessly prioritize and act on your initiatives.
  • Don’t fear failures You should constantly try new things, make mistakes, learn from them and improve.
  • Communicate effectively Organizations are built on top of social constructs where the real value is delivered collectively as a team. An efficient collaboration requires everyone to learn to communicate effectively, both verbal and written.
  • Stay modest – It is wise to accept that we can’t possibly know it all. That realization itself should make us feel humble. I think you should try to be bold and confident, but never arrogant.

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