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Saturday, June 02, 2007

An evening with Omid Kordestani


So as the ensemble(which it never really was) of spring quarter turns into a harsh, grating crescendo of the dead week - I find myself writing a blog yet again, perhaps as my own version of the primal scream. One fine May evening, I decided to go to this talk organized by the Persian Students Association at Stanford. So for people who think that Indians and Chinese rule the silicon valley, it would be a rude awakening to find out that the top non-founder posts at Google, AT&T and Cisco are occupied by Iranians. I happen to like the Google guy in particular. Omid Kordestani - Senior Vice President for Worldwide Sales and Field Operations at Google, also named among the TIME top 100 people in the world who shape the way we think. He gave a great talk, and to my mind probably the best talk I have heard at Stanford (which is a big thing because i have heard 'many' people give talks at the Farm) and in fact things he said made me re-think some of my own decisions and would probably act as a clutch I balance on while taking bigger decisions in the near future.

Why do I think Omid was great? Well, for one, he speaks fantastically and stands straight on stage - so many people I see often end up being bananas on stage. Also he appeared to be a pretty grounded person, even after being one of the wealthiest people in Northern California. He is probably one of the more famous Persians around, no wonder that I had to stand in line to get inside the Annenberg Auditorium (there are really not many opportunities when one has to stand in lines here in the US - well at least with my kind of life style).

Now here is what he had to say:

  • One of the most important reasons for my success was something some of you in the auditorium might be aware of, especially who were not born in the US - the immigrant mentality. Immigrants who come into the US generally tend to have this thirst to succeed, this laser focus and the mindset that there are no boundaries to confine oneself in.
  • Also, it is important for one to have a sense of community and what it can do for you.
  • In trying to decide which company to work for, try to go to an organization where you are building things
  • Dedicate yourself
  • When building a company - only A grade people hire A/A+ grade people, B grade people hire C or below
  • We (his company) is based on a pipeline of innovation. Why? Because economies change, markets change - so dont put all your eggs i one basket.
  • Listen to your gut
  • Career is not one right decision after next. But once you think you are at the right place, focus and put a huge drive behind what you are doing
I liked a story that he told in the beginning of how he ended up where he did. He said that when his father passed at the age of 14, he and his family shifted to the US (San Jose). Being an Iranian you have two choices for your career - doctor or engineer, he said. At San Jose State Univ he did well as a EE major but toward the end of his BS there a college recruiter told him that Omid have you ever thought about sales rather than engineering. Omid said that he was a good engineer but he was really not the engineering types, he was this extrovert kinda person who loved talking about things with people. So even though he didnt like the idea initially of sales, he decided to visit HP and he felt in his gut that that as a right place for him. He spent 5 years there in sales, but he figured out that he was missing something - he needed that MBA to be a good sales guy. Again, he said to himself, it was to be Stanford GSB or no MBA. Back in 1989, he used to get stares from people in downtown San Francisco where he went about refining his Statement of Purpose on his new laptop (imagine a laptop in 89!). And the rest is history..!