Iranian Entrepreneur and Technologist Rewires a Profession for Diversity

There is not a lot of room for emotional things while working with men and it is very transactional. The satisfaction I get to support women and see them thrive out beats the feeling I experienced when climbing the corporate ladder.”

Sepideh Nasiri Sazesh, a Femigrant from Iran, Founder of Persian Women in Tech

A story of Iranian Entrepreneur, Technologist, and Mentor who migrated to two different countries, explored 
the world of entrepreneurship and founded a company that empowers Iranian women in technology.

Sepideh Nasiri has contributed greatly to the world of business and technology by being an inspirational Femigrant Diversity & Inclusion Advocate, Startup Advisor and Entrepreneur at national and international level. Sepideh, a Femigrant originally from Iran, migrated to Germany at the age of 4 with her family because of the Iranian Revolution of 1978-79. While in Germany, Sepideh and her family were able to forge a better life only until she reached the age of fifteen. Unfortunately, the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 greatly impacted the life of immigrants in Germany.  As Sepideh recalls, “At that time, there were many problems with immigrants and majority of the immigrants were from Italy and Turkey. After the collapse of the Berlin Wall, there was a lot of racism which sparked white supremacy and the immigrant community could never have had any opportunity to build a better life in Germany”. This historical event influenced her family to migrate to the US, “the world of the free and better opportunities” as described by her father.

While in the US, Sepideh finished high school at Monta Vista in Cupertino, California the zip code where most companies like Apple, Sun Microsystems etc were just down the street. Sepideh had the opportunity to learn and work with computers and programs such as Microsoft Office before heading to college. Later, she graduated from UCI in Business and Psychology. She has been always intrigued by entrepreneurship, technology and business so instead of searching for a regular job she decided to explore the world of entrepreneurship. She commenced her career as a co-founder and editor of a Los Angeles Magazine. From the very beginning, Sepideh had a mindset focused towards growth.  “I was hungry to learn” was how she stated her desire to grow professionally in the very beginning when she was the youngest among her colleagues. She believes that it was this growth mindset that took her very far and she was able to be a part of many successful tech startups in Silicon Valley. She helped tech startups grow, expand and get acquired as real companies. In 2011, she became part of a passion project named Women 2.0 focused on integrating women in technology, starting companies, and supporting women become technologists.” Sepideh came on board when there were only 2 founders left out of the four that started the passion project, helping the passion project become a profitable media company, which successfully expanded to 25 cities around the world including Latin America, Europe, USA and Canada. They held conferences in San Francisco with 1000 attendees every year, which included 90% women in technology where they organized pitch competitions and many of the companies have been acquired by tech giants like Yahoo and Google etc and have received a large amount in funding. Thus, Sepideh wore a lot of hats it included Vice President, Chief Revenue Officer, responsible for Partnerships and Sponsorships and the 25 city chapters and W2.0 conferences.

After the huge success of the passion project in 2014, Sepideh left Women 2.0 to pursue other opportunities including as an advisor to support early stage startups and supporting fortune 100 – 500 companies with diversity and inclusion. To Sepideh’s surprise, there was an underrepresentation of Iranian Women in technology, which influenced her to create her own company Persian Women in Tech. The company is determined to “elevate Iranian women’s profile, supporting their ventures and career growth and positively impacting the views other communities might have about Iranian women.” At the end of this year, Persian women in Technology will have successfully expanded to 7 cities around the world nationally and internationally. The community has now successfully excelled from a small community to over 2000+ members and is continuously growing everyday.

Sepideh shared that her greatest challenge in her professional journey was related to immigration law and policy. “I had immigrated to Germany from Iran first and coming here I could not claim asylum.” Even though Sepideh contributed to the United States like any other American, she could not travel outside the country due to her legal status and this posed a limitation. Sepideh says that “when the opportunity came along to travel with the organization or other companies I could not do that.” One would have assumed that working in a predominantly male sector, would have been challenging, but this was not the case for Sepideh, “I knew exactly where I was and where I wanted to go.” However, sprinkling a little humor she said “there is not a lot of room for emotional things while working with men and it is very transactional.” She further added, “The satisfaction I get to support women and see them thrive out beats the feeling I experienced when climbing the corporate ladder.” The support Sepideh provides for women seems to come from a sense of responsibility she inherited from her parents in making a better life for others. As she stated during the interview, “my parents gave up a lot for me to be where I am today.”

In the same way that her parents offered her the opportunity to thrive in America through her family upbringing and experiences, Sepideh is now offering to do the same for many women on a global level through her annual mentorship goal of guiding 10 women. At the age of 18, her father told her “you need to find people to support you and who can give you advice.”  After her renowned success as a Femigrant, she is giving back to the community and advises other immigrant women to come out of their comfort zones, to share experiences, and to have real conversations with other women regarding professional growth. Through her work in the field of business, technology, mentorship, and engaging women in real constructive conversations, Sepideh is rewiring a profession for diversity and inclusion.  Her advice to Femigrants is to stay focused, be yourself, don’t take no for an answer and start early building a support system (mentors, sponsors, network) who can help and elevate you every step of the way while you are pursuing your career path.

Editors: Areli Delgado & Sarah F. Anwar

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