My Grandmother’s Eulogy

 

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My grandmother passed away on December 14th. It has been so difficult not having her around during the holidays.  My daughter specially misses her and every Saturday wakes up and asks where is ‘Madar’?  I wrote an eulogy for her that I delivered on her memorial on the 19th.  In 2014, I want to take time to cherish and appreciate all the people I love in my life.  

Good afternoon everyone.

We are touched to see so many friends and relatives here today to pay their respects to my grandmother, Ezat Nikbakht.

Her passing was a great shock to me. Somehow, I always thought — my Grandmother — or Madar as many of us called her, would live forever just because she was so incredibly resilient.

I’m not sure how you can honor a life that spanned nearly a century—a woman who survived two revolutions, a few wars, immigration at old age, and the loss of three children.

All of you have experienced my grandmother’s strength, wisdom and warmth throughout the years. You have tasted her delicious cuisine, probably you ate some of her famous queence jam this very morning, listened to her beautiful poetry and seeked her advice when making life-changing decisions.

For 38 years, I was blessed with having a grandmother. Not everyone can say that, and for that I am grateful. Having lost my parents at an early age, I lived with her for about 12 of those years, she became my mother and father.

My grandmother did not speak a word of English, nor hold a driver’s license.  She did not use the internet, or Facebook, yet she had the strongest social network amongst all of us.

Growing up with Madar meant you had to rise to high expectations and embrace self-reliance like no other child would ever experience. My grandmother did not want anyone to do anything for her that she could not do herself. She was adamant about that. To her, independence, spirituality and being useful to others meant everything in life.

Growing up with Madar, was not always easy.  She made a point to educate those who were ignorant, no matter what the cost. She once lectured our Taxi driver, for having called another bad driver a Cow.  She asked him to stop the car, and outlined all of the virtues of the cow. “The cow is such a useful animal. Every part of his body benefits someone. He gives us milk, butter, cheese. His skin creates beautiful leather products, his meat feeds the hungry, how dare you degrade the cow in front of this child? After a long discussion the Taxi driver ended up apologizing to my grandmother, myself and I am sure all the cows in the world he would ever come across again. He refused to take payment from my grandmother.

During the winter of my first school year, our school administrators announced we needed to buy wool ‘magnageh’. My grandmother, had already knitted me a beautiful hat, that covered all of my hair and told me I did not need a Magnageh yet, because according to Islam, I don’t even have to observe hejab until I am nine years old.

The next day, I gave the administrator my grandmother’s explanation.  She was not amused.  “Is your grandmother even a Moslem? She asked, or do you belong to a religious minority? I was not quite sure what that meant. She searched for my answer ‘Is your grandmother a Bahai”, does she observe Islamic rules at home?  Do you listen to music at home?

I can never forget my grandmother’s face that night, when I asked whether she was a real Moslem. She was in bed already, writing her poetry. She put down her pencil and looked up, “Why do you ask?” When I told her about my conversation, she became furious. I had not seen her that upset since my father had passed away.

The next day she told me I did not need to go to school. Instead, I could stay home and memorize poems by Sohrab Sepehry. My aunt Azadeh tried to talk to her out of this, but my grandmother was furious, I had not seen her that upset since the day we had received my father’s disappearance news. “If this is what they are teaching in school, she is better off staying home”.

The next day she went to have a little talk with the school administrator, for a week I stayed home, while she hald several conversations with various teachers. I remember praying to God that he would give me a normal grandmother like all the other kids while memorizing every poem in the book.

The following week, my grandmother told me I could go back to school.  I put on my knitted hat and walked to school in fear. To my surprise they let me in without questions.  During religion class, the teacher asked me if I could come up to the front of the room, I was trembling. The room was hot and most girls were sweating.

Sabourian, she called on me, is it true that you can recite Sohrah Sepehry from the memory? I nodded yes in fear.

Come up here, and recite for us, but wait, she turned to the class, if you are hot, feel free to take off your magnagehs.

All of the girls were in shock. We had never received permission to remove our magnahes in school before.

“Which poem should I recite? I asked?

“The one your grandmother loves the most”.

So I recited the poem “The footprints of Water”:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Nc5joHOfNw

 

 

A personal Mission Statement

A personal Mission Statement

Like every other Mom on the planet, I feel like I am always lacking time.  But this pattern existed for me even before parenthood, even during my life in North Carolina, where all other international students from big cities were being bored out of their minds, I was struggling to find fifteen minutes per day to do things for myself. Of course this was also related to the fact that I held four jobs including a graveyard shift at IHOP so I could pay for my living expenses, room and board, etc, but still, I recognize that I have a serious issue with time management, or better described, I have way too many passions in life that I find it overwhelming at times to channel my energy in the focused areas it needs to be.

This morning, I woke up with the specific goal in mind: (Take care of those medical bills). But as soon as I opened up my Gmail, I noticed far more important matters I had to take care of, the people we had asked to be guardians for our daughter just responded saying they would be honored, so I was more excited to follow up with a lawyer and begin estate planning and drafting a will. (By the way if you know of an expert in this area with reasonable rates, please do drop me a note).

My good friend Nazanine lend me the book “The 7Habits of Highly Effective People” and although I have to admit this is not one of my favorite books, I have decided to finish reading it and follow its guidelines, in hopes of making myself a more effective communicator.

The author encourages us to create a personal Mission Statement or personal creed. So here is my first attempt at this:

My personal mission is to help people find a sense of belonging.

Here are some of the things I would like to work on:

  • Learn to embrace my attributes and forgive my worst
  • Make a difference in other people’s lives by doing at least one nice thing per day for someone else (without expecting anything at all in return)
  • Have a home that is always welcoming to friends and family
  • Treat others the way I would like to be treated
  • Be a great role model for my daughter
  • Have a balanced life between work, family and friends
  • Share the story of my life and all the challenges I overcame to help others in my situation
  • Reach my full potential

 

 

An exclusive evening with San Francisco’s Fashion Bloggers!

On August 10th, my good friends Jia Wertz catwalk-chic.com and Hadi Labarang mymusebox.com invited me to an exclusive meetup sponsored by JustFab.

Screen Shot 2013-09-04 at 7.19.57 PMMe, Hadi, and Jia

In case you didn’t already know, Just Fab is a monthly VIP membership program which gives fashionistas access to the hottest shoes and handbags. As a JustFab member, celebrity stylists review each individual’s style before searching through hundreds of styles recommendations based on personal style and fashion preferences. Living in Bay area you don’t get much of a chance to dress fancy so the meetup was a treat. At the meetup where we each received a really nice gift bag and had the opportunity to meet and interact with other fashion bloggers.

Here are some of the things I liked about JustFab when I checked them out:
– The selection:
JustFab has an incredible lineup of shoes for any occasion. When you first open the website you feel like a kid in a candy store!

– The style recommendations:
Picking shoes can be kind of a struggle but with JustFab you not only get someone else to help you out with the decision making process, you get a personalized selection of shoes depending on the survey you take.

– The price:
These shoes are a steal! At only $39.95 you get high-fashion shoes at an affordable price. At best of all shipping is free :)

-The Marketing genius, what a great way to engage with local bloggers in each town and offer the gift bags and a gift certificate!

 

Showing off our shoes :)

Showing off our shoes :)

What are the Secret Ingredients to a Successful Fashion App?

Since I have started working on My Runway, SAP’s recently released fashion app, this has been a question I wanted to explore in debt, and I decided to include it as as part of my monthly thought-leadership meetings about Marketing: First Thursdays Silicon Valley.

SAP served as the official sponsor for this thought-provoking panel on fashion and technology, and the Art Institute of San Francisco graciously hosted us. This unique discussion engaged innovative and game-changing minds in fashion, business, media, and technology about how the definition of fashion is changing, and how brands leveraging technology to reach consumers are leading above others.

It felt really great that SAP embraced my ‘out of the box Marketing idea’ and it was a great opportunity to see SAP’s recently launched consumer engagement initiative, led by Kijoon Lee in action. The panel served to showcase how SAP and partner-built applications can work together to enable business to connect to consumers in powerful new ways.

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The panel explored diverse perspectives from Forbes contributor and “lifecaster” Sarah Austin, the winner of America’s Next Top Model, Naima Mora, SAP vice president and the visionary behind My Runway: Li Gong; author, entrepreneur and publisher/editor of Adventures in the Stiletto Jungle Stephanie Rahlfs; and Paul Friedland, Director of Marketing, Levi Strauss & Co.

Our discussion followed up by a Lifestyle Fashion show, organized by SAP’s Fashion Ambassadors and Miss Yolanda Wright, and an emotional book signing from Naima Mora. There were many up and coming young models from San Francisco and Oakland who attended the event and were highly inspired by her presence.

I was really honored to host Naima Mora, who flew to San Francisco exclusively for this event and go shopping with her before the event, allowing My Runway app to be our guide!  My favorite part of the evening was the intimate tea with our distinguished panelists, Naima, and the lovely Tracy Saville and Drisha Leggittas as well as one of our top Fashion Ambassadors, Cindy Ramirez, Global Head of Design and User Experience: Sam Yen, Global Product Lead, Brian Reaves, and Kijoon Lee (VP of Global Marketing and Innovation).

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Naima has been actively using My Runway since her visit, and you can interact directly with her via My Runway, her username is Naima Mora!

For those of you not yet familiar, My Runway is a great new (and free!) social shopping app that allows fashion enthusiasts to follow the brands they love, and get personalized updates on what’s new, what is trending, and what’s on sale.

SAP’s “My Runway” app uses real-time analytics to help fashion designers and retailers bring the latest trends to 100,000 consumers.

Here is a short videoabout the event, you can also watch the entire live streaming to hear all of the great insights.

Check out some of our amazing photos from the event, taken by SAP’s photographer: Allison Cheryl!

A taste of San Francisco’s fashion scene at Fashion on The Square!

Last Sunday, I was invited to attend the 9th Annual Fashion on The Square (FOTS) by the talented Ms. Y’Anad Burrell!  It was undoubtedly a memorable experience and I had a great night.

This event was located at the luxe InterContinental Hotel in San Francisco. While I was waiting for the show to begin it was exciting to be surrounded by so many people who were passionate about fashion and even more, the cause this show supported. FOTS was founded by the lovely Y’Anad Burrell, who was also the host of the show. She wanted to challenge herself by producing a upscale show that also benefited a number of local non-profit organizations.

As the night progressed, the organizers were finally ready to let us in. Despite holding VIP and Press passes, there were constant holdups and just entering the ballroom turned into a chaotic experience. I was also disappointed to learn that the press conference had been cancelled. But after a long wait (painfully in my new stilletos, it was finally time for the show to begin!

Me with one of My Runway's Fashion Ambassador's, Leona right before the show!

Me with one of My Runway’s Fashion Ambassador’s, Leona right before the show!

Here are some highlights from the show:

The show started off with my favorite designer of the night, B Michael. What I loved about his designs was that they were looks I could envision myself in, even though it was still a high fashion line. His balance between high fashion and everyday fashion quickly won me over!

My favorite B Michael design.

My favorite B Michael design. The color was breathtaking!

Next up, was Roc Rio, a menswear line founded by famous rapper Sean P. Diddy  Combs. It proved to be one of the more bizarre segments of the fashion shows. It quickly went from flashy to little clothing at all. Its extremities made this segment my least favorite.

Sean John models lined up for their finale.

Sean John models lined up for their finale.

Afterwards came the student designer segment. I was enthralled by the whimsical and creative designs that the students produced.  I was also impressed with sophistication of some of these styles.

An imaginative design by one of the students.

An imaginative design by one of the students.

One of the most popular segments was undoubtedly the kids fashion sponsored by JC Penny’s. Though the fashion fell flat, the kids were incredibly amusing and cute!

These models flashed an adorable pose!

These models flashed an adorable pose!

The show ended with one of San Francisco’s most celebrated designers, Colleen Quen, who had just reemerged into the fashion world after a bout with breast cancer. Though it was obvious some of her designs were dated, she presented some of the most high fashion and elegant designs of the night and I loved how she incorporated nature’s motifs into her looks.

A great shot of one of Colleen's most delicate pieces!

A great shot of one of Colleen’s most delicate pieces!

Though its been dubbed the “Largest West Coast Outdoor Fashion Show,” FOTS was neither outdoor or “the largest” but nevertheless it was a lavish affair and a definitive part of San Francisco’s high fashion scene. Something that I was incredibly happy to have been a part of!

 

HANA on the Runway?

HANA on the Runway? Hard to believe, but SAP recently hosted a panel discussion on the topic, “How does Fashion and Design matter for company, product, career & your personal brand?” at our SAP Labs site in Palo Alto. Leveraging the most fashionable app on HANA, My Runway, the event also included SAP’s very first lifestyle and interactive fashion show (What a way to shake up the Labs)!

My Runway Fashion Show

Welcome and introductions

My Runway Fashion Show

Our interactive Fashion Show starring My Runway Fashion Ambassadors

 

My Runway Fashion show

Backstage sneak peek with our Fashion Show Coordinator, Yolanda Wright

 

As each model showcased the beautiful collections by our Fashion Ambassadors, www.dosanjhshroff.com, the audience participated in real-time by commenting on the collection, sharing their favorite pieces with their social circles, or simply adding items to their Wish List. As the My Runway Fashion Ambassadors went around the room encouraging all attendees to download the app, you could not help but notice the power of HANA in an entirely brand new “fashion.”

My Runway Fashion Show

Fashionable ladies at SAP

My Runway Fashion Show

Here with Marcelle Parrish, Head of Business & Strategy at eBay Fashion and Beatrice Pang, Co-Founder & Chief Operating Officer at ModeWalk

 

Since its launch in the U.S. in early May, My Runway has ignited interest amongst the “technology enthusiasts” for its use of HANA’s Analytics and Calculation Views to support real-time consumer insights – processing huge volumes of consumer data about products fashion enthusiasts “Like,” share, and discuss.

But, My Runway is also attracting a different audience for SAP – consumers and fashion enthusiasts. Fashion brands are beginning to take notice of how the platform provides fast data indexing and search capabilities that can create valuable insights. Fashion trendsetter Tory Burch has beeb in dialogue with SAP evaluating various solutions, and Mike Giresi, the Chief Information Officer, was one of the most popular panelists on the discussion.

My Runway Fashion Show

Barbara Holzapfel, Senior Vice President at SAP, was the panel moderator.

My Runway Panel Discussion

From left to the right: Mike Giresi, Chief Information Officer Tory Burch – Nola Weinstein, Executive Editorial Director Glam Media, Inc. – Beatrice Pang, Co-Founder & Chief Operating Officer ModeWalk – Barbara Holzapfel, SVP SAP – Marcelle Parrish, Head of Business & Strategy eBay Fashion – Vineet Buch, Head of Shopping Search, Google.

 

With My Runway release 1.6.5 (just released to the app stores) users are able to:

  • Receive alerts when their Wish List items go on sale
  • See products on sale in one spot
  • Add friends easily with one tap
  • Collect points and win prozes faster by increasing their number of followers

My Runway 1.6.5

Fashion brands are able to:

  • Gain real-time consumer insights based on analysis of big data
  • Deliver an engaging, personalized experience
  • Become a responsive enterprise

Future plans for My Runway include an in-store mobile client solution that will allow sales associates to identify shoppers, what they previously bought, and what they want today. The team is also working on a Merchandising solution to correlate My Runway analytics with store sales data to provide new insights.

Meanwhile, we are enrolling more brands interested in co-innovating for new shopping and real-time data analysis capabilities. If you are interested in learning more about My Runway or co-Innovation program, click here.

Feel free to reach out to me with any questions about My Runway.

Finally if you missed HANA on the Runway, check out our photo gallery and a short video from our last event, or watch the entire livestream.

HANA will be visiting the San Francisco Art Institute next, participating on an exciting panel with America’s Next Top Model, Naima Mora, hope to see you there!

 

Video: Keep Your Kids Safe With Recalls Plus iPhone App

Recalls Plus is the only app to monitor recalls of children’s products. And it’s free! Happy Downloading: www.recallsplus.com

WeVideo: Video Technology To Connect To People You Love

Growing up as an orphan, I never felt the loss of my parents more than during my wedding.  Every detail seemed to add additional salt on wounds that had existed in my soul for years.

Never mind the most obvious question, “Who will give me away at the wedding?”; each subtle detail had a painful color of its own.  Trying on gowns, I would specially notice other mothers looking adoringly at their daughters; while ordering my wedding invitations I would painfully realize that my parents’ names would not be listed.

The small village in the south of France where we got married was unimaginably charming, but most of my friends and family were not present and the long Catholic ceremony in French made me feel a stranger at my own wedding.

My French husband tried to incorporate my Iranian traditions into the wedding ceremony, but I had to constantly struggle with my in-laws to prove the importance of each ritual – ‘No, I really do want this song for my first dance,’ or, ‘No, I am not a ‘fanatic’ Muslim but it is tradition for us to have a copy of the Koran on the table!’ By the time dinner was served, I felt completely alone, wondering whether I had made the right choice!

Two good friends then called everyone’s attention to watch a video created collaboratively by my absent family members. The video started off with my parent’s wedding, showing the Iranian ceremony that I had insisted on. As we watched my parents dance to the Persian version of ‘Love Story’, I felt their presence fill my entire being.  The room was completely mesmerized!

The video then quickly transitioned to my husband’s life, showing snippets of his childhood, then following our lives together all the way to the romantic proposal.  The ending scene switched back to my parents as they concluded their wedding night by freeing two white doves into the air.

Watching the doves fly up, I felt surrounded in my heart to my parents’ presence.

You can appreciate why I now feel so strongly about emerging technology in video space. WeVideo is a new tool I simply cannot live without – it allows you to shoot videos and photos, then upload them into a shared library and invite others to collaborate with you for editing, adding or removing footage, all within the cloud space. The best part? WeVideo is free! Check them out: www.wevideo.com

Interviewing for Community/Social Media roles in 2009

In 2009, just as online communities have transitioned from simple discussion forums to full-featured, customizable social networks, interviewing questions are evolving to “How often do you blog? How many followers do you have on Twitter, how do you plan to market our products using social Media?

While the nature of organizations seeking online communities vary widely, the main interview question is “How do you plan to engage and involve our customers?”

I thought it would be a constructive project to share some of the recent questions I have been asked in my 2009 interviews –along with my responses, and get your feedback on how to improve them.  I greatly appreciate your perspective.

1.    Tell me about yourself? I grew up in Iran and since then have lived, worked and studied in 5 different countries. I am passionate about meeting and connecting people to each other, learning foreign languages and cultures. Naturally, being a Community Manager is more than a job for me, it is a true passion. I have a MA in International Relations with a focus on Global Marketing, and began my professional career in customer relations and online commerce.  Since then, I have held many roles and worn many hats, but mostly enjoyed creative positions in which I was involved with Market Research, Product Development, Event Marketing, Social Media and Public Relations.

2.    What do you think you can bring to our company/community that is unique or sets you apart from other candidates? As an avid community member and brand I feel like I have a pretty good feel for the expectations your customers have from your company as well as the Community. With my online community experience working with diverse demographics, I have what it takes to take your community to the next level and meet the needs of your customers.

3.    What information would you include in the ‘member profile’? Social networking has the ability to make important connections between the consumers and the company brand. Prior to crafting the profile portion, I would determine what I want to learn about those specific members. I would ensure a place for an avatar, and a place for personal interests.

4.    How do you monitor what people are saying about you? I often Google keywords related to the topic and the company name and visit the links that come up. I also frequent communities that I know are interested in the company or products .

5.    How do you go about pitching bloggers? I would start by reading some of Subject Matter Expert’s blogs, begin commenting and communicating with the ones whom I would like to pitch, and build relationships. I would then blog about the topic myself and ask those bloggers to share their opinion.

6.    How do you measure the success of a community? I set the industry standard parameters such as: the number of page views per day, the number of registered users, the amount time spent on site, etc.. to have a general understanding of my community’s activity and the growing trends, I think the real success of the community is based upon whether or not the members enjoyed their time spent on the site, and whether they obtained the information they wanted. Also, would customers recommend the community to their friends, and would they purchase more products/services based on the recommendations they received through the site.  I measure these parameters through regular surveys and polls.

7.    Why do you think certain online communities fail? According to Forester Research, office politics play a major role. In my experience, the communities that tend to have failed are due to lack of proper goal setting, and not having defined objectives in place.  Most marketing fails when the company strives for company needs in lieu of the customers – particularly true for social marketing. When a community only pushes sales and not the value-add to the customer, it is bound to fail.

Once again, I truly appreciate your feedback on the quality of my answers, and how to better answer these questions. You may want to refer to Dave Fleet’s post on what not to answer.  Feel free to also add in your own questions to this list.

More layoffs in Silicon Valley

On Tuesday April 29th, National Semiconductor eliminated 130 positions as part of a strategic re-org. Read More here…

Although most layoffed employees were granted moderate to generous severance packages, the news came as a shock to many, and the way the company handled the situation made me realize how a few subtle touches can make a huge difference in the emotional moral of the employees.  When eBay eliminated 175 jobs on April 1st, employees were given two weeks notice and asked to work out an exit plan with their managers, ensuring they had enough time to look for some positions internally, exchange contacts with colleagues, and transform the remaining work to the appropriate employees.

At National, however, many employees were simply told the news in early afternoon and expected to hand in their computers and cell phones and walk out right away.

Not sure which method is best for most people, but I think given the choice, I would much prefer the eBay method, while I also know of many people who prefer the National way, being at once done with the whole thing.  What is your take on it?