That curiosity has taken me around the world. I studied Computer Science in Tehran even though I’d done very little programming prior to that. I moved to Sweden where I completed my first masters degree in bioinformatics — a field of science that combines biology, computer science, mathematics, and statistics to analyze biological phenomena. I started working in a lab, and realized I was horrible at it. In computer science, you try to understand the why. In biology, you often try to accept many of the whys. We may have no idea what causes something to happen, we just know that it does. That was interesting, but it didn’t give me the satisfaction I got from solving computer science problems.
After graduating from my program in Sweden, I pursued a machine learning degree at McGill University in Montreal. On my first day as a teaching assistant, I was talking to someone about all the places I’d lived. They asked me, “Are you planning to stay in Canada?” This was a refreshing question. In other countries, people had asked me, “When are you planning to go back to your country?” But in Canada, I felt welcomed immediately. I fell in love with the country’s multiculturalism and, as an added bonus, I met my partner here. Canada quickly became the country I wanted to call home.
When I graduated with my second masters degree, I started work on a PhD but the pace was too slow for me. I got a job offer from the investment bank Morgan Stanley, which was a great fit at the time. I was using data to solve problems every day. Being part of a large organization taught me the importance of work ethic and being reliable. I had good managers that helped me grow, but after a year and a half, I started to look for a new challenge.
In 2013, I met someone on Shopify’s data team at a Hackathon hosted at their Ottawa headquarters. He asked if I’d be interested in learning about the team, and I agreed to come in and meet them. When I did, I was struck by how passionate everyone was. They had a deep understanding of the problems they were working to solve.