Fay Arjomandi, BEng 98, was 25 when a friend told her she was too old to go back to school and get a degree in electrical engineering.
“Nobody was going to set my limits,” says Arjomandi. Instead, she went on to earn the degree at Concordia, then co-founded three technology companies, authored 14 patents and thrived in C-level executive roles in large corporations in telecomm and health industries.
Based in Los Angeles, Calif., Iranian-born Arjomandi is now chairperson at h2 Wellness, which provides digital health solutions, and founder and chief product officer at mimik, a company focused on creating a decentralized cloud platform.
The Concordia University Alumni Association named Arjomandi its 2018 Alumna of the Year.
Escape from Iran
Arjomandi was a child in Iran when the revolution erupted in 1979. In grade seven, she made a joke that displeased authorities. “I got into trouble with the Islamic regime and that trouble stayed with me,” recalls Arjomandi. “At 17, I left Iran with a fake passport. I joke that my escape was like the movie Argo. But it was very difficult, emotionally, to leave my family.”
Once free, she eventually moved to Montreal in the mid-1990s, when she began her studies at Concordia.
“I experienced a life-defining moment at Concordia,” says Arjomandi. “Linda MacDonald [BA 68] in the admissions office told me that it was her job to give me the opportunity to get a degree, but it was my job to do something with it. That became an important personal principle — to make the most of every opportunity.”
While in the Department of Electrical Engineering, she experienced another revelation. “We got a test back and people were discussing their grades,” recalls Arjomandi. “The professor said, ‘Getting an A doesn’t make you smart. It just means you’re good at input and output.’ That had a profound effect on how I evaluated performance for myself and others.”
Arjomandi put her admissions officer’s advice into action and “did something” with her degree. She first landed a job as an engineer and after a short time started to apply her entrepreneurial skills.
In 2014, Arjomandi moved to the health care sector as senior VP of product strategy at NantWorks, a group of software companies in genomics, among other related technologies. “My parents are cancer survivors, so like many people I had a personal stake in the improvement and personalization of health care solutions,” she says.
With Arjomandi at the helm as CEO of NantMobile, it became a thriving health care platform. She launched Cancer Connect, an application to bring personalized information to cancer patients and their family members, clinical trials and treatments, and genomic testing.
Her strong feelings about decentralization led her to found mimic, previously called Disternet, a decentralized cloud platform. The technology company provides a scalable distributed edge cloud software platform.
“We’re going through an ecosystem tsunami right now,” she says, referring to the fact that 70 per cent of the internet traffic is influenced by just three players — Facebook, Google and Amazon. “That’s quite frightening. This wasn’t the core proposition of the internet. That’s why I’m such a fan of decentralization, peer-to-peer communication and distributed platforms.”
Arjomandi’s days are full. “There isn’t much free time, granted, but it doesn’t feel like work,” she says. “When I pick a project, it has to give me butterflies. It’s like falling in love.”