Hello everyone, it is time to put on your reading glasses because you definitely want to check out this interview. Arash Bayatmakou is a MBA student at The University of San Francisco as well as the co-president of their Net Impact chapter. He’s a mover and a shaker with a travel bug in his pocket. Read on to find out why this is a pretty ideal combination.
As a world traveler I imagine you’ve had enough unique first-hand experiences you could write a book entitled, “A Timely Representation of Hither, Thither, and Yonder”. Where exactly have you lived and how many languages do you speak?
Arash: I grew up in 4 countries before the age of seven. I was born in Iran, then moved to France, Canada and finally settled in Berkeley, California for the reminder of my childhood. Thus, home is the Bay Area although I’ve always felt a sense of wanderlust and a desire to explore the world. I spent the last 5 years before doing my MBA working for an active travel company designing, leading and facilitating biking and hiking trips all over the world. I was able to live and work in Peru, Mexico, Costa Rica, Italy, France, Norway, Spain, and Portugal and also travel to a handful of other countries during my free time. I take a lot of enjoyment in seeing the world, learning about new people, being exposed to different cultures and trying to learn as much as I can about these places.
I speak Farsi, Spanish, Italian and French.
My that IS a lot of traveling. How has this shaped the Arash of today and what influence has your travels had on your sentiment in regards to the current treatment of our planet?
Arash: I know it’s a cliche, but I think that being exposed to new places has really opened up my eyes and broadened my perspective on the world I live in. I think it’s easy for people to become so sucked into their own little world and forget about the bigger picture and the experiences of others in this increasingly connected planet of ours.
My experience going to other places, meeting people and learning about them has increased my awareness of my own existence and those around me and improved my understanding of the larger challenges facing everyone on this planet.
In the US, we have the luxury of living our lives largely unaffected by global challenges faced by so many others. We are engaged in 2 wars but few of us actually have had our lives significantly change or our living patterns affected by these multi-year conflicts. Therefore, I think the more we can expose ourselves to the rest of the world and engage with others around us, the more enriched our own lives will be and the better we can be as global citizens.
Speaking of global citizens and the future…let’s talk about MBA school. The relationship between sustainable development and business schools reminds me of an old rickety bridge. It is usually broken and under construction, but operates once in awhile. In order for a more durable bridge to be exist, it must be evident that these sustainable business practices can result in greater profits. How do you think the two can be successfully linked together and who has the most power to initiate and put emphasis on this focus shift?
Arash: I don’t think we’ll have a choice in linking these together as I think if we want to live on this planet, we are going to have to come up with some very creative and ambitious solutions to the environmental challenges we face. I think that those who do not see that connection or choose not to make it a priority are only creating an injustice for themselves, their families and their future generations.
So I think that while making that connection to greater profits is a just objective and one we should pursue aggressively, I think it will have to be a much more integrated effort from people in all walks of society. We cannot look to just one element of society to provide us with inspiration or leadership; we have to instill these qualities in ourselves and force ourselves to act.
I know this sounds somewhat nebulous and idealistic, but it’s the sad reality that I think we are faced with. If we want a world to live in, we’re all going to have to make change. It can begin with students and the younger generations but it’s a paradigm shift that we all have to adopt in order to ensure our own survival.
As one of the Presidents for USFs Net Impact, you went to the 18th Annual Net Impact Conference- 2020: Vision for a Sustainable Decade. With 2,500 people in attendance from 129 schools representing a total of 14 countries- what trending topics really stood out to you and what do you think the title of the 28th Annual Net Impact Conference might be?
Arash: I was very inspired by the people I met at the conference. The topics that stood out to me were:
- The increased consciousness in our waste stream and how we must move beyond just recycling and move towards a more aggressive product stewardship.
- How the recession has resulted in an increased sense of community, and how people are finding solutions to problems and becoming more concerned with their local community (e.g. urban farming).
- The necessity for businesses to adopt sustainability – not just a choice anymore.
28th Conference Title? Maybe, “Global Sustainability and Future-driven Development”.
You’ve done so much in the past 5 years, what are your next steps?
Arash: Next steps are to figure out how I can best combine my professional interest with my personal passion in sustainability to pursue an opportunity that will be fulfilling, challenging, inspiring and dynamic. It’s hard for me to think too far in the future so I like to have shorter-term goals of the next 1-2 years. Oh and to keep traveling to new places. I always want my age to be a lower number than the number of countries I’ve visited (I’m currently 29 and been to 36 countries). 🙂
The man has got me beat. I’ve only been to 16 countries. Thanks to Arash! It is great learn about one of our worlds future influencers. One day Arash will be on TV and people will wonder how one gets to be so game-changing and influential. We are the lucky ones that now know how it all started!