My name is Arash Helmi and I am an Eindhoven-based Iranian engineer. Currently I am doing my postdoctoral fellow working as a consultant in energy technology at the Process Design Center in Breda. Besides that I have a big passion for intercultural communication studies. Specifically, I am very passionate to know how different cultures interact with each other. For that I frequently collaborate with social groups in Eindhoven. For example, upon moving to the Netherlands I started Parvaz, a group dedicated to art, music and humanities. Firstly our group was focused on Persian culture, but it soon evolved to include over twenty nationalities before we discontinued our activities.
What influence does your background have on your career?
Both my parents were teachers. My mother was a teacher at elementary school and my father used to teach mathematics and chemistry at middle school. So, it was not a big surprise that I became interested in engineering, specifically chemical engineering.
Coming from Iran, I was always passionate about Persian literature, art, philosophy and Iranian culture. However, when I was 18 I knew that I was going to leave Iran, to learn more about other cultures and people. That was my main reason to leave to Europe in 2008 when I was 23. First to Sweden, and later to the Netherlands in 2012.
What led you to start Parvaz?
When I moved to the Netherlands I missed entertainment and the social aspects of life. That’s why we started Parvaz with the five of us, studying and discussing Persian literature. But we all had a Persian background and felt we weren’t being challenged enough. We wanted to include more diverse cultures in our group and succeeded in doing so as Parvaz evolved to include over twenty nationalities. Through Parvaz we learned more about each other’s communities and history.
The name Parvaz is inspired by an Indo-Persian story about doves that get a net cast over them. One by one they try to fly away, but fail to do so. Then they try to escape together and they succeed. It shows we need each other.
What is a healthy work-life balance for you and how do you maintain it?
It took me a while to find the right balance between my work during the day and my private life in the evenings. I try to work with maximum focus. Then I can handle my tasks in time. Usually I work out after work to cut from the daily routines and switch to evening life. Definitely, waking up very early in the morning and doing sports in the early evening are fundamental to my work-life balance.
What are you most proud of?
The fact that I left my parents when I was 18. First to another city in Iran and later to Europe. It was a very painful decision at the beginning, but at the same time rewarding. A big reward. To become flexible and self-sufficient and to have the chance to meet many people from very different parts of the world.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I am not a bossy person, although I can be very clear about what I want from my team mates. I am very Dutch in that sense ;). But, I am rather more an influential type of manager, as I am managing now at my job. I always motivate people to work towards a common goal. The goal that they feel proud of achieving after completion.
What is the key to success for you?
To understand that success is relative and means different things for any of us. It makes me stay focused on my goals and not to compare myself with others. This is what I have learnt so far in my life. No matter how the situation is, I try to stay happy and enjoy what I have at the moment.
I definitely see opportunity to grow in the Netherlands. The Dutch are tolerant and less conservative than most places in the world. Although it’s still hard to reach a high management position, I think the Netherlands is one of the best Western European countries to do so, but perhaps still not as easy as in the US. Furthermore, there is a pragmatic culture in the Netherlands. Persian people have a dream culture. When the Dutch see a problem they immediately think of a clear and practical solution. It is a very helpful attitude in most cases.
What quote or story inspires you?
A person once visited a temple under construction where he saw a sculptor making an idol of God...Suddenly he noticed a similar idol lying nearby...Surprised, he asked the sculptor, "Do you need two statues of the same idol ?" "No," said the sculptor without looking up, "We need only one, but the first one got damaged at the last stage..." The gentleman examined the idol and found no apparent damage... "Where is the damage?" he asked. "There is a scratch on the nose of the idol." said the sculptor, still busy with his work.... "Where are you going to install the idol?" The sculptor replied that it would be installed on a pillar twenty feet high... "If the idol is that far who is going to know that there is a scratch on the nose?" the gentleman asked. The sculptor stopped work, looked up at the gentleman, smiled and said, "I will know it..."