CEO Leadership Series - Aydin Mirzaee
CEO Leadership Series - Aydin Mirzaee
When you meet Aydin Mirzaee you immediately feel at ease. Spend any amount of time with him and you’ll notice his positive attitude, his friendliness and how relaxed he is. This proud father of twin toddler girls continues to support the Ottawa start up community and is hard at work building his new company.
Aydin’s second company Fluidware was a well-known Ottawa success story who captured the attention of SurveyMonkey, who ultimately acquired the company in August 2014. Aydin left SurveyMonkey in September 2016.
These days you’ll find Aydin leading the charge of his newest company, the third he has founded, since 2016, and once again he and his team are about to make a splash in the industry.
Top 20 Questions
Your best/worst subject in school?
What was your first job?
Shoveling Snow - my brother and I would do this for money
Best advice you ever took?
Go to the gym everyday
Tip you would share with this years graduating class?
Sometimes you should leap before you look
What book are you reading?
Right now - reading “Nudge”
The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can't find them, make them. GB Shaw
One thing that surprises you about business?
Most things are not what they seem
What motivates you?
When was the last time you worked a 40 hour work week?
What is the best (most recent) feedback you received from one of your employees?
I learned that I don’t recognize people for achievements as much as I should - I’ve been working on it since I heard that - hopefully I’m a bit better now.
When are you most productive?
After a workout
Best thing about being a CEO?
Most challenging thing about being a CEO?
Responsibility for all failures at the company
What is one word that describes your leadership style?
An experience that has influenced you the most as a leader?
A CEO that inspires you?
An organization that you always make time for?
In the last ten years you have been the founder and CEO of three companies. What have your learned about the value of strategic HR that you wish you had known when you began?
The largest of the companies was Fluidware (acquired by SurveyMonkey) so let’s talk about that. The biggest lesson was that culture really matters. We almost never had people leave the company because we put together such a diverse but also like-minded group of people that genuinely loved working with each other. People hung out after work and formed bonds and friendships that I think will last a lifetime. The original team that we hired are still there post acquisition (almost 10 years later) and post all of the founders leaving. When you get hiring right, work can be a pleasure and everyone wants to help each other be successful. I hope to replicate the magical environment that we had in our new company.
What role has mentorship had throughout your career?
I’ve had the unique privilege of having my mentor be my co-founder at my last company. Eli Fathi was a high tech veteran and I was only 21 years old at the time of founding Fluidware - I had the opportunity to learn side-by-side from Eli who had decades of experience in all the things I didn’t know. I can’t stress enough the value of having a mentor - but if you can somehow create the opportunity for yourself to co-found a business with your mentor, that is astronomically valuable.
How do you like to recognize your employees for putting forth their best efforts?
The form of recognition almost doesn’t matter as much as recognizing your team “as work happens” and in “real time” vs only at certain points in the year. Everyone needs to feel valued and appreciated (you included). This is the single biggest but also easiest way to motivate your team. Mastering this skill is insanely beneficial.
What advice would you give to founders today when they are starting to build out their founding teams?
Find a mentor and see if you can co-found a company with them. That is a recipe for success.
What is your favorite interview question to ask?
Oooh. Those are secret. But I do generally like to focus on the “why” of decisions that candidates have made in their life.
What was the best advice you ever gave one of your employees?
So hard to say. Not sure what people valued more than other things. But I often like to say, the first step to doing anything is that we have to believe that it’s possible.