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Iranian Now V.P. of Firm that Made the Wild West

Source: Iran Times


Wells Fargo is one of the few surviving American businesses from the days of the Wild West when it ran stage coaches and provided banking services for cowboys.  The stagecoaches and cowboys are gone, but the banking system remains and one of the vice presidents of the modern firm is now an Iranian-American woman.

Avid Modjtabai received her bachelor's degree in industrial engineering from California's Stanford University and her MBA from New York's Columbia University.

After 14 years with Wells Fargo, she is now an executive vice president in charge of its information technology with a staff of 6,000.  Few of them could drive a stage coach, but they do pretty well with a hard drive.

When asked which of her accomplishments she was most proud of, she told Information Week, "All of my roles at Wells Fargo, from running Internet banking to being head of human resources, have meant a lot to me. I'm proud to manage such an integral function for the company. I've learned so much, and I inherited a great team-it's a privilege to work with them."

When asked about her most important career influences, Modjtabai gave credit first to her parents.  "My parents have been the greatest influence on my career. My father gave me the determination to demand the best from myself. From my mother, I learned compassion and tolerance. Wells Fargo chairman Dick Kovacevich and CEO John Stumpf took chances on me and gave me opportunities to grow professionally."

But in the interview, Modjtabai admitted there were things she would re-do if she had the chance.  "I once took a role in investment banking, and while I enjoyed the challenge and hard work, I also found it too individual-achievement-oriented. I missed the power and fun of working with a great team."

Modjtabai also acknowledged the current financial situation, which has spread internationally from the United States.  She said the financial sector was dealing with some "tough times" and said she would have to make some "difficult decisions."  But, she added, "When this time passes, customers will reward the financial institutions that maintained their values. Firms that didn't will likely lose business."

Modjtabai told Information Week how she measures the effectiveness of her information technology team.  "We have the standard financial and technical measures, but also try to manage perception. We instituted an internal partner survey to get feedback, which is critical to help us drive alignment with the business we support."

Modjtabai said, "Always focus on the customer's requirements-don't do technology for technology's sake. Tie programs to measurable business results. Never underestimate the importance of the team. Finally, be open to change-it's coming anyway, so you might as well be prepared."

Aside from her career-related talk, Modjtabai shared that Marjane Satrapi's popular graphic novel "Persepolis" was her favorite book she has read recently.  "It had a lot of significance to me, given my Iranian background," she said.

In her spare time, Modjtabai said she enjoys "skiing with my 84-year-old father, who's always the first one on the lift in the morning and the last one off in the evening."

Wells Fargo was founded in 1852 by Henry Wells and William Fargo under the name Wells, Fargo & Co. to serve the West, offering both banking (buying gold, and selling paper bank drafts as good as gold)-and express delivery.

Wells Fargo opened for business in the gold rush port of San Francisco, California, and soon Wells Fargo branches spread nationwide and then internationally.  Wells Fargo is now a diversified financial services company with operations internationally.       


About Iran Times: The Iran Times is an independent newspaper with no affiliation with any political party or faction The Iran Times corporation was founded in Washington D.C. in 1970, in accordance with U.S. federal and local regulations:

... Payvand News - 10/12/08 ... --

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