In this #ClouderaLife Spotlight Hassan talks about three life themes that have kept him moving and motivated: learning from his father’s work ethic despite his family’s forcible displacement from their country of origin, his early experience with organized sports, and the value of mentorship. Hassan describes how these experiences led him to give back to his family and community by becoming a Mental Health First Aider and a mentor for refugees seeking a better life.
A family displaced but not deterred
Hassan Mirza, a Cloudera global account director, leads a virtual team of over 25 who work on major accounts. He is based in the UK where he lives with his wife and three children.
While Hassan was born and raised in the UK, his parents and older siblings were originally from Iraq. His father, Amir, was well-educated and led a successful career in finance. During the regime of Saddam Hussein, word spread that the country’s intellectuals were being arrested, never to be heard from again.
Late one evening while his whole family was asleep, Amir received a call that he and his family were marked for immediate arrest and the police were on their way. Within five minutes, Amir collected his family and as many belongings as he could, as he had to leave that moment to save his family. Amir remembers seeing the projected light from the police flashers in the distance as he scooped up Hassan’s brother on the way to the car with his wife and the rest of his children.
After settling his family in the UK, Amir, now a refugee, essentially had to start over, earning money wherever he could to build a better life for his family. From his father’s experiences, Hassan learned the value of a good work ethic and giving back to his family and community.
Sales is a team sport: lessons learned from football school days
When Hassan was growing up in the UK his passion was football (aka soccer in the US). He started playing at age six and continued through university, captaining every team he played for. “I learned when to speak up and take the lead, when to follow, and when to sacrifice for the greater good of the team,” he said.
He added, “Sports builds character, leadership, and ownership.” Hassan recalls missing a penalty at a critical point during an important game. “I never forgot that feeling of letting the team down, so I put in hours of practice to make sure that didn’t happen again.” He then recalls the feeling of joy when redeeming himself in a later game and moving on to a spot on the state team. Hassan has carried on these lessons into Cloudera. “Sales is definitely a team sport,” he said. “We are out in front representing the company.” He added, “Everyone encounters setbacks but those that learn from their experience are the ones who excel.”
“Speaking of teamwork,” Hassan said as he turned his thoughts to Cloudera culture, “I see this throughout Cloudera, everyone is willing to make others successful. You can pick up the phone and call anyone and they will make it a priority to try to help. There is a genuine feeling of comraderie at this company.”
The miracle of mentorship: from career transition and beyond
Hassan didn’t start out in sales but rather with his first passion—law. During his law school days, he discovered the importance of mentorship. “It has become a lifelong practice for me to seek out and consult with mentors who challenge me,” Hassan said. For example, after talking to his mentor he realized something more entrepreneurial would satisfy his career ambitions. His mentor introduced him to a contact he had in a startup company looking to fill a sales role.
Within five years he helped to grow the company’s revenue to $100 million. He knew this was the right path for him. Eventually, he moved on to Oracle, OpenText, and was then recruited into Cloudera.
“Consulting with a mentor is not just important in making early career decisions but for every stage in life,” Hassan said. “It goes hand in hand with learning and progressing in life. Finding what is most satisfying and becoming a well-rounded person is not always equated with monetary success. Always learning and working with great mentors helps you to develop as a person and a leader.”
Becoming a Mental Health First Aider and partnering with Cloudera
Hassan became interested in the study of mental health as he witnessed members of his extended family struggle with serious issues like suicide. He wanted to be more equipped to help others, whether it be family or colleagues. This led to finding a local mental health first aid community that offered certification as a Mental Health First Aider. During the certification process, he learned how to spot the signs of those in distress and how to help or refer someone for help.
Hassan and Cloudera’s European region (EMEA) eventually partnered with Martin Tynan, vice president of human resources at Cloudera, to see if a mental health component could be integrated into the business. Partnering with Cloudera’s EMEA+ Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), they made it happen.
Hassan explained the concept of the “stress container,” a framework he learned about to manage stress and anxiety. In summary, as stress accumulates in life, one’s “stress container” fills up. Identifying this is happening is a significant first step. Next, it’s important to “empty” the container. This might mean taking time out to go for a walk or talking to someone about it. “My eight-year-old son, for example, often gets anxious if he doesn’t do well at his football match or has a bad day at school,” he said. “I use the ‘stress container’ framework to help him build awareness of his own thoughts and feelings and learn to better manage his stress.”
Coming full circle: helping the forcibly displaced
Taking what he learned about mental health and mentorship and remembering his family roots, Hassan got involved with the PAZ organization that helps those forcibly displaced from their country of origin be placed in their field of expertise. Hassan functions as a mentor with PAZ, currently guiding a Syrian man with a PhD in Data Science from his home country, who is having difficulty getting hired. He was over the moon recently when his mentee successfully secured a role; this is key in leadership.
Thanks to Hassan for sharing his story and contributing so much to Cloudera and in the area of mental health. Interested in working with others like Hassan? Check out our current job openings.