TPG Spotlight: Meet Sam (Saeed) Nejatian

"David and the team have created an atmosphere of friendliness that other companies don’t have. TPG is an environment that people love coming to. That is very rewarding and very different from what I’ve seen in my career."

How did you get into the consulting field and why did you change from an industry to consultancy?

I worked for two companies all my life – US Navy for 6 years and at a multinational company for 25 years, both of which were in the military and aerospace environments. Towards the end of my career, I recognized that I was pretty much one-dimensional. I didn’t know what I was going to do in the latter years of my career with only that one dimension. So, I left General Electric and I started working in consulting to diversify myself, my knowledge base and gain experience outside of aerospace, and I think it’s been a perfect fit.

I have found that a common denominator across most industries, is performance optimization –continuously improving processes and eliminating waste from them. These processes are a common denominator across all industries, but my focus for 25 years was in aerospace. That was a big defect in my career enhancement roadmap. That’s why consulting was a great step for me because I could use the same knowledge and expertise of optimization from aerospace towards different organizations and industries, simply focusing around the process. Now, I can work anywhere from food and grocery, to hospitals and manufacturing. I’ve loved being able to diversify myself

Do you have any advice for new students or entrants into the industry?

I would recommend students to get more industry experience. Analysts are top-talented individuals who are capable, computer friendly, able to analyze a lot of data and have the data do the talking. Consultants, on the other hand, can do the same thing but they actually do the walking. To do the walking, it helps to get industry experience so that people can respect your accomplishments and your recommendations.

Companies come to a consultancy when they have a defect in their processes, and when they need special, dedicated help with it. They come to us because we have expertise in a niche market.  They might be skeptical or hesitant to listen to you if you look like a 22-year-old who doesn’t have as much experience as they have, or know better than them. That’s the dilemma with some of the larger companies— they sometimes need someone with a bit of experience to come in and validate the work that has been done.

What were some of the main challenges you experienced in your career?

I worked on secret programs at the US government in aerospace. I was in the engineering team as a non-US citizen and it required secret clearance. I was born in Iran, and at the time, there was a political situation between Iran and the US government. It was a very tough time in my life to work in the military secret program to have the country of my birth and the country I was working in to have so many political ups and downs.

For about 8 months, I would get into work in the morning and my boss would lock the door behind me, afraid for my safety, and then at the end of the day, he would unlock the door and I would go home. I worked like that for a very long time. I appreciate what he did for me because otherwise, my work environment wouldn’t be safe. That was a tough time and one of the challenges of being a part of a political engagement that I had no control over.

I got through that by continuing to focus on my academic life and focusing on why I was there. I had to focus on the fact that before me there were generations of immigrants have gone through the same thing. History will teach you a lot of lessons. Before me, other nationalities have gone through the ups and downs of political challenges, which made me keep focusing on why I was there and that this is just noise. I had to just focus on bettering myself and continuing to make a good living and being grateful for the opportunities my employers gave me along the way. That’s exactly what I did.

Why did you become a university professor?

I left Iran at the age of 13 and arrived in New York City without knowing anyone. I had to slowly make my way around and figure out how to start my life. I was very fortunate to have the government of Canada and the Government of the US supporting new folks like me to better their lives for themselves and others.

My way of giving back to eastern society is to help create future leaders. I want to give back to a society that has given me so much. That’s why I have been at the University for the last 20 years. When I look at a student, I see them as future leaders. They have come here to better themselves, so I will help them achieve their goals

What has been your favourite type of consulting project?

I was put on a situation that was a bit tense with a client at first. It was interesting seeing how hostile they were in the beginning and how appreciative they were after a month of work that was done. A lot of credit goes to David to allow us to go in and work for the client for that month to keep the customer happy. We turned the hostile client into a loving customer who gave us recommendations after who are supportive of TPG. It was fun to see that transition.

The most rewarding consulting experience was for a large manufacturing company. They brought us in for 3 weeks to see how they can reduce their operational costs across the company so they can use the money we saved for them to expand into the European market. We reduced their electricity bill from $120K to $40K a month without any capital investment, without firing people or changing their organization. We just worked through some behavioural and process issues they had. It was rewarding to see how we can go into a company as consultants and look at their processes to identify areas of improvement and areas of eliminations to them achieve their goals and objectives.

What has been your experience working with TPG?

Amazing company.

25 years working with one of the largest companies in the world, I spent 65% of the time looking over my shoulder to make sure my colleagues didn’t undermine me.

I came into TPG and that is not the case. We are like a little family. David and the team have created an atmosphere of friendliness that other companies don’t have. TPG is an environment that people love coming to. That is very rewarding and very different from what I’ve seen in my career.