on being defined

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May of 2014 post-undergraduate student life was really tough, and I was a lucky one. I got a job with housing accommodations right out of music school at a music production studio in Miami, FL. I met industry giants such as Diplo and Skrillex, saw them work, then suddenly, everything came to a screeching halt. In February of 2015, the studio terminated their commercial music department.

My first job lasted less than a year.

A little shell shocked, I fell back on my other occupation I held as a gigging musician.

I was content until I realized that playing “Don’t Stop Believin’” four to five nights a week at a Blue Martini (bar) two hours away from my house was turning me into a miserable person.

I was a bit lost. I moved out of the studio and into a friend’s closet. I reflected back on my post-undergrad life, and had questions floating around my head. Why was the studio consolidating their operation? Is their business positioned as best as it could be? I came to the conclusion that a career in music wasn’t for me—but these questions stuck with me. Could I learn how to run a successful business? People looked at me like I was green; a musician that is curious about business operations? That doesn’t exist.

So, I rode out the soul-sucking gigs until my friend called me up and said he had an open room in Chicago—I packed up and moved over two days.

I worked three part-time jobs during my initial months in Chicago: waiter, music teacher, and gym rat.  I saw three letters, MBA, on my laptop screen more and more often. “I want to write music,” I thought to myself, “but I can’t, I am in business now.”

Money became the sole focus of my life. How would I pay $85-100K to go to grad school after shelling out for a private undergraduate college? Would working a few part-time jobs even be a possibility while I pursued an MBA? I drilled MBA math problems when I did not work. It was a dark time. Thankfully, a chain of events brought me to two incredibly kind people, Claudia and Jordan, who mentioned the Experience Institute (Ei) and Victor Saad.

After watching a few student videos, it was apparent to me that Ei was my next move. These people were all around the world doing incredible work and redefining our perceptions of higher education, instead of letting it define them. For the naysayers, I am here to say, you can excel in whatever you choose to pursue, and your past or education does not define you.

Before these last two weeks at Ei, I could say those words, but honestly did not believe them. I am a musician who likes to make financial modeling spreadsheets. I’m proving to myself that I am not defined by what I do or create, or by the degree I got from a University; that people like me exist.

Samir Ahmed

In Sami’s mind, the worlds of business and design are not detached, and so he works to bring them into harmony. With a background in music production and finance, he is poised to connect the often contrasting disciplines of creativity and business. This year, he plans to deepen his understanding of strategy and design-thinking. He is driven by a simple curiosity over how organizations can run most effectively while emphasizing human-centered values.

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