Hello SOTGCY community,
I’d like to introduce the SOTGC readers to Lilly Ghahremani whom I met through “Alex” a few years back. I was immediately impressed by Lilly’s intelligence, zest for life, the 5 million tasks she seems to complete on a weekly basis, and her genuine interest in the people she meets.
Not having inherited her parents’ science minds (both of her parents are physicians in the San Diego area), Lilly decided the logical thing to do was to collect every other degree possible. She is a proud graduate of University of Michigan, acquired a law degree from the UCLA School of Law, and then deciding that she needed yet another accolade, received an MBA from San Diego State University’s School of Business.
When not collecting degrees for fun, she can be found reading stacks of books, suffering through a hot yoga class, studying languages (so far: French, Spanish, Farsi), or giving her passport a good workout. Her most recent global jaunt being a trip to Colombia. Lilly is everything you’ve ever heard about the stereotypical older child (and then some), and is proud to exert these annoying traits on her sister, Susie, a renowned illustrator, and her brother, Cyrus, who is a music and podcast producer.
I hope you enjoy her interview as much as I’ve enjoyed the nap I had to take due to exhaustion from simply listing all of her accomplishments.
What is the one trait you admire most in others?
Self-assurance. When it’s deserved, of course
What is the one trait you admire most in yourself?
Diplomacy would be the professional one to say. Personally – humor. You have to laugh to live well.
Which quality or attitude internal to women have you observed that sets them back in the workplace?
Being overly accommodating! This becomes a time suck for women, but it also affects how they’re seen and treated. I had the President of a company I used to work for pull me aside and say he knew I meant well, but that I had to stop signing my emails with ‘If there’s anything I can help with, just let me know.’ He said the other men on the executive team would interpret it as me indicating that I don’t have enough work to do, which the President knew was not the case (or my intention!) Women volunteer themselves up in a way men don’t, so men move ahead while we get bogged down with smaller tasks we’ve committed to. Being a team player helps our careers in some ways, and really hurts them in others.
Which external situation/circumstance do you believe sets women back in the workplace?
Extensive personal commitment. It shouldn’t set them back, but given the traditional workplaces that still exists, it’s just a fact that it does! Women have a very special role in their social circles, whether single or married, they often are heavily involved in family affairs and in being emotionally (if not physically) there for others. It demands a division of your time and attention that many men are simply not dealing with.
What is the hardest lesson for working women to learn?
To learn to say no, to set boundaries — and to take credit for the work they’ve done!
Which book is on your nightstand?
So many! Stacks, to be honest. I can’t get through books fast enough! The top of the stack has The Moon Daughter, by Zoe Ghahremani. My mom is a novelist, and I’m reading the manuscript for her next book. I’m also reading The Game for my trashy book club [this one is an undercover expose of the society of pickup artists], and The Joke, by Milan Kundera. To save room I’ll stop there!
What woman do you feel is a role model in today’s working industry (could be any industry)?
Martha Stewart. Gotta love Martha.
The quality you admire most in a successful woman?
Softness. Not compromising her sense of personal success for the rest of the world’s
A virtue you believe is underrated?
What is your idea of happiness?
Laughing until it hurts
What do you value most in friends?
People who make me laugh until it hurts, a good listening ear, and an army that rallies around you.
What, in your mind, would be the greatest of misfortunes?
To lose anyone I love.
What do you believe is a working woman’s greatest fear?
Not being able to do it all. not living up to her responsibilities, this immense plate of EVERYTHING that we pile up for ourselves.
In your career, what has been your greatest regret? Do you feel this is a male oriented regret or one shared by men and women alike?
My biggest regret is that I got so caught up believing my career had to fit into a neat little box or that success only came under certain career banners. For example, when I graduated UCLA LAW, I thought I had to be a hardcore lawyer or give up my connection to the profession. But I found unique opportunities that allowed me to be an agent and an attorney at the same time. Later, when I got an MBA in Marketing I thought I’d have to choose law or marketing. As it turns out, people love having someone with both insights. Every step of the way I’ve found the perfect fit for me, jobs that challenge me intellectually and use my range of knowledge while working in fields that incorporate close relationships with clients. I think the men I know are slightly less emotional about their work. I can’t speak for all women, but I want to have an emotional connection to the work I do, so I probably searched harder and for different reasons than a male counter part might.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
HILARIOUS. AMAZING. RIDICULOUS
Cite an example of a woman who you feel made a great achievement?
At the risk of sounding self-serving (or undeservedly fortunate), my mother Zohreh (Zoe) Ghahremani. She was essentially an orphan before she reached her teens, and she went on to be the most loving person I’ve ever met. Cap that with an incredible career (pediatric dentist, massive practice, and a professor at Northwestern’s then-existent Dental School. But wait, here’s the achievement: she gave it up to write the novel that had been burning in her drawer in various versions for over 20 years. That novel, SKY OF RED POPPIES, won awards and a massive KPBS recognition in One Book, One San Diego- it now has thousands upon thousands of readers. She calls it “the little book that could.” In her life, her biggest achievement was in deciding happiness is a choice. She is the brightest light in any room; people who have known her for years don’t know her tragic beginnings. She created who she is, she wasn’t a victim of circumstance. Career-wise? Her great achievement was in following her heart, following her passion, and believing in this story, even when other people didn’t get it (and they didn’t!). She followed her writing talent to see where the road would take her, and she’s miles down the road by now, just because of that first step.
List five qualities that this woman had that you feel helped her achieve her success.
Optimism, self-confidence, dedication, resourcefulness, creativity
What do you think is the greatest difference between our mother’s generation and our own?
They had too few choices, we have too many.
One piece of advice to young women in the workplace
Read Mika Brzezinski’s KNOWING YOUR VALUE. I want to gift wrap this book and give it to every woman I know. We know our value, but sometimes we need to hear someone else say it to truly believe it. My advice would be: believe you are worth standing up for. It all starts there.