Payam Shodjai
Payam Shodjai
Home Region

Montreal, Canada

Undergrad Education

McGill University, 04, BS in computer science

Previous Experience

Google, Product Manager on Search

HBS Activities

Energy Club, Soccer Club

“No matter how rich your experiences have been, there's always someone in the classroom who can add insights.”

Payam Shodjai has enjoyed a behind-the-scenes perspective of the information revolution that shapes contemporary life: first as an engineer at Microsoft, then as a product manager working on search at Google. "My team led the efforts for search personalization," says Payam. "The work I did was half technical, half business – involving technical, marketing, legal and strategic issues."

The business side of technology inspired Payam "to get a more formal education in business that would open opportunities five to ten years down the road." Payam applied to HBS for many of the same reasons as his peers: the emphasis on general management, HBS' reputation, and the strength of the alumni network. But he had a more personal reason as well. "I wanted to be pushed," Payam says. "Defending my viewpoints in a classroom filled with experts from all fields would allow me to apply myself. And it is exactly this type of classroom intensity that has provided me with the most learning at HBS."

Connections – historic and professional

One of the reasons Payam came to Harvard was to experience an environment different from what he had known on the West Coast. One aspect of that has been Harvard's historic connections. "I represented HBS at a memorial service on Martin Luther King Day at Memorial Church in Harvard Yard," Payam says. "As I entered the church, I saw a display of photos showing Dr. King in the very same church — that kind of historic connection made the service very real for me, having that link to the past."

The classroom connections are even more profound. "The diversity of the student body humbles everyone," says Payam. "You realize that people with different backgrounds, faiths, and countries all bring different perspectives to the table." As an example, Payam refers to a case about Google that involved the ethics of search and privacy – issues Payam had worked on for years. "Yet other participants brought up issues I hadn't considered before. No matter how rich your experiences have been, there's always someone in the classroom who can add insights."

HBS has changed Payam's understanding of leadership as well. "I knew being a leader meant rallying people around a cause," Payam says, "but I hadn't realized how important teaching is; a big part of leadership is teaching other people. That's a constant activity at HBS; it's in our classes, our learning teams, our clubs and activities."

Building on intellectual curiosity

Payam says that "there's an intellectual curiosity at HBS that enriches everyone's experience." That curiosity is reflected in Payam's business interests. He's currently exploring the potential of solar collectors as an alternative energy source. "It's a new way of applying a proven technology; we know that it works," says Payam. After graduation, it's just one of the opportunities he might explore; other options including pursuing management roles at large technology companies or even, ten to fifteen years out, starting one of his own.