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DCE Magazine

Alumni Spotlight: Iran to Irvine: A Student Success Journey

Winter 2021

Davood Shahabi had a dream to study and work in the U.S. — and UCI helped make it happen.

After getting his MBA at University of Technology Malaysia, DCE alumnus Davood Shahabi landed a lucrative position in his native Iran, but his ultimate goal was to further his business education in America. Coming to the U.S. to study and work was his dream, one that eventually came true after considerable persistence.

Davood was looking for an intensive program that wouldn’t keep him away from work for too long. So after considering all options, he chose UCI — and you might say he never left.

After coming to UCI in 2014, he promptly completed two certificate programs, ACP International Business Operations & Management (IBOM) and ACP Project Management, followed by a life-changing internship. He was a star student, acing 11 additional courses and serving as teaching assistant for a custom-designed program abroad.

“I wanted to refresh my education in the U.S. in a world-class system, but I couldn’t spend a lot of time doing so,” he said. “While I was looking for a program that was about six to nine months long, I discovered UCI located in a beautiful, safe business district of Orange County. I did my research and it seemed to be a perfect situation to gain first-class skills in business and operational management.”

With a little help from UCI, Davood got his visa after four attempts and nearly two years of waiting. And after Optional Practical Training (OPT) at CalOptima health insurance agency, he received an offer for full-time employment from Kindred Healthcare, a national healthcare provider. It finally led to a green card and status as a permanent U.S. resident.

“Without UCI’s assistance, I could not have achieved my dreams,” he said. “A gentleman in charge of student admissions was very supportive and was always there to answer my questions.”

Today Davood lives in St. Louis, working as senior research analyst at Kindred, in charge of data analytics for more than 140 hospitals. He also lends his expertise on the Advisory Committee for a DCE public health program that is currently in development.

Somehow Davood found time to sit down with us one quarantined afternoon to elaborate on his remarkable journey.

“I’ve highly recommended taking online courses from UCI to my friends and colleagues. It’s an excellent way to refresh your skills and knowledge.” Davood Shahabi

You’ve adjusted so quickly and seamlessly to the U.S. Where did you live before coming here?

I lived in Tehran and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. California is such an international society where you can find whatever you want and need — a variety of restaurants, supermarkets, and communities available for all nationalities. Friendly residents and exciting activities never allowed me to feel like a newcomer. I had such a strong desire to explore opportunities here, and my internship advisors and lecturers were very supportive of me.

Tell me about your experience taking the two Accelerated Certificate Programs and your internship.

After taking the IBOM program, I had a chance to continue my education, so after talking with my UCI advisor, I took ACP Project Management, which is a skill that can be applied to virtually any industry. Then I participated in a three-month internship and worked at a venture capital company. It was a great opportunity to learn about professional work environments in the U.S. and get a taste of the financial markets here.

I understand your OPT at CalOptima really opened some doors for you. How did it lead to your position at Kindred Healthcare?

After my internship, I worked at CalOptima in a contract position for six months. I learned the nomenclatures of the healthcare industry, patient data, databases, query writing as well as organizational behavior. I built up my resume and applied for a permanent position. Immediately after that job, in 2015, I received an offer letter from Kindred. It resulted in the green card process and U.S. residency.

I was amazed to learn that you’ve taken 11 IT courses in data science and AI over the past few years.

Yes, after finishing my UCI courses and starting my career, I decided to take online courses to gain skills in data science and advanced analytics, which are very much in demand. I utilize data analytics as a tool for decision-making for Kindred in business and operation management processes. And fortunately, my employer has a policy to support employees by helping to pay for continuing education.

Would you recommend this path for others hoping to build a career in the U.S.?

I’ve highly recommended taking online courses from UCI to my friends and colleagues. It’s an excellent way to refresh your skills and knowledge. The courses are designed to enable students to excel, fees are reasonable, and many employers reimburse the fees. The time required, for me, was less than 10 hours per week — about one or two hours a night.

Please tell me about your role on DCE’s advisory board for an in-development public health program. It’s certainly a relevant and essential subject.

After the global challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, specific skill sets relevant to public health will be more important than ever in a range of professions. For instance, a person with a background in law may need to know about public health to be able to develop legal documents to support health policies of an academic institution. Another example can be a data scientist who may need to know about public health to develop advanced analytic tools for an epidemiologic report.

Have you found time for leisure activities between studies and work?

Yes, I love road trips in the U.S., seeing nature and all the beautiful states. So far, I’ve visited almost 30 states from New York to California to Washington state. Another hobby is hiking and kayaking, especially in the Midwest. And I like coding challenges to solve problems. Sometimes I do that too.

Learn more about DCE's International Programs.