Tales from Lockdown: Naj Alavi
In this series, we speak to Xenomorph employees and ask them about their experience of lockdown, how it has impacted their day-to-day lives and to share any tips or recommendations with their colleagues. Today’s conversation is with Xenomorph Software Inc. President Naj Alavi in New York.
Xeno: Tell us a little about yourself and your role at Xenomorph?
Naj: According to those who know me well, I am a blend of sorts; an introverted extrovert. I am a double espresso guzzling, croissant munching, fitness fanatic that fell in love with the game of Squash several years ago. I cook and paint when I am able to. Sometimes, I can be found dabbling in design.
Professionally, I am focused on delivering success at Xenomorph. As President of Xenomorph Software, Inc., that means ensuring that the working lives of our clients and the folks at firms that are yet to become clients are just that much richer, that much more enjoyable and that much easier with Xenomorph servicing the Enterprise Data Management needs of their respective businesses. Everything else stems from that singular objective.
Xeno: How has the lockdown changed your day-to-day routine?
Naj: When the Lockdown hit, all I could sense was that which I was potentially losing – albeit for a short but unknown period of time. I was not in tune with- or perhaps I was even blind to the possibilities of what I could gain from this, to borrow a phrase of the UK government, “Circuit Breaker”. Undoubtedly, this sentiment took form because my mind could only measure what I was losing and what I had worked so hard to achieve – but it could not yet fathom what I was about to gain if only I just allowed myself a moment to breathe.
I have broken through my somewhat rigid preference of books related to cooking and sports psychology. During Lockdown, I found myself returning to philosophical works. The writings of Carl Jung and Friedrich Nietzsche started to appeal again. I have just been given Carl Sagan’s “Demon Haunted World”, which, I am sure, will be an absolute delight to tuck into. Interestingly, these wonderful scholars are helping me to understand not just the world around me, but the universe inside me.
The Lockdown has given me time to assess what I was doing and how exactly I was tackling it. Will I be thankful once the pandemic is announced to be over? Without a doubt. Will I return to my pre-pandemic routine? Absolutely not. My new daily routine is far richer and, I am not afraid to share, my professional efficiency has also improved.
Xeno: What aspect of the lockdown have you found hardest, either from a personal or professional perspective?
Naj: Not being able to start my day with a serious workout hit me hard – not just physically, but mentally too. I subscribe to the belief that one does not play Squash to become fit, rather one must be fit to play Squash. My workout routine was probably no different to that of a professional Squash player – even down to my diet. I trimmed down from 175 to 130 pounds. This made me light on my feet and agile around the court. Losing this very important part of my day robbed me of a very personal sense of daily satisfaction.
The movies are a bit of an escape for me and I was actually quite looking forward to Wonder Woman 1984, Morbius and the latest James Bond outing, “No Time To Die”. Due to the shuttering of movie theatres, we now play the waiting game. Patience; very easy to type and to say but very difficult at times to enact!
When it comes to superhero movies, I am more DC than Marvel. However, seeing Chadwick Boseman play T’Challa in Black Panther was simply amazing; in my opinion, Boseman was born to play that role. Hearing of Chadwick’s passing during this pandemic due to colon cancer and then learning how he continued to work without sharing his pain, it hit me hard in a very personal way – but his way of dealing with his pain also inspired me to be a better person.
My colleague and friend, Gary Owen, is completing a 1,083 mile virtual ride from Lands’ End to John O’Groats in aid of Pancreatic Cancer UK. This is a wonderful cause and I would urge and encourage you to find the time to visit Gary’s sponsorship page. For those who follow UK advertising, they will be familiar with the Tesco catchphrase, “Every Little Helps”.
Not being able to meet with friends and colleagues, and not being able to travel and hike, are definitely sour notes for me. Though I must say that the period in which we are in, we are very lucky to have access to technology that has allowed us to keep in touch with loved ones.
On a professional level, the lack of in-person interaction did worry me. However, it was a stellar learning experience that the personal touch doesn’t just come from physical interactions but how one follows up on commitments and delivers on promises. I am pleased to share that, even during the Lockdown, Xenomorph has been very fortunate and our business continues to grow with several new and major wins as well as extensions to existing client relationships. It just goes to show that no matter the situation, it is critical not to forget what is important: relationships.
Xeno: Are there any tips that you would offer to colleagues and industry peers at this time?
Naj: Yes, a few come to mind:
- The most important tip that I can share: value relationships and maintain your connections with people above all else. The feeling of completeness one attains from healthy relationships – whether in one’s personal life or professional life – nothing comes close.
- No matter how terrible a situation is, no matter how bad it is, if we focus our minds to patiently solving the problems before us by breaking them down into their component parts, nothing – within reason – is unsurmountable.
- Enjoy the small things in life by following your heart – it is in these moments you will experience freedom.
- Finally, I think The Rolling Stones said it best, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need”. As much as you can, focus on what you need and not what you want.
Xeno: What positives can you take from this experience?
Naj: For me, this has been a period of subtle but important change; a metamorphosis of sorts. In all honesty, I can say that though my initial emotional response at hearing of the lockdown was a combination of annoyance and frustration, I am actually mentally, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually richer and stronger for it. My goals are sharper. My needs are clearer.
The Lockdown, though an unfortunate reality, has proven to be a much-needed reset – personally and professionally.