My Rollins Gateway: Taking Turns for Good
July 02, 2020
By Robert Stephens
Real estate broker. Finance expert. A front face for Microsoft. Ahrmon Mahanpour ’20 just graduated with a resume that says he’s done it all, but he knows better.
It’s shortly before noon and Ahrmon Mahanpour ’20 is trying to figure out another new traffic pattern in Central Florida. It will probably change again in a few days, a likelihood that doesn’t bother Mahanpour. “I’m not even supposed to be here,” he says.
Mahanpour should be in Tampa, where he planned to start working as a technical account manager for Microsoft after graduating with a degree in economics. Then the spring of 2020 happened. Microsoft still wanted Mahanpour because of his ability to communicate with clients and find solutions for their business systems. So he’s doing the consultations virtually, out of his mother’s house. This doesn’t faze him either.
“I’ve learned to adapt,” he says.
His first lessons in adapting came from observing his parents. Mahanpour’s father escaped conflict in Iran. His mother was a war refugee following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. “She’d been studying in pharmacy school, but none of her schooling was accepted here. She was told she’d have to start over—kindergarten. So she had to adjust and work really hard. That’s where my drive and flexibility come from.”
Mahanpour entered Rollins intent on launching a career in investment banking but has uncovered other passions to redirect his plans. He’s never wandered. Just adapted.
“I look back on my steps at Rollins,” he says, “and I see a purpose for all of them.”
Those steps—the collaboration with students from different backgrounds, the internships, the daily walk past the “Life is for Service” engraving near Strong Hall—have led him to this path. As Mahanpour knows, paths change. And he’s excited about that.
By the time Mahanpour graduated from high school, he’d already earned his real estate license (he earned his broker license in June 2020). Rollins had something that fit him perfectly: “The reinforcement of my personal drive.” He wanted to finish college in three years and took anywhere from 25 to 29 credit hours per semester.
“I didn’t want an education ‘from the book.’ Rollins challenged me to think creatively through complex situations, to break the box.” For example, Mahanpour’s first class with economics professor Zhaochang Peng didn’t rely on math or equations. “We had to find answers on a macro level. Classes like that alerted me to what a Rollins education would be like—closer to the real world.”
Liberal Arts in Action
Mahanpour took his learning outside the classroom almost before he even entered one. During his first semester, he interned with Coldwell Banker Richard Ellis, the world’s largest commercial real estate services company. “Too much sales focus,” he says. A few months later, he made his way to Goldman Sachs. “Not enough work-life balance.” While dabbling, he saw that technology can empower anyone, no matter their status, so he pursued an internship with Microsoft. Mahanpour became one of three students chosen from 60 candidates nationwide for the technical account manager (TAM) program.
When asked about mentors, Mahanpour says, “My mentors didn’t know they were mentors.” He had 30 of them in the Bonner Leaders Program. They were his fellow students, his cohorts. Each student had to serve 300 hours per year for nonprofits, but in hindsight they were also serving each other.
“None of us wanted to simply go to school and go home. We’d talk about social problems and share personal perspectives. It really changed me.” When everything closed due to COVID-19, Mahanpour opened a new door, launching an online career counseling program called “Ask Ahrmon.” He’s already heard from dozens of people around the world. Some have lost their jobs. Others are scared. “I’m helping people I’ve never met,” he says. “It’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.”
Mahanpour came to Rollins intent on a specific career with a specific company. Once he achieved it, he realized a personal goal is not the end of a life journey. “Rollins encouraged me to succeed, but it also gave me full rein to make mistakes. Maybe it sounds strange, but all of my schooling, internships, and peer mentoring led me away from where I thought I wanted to be and toward the places where I really wanted to be. Experiences change people. Personally, I look forward to whatever is next.”
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