Editor’s Note: In 2022, the UC Tech Award for Operational Excellence was named after Mojgan A. Amini, UC San Diego, in recognition for her work in exemplifying her support of improved business process, whether through business process design, automation, customer service, digital transformation or another initiative. The UC IT Blog team was eager to speak to her about her leadership role in the UC Tech community and are grateful to Amini for generously sharing her career journey and insights. She also told us that in-person registration was still open for Process Palooza, from Tuesday, March 28 – Wednesday, March 29, 2023, Host: UC San Diego. This event, led by Amini, will provide a unique opportunity for UC IT community members to take their continual improvement skills to the next level.
Mojgan Amini Email Interview
Question: Can you tell us about you and your career and what influenced your journey?
Amini: I am currently the Director of Process Management and Continuous Improvement in UC San Diego’s IT Services department. I manage the Project Portfolio Management Office, the Continuous Improvement (Lean Six Sigma) program, Proactive Service Management, Business Analysis, Communications and Outreach, and Organizational Change Management. We provide services to the entire department and impact most areas of campus. I have been in this role since January 2016 when the unified IT Services was established. I’ve been at UC San Diego for 17 years and have held at least six different technical leadership roles here, including management of research admin IT, mobile and front-end technologies, middleware, identity and access management, enterprise business systems, and most recently where I am.
Prior to this job, I was a hands-on software architect for various industries and even conducted breakthrough R&D, helping shape concepts that eventually became multimedia mail, HDTV, and all-in-one smartphones. I traveled extensively across the globe to present and share our findings. Oftentimes, I was the only female engineer in the entire facility.
I met mentors along the way who influenced my journey, often pointing me to paths less traveled where there were complex problems to solve. My mentors were my managers and more experienced work colleagues who had real-world experiences to share. I chose projects and opportunities that were challenging and fulfilling. I chose the path to work at UC San Diego because we are not working to deliver a single product, but a life transformation through education, research, and social interaction.
Question: Are there any leadership skills or other values that are important to you that you can share with the community?
Amini: The qualities that I find most important in any role – be it technical or leadership – are as follows:
- Empathy and Kindness – create a safe environment
- Innovation – nourish creativity and be a change agent
- Empowering others – be a source of inspiration
- Authenticity – be self-aware and model vulnerability
The following are some actions I often suggest to those who ask about my path to leadership:
- Volunteer for an unclear role – Make a commitment, then jump in with both feet. Most of the time, the most urgent needs are riddled with unknowns and decisions to be made. Jumping in with both feet means being committed to do what it takes to make it work and motivating others to help or come along.
- Make personal connections, especially with the experts in the field. Every leader will agree about the importance of staying connected by reading publications, books, newsfeeds, blogs, etc. Taking it one step further by reaching out to the experts themselves to connect with them directly, often leads to a welcoming reception and unexpected outcomes.
- Show genuine compassion & honesty. Work is not about personal gain. The value comes when you work somewhere because you care about the mission, care about partnering with like-minded colleagues, and care about making a positive impact. It is about being open, approachable, honest, and realistic. The best outcomes come by listening, asking questions, giving honest input, keeping commitments, advocating for those who need it, and nurturing staff growth.
Question: What do you find most meaningful about your work?
Amini: What I find most meaningful about my work is partnering with like-minded colleagues and serving as a catalyst to bring about good change to address critical university challenges and improvements which touch thousands of lives. Being in the technology field is the perfect bridge between solving difficult problems and producing worthwhile outcomes. Operational Excellence is not just about making systems run faster and more accurately, it is mainly about the people side of change, like how to make the work we do more meaningful, more enjoyable, and more productive. I’m proud to share a shining example of this at UC San Diego, where we all came together to create a Continuous Improvement cultural movement: https://ci.ucsd.edu
Question: What is a typical day or week like for you?
Amini: I look at problems as fun challenges to solve. That is what makes work enjoyable and keeps my creativity flowing. A typical day entails analysis of various realms of data to make changes, make decisions, and improve outcomes. I also cherish the time with my team members, my colleagues, business partners, and mentors. I get energy from each interaction. We all spend much of our waking moments at work, and I try to make my interactions as fulfilling and enjoyable as I can. I’m mindful about energizing myself and giving people the space that they need to energize themselves.
About Mojgan Amini
UC San Diego
Join Process Palooza in-person!
Process Palooza [In-person registration open]
Tuesday, March 28 – Wednesday, March 29, 2023
Host: UC San Diego