Speaker: Ali Mahlodji

Life is a zigzag: Leaning Into Uncertainty

How does it feel to see yourself as an "error" in the system? When you try out over 40 jobs and you fit into none?

From system error to futurist, Ali Mahlodji discovered his sense of purpose in the midst of his life's difficulties. Having zigzagged his way from refugee to technology entrepreneur and CEO to global thought leader, he helps children and at-risk persons navigate the multiple paths to a sense of purpose in an uncertain world and often amid difficult circumstances. And he does so by drawing on his own inner and outer journey.

As a boy, Ali had no idea what kind of career he wanted when he grew up. He envisioned a Handbook of Life Stories that would feature people in a variety of jobs from all around the world and would be available for anyone to borrow from libraries. When he was 30, he launched that vision as a digital platform (whatchado.com) with a few friends - an opportunity made possible by enhanced technology, social media, and the internet. At the time of its launch, whatchado.com featured 17 stories. Today, it is Europe's largest video job orientation platform featuring nearly 8,000 stories and hundreds of company profiles, including partners in education and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

If you asked Ali whether his younger self knew that he would one day become an award-winning entrepreneur, he would likely say no. "Life itself starts and ends by chance, and in between we think we can make plans for the next 40 years which is crazy. Life is a zigzag...The most beautiful thing about life is its uncertainty," says Ali.

Ali was born in Tehran, Iran in 1981. His parents, both professionals in academia, took Ali and fled persecution in 1984. The family left Iran in the middle of the night and traveled to Turkey before making their way to Vienna, Austria. By the time Ali was 10 years old, he had lived in 13 different apartments. In Vienna, his mother cleaned for an architecture company while his father stocked groceries. When he was 13, Ali's parents divorced and he developed a stutter. He went on to drop out of school at 18, just before his exit exams. Ali remembers, "My father always told me to find out what I don't want to do, so the only way to do that was to try things out."

And so he did, exploring more than 40 jobs before returning to finish his education in his late twenties. Ali went on to earn a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Programming and joined the technology sector. After his father passed away, Ali felt called to do something that felt more meaningful, so he left his high paying job as a Global Systems Engineer and became a grammar school teacher until founding whatchado.com. Ali said, "A lot of young people don't have any idea of what to do in their future. It's so powerful when you have a chance to talk to someone about your experiences. We started this platform to show people if they want to have a job one day, don't think there's only one way to get there."

Passionate about helping prepare youth for the future, Ali dedicates 50% of his work to young people pro bono. In his TEDx Talk, Ali encourages young people to question the status quo, to be grateful so they do not end up acting in greed, and to believe in the future because "we need the energy to create the kind of world we want to live in." In his voluntary work, Ali also works with adult prisoners and youth at-risk of exclusion. The other half of his time he works with leaders and focuses on professional development.

Since launching whatchado.com, Ali has gone on to create start-ups such as futureRocka, ALIDO, and futureOne (which also has a podcast called futureOne HEROES). He is a best-selling author of multiple books including Und Was Machst Du So? (or, And What Are You Doing?), Next Level WORK, Ent-Decker Dein Wofur (or, Discover What You're Doing For), and Work Report. He has worked with various companies and organizations including Google, BMW, IBM, Siemens, Mastercard, Microsoft, Red Bull, and the United Nations. He has won numerous awards including HR Excellence Award and New Work Award (twice each), Voices Award for Best Business Podcast, Digital Communications Award, and Andreus Peace Award, among others.

Ali currently lives in Vienna with his wife, whom he describes as "the woman of his dreams," and they have two super cool daughters. Ali travels around the world as a keynote speaker on topics such as focus and simplicity in business, mindful leadership, leading new generations, diversity and inclusion, and "the art of making one's own life authentic."

Join us in conversation with this master speaker and author, who inspires us to live with relentless enthusiasm and compassion through all the zig-zags of life.

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