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Shayan Bari - Technology

Systems Administrator
“Knowing that I’ll be looked at differently just because I didn’t have a degree is one of my biggest fears. And that’s a fear no one should have.”

My dad had a degree in mathematics but it wasn’t useful here”, Shayan remembers. “But his #1 thing was to provide, provide, provide”. His dad worked two, three minimum wage jobs at a time to put food on the table; his mom sold her wedding ring to pay rent.

By high school, though, Shayan understood how little they had and knew there was no money for college. Which was a relief, actually, since he hated school, loathed it, felt tyrannized by his worth being measured in grades. He refused to take high school seriously and his apathy showed.  “For a South Asian family,” Shayan says, thinking of his parents’ expectations, “my grades were BAD!”. 

What his grades couldn’t possibly show was Shayan’s drive to help support his family. This led him into the workforce straight out of high school. Having always been interested in and skilled with computers, he began pursuing tech jobs. After submitting over 100 applications that rejected him outright for his lack of degree, he found Year Up, a nonprofit that trains and connects young adults with internships at top companies.

The kid who loathed being measured in grades aced his studies in Year Up’s business track program and landed a 6-month internship at Facebook which he then parlayed into his first real job. Now he’s an IT Systems Administrator at a nonprofit focused on economic mobility for workers like him. 

Shayan is 21. He has a long career ahead of him with so very many unknowns. Will not having a degree be a barrier against his moving up into management? He wonders about that. In fact he used to imagine himself in a group interview with a make-believe second candidate, a guy just like him, except for the one thing that set them apart.

“We’d both be talking to the interviewer,” says Shayan, “We’d have the same level of qualifications and knowledge, maybe same height, same eye color. And I’d imagine the interviewer not even seeing me because that person had a BA and I didn’t.”

But that was before Shayan Bari got a good look at his own best self, the person he now gets to be, free from arbitrary judgements based on grades, engaged in work he believes in, and finally able to help support his family. 

And what about his dad? Shyan says, “He’s finally slowing down a bit. And even though he doesn’t say it a lot, I know he’s proud of me. And that’s enough to fill me for a lifetime.

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