Sporting an Aztec-patterned hoodie and a thick man bun, NestED speaker Nadeem Mazen ’02 returned to campus on Wednesday evening to discuss his passion for his work as an engineer, music-video director, software programmer and the first Muslim city councillor for the city of Cambridge.
Upon graduating from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) in 2006 with degrees in Biological Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, Mazen went on to become Chief Executive of Serious Business, a Boston-based design and consulting firm specializing in interactive software, viral marketing and design. In addition to Serious Business, Mazen is the co-founder and C.E.O. of danger!awesome, a laser-cutting studio and community art storefront located in the heart of Cambridge, Mass.
“You can do almost anything you love. You can figure out how to get funding from your peers or through sales and entrepreneurship and this often gives people who are passion-based a really strong launch pad to continue that lifestyle of following passion, being curious and having an impact,” said Mazen.
As he discussed his work as co-founder and C.E.O. of danger!awesome in his presentation, Mazen played “Last Leaf,” a music video by the band OK Go directed by Mazen and fellow M.I.T. graduate Ali Mohammed in 2010. Using stop-motion, the video features a unique combination of laser-cut images drawn in 3,000 pieces of toast.
“[What I found most interesting about Mazen] is his commitment to accessibility and his willingness to break social structure conventions. I also like how he believes in trying something six times and doing it quickly and badly and improving on that, rather than trying to make something perfect the first time,” said Tamar Sifri ’16.
In his time at Andover, one of Mazen’s most valuable experiences included working on an independent project with Thomas Hodgson, Instructor in Philosophy and Religious Studies, and looking at the precepts of American teaching and learning.
“[The independent project] was really powerful because it gave me a chance to explore my passions in high school, which I had thought as the place where you follow rules and do what people tell you. I experienced [Andover] as a much more passion-based experience, especially towards the end of my time,” said Mazen.
“I remember Nadeem as bright, hardworking, independent and principled. He clearly continues to exemplify all of those qualities in ways that are ever more admirable. I am particularly inspired by his work on the Cambridge City Council. He combines hard work, honesty, persistence, articulateness, courage and commitment to the general good in ways that are exemplary,” said Hodgson.
At Andover, Mazen was also a member of Boys Varsity Squash and Varsity Ultimate. He noted that the experiences he gained from both teams taught him about teamwork and leadership.
“Ultimate Frisbee for me with [Head Coach] Scott Hoenig was incredible education and teamwork. I wasn’t always succeeding, so I learned a lot about how not to lead and how to lead from [Hoenig’s] example and from people like Greg Booth ’02, who was the captain. Greg taught me a lot about the interpersonal aspects of being a high achiever,” said Mazen.
Mazen encourages students to find their passion and to find the balance between pursuing their passions and investing in a financial plan to support their endeavors.
“I would definitely say find your passion. Find what makes you wake up early, despite four hours of sleep, to love. Find a way that you can attach it to some kind of financial process or plan. The idea of following your dreams is great… but you have to find that mix… so that you’re not left high and dry when you graduate and you’re like, ‘What am I supposed to do with my life?’ ” said Mazen.
Mazen first learned about the “maker movement,” the growth of the availability of spaces for innovation around the world, 15 years ago at the M.I.T. Media lab. He has since been a leading voice in education and the “maker movement.”