I was honored to feature my friend, Mahtab Rezai of Crux Collaborative, in my “Inspiring Women” column for Minnesota Business magazine. The fact that her feature appeared in the “Women Who Lead” issue was no accident; I admire Mahtab as a leader both personally and professionally.
Collaboration is Mahtab’s leadership style and she works to bring people together around solutions. This shows up in her business, of course, but also in her social justice work. Mahtab identifies as both an American and an immigrant from Iran, and this collaborative identity is becoming the norm in the US. As American becomes “browner,” Mahtab feels it’s her duty to educate others on inclusivity and what a modern America looks like.
“As a business owner, Mahtab integrates how she personally and professionally operates. “Crux Collaborative is my prototype of what a workplace can be,” she shares. “People show up with their full selves. Our business proves that you can laugh every day at work and also demonstrate incredible expertise and professionalism.” Mahtab works on transactional experiences for regulated industries like health care and financial services, and while these aren’t the sexiest industries, she finds they have the largest opportunity for innovation. “I know things about how humans interact with software. My clients know the critical things about the data and types of plans there are and what the limitations are. The people who use this are the ones who really know what they need. I love being able to create a construct where I’m able to bring all of us together to create a solution.
Mahtab’s identity is a collaboration as well. “I identify as American wholeheartedly. I also identify as an immigrant wholeheartedly,” she shares. “To me, these are great things. They are not contradictions and the term ‘American’ can house all of them.” Mahtab’s family came to the United States when she was six years old in order for her father to study English. A few months after they arrived, there was a fundamental Islamic revolution and as members of the Baha’i faith, they needed to find a way to stay in the U.S. to escape religious persecution in Iran. She spent part of her childhood growing up in married student housing at the University of Minnesota and watched as her parents went to school, got jobs and learned English. “My parents integrated pretty quickly within one generation,” says Mahtab. “We are the only country in the world that creates people who come in as one nationality and then identify as American within one to two generations.” Mahtab is passionate and definitively states, “Integration happens. That is the American story.”