From Engineer to Executive: How curiosity and courage has guided the career of 3M Canada President, Mojdeh Poul
When Mojdeh Poul first moved from Iran to the U.S. to pursue an engineering degree, she planned on returning home after finishing her studies. The curiosity and courage that brought her there ended up keeping her there, then led her from engineering into marketing, and ultimately into her current role as president of 3M Canada.
By Hailey Eisen
In 1984, Mojdeh Poul, the fourth daughter in a family of five, left her home in Iran for the United States. A passionate math and sciences student, with a strong desire to receive an Engineering degree, Mojdeh enrolled at the University of Louisville, where her older sister was living at the time.
Mojdeh arrived armed with the values that her parents had instilled in her since she was a child. “It was my father who encouraged me to have the confidence in my potential and capabilities, and my mother who taught me to have discipline and high standards for myself,” she recalls. She assumed she would return to Iran upon completing her Bachelor of Science and Master of Engineering degrees, but she decided to stay and explore opportunities within the US that wouldn’t have been possible in Iran.
As a young engineer at General Electric, Mojdeh interacted often with customers, and found she enjoyed the challenge of helping them solve their problems. She began to wonder about transitioning into a more customer-facing role. Once she left the industrial world of GE to join the world of medical devices and healthcare, she shared this ambition with her new boss and was given some advice on how to successfully continue pivoting her career. “I was advised that an MBA would help facilitate the move into the marketing world, and help broaden my horizons,” she recalls. “And, it proved to do exactly that.” Shortly after she began her MBA studies in 1992, she was given an opportunity in a marketing role, despite her lack of prior marketing experience.
Mojdeh also recalls the sense of purpose she felt when she started working in an industry where she contributed to improving and saving lives. “Working on something you’re passionate about gives you that extra boost of energy and engagement that stretches you to do more every day,” she says.
In 2011, she began working at 3M in the US, where she held a number of functional and business leadership positions before being appointed president of 3M Canada in September of 2016. From management, into functional leadership roles, and executive positions, Mojdeh says her career has really been about harnessing her curiosity and courage to always look and stretch beyond. It’s an attitude that has made her a great fit for her current company. “The wonderful thing about 3M,” explains Mojdeh, “is that there are so many opportunities, so many possibilities, within the organization to be challenged, gain a diverse set of experiences, and contribute.”
As the 3M Canada president, she’s responsible for the entire 3M portfolio in Canada — some of which she didn’t have experience with, but was eager to learn all about. “Early in my career — when I was a young, impatient leader, constantly looking for my next role — one of the best pieces of advice I got was to always fully immerse myself in learning my business, customers, and market, and focus fully on delivering results. I was told if I did those things that my next role would always find me, and it always has.”
Mojdeh is certainly fully immersed — not only with learning about her customers within the many industries that 3M serves, but also with understanding Canada’s unique culture. “When I lived in the US, I just assumed Canada and the US were almost the same — but what I’ve found, very early on, is that Canadian culture is indeed different,” she says. The change has been inspiring for someone who’s driven by curiosity. Mojdeh, her husband, and her 13-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter have been taking this opportunity to explore Canada from coast to coast, having already visited Whistler, Banff, Niagara Falls, and Newfoundland, to name a few.
Looking back to her first big move, Mojdeh says none of her career success would have been possible if her father hadn’t been so supportive of her desire to leave Iran to study engineering. “He always told us there was nothing we couldn’t do if we set our minds to it — instilling the confidence in me that’s guided me throughout my career.”