Exploring the impact of Iran’s instability on my role at Dropbox
While the protests were peaking, I found myself scrolling through endless images tagged #mahsaamini or #womanlifefreedom. Images of young people, with unlived dreams, risking their lives for freedom: I felt awe, fear, and bewilderment. Often, the imagery evoked a visceral sensation of nausea and pain in my gut.
I felt helpless. Beyond sharing information and support on social media, I didn’t think I could contribute to the cause in a tangible way. I also felt guilty. For my life, my freedom.
While holding all of this in, I was trying to show up as my best self at work. I treasure my position as a product designer at Dropbox. It’s something I’ve worked hard for and do not take for granted.
My Iranian-American identity compels me to have an immense amount of gratitude for my life. That’s because I can so clearly see where I could have been. This informs my attitude about what I do for a living. I pride myself on being a hard worker, someone who can be counted on to perform. The unfolding events in Iran challenged my ability to do that.
For all of us, situations like this will arise. How do we process what’s going on in our inner lives while continuing to hone our craft?
Among the core values of Dropbox is creating an environment of safety and “making work human.” During my onboarding, in small groups, I felt comfortable enough to share honestly about my grief as I watched the mass protests escalate in Iran. My onboarding buddies listened, acknowledged my despair, and asked how they could support. Through their empathy—their capacity for humanness—I felt a surprising amount of relief.
My manager was also a beacon of light and pillar of support. She brings her whole self to work and is a role model for doing so. Her willingness to allow space for sharing what I was going through facilitated a release of emotions. I was able to process my grief in real time; which resulted in feeling more embodied and motivated to focus on my work.
For me, this integration was key. Showing up at work as a whole person lessened the possibility of emotional burnout, and kept my spark for design alive.