Dallas—As a teenager in Iran in the 1970s, Anousheh Ansari looked to the night sky and dreamed of going to space.
When she was a teenager, she moved with her family to the United States. She couldn’t speak English, but as she learned the language, she says she was able to communicate through her love of science and math.
That foundation led to bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical and computer engineering from George Mason University and George Washington. After a stint at telecommunications firm MCI (where she met her husband, Hamid Ansari), she founded Telecom Technologies along with Hamid and her brother-in-law Amir Ansari.
About 10 years ago, Ansari founded Prodea, an IT company based in suburban Dallas. Prodea sells software that connects IoT-enabled devices, while also tracking and analyzing the data emitted from the devices.
Ansari didn’t give up on her interest in space. In 2006, she became the first woman space tourist to travel to the International Space Station. After her eight-day sojourn in space, Ansari, along with her family, created the Ansari XPrize, which offered a $10,000,000 prize to the first non-governmental organization to launch a reusable manned spacecraft into orbit twice in two weeks.
Last February, Ansari mingled with a different set of stars when she accepted the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film for Asghar Farhadi. The Iranian director of “The Salesman” had skipped the Academy Awards ceremony in protest of Trump administration policies that banned Muslims from certain countries from the United States.
In this week’s “Five Questions For,” Ansari advises college graduates not to be a in a hurry to find that first job, why she wanted to work on the Starship Enterprise, and chocolate. Here is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.
Xconomy: What career advice do you give to new college graduates?
Anousheh Ansari: I tell them basically to not be in a hurry to take the first job but to actually spend time thinking about what type of organization they want to be part of. It’s not just a job; it’s the culture of the company that is important, whether you’re part of a large organization or a startup. What do they want to learn? Do … Next Page »