Hooman Majd is an journalist and author with a focus on Iranian issues. Originally from Tehran, Iran, Hooman spent much of his young life on the move due to his parents’ careers, as his father was a diplomat for the Shah.
After settling in as a boarder at St Paul’s, Hooman then made the leap to the US for university. Interestingly, Hooman had actually spent much of his young life in the United States before he began boarding in England. Hooman studied at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where he received a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering in 1977. We recently asked Hooman for some of his thoughts on St Paul’s, life as a student in the United States, and his career path, which was anything but straightforward.
What year did you leave St Paul’s School?
What clubs, teams, or societies were you involved in?
I was a rower up to “Colts A”, but quit after not making the 1st VIII, which I took as a great offense. I was rather arrogant back then.
Please share three of your fondest memories of St Paul’s.
Winning a tankard at Chiswick Regatta, 1972, sneaking out of School House at 11pm on a Saturday and not returning until 5am the next day and not getting caught! Hanging out with my best friend Davitt Sigerson in the Anglo-American room, which we took over as our private office. I never had to use my carrel subsequently.
Where did you study for your bachelor’s degree? What year and in which field did you receive it?
I studied at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Received Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering in 1977. I studied E.E. because rather foolishly I had taken science A-levels, mainly because that was what my older brother did and what my parents wanted me to do. I studied engineering, again because my father wanted me to, even though he knew I was not going to use the degree. His argument was that a science degree would always be useful if my other ambitions didn’t work out.
Where did you study for your master’s or doctorate degree? What year and in which field did you receive it?
I stayed at GWU for another two years until the Iranian revolution, studied Operations Research, but didn’t complete my degree.
Can you describe what you do now for work and how you arrived at your current position?
I’m a writer and consultant—I have authored 3 books and numerous articles, and I consult a major US news network on Iran related matters. Before this, I was in the entertainment business for many years—mostly at Island Records—and left to pursue writing in the early 2000’s firstly because the business was contracting and secondly because writing had always been one of my ambitions. The Iran connection and writing about Iranian issues came about because I wanted to reconnect with my heritage, and when I first went to Iran after an absence of some 35 years, it seemed natural to write about the experience. One thing led to another, as they say.
What advice would you give to a current pupil who might be interested in your career field?
I would say to anyone who wants to be a writer that they should try to get a job at a newspaper (something I didn’t do), even if they want to write fiction. Journalism is a great discipline. The other advice would be to never give up, if you truly want to write. Becoming successful is not unlike acting—there will be a million rejections before an acceptance, but that doesn’t mean you can’t succeed.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our pupils or alumni?
I’ve not had a traditional career path, nor even what one might think of as a conventional life. My father was an Iranian diplomat under the Shah, so we led a peripatetic life—moving schools every few years until settling at St Paul’s School and staying as a boarder once my parents left England.
Because of the Iranian revolution in 1979, I ended up staying in the US—my original plan had been to go to Iran and join the foreign ministry—and for a while it was difficult to settle on a career that I might be qualified for.
Ultimately, I ended in one that required no particular qualifications, other than common sense, and my writing required luck and talent, in equal measures. So I suppose that common sense was something that was instilled in me by both my parents and by St. Paul’s. Someone once said to me that a British public school prepares one for nothing more than being a good dinner guest. Sounds harsh, but is true in a way, because a good dinner guest must be entertaining, intelligent, knowledgeable, and well-mannered. That might be one good reason to value one’s time at St Paul’s School.