Personal

On January 27, 1954, a baby boy was born in a village called Chartar located in the Armenian region of Karabagh. His parents named him Levon. On July 20, 1955, a baby girl was born in another village of Karabagh - Getashen. She was named Nelli. The paths of Levon and Nelli crossed in 1973, while they were both studying computer science at Yerevan State University. They liked each other, then they loved each other, then they decided to get married. With the blessing of God and in the presence of 600 people, they wed in Chartar on April 14, 1979. One of the best families in the world was created.
 

On February 15, 1980, Levon and Nelli had their first baby boy. He was named Ashot. That baby was me. On June 23, 1981, the second son was born in that family and he was named Ara.

 This is one of my first pictures with my Dad.

 I was born and raised in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. Armenia is a wonderful country and it's heart - Yerevan - is a beautiful place with many historic monuments. I love Yerevan and it played a great role in shaping my personality. During my childhood, I spent almost 2-3 months of every summer in our village - Chartar, and since then I felt in love with the gorgeous land of Karabagh and it's wonderful people.

I don't remember much from my early childhood. Like other kids in my neighborhood, I grew up by playing soccer, fighting with other guys, learning street diplomacy and studying in school. I was a straight A student and managed to keep that tradition through my life. When I was approximately 11 years old, I read my first book which was the "Three Musketeers" by Alexandre Dumas and very much enjoyed it. I read a considerable number of similar novels in the next couple of years. I went to a special science-oriented high school in Yerevan called Fizmat. Fizmat was the best high school in Armenia at that time and studying there was academically challenging, but also fun. During my years at Fizmat I started to participate in math and computer science Olympiads and started to realize the true beauty of math and computer programming. I became a winner of a number of nationwide Olympiads during that period and as a member of Armenian team participated in the International Olympiads in Bombay (India, 1996, math) and in Budapest (Hungary, 1996, computer science). The Olympiads have been very interesting life experience for me. They were very competitive and they required creative and non-standard thinking. I love competing and that love started from those Olympiads. 

During my high school years, my father was working in Syracuse, NY for 1.5 years and my Mom, Ara and I were staying with him. It was an interesting and challenging period in my life. It was interesting because I went to an American high school and it was interesting to learn a new language, new culture and new customs. On the other hand it was challenging because even though I was respected in our school (I was the leader of its math team), I didn't have any friends there. I think almost all students that come to US during middle school or high school years from countries that are poorly represented in US schools go through such period of time. That experience, however, gave me an opportunity to learn that a person can live a reasonably happy life for some time without having friends and for that a very high level of self respect and self confidence is required.

I finished the Fizmat high school in Yerevan and then spent 3 years doing my bachelor studies at Yerevan State University (YSU). I majored in computer science. It was a 4 year program and  I had to study with quite heavy load in order to finish my degree in 3 years before our planned arrival to the US in the summer of 1999. During this period I was also working on a certain software project and from having a very tight schedule I learned that with careful planning one can complete substantial tasks in a very limited amount of time and still have sufficient time for social activities. 

During my undergraduate years I started to think about philosophical questions such as what is life, what is death, what happens after death, what shall I do with my life, etc. I spent considerable amount of time thinking about these questions and came to the conclusion that most of the questions of this type are extremely hard, nobody knows their answers (although many people think they do) and that it's useless and sometimes even harmful to think about them. I concluded that the only question that I truly needed to answer was "What shall I do with my life?". And I realized that I had to answer this question if I were to have a successful and happy life. I was able to clearly formulate my life goals while I was still a student at YSU. It took significant amount of time to come to that point and I think it was an important milestone in my life.

In the summer of 1999, when I was 19 years old, my family came to the USA for the second time. We settled in Houston. I spent two years at the University of Houston doing my masters studies majoring in applied math. During that time I worked as a Teaching Assistant (TA) and taught recitation sessions for Calculus classes. Judging from student evaluations, I was a very successful TA. I really enjoyed that job. I loved teaching sometimes not-so-interesting Calculus material and seeing students' faces light up when they suddenly understood something that hadn't been clear before.

I guess that many people who knew me thought that I would choose an academic career i.e. do a Ph.D., then get a professorship at some university and do a scientific research and teach for the rest of my life. I decided not to choose that route, because I know that by nature I like exciting jobs, challenges, risks, big rewards and I didn't see those opportunities in career of a scientist (at least for me). Many people told me that "You have the talents to become an excellent scientist", but I knew that I didn't have the passion for that.

After finishing my masters degree, I worked for a few months at Los Alamos National Laboratories and after that I spent a few months working for a .com company. Currently I work at the Math Department of MIT and develop educational software tools that professors use in classrooms and for homework assignments.


Things that I like in life

Business:

Business is very interesting for me. It changes every day, it evolves quite rapidly and it's very challenging. To be successful in business, one needs to have a strong analytical mind and exceptional human skills, a skill set required in very few professions. It is very likely that someday I would consider a career in business because it's such a good match with my nature and my skills.
 

Politics:

I love it. It's quite similar to business in a sense that it requires almost the same skill set, but it's a much more dirty game. I read news every day and I very much enjoy following political events and participating in them as much as I can. I participate in Armenian lobbying efforts in Congress. It doesn't take much time from me, yet it does make a difference for Armenia. And it's always fun to get a letter in your mailbox from your Senator or your House Representative addressing your questions and concerns.
 

Armenia:

I love Armenia. It's a great country. Unfortunately it is going through a challenging social period as it moves towards democracy and capitalism after the collapse of the Soviet system. I think that we - Armenians around the world - should do our part to make that transition as smooth as possible.  
 

Kids:

They are great. They are pure. They are innocent. They do not practice politics (or it's very obvious and fun when they do) and I really enjoy playing with them. I think adults can learn a thing or two about human nature by playing with kids. I have one great brother, but I wish I had more brothers and sisters. I believe that children are the greatest treasures of a person and I want to have at least 4 or 5 of those treasures when I'll get married.
 

Good Company:

I guess I should've written this in the first place. Spending time in a good company, whether it be with a family or with friends or both, is probably the best thing in life. 
 

Few personal thoughts

I consider myself a very lucky person. I have been born in a wonderful family with quite good set of talents. Those two factors - the family in which one was born and the talents that one was given at the time of  his/her birth - are probably the two most important factors determining person's life road and it's success. And both of these factors are outside one's control. I consider myself lucky because both of these factors of mine - given to me by God through my parents - are great. I've been raised in a family which enforces highest moral standards and currently I live in a country that offers the greatest opportunities. I'm truly lucky and I feel that I can achieve a lot in my life. I strongly believe, however, that those of us who are fortunate in life (and I don't necessarily mean financially) should help those that are not as lucky as we are.

It's good to have a clear set of goals in life. In that case you clearly know what you want to achieve in life and you don't wake up in the morning by thinking, pardon the language, "What the hell am I gonna do today? Who needs that? My life is going nowhere :((. Life sucks !! ". It's probably a good idea to put a very high goal(s) for your life. If you achieve it, that's terrific. Even if you don't achieve it, you'll probably achieve substantial part of it which itself would be a considerable life achievement.

In order to be successful in life, one needs to work hard. But working smart is much more important.


Interesting Website Of The Day:  Cayole Cruises