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GEEK OF THE WEEK: MORAN FRIEDMAN

by Nicole Wright | Oct 03, 2014
Three Passions

As a young girl growing up in a suburb of Tel Aviv, Moran Friedman figured she’d be an engineer like her parents. Having an aptitude for numbers, she felt confident pursuing a graduate degree in electrical engineering systems. But in 2007 at one of her first jobs as an analyst in research and development at Motorola in Tel Aviv, Moran began to rethink her commitment to R&D. She found herself listening to the daily stories of a colleague in the venture capital division, a man seeking Israeli research and development start-ups in which Motorola could invest. He spoke to the young engineer of infinite potential and opportunities. Moran credits his stories with opening up a world beyond R&D and piquing her curiosity about the first of her three passions: the world of business.

That curiosity lingered and, after moving to Toronto in early 2010 with her just-married husband, Moran attended an information session about the masters of business administration program at Ryerson University. At the time, Moran was exploring her new hometown before launching her career. “I only went to the session because I happened to be in the area and was curious,” she recalls. “The deadline to enroll had passed so I didn’t even think about where it might lead.” But within a few days, she was cramming for the GMAT exam, and within two weeks, she was accepted to the program starting in May 2010. In fact, her GMAT results were so impressive that the school administration granted her acceptance even though she hadn’t taken the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) qualification exam and hadn’t yet applied for a student visa.

During the program, Moran became immersed in what she describes as a new language—the language of business. “In engineering, the learning is more defined,” she says, “but in the MBA program, it’s more conceptual and requires multi-tasking, prioritizing, coordinating team member schedules and communicating in different ways.” After graduating in 2011, she took a position with the Toronto Region Research Alliance, a government agency. But the role did not make use of her business background as much as she would have liked. So when a fellow student from Ryerson suggested she apply to Environics Analytics, she jumped at the opportunity to apply her skills to help solve real-world business problems. Today, as a Client Advocate in the packaged goods, automotive, public sector and not-for-profit practice, she thrives in the team-oriented environment so reminiscent of her MBA classwork, and she relishes the ability to have an impact on a client’s business.

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While her career feeds her passion for business, Moran says her personal life is fulfilling her passion for family connection. She met her Israeli-born husband, Saar, in 2006 through a friend while he was vacationing with family in Israel. He asked her out right away but, because she was busy with her engineering studies at the University of Tel Aviv, she postponed seeing him until the day before he returned to his home in Toronto. Dinner that evening sparked a three-year, long-distance romance, fostered by hundreds of emails, phone calls and meetings in exotic locales like Alaska, China and Egypt. Then, in the early winter of 2009 Saar suggested she come to Toronto so he could test her cold-weather hardiness. Apparently, she passed the test: he proposed to her at the CN Tower later that spring. A year later, they started a family with the birth of Tom and, two years after that, Dan.

“I love being a mom. It’s a full happiness,” Moran enthuses. “When I pick them up from daycare and they run towards me, I feel wonderful all over.”

“When I have a goal, the means to the end are just details. When you get to your destination, you must look behind you and see how far you’ve come .”

Moran’s third passion, travelling, taps her sense of adventure and interest in culture. Offered a week off, Moran says she and Saar will pack up the boys and take a road trip to Montréal or a flight south to Cuba. Although she loves the intrigue and excitement of visiting new places, Moran says that, with the kids in tow, a trip is no longer about the journey. It’s about arriving at the destination intact—physically and mentally. One trip to Israel was particularly memorable because Saar stayed behind and she had to manage the boys on her own. “There were long line-ups through security and delays at the gate before boarding,” she says. “So by the time we were in flight, the boys were crawling all over me and didn’t sleep a wink. It was twelve hours of true travel torture.”

Admittedly, once the family arrived safely at her parents’ home, Moran deemed the trip a success. Would she do it again? “Oh yes,” she says with a smile. “When I have a goal, the means to the end are just details. When you get to your destination, you must look behind you and see how far you’ve come .”

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In Toronto, this self-proclaimed city girl thrives on the cultural offerings of the diverse city. And she feels fortunate that Saar’s content to stay home with the boys regularly so she can attend a lecture, take a walk or go swimming. As a couple, they make an effort to plan date nights now and then, scheduling a babysitter so they can go out to dinner and a show. The family lives in the north Toronto suburb of Thornhill, which is described by the PRIZM segmentation system as Furs and Philanthropy (upscale, middle-aged and older families). Moran says the neighbourhood is home to mostly older, well-to-do residents, but the area is attracting more young Jewish professionals with young families like hers.

With her jam-packed workdays and busy evenings with the kids, Moran admits that trying to maintain a work-life balance can be overwhelming. But she likes to quote some words of wisdom that a former professor—a renowned scholar on information theory in electrical engineering—taught her: “No matter what the challenge or crisis is, always stay calm and be true to yourself.” And she admits those words come in handy when she’s juggling several deadlines at work and needs to pick up her boys from daycare. “It’s during those moments that I take a deep breath and try to remember to not let the situation take over,” she says.

For now, Moran feels lucky to have the drive and energy to meet the demands of her work, family and travel. But she also feels her three passions fuel her optimism and zest for life. And that attitude comes in handy with so many places in the world waiting for her to explore.

moran3--Nicole Wright
















Moran relaxing at a beach in Tel Aviv in 2011