Mona Vand (Pharm. D) thought she found her calling as she pursued a career as a pharmacist, but once she started practicing, she was left feeling unfulfilled. After gaining traction on multiple media platforms, she realized she found meaning in uplifting others and could inspire others to choose a healthy lifestyle by sharing her personal wellness practices on her YouTube Channel, Instagram, and her highly informative blog (linked in the button below!). Mona grew not only as a pharmacist, but a consultant, ingredient connoisseur, and all-around clean living expert. You actually may recognize Mona from Bravo TV's Shahs of Sunset, a reality television series that follows a group of Iranian-American friends living in Beverly Hills. In addition, she has been featured on NBC, The Telegraph, The Doctors, and more.
Mona's mission is to make people's journey to healthy living a smooth and easy transition. I have been keeping up with her for a couple years now and love that we not only share a cultural background as Iranian-Americans, but I deeply admire her integrity; she doesn’t promote something that she does not believe in. I have learned quite a few tips from her that I have started implementing into my own nutrition and beauty routines. She is truly a pharmacist turned entrepreneur! Read more about Mona's journey to finding her calling in this spotlight.
1. Rarely is someone's journey linear. Can you explain what you wanted to be when you grew up, and how your career landed where you are right now?
When I was younger, I wanted to be a news anchor, but my family wasn't very supportive, as they wanted me to study medicine because it had more job security. Once I graduated I quickly learned that being a pharmacist wasn't the right fit for me. I started to explore other avenues, and when I saw that blogging was an up and coming career, I started to use the knowledge I had gained from my doctorate and my work experience as a pharmacist to share healthy lifestyle and wellness tips in a relatable way. I was and still am intrigued by media and television, so launching a YouTube channel and doing guest appearances on TV have been such a fun way to check that box for me and combine the kind of career I always wanted; using the education I earned and creating videos about topics I’m passionate about. I honestly now feel so fulfilled in my career. It definitely wasn't linear, there were a million ups and downs (which would take me the whole interview to even get through if I had to name them all)!
2. Which single word do you most identify with?
Love. Elegance. Clean. All 3!
3. What moment/experience in your life was the most formative in your development as a woman in the professional world?
When I first launched my brand, I didn't know what I was doing so I wanted to book a meeting with this woman, Marki Costello. In order to get to her you had to take her bootcamp class, which was a $500 fee, and you had to do things like get up in front of the room and read off a teleprompter, which I had never done before. It was such an intimidating day for me. After completing the bootcamp, I finally was able to meet her and showed up to our meeting very organized with ideas and notes and photos. I had never pitched my idea to anyone, so I was nervous and wanted to be prepared. I told her my thoughts and what I wanted to do with this idea of launching “Dr. Mona Vand”. After I started explaining, she stopped me, and I could see she was so passionate about what I was saying. Marki told me she loved this idea and “There is nothing that will make this not successful unless you don't give it your all.” My eyes were literally watering because having her affirmation was huge considering this was a dream of mine that I had never shared with anyone before. She even stopped and asked, “are you getting emotional?” to which I replied, yes, because that was the moment I knew what I wanted to do career-wise for the rest of my life!
4. As a fellow Iranian woman, what is your favorite thing about Persian culture?
So many things it’s hard to pick one. But I’d have to say it’s how we treat our family and just the general warmth and affection that is ingrained in the language and culture. I think what is so unique is that a huge part of Iranian culture is being loving and kind. From the way we treat guests that come to our homes, to how we treat our family, and the terms of endearment we use with even strangers - it really has shaped me as a person and I think that's why people say I'm such a warm person. I think that's another reason why when one Iranian runs into another, we get excited - there is a genuine understanding of kindness that comes with the culture.
5. What advice would you give other women going into the professional world?
One strong piece of advice is to never think you have to flirt your way to getting what you want. When I was younger and men in the business or professional world would flirt with me or compliment me, I used to think that I should just be polite and laugh it off. I thought that would get me further in life. But then you realize you don't owe that to anyone, and just because someone is flirting with you doesn’t mean they want / or are going to promote you. I think as women we believe we should always be sweet and polite but it's just not worth your energy. Spend your precious energy on bettering and empowering yourself, and don’t be intimidated. If you see something wrong, don't be afraid to speak up. I had a bad experience at one independent pharmacy I worked at for 3 years when I was 25. My boss (who was older and married) constantly made me uncomfortable but I was afraid to speak up because it took me a year to get that opportunity and I didn’t want to lose my job. Looking back, I wish I could have told my younger self to speak up and get out, it’s not worth it!
6. Describe a time when you were underestimated in your career. How did you react? What did you learn?
When I first launched my brand, I was working with a team of four men. When we were talking about how to brand me - what I should wear, things I should do - they were all pushing against what I wanted. They told me I was going to come off unrelatable and non-marketable and they were trying to make me so bland and boring. They would dress me in clothing that just wasn’t me (lab coats and button downs, slacks, not even cool ones!). It took the fire out of my soul, and you could literally see it in my content and energy on camera, that stuff resonates! But all of these men were more successful than me, so I thought I had to listen to them to be successful. At the end of the day, money can't make you happy so that partnership fell through 3 months later and I started going in my own direction. My content improved drastically and everything fell into place much more. I learned to trust myself more, and your audience can tell when you’re authentic so it’s important to always be yourself.
7. What are 3 habits you encourage young women to practice in efforts to live a healthier lifestyle?
Some form of independence is important. Living to only take care of other people takes the passion out of your life. This doesn't have to mean financial independence, I know every situation is different, and whether you decide to live with your family, be a stay at home mom, etc. you just have to have your own thing you care about. I think so many people don't know this until they experience it. I used to think I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom and not work, but once I found my career path, everything changed. I never knew I had it in me because it wasn't who I was in my young 20's, but I’m so glad I found this fire inside of me that I didn’t know existed. Pushing through for something you're passionate about feels so good.
2) Be kind, but be strong
I think kindness is such an important quality that I didn't value as much when I was younger, but as I became older I found it to be the most important quality. I think femininity is the perfect balance of kindness and strength.
3) Work on confidence
This is one of the most important things. I think so many young girls don’t have it because of their conditioning. But true confidence can just take you so far in life - a lot of times when you meet someone you think good looks is what carries them, but confidence is what draws you to people. So, don't put so much emphasis on looks, and a lot of times the prettiest girls have the least confidence because they spend all their time focusing on looks. I think focusing on being confident from a young age is so important because the time you spend on this will make a difference.
8. You are incredibly ambitious! What motivates you?
Being happy! Working towards these goals gives me excitement and it's literally fun. Loving what you do is important. I used to have a hard time being motivated working for someone else. I didn't care enough about someone else's business. If you saw me working at a pharmacy, you'd think I was a completely different person. I willingly took 4 different pay cuts in my career as a pharmacist trying different work environments because I kept wanting to find a different company or job that I might enjoy more. But I realized it just wasn’t for me. This doesn't necessarily have to fit everyone else… Many people work for companies they love and work hard to work their way up. It's just about being fulfilled and happy and excited. I truly find happiness at this point in my career doing what I do – which motivates me every day to keep going.
9. Who is your female icon?
I have 2 - Amal Clooney & Jessica Alba.
10. How can women practice self-care during stressful seasons in the workplace?
A few practical tips here are waking up early to have some peace of mind before work. I'm huge on how you start your day and having time to yourself is so important in the morning. Maybe it's reading a book - whatever it is. No one wants to wake up and start their day immediately. At work - switching from coffee to green tea, drinking more water, etc. are amazing ways to lower stress and increase your immunity (no one wants to be sick during a stressful season). More communication at work with co-workers too is a good way to diffuse small issues that could turn into larger ones. Another one is incorporating breathing exercises at your desk, and maybe even eating at your desk so you can use your lunch break to meditate, walk, exercise, etc.