Snell & Wilmer attorney Bahar Schippel shares her story during September’s Professional Women’s Alliance luncheon. (Photo by Bill Haley)

Born in Iran in 1969 to Baha’i parents, Bahar Schippel experienced the horrors of the Iranian revolution and the devastating impact it had on families.

The most difficult period in Bahar’s life occurred in 1979 when the regime of Ayatollah Khomeini began a process of religious cleansing of non-Muslims, which included her family. Her parents’ jobs were eliminated and her family’s assets were frozen. After going into hiding for months, Bahar’s parents quietly arranged to send her to an international boarding school in India to protect her life and future. Bahar lived at the school for seven years, with very little contact with her family. In 1986, Bahar’s family escaped from Iran and was welcomed into the United States as refugees, where they began to build a new life from scratch.

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Fast forward 30 years and Bahar is now a partner and nationally recognized tax attorney at Snell & Wilmer, one of the largest law firms in the western United States and is a leader in the community in which she lives and works.

During the Sept. 11 Professional Women’s Alliance luncheon, Bahar discussed the lessons she learned from the hardships she experienced during her formative years and how that adversity helped develop the outlook and perspective she uses to succeed in her career and to have a positive influence on others.

Here are key takeaways from her deeply personal and insightful comments:

  • Embrace Adversity: Life is challenging. Life is unpredictable. Life is often unfair. But adversity prepares us for life. It builds our mind, our spirit and our character. Make it a friend, not a foe.
  • Focus on the Positive: In today’s hectic world, it is easy to take simple joys for granted and to focus on the negative. Fight that urge with a passion.
  • Understanding over Judgment: We are all more than the color of our skin, our country of origin or our respective professions. Each of us has a unique story to tell. Listen to the stories of others. Take the time to understand and appreciate our differences. That process has the power to unify.
  • Don’t Focus on Things or Outcomes: Of course you should work hard and strive for excellence. But find a sense of satisfaction regardless of the result. You are not defined by your circumstances. But you are defined, at least in part, by how you respond to circumstances.
  • Help Others: We cannot get through life completely on our own. Seek out mentoring opportunities. And help those less fortunate. Make your communities a better place for all those who live and serve there.
  • Show compassion! Kindness never closes doors. It only opens them.

The next Professional Women’s Alliance features Police Chief Jeri Williams and Fire Chief Kara Kalkbrenner on Tuesday, Oct. 10. The duo will discuss how they are making an impact in the community and share insights into being the first women to ever lead Phoenix’s police and fire departments. Register Today!

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