Often when National Guard servicemen and women are called upon to deploy overseas, their careers go on hold. But for Rob Randolph, the opposite happened. His yearlong deployment in Iraq at the height of the 2004-05 insurgency lent a sense of urgency to efforts to get his career moving.

Randolph, who grew up in Missouri and now works in mergers and acquisitions in Ernst & Young Global’s downtown L.A. office, was stationed at Tallil Airbase near Nasiriyah, southeast of Baghdad. During his 12-month deployment, he had his share of close calls and endured daily helicopter and fighter jet noise.

This daily pressure and the ever-present prospect of sudden death focused his mind.

“It did two things,” he said. “It taught me how to focus like a laser on the mission at hand. But it also forced me to change how I look at life: Instead of letting things come to me, as I had before, I realized I had to be more ambitious about what I wanted to get out of life.”

So, when Randolph, 33, completed his deployment and returned home to Missouri, he accelerated his plans to embark on a career in accounting and finance. He attended the University of Missouri, and as graduation approached, he got more aggressive about going after accounting and finance jobs, landing a position in Ernst & Young’s St. Louis office.

Three years ago, Randolph transferred to Los Angeles so that he could indulge his growing hobby for mountaineering and other outdoor activities. His next mission: climbing Mount Whitney in the fall.

New Tech Beachhead

Cameron Kashani is the self-professed Godmother of Silicon Beach.

For years, she supported the growth of local tech startups as co-founder of Santa Monica’s Coloft, a co-working space. By hosting networking events, hackathons, and providing office services to startup tenants, Kashani has become deeply ingrained in the local tech startup economy.

Now, she’s ingraining herself in a new tech scene – in the Middle East.

As part of the U.S. State Department’s Speaker Program, a diplomatic outreach program that sends American speakers abroad to talk about topics ranging from the arts to business, Kashani has started sharing her knowledge with female entrepreneurs in Kuwait and Bahrain.

“I’m a guest of the ambassador of the embassy with full VIP status,” said Kashani, 34. “I met with anybody from entrepreneurs that need some encouragement, parliament to ministers. I help spread the message of peace in the form of entrepreneurship.”

Kashani aims to take that message to all residents of the Middle East, but finds particular pride in helping female entrepreneurs develop their businesses.

“I think women don’t realize how powerful they are,” she said.

Ultimately, Kashani said her travels to the Middle East have reshaped how she sees the region and its people.

“The Middle East is not scary at all,” she said. “I was blown away by the beauty of these people and their commitment to each other, and the incredible pride they have in their country.”

Staff reporters Howard Fine and Garrett Reim contributed to this column. Page 3 is compiled by Editor Jonathan Diamond. He can be reached at jdiamond@labusinessjournal.com.

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