Tony Safoian: Supporting Systems of Change
Tony Safoian is the CEO of SADA and also the latest Changemaker to join AUA’s exclusive group of visionary philanthropists who have come together to embrace change and build a stronger and more sustainable Armenia.
Born in Armenia, Tony and his family migrated to the United States in 1987 when he was nine years old. Settling in the San Fernando Valley, he mentions the ease of keeping his Armenian heritage alive because of growing up in such a large Armenian community. Nudged by his parents to become a doctor, he attended Bravo Medical Magnet School in East Los Angeles and then entered the University of California, Irvine, undecided in what he wanted to pursue. Tony soon realized he wasn’t that passionate about medicine after taking a philosophy class taught by a very influential professor, which led him to fall in love with the subject. He later continued his studies at the University of Sheffield in England, followed by a job at a startup company, just before the internet bubble burst.
As a result, Tony began to focus on helping out his mother and father, both of whom came from technologic backgrounds. He recalls, “Technology was always an important part of my life and our family. My father, Hovig Safoian, was a technologist, and before we even had furniture, we had a $3,000 computer.” At the time, his father had started an IT services company combined with his mother’s graphic design company, and Tony’s involvement with the company grew to the point where he was brought on as the CEO of SADA in 2003.
Tony credits his mother, Annie Safoian, with cultivating his philanthropic spirit. My mother has always been a strong believer of giving back to the community and helping those in need,” he says, adding that doing the right thing is very important for his family. Having had great success with SADA in the past 20 years, they found themselves in a position to give back, which is why they decided to support AUA and the ChangeMakers campaign. In addition, they also established the Safoian Family Endowed Scholarship Fund at AUA in support of female students pursuing degrees in science and technology, as well as endowed scholarships for veteran students at the University. “We believe there is a lot of untapped potential in Armenia. Our belief is so strong that we’ve opened up a Global Delivery Center in Yerevan as a pathway for local Armenian talent to get into the technology sector,” Tony says.
This spirit of giving is also deeply embedded into the company culture at SADA. He explains how as a company, they provide a donation matching program, hold many fundraisers for various special causes throughout the year, and also make it a point to participate in Holidays from The Heart, where each department sponsors a few families in need and gifts them with grocery gift cards to fulfill their wish list for the holidays. “When you’re in a position to give, it’s just the right thing to do!” he exclaims.
Looking to the future of Armenia, Tony reiterates the importance of the AUA Open Centers of Excellence and their role in progressing the country forward: “The youth are the future of Armenia, and they are the ones in charge of developing a stronger economy and way of life. That is why we feel it is important to invest in their education, especially in the realm of something so powerful as technology.”
He urges others to join the visionary group of Changemakers and support the students in their critical roles as change agents for Armenia. In his advice, he includes the need to treat those around you with love and respect, concluding with, “Never forget what it means to be Armenian… the history, the importance of family and community.”