How I Got Here: Ian Lutfiyya on chasing a brighter future for all

How I got here: Ian Lutfiyya on chasing a brighter future for all | Soho House

The Soho Austin Founder member and Inclusivity Board appointee shares his passion for empowering everyone he works with

Friday 17 February 2023   By Soho House

For Ian Lutfiyya, personal success isn’t enough. Not that the technologist and founding limited partner of Looking Glass (which invests in and mentors young entrepreneurs and businesses) is a stranger to success – quite the opposite. Yet the real driving force behind what he does, as he reveals to us here, lies in lifting up the people and communities he works with.

A self-described global citizen, Lutfiyya’s passion for empowering others is what led him to join the Soho House Inclusivity Board, which involves working with other members around the world to help shape our culture of diversity and inclusion. 

Spearheading partnerships with local organisations, activating physical and digital programmes and events, and facilitating the structural growth of our social initiatives on a regional and local level, the board is a crucial element of our continued inclusivity work. None of this would be possible without the hard work and commitment of members such as Lutfiyya, who are so willing to give their time and experience to help do just that. 

We sat down with Lutfiyya to discover how he got where he is today – and why this work is so important to him.

Why is empowering others such an important part of your work?
‘I pride myself on getting results by developing and supporting people to be their best. I value direct, honest and frequent communication – because real, sustainable growth for organisations is achieved when everyone and everything is aligned to very specific, well-defined goals.’

Do you have a guiding motto you try to live by? 
‘From an early age, I internalised the phrase “time is of the essence”, which is thought to originate in The Pacific Railroad Act 1862. The wording implies a real urgency and it helped forge two of the largest companies in US industrial history: the Union Pacific Railroad and the Central Pacific Railroad.’

You’re a very busy man – how do you maintain a balance between work and life?
‘I have to carve out dedicated time for both my work and my personal life. That means balancing intellectually challenging projects – which can leave me drained, but I love – with more replenishing activities. I need Mother Nature: fresh air, green spaces, positivity, and hope. I also occasionally need to strain myself physically. That could be with a three-hour, high-intensity workout or a 15-mile cycle ride.’ 

Where does your drive come from?
‘I was raised in an educationally driven environment. As the youngest child, I saw my siblings set an example: playing two sports, learning an instrument, doing community service – all while maintaining high grades. Some of my earliest memories are of touring Ivy League colleges with them and noticing the limited representation and the curious eyes. 

‘I’ve always been interested in science, tech, the arts and psychology – all of which evolved into the continuous learner mindset I have today. I remind myself: amateurs have a goal; professionals have a process.’

What keeps you feeling motivated?
‘I’m an unwavering optimist. The hustle makes me want to hustle; I’m not materialistic and prefer unique experiences, like running with the bulls in Spain or cherry blossom season in Japan. My family is everything to me, and when it expands I aim to position them in the best situation possible.’

You played American football in college – how has this influenced your career?
‘As a first-generation African American born in the 1990s, sports were one of the strongest connectors in our diaspora: Jordan, Pele, Magic and Tyson were running the world. When I was young, I was blessed with the stature and discipline to differentiate myself in the game, but at college I entered a more equalised pool. Adaptability and resilience become my most crucial skills – learnings that have proven an essential part of my career journey since then.’  

Where are we most likely to find you in Soho House?
‘In the movie theatre or Cowshed spa. I’ll be watching a film, doing a workout or having a massage. Or maybe just lounging with an Eastern Standard cocktail.’

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