Sakuu Blog

Employee Spotlight: Nahid Afshar

Nahid Afshar is a bonafide trailblazer in tech manufacturing and the kind of leader who champions the talents of her team as she drives them to collective excellence.

With a long and illustrious career leading continuous process and quality improvement in manufacturing, Nahid knows from experience that a great idea, concept, design, or prototype is only the first baby step between vision and execution. Having taken multiple products through commercialization, her insight is: “Scalability is really something that a lot of people just don’t understand and appreciate — all the hard work and persistence and pain that you have to go through to get there.”


Advancing past seemingly insurmountable obstacles and mastering technical challenges is Nahid’s idea of time well spent.

“I love a good problem! You know, get the team together, lock the doors, ‘Come on, let’s brainstorm, let’s think about it, let’s solve it!’ When you put everyone together and create a solution, improve yields, hit a milestone … It’s just the best reward. When we do something that others couldn’t, that really makes me feel so good.”

Luckily, Nahid’s innate spirit of Kaizen combined with a genuine passion for problem solving and engineering rigor is deftly utilized for being directed at Sakuu’s mission of revolutionizing battery production and manufacturing capability. 

As SVP of Manufacturing Engineering, Quality & Reliability, Nahid leads the teams that pushed Sakuu’s licensable high-energy density Cypress™ Li-Metal battery cell lifecycle from 400 (1C @25ºC) to 965 over the course of just a few months, while also achieving UN 38.3 certification

She does it all with unflagging enthusiasm. “I have to admit that I was monitoring for the results for our UN certification. When the email came through saying, ‘Congratulations, you pass,’ I bolted out of my office screaming and started running around shaking everybody’s hand. And afterwards I brought in cake and sweets, and put it all out on the table for a little party to celebrate. You have to celebrate success. Enjoy it!” Nahid laughs. “I’m already waiting for the next achievement, so I can scream again!”

Nahid doesn’t just chase performance improvement milestones and certifications. She also develops in parallel for both today’s traditional battery manufacturing processes and tomorrow’s Kavian®-enhanced production capabilities. Nahid packages process documentation, and leads transfer teams so sister sites and contract manufacturing customers can build with high yields, low cost, and reliable efficiency. She’s particularly adept at guiding and managing all these complexities and nuances, she notes, “because that’s what I’ve done for the past 20 plus years.” 

To accumulate that expertise, Nahid broke through a lot of barriers facing women who pursue science and engineering careers.

Nahid trained as a chemist at Cal State East Bay. “My dad was a chemical engineer who studied at Oxford, and he really brought me up to be a strong, capable woman,” she said. “He believed I could succeed in anything as long as I worked hard — and that has always been my mode of operation.”

“I’m originally from Iran, and my father was an executive at a petrochemical company there, so my plan was to follow my dad's career path — study chemistry, get my PhD, then go back and run the petrochemical company.” Instead, Nahid wound up staying in Silicon Valley and cultivating a career deeply rooted in the hotbed of technological revolution.

After college, she landed in the burgeoning disc drive industry and started work as a plating engineer at Seagate Technology, Recording Media division, where her aptitude for precision and problem solving found a place to flourish. “I worked day and night back then. As a woman in high tech in those days, it was very, very challenging. Nothing was given to me and I really had to prove myself to show that I was as capable as any man — in many cases, even better.” 


“I worked day and night back then. As a woman in high tech in those days, it was very, very challenging. Nothing was given to me and I really had to prove myself to show that I was as capable as any man — in many cases, even better.”

One of her proudest Seagate moments came when she was selected to represent the company’s ethos at the height of its success. “There was an advertising campaign called ‘The People Ad.’ They picked the best performers out of different divisions, and promoted these individuals as the reason Seagate was best in the disc drive industry. And I was selected, among 42,000 employees. As one of the few women in an all-men's club, to win that visibility was such a homerun. Yeah, I'm very proud of that.”

Nahid spent a decade progressing through Seagate in different roles and expanding her responsibilities. “I was actually in the first group that was selected to go through Six Sigma and lean manufacturing training, and I became an executive director for the media division, with more than 100 engineers and black belts under my watch spanning Ireland, Thailand, China, Malaysia … resolving yield issues, solving problems, bringing good teams together to go after tough challenges, understanding root causes and putting solutions and preventions in place.”

“Six Sigma training was one of the best gifts, honestly, that Seagate gave to me and hundreds of other engineers,” she said. “You don't just look at your area of expertise and focus on one thing, you learn to look at everything,” she said. “For example, when you’re doing fishbone analysis, you look at the people, the environment, the equipment, the process, everything that could go wrong, and everything that has an impact on making something good or bad. It’s investigative. It’s a team process that I totally enjoy. Diverse teams and different opinions add value when it matters, because people have different experiences, and may see things that maybe the next person hasn’t. That kind of collaboration is a force multiplier.” 

Nahid thrived at Seagate for 25 years. “When they were downsizing, they offered me a position moving either to Minneapolis , or moving to Singapore to run operations in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. My son was 10 years old at the time and I didn’t want to leave the country, so I decided to retire from Seagate.” Nahid later joined a local solid-state lighting tech startup called SORAA with “the best LED lighting that you can imagine,” which was founded by Dr. Shuji Nakamura (winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics for his invention of the efficient blue LED). 

“I took the product from development into manufacturing and expanded it to a million lamps a month,” Nahid recalls, “then made a good departure when the company was sold.” After a brief stint with another interesting startup that sadly dissolved, Nahid says Sakkuu CEO Robert Bagheri, “reached out and said ‘I have this fantastic product. We are in development and I need somebody strong like yourself to come and help me take it into manufacturing and expand it and enhance our yields and throughput.’ And that’s how I ended up here at Sakuu.” 


“We are building a beautiful product. I have high standards for myself and my team — I’m very competitive. And we truly do have the state-of-the-art battery with a lithium metal anode, which I’m very, very proud of."

"My team really has done such a great job. And I’m really excited about the next few months and new developments with our dry electrode manufacturing
with the Kavian platform.”

Nahid always credits her teams for success, and relishes the role of mentor.

“I’m like a tough but loving mother, and I’m definitely a cheerleader. The one thing I always tell my teams is to have courage,” Nahid says. “Stand up for what you believe in. Do not let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. The sky’s the limit. Nobody can stop you. If I did it, anybody can do it.”

“Years ago, I was the only woman in the room and it was often hard. Many times I was not even invited to the meetings I needed to be in. But I would just go knock on the door, walk in and politely say, ‘Excuse me. I am one of the engineers,’ then sit down and join in. That would be my advice to a young engineer. Don’t let anybody stop you. Have courage, work hard, be disciplined, and enjoy pursuing success. Go get what is rightfully yours. That’s what we do at Sakuu.”


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