Danny Tehrani started his career at a place that, as of late, has been unusually busy because of the COVID-19 pandemic: Costco.
And while he worked there for a dozen years, these days he’s doing something else that’s seeing an uptick during the pandemic: helping set up people to work from home. Tehrani, 49, owns Computers Made Easy Inc., a tech firm with a team of 18 employees located in a strip of businesses along Northeast Greenwood Drive, not far from Vancouver Mall.
Once the federal government on March 16 issued social-distancing guidelines that mandate avoiding groups of more than 10 people, many companies that hadn’t allowed work-from-home options were allowing. Now, Washington residents are enduring a stay-at-home order.
“That’s the bulk of our work right now,” Tehrani said. “We have about 3,200 computers that we are responsible for in Clark County and Portland, and other places like Seattle and Arizona. We’re responsible for every computer on the network, protecting them and ensuring the latest updates and everything from there.”
Anything with digits
At Costco, the nationwide chain popular for buying home goods in bulk, Tehrani started working the store’s computer section when he was 17 years old and a student at Fort Vancouver High School. By that point, he had already had quite a ride in life.
Tehrani fled his home country of Iran in 1984 when he was 14 years old, during the Iran-Iraq War. The Austria-based Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society helped Tehrani get to the United States.
“I went through that channel and became a U.S. citizen when I just turned 15. I did that by myself,” he said, adding that he grew up a Jewish Iranian. “I left my parents behind; my brothers were over here (in the U.S.). It took about a year to get here.”
The job at Costco would change his life forever. Already interested in technology, he gravitated to the store’s computer section.
“I have liked electronics since I was a kid,” he said. “I had an electronic watch. I was crazy about it. Anything that had digits on it. I loved it. So when I got into computers, it was like a dream come true.”
While computers were a new household item in the early 1990s, he would go to customers’ homes and set them up for them.
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“I met a lot of businesspeople. While I set it up in their homes, I worked my way into their businesses,” Tehrani said, working independently on the side while still employed at Costco.
“I started my business in 1995. It took about seven years to fully let go of Costco in 2002,” Tehrani said. “In 2004, I hired my first employee, Mike Schilpp. He’s still with us. Back in the day, we were just helping a lot of home users. We evolved into a management service provider. We take over the entire IT (information technology) infrastructure of an entire company.”
Those 3,200 computers belong to “a couple hundred clients,” he said.
As the owner, Tehrani still maintains a very active role in the company, jumping between doing engineer work on computers to sales roles in attracting and retaining clients.
Work from home skyrockets
As the pandemic ensues, the number of those working remotely have skyrocketed, translating to many more requests for help for Computers Made Easy Inc.
There’s no official data out there for the in-the-moment numbers, but a 2017 report by the United StatesU.S. Census Bureau disclosed an increase of 4.2 million home-based workers between 2007 and 2010, or 13.4 million out of 142 million workers were working remotely.
Of course, it’s not an option for all types of workers — mail delivery is still done in person; grocery workers must still be on site, among many other types of jobs.
“From our own experience, we’ve had people work remotely before but never full time. Now over half of our office is working from home,” said Schilpp, 38, Tehrani’s second in command, adding that they’ve actually observed a spike in productivity. They’re planning to reevaluate how they’ve historically handled employees working from home.
“I think it’s going to be a big eye-opener for the ones who really shied away from the tech until now,” Tehrani said.
Thriving in crisis
As for Tehrani, he’s seeing the pandemic as a welcome challenge professionally.
“You know, I’m great. I kind of thrive in crisis,” he said. “Obviously I don’t wish ill for anyone, but it’s a good opportunity for us to help our clients.”
And as for his tumultuous journey fleeing the war in Iran, he “wouldn’t want it any other way.”
He lives in Camas now, not far from his mother, who was eventually able to move to the United States too. Married for 24 years, he has two children, ages 20 and 18.
“I consider my life very lucky. What I went through, coming here from a third-world country — I wouldn’t have those opportunities that I have here,” he said. “I pray about that every day.”