Michael Rihani graduated from Pamplin in 2008 after earning his bachelor’s in business information technology. He is the founder of every Tech student’s lifeline, Koofers, the website that easily lets students rate classes and teachers, share information and pool resources for studying. He presently works for the crowdfunding platform, Tilt, as the head of Tilter Happiness out in San Francisco.
Michael, thank you for taking the time to talk, could you tell us a little about your current job?
I am the Head of Tilter Happiness, basically it is literally my job to make sure people are happy, so it is not a bad gig. In a more traditional sense, for other companies it may correlate to be more of a customer support team. About fifty percent of our day is talking to customers, and the other fifty percent of our day is gathering feedback for bug fixes to product improvements.
What is your favorite part of the job?
My favorite part of the job is turning detractors, customers who are really upset, and making them promoters. Basically, turning someone who was very upset, they had a really bad experience and really dislike Tilt, and then we had such a pleasant interaction and resolved their problem, they do a complete one-eighty and now they are telling their friends to use Tilt.
What is the key to making that happen?
It is really just being genuine and being human. I am very close to ActivelyCaring4People, that started up at Virginia Tech as a non-profit movement, and I take that into my own personal and professional life. If you actively care for people at the end of the day things will work out.
So you founded Koofers, what was it like balancing the work of Koofers and a full course load?
One, whenever I found opportunities, I would try to blend the two. One specific example, for my BIT project management class, we had to choose a project we were working on, and so I actually used the Koofers class schedule maker as the project, so it was hitting two birds with one stone. I was doing a homework assignment, but also using that to create something for Koofers. The other was just sacrificing things. So instead of studying or hanging out with friends, I would be up coding and working on Koofers. It definitely paid off in the end and worked out alright for me!
Do you have a piece of advice that has really guided you throughout your life or career you’d like to share with us?
Spend your money on experiences, not things. That is actually one of the main reasons I joined Tilt, we do more together. And spending money on experiences with a big group of friends instead of buying the next PlayStation or next iPhone. Using money with your group of friends you actually a get a lot more joy and happiness than just buying stuff, and that is actually scientifically backed.
One of my favorite books, no surprise, is called the happiness advantage, by Shawn Acker. Basically, it is seven principles of positive psychology that fuel success and performance at work. So it is about how happiness increases profits and increases meaningfulness in the workplace.
What is your favorite restaurant in Blacksburg?
Oh, man that is tough, there are so many good spots. I think I will have to go with Green’s. I have been on an organic and more healthy streak in general, I feel like it is a good, clean, and not everything is beer-battered. It is good sushi but also good Middle Eastern food. I know they just expanded as well!
How do you like to spend your free time?
Recently I have been on a big health, fitness, and lifestyle change, so I just picked up my first road bike. I have really been enjoying the beauty of San Francisco and the incredible weather. Also in general I love traveling, and I know that is a very generic answer but more directly, I like not going out too often and going to expensive restaurants and realizing I can save $140 a weekend. There are a lot of cheap round trip tickets to places that I can get more often, to explore and see new business, cultures and entirely new environments.
Michael tries to be as accessible as possible, if you want to learn more about him, he is open on all these different channels!