Action Defines Character
Jigesh Parekh manages technology products, MBA studies—and a family of professional boxing champs on the side
When describing what makes a boxer a champion, Jigesh Parekh (MBA 2023) cites his favorite Greek philosopher. Epictetus, who was born into slavery circa 50 AD and rose to become a respected teacher, believed in the importance of self-discipline and that action defines character.
These teachings resonate with Parekh, a character who is very much defined by action and discipline in his roles as student, technology professional and combat sports entrepreneur.
“Epictetus taught that every difficulty in life is an opportunity to look inward and invoke your own strength,” Parekh says. “I believe your environment creates you. Your ability to use that struggle to get stronger is what makes you a good boxer. I see that as a common thread between the corporate world and athletics.”
Life lessons from martial arts
Parekh’s introduction to combat sports came as a matter of necessity. He grew up in New Jersey, his father having arrived in America from India with less than $100 in his pocket. After the attacks of 9/11, Parekh, a Hindu Indian-American, was bullied by those so ignorant as to target him based on his skin tone.
So, as a boy, Parekh studied martial arts. While the immediate benefits helped him navigate the playground, the lessons his training imparted went much deeper.
“I used to love baseball, but my father pointed me to martial arts for self-defense and I fell in love with it,” Parekh says. “What started as a traumatic life moment became my turning point and a character builder. Through that adversity I found a strength within myself and a passion for martial arts. The discipline that I gained from that training I implement today in work and academia.”
Into product management
Parekh went on to study computer science at Penn State, where he interned at the Student Space Programs Laboratory. That experience made him an ideal candidate for Boeing, and in 2014 Parekh moved to the Pacific Northwest to begin his career as a software developer at the aerospace giant.
“I joined Boeing and was selected to be in a leadership rotation program,” he says. “From that I got to see different aspects of Boeing. I came to Seattle because it is the tip of the spear for technology. And I want to be part of that. I was pushing internally to be at a fulcrum of innovation inside Boeing. So, I went into mobile development and worked on front-end pilot systems and emerging technologies.”
In that role Parekh’s responsibilities increased well beyond software engineering. He was helping shape the conception, execution and roll-out of the projects he was working on. It was a natural evolution for him to take on the role of product manager.
Teams > Me
Furthering his professional development, Parekh completed an eight-month program and earned a Certificate in Software Product Management from the University of Washington. With these additional skills, he continued to progress in his career, transitioning to Microsoft to take a position as a senior product manager working on the Teams video conferencing product.
“I’m helping Teams grow in size and scale. We are building the next phase of real-time communication by creating a deeper level of engagement with larger groups,” Parekh says.
While Teams is a vital product from one of the largest technology companies in the world, Parekh says one of the most rewarding aspects of his position is his ability to work autonomously, absent the bureaucracy one might expect at a Fortune 100 company.
“Our team is essentially a startup inside Microsoft,” he says. “The speed at which we work and the level of responsibility that’s given to us is amazing. I am a textbook product manager. I own the features from pillar to post, working with customers, collaborating with engineers, creating the vision, and influencing the marketing and communications. This is one of the few teams I’ve been a part of where that is the case, and it is so rewarding.”
As busy as he is with his position at Microsoft, Parekh also has a separate burgeoning career as a boxing agent, all while also earning his MBA in Foster’s Technology Management MBA Program.
Upon moving to Seattle when he landed the Boeing job, Parekh started training at local boxing gyms and met WBC world champion coach José Benavidez Sr. Benavidez was impressed with Parekh’s attitude, and welcomed him into his coaching operation, which includes his sons David Benavidez, the current and three-time WBC super-middleweight champion, José Benavidez Jr., former WBA light welterweight title holder, as well as rising lightweight contender Jose “El Rayo” Valenzuela. Today, Parekh represents the boxing stable, helping secure endorsement deals and arranging media opportunities.
“I am a boxing agent, which doesn’t have a predefined role,” Parekh explains. “I facilitate all kinds of partnerships. The boxing industry has lawyers, promoters and managers, but they are all working within the boxing ecosphere. I’m bringing a different lens to what I do for these guys in terms of exposure. I’m doing outreach to get them more awareness and find a good fit between athlete and brand.”
One of Parekh’s most promising projects is “Hermanos,” a reality show/documentary about the Benavidez family. The boxing dynasty’s story features rich drama, compelling characters and plenty of action. Parekh has produced a sizzle reel and is in discussions with several major media companies.
“He is family”
Parekh feels a deep sense of responsibility to his clients borne out of close personal relationships he has forged with his fighters—and how predatory the industry can be for gifted athletes who all too often are exploited.
“Boxers are so focused on boxing that they don’t really think about the business side of things, and unscrupulous people swoop in,” Parekh says. “It can be a dirty business. These guys have amazing stories that bring a tear to your eye that I’ve seen first-hand by virtue of being their friend.”
Parekh’s clients share that sentiment. “Jigesh has become more than a teammate,” says Valenzuela. “He is family. His support and brotherhood in all aspects of life help bring the team together inside and outside of the ring.”
Parekh cites his clients’ work ethic and determination as inspiration for his own career. “I’ve had my own struggles, and to see how deep they go into themselves to find strength and overcome their obstacles is remarkable. I’ve internalized that myself. And now I want to push myself to grow and make even more of an impact.”
Which is what led Parekh to Foster. He was already busy with a demanding full-time job and a roster of top fighters, but he was driven to further his skills to benefit his own career and better serve his clients.
“I had the technical chops. I know what it takes to make a product,” Parekh says. “But I didn’t always know all the lexicon of the business world. I needed to bridge that gap to have more credibility in the industry. So that’s what drove me to get an MBA. But the crazy thing is that aspect became one of the least important parts of my education. The best part is the community of dedicated and entrepreneurial, like-minded individuals who are helping me unlock my potential.”
Parekh acknowledges his demanding schedule comes at a cost. He has had to put aside his own boxing for now, though he plans to return to the ring in the future. “I’m sparring with the books at school,” he says. “I told myself my title fight is getting my degree.”
Like his clients, Parekh has been training his entire life for the opportunities in front of him today.
“I wake up every single day with purpose,” he adds. “My education is worth every penny. Martial arts provided me with the internal strength to work this hard. Before I take my last breath, I want know I positively impacted my community. I don’t want to look back at my life and think that I could have done any more.”