The Middle Eastern men gather every year at the annual internal seminar held by their employer, Kleinfelder. They share notes about families, raising children and perhaps trade news from their homeland. For this cluster of Iranian-Americans, this kind of networking is a microcosm of a socio-cultural immigrant phenomenon: They are a generation of engineering talent that came to the U.S. to study and train but never returned to their home country.
But many have visited Iran. “When you go there, they look in your eyes, and they know you don't live there,” says Saiid Behboodi, a Kleinfelder vice president. An Iranian shop owner once told one of Behboodi's colleagues, “I can tell you are not from here because you have a sparkle in your eye.”