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Alumni Spotlight

Only in New York

The day Brian Carini’s first child, Isabella, was born, Carini emerged from the hospital in the early morning after being by his wife’s side throughout the night.

Carini family in Central Park

His wife, Kiasa, had urged him to go eat breakfast, so after making sure mother and baby were fine, Carini ducked outside to grab a quick bite to eat.

“I was walking along, thinking about what had just happened to our family, when I started to notice that things looked a lot different than usual,” remembers Carini. “The usually bustling streets and sidewalks were absolutely deserted. Grass was growing up in cracks in the middle of the road, and cars abandoned in the streets were covered in a layer of dust. I was in a fog from being up all night, but even as exhausted as I was, I knew that something wasn’t right.”

Moments later, a man wearing a headset emerged from a hidden alcove and ushered Carini off the street. It didn’t take long for Carini to realize that he had inadvertently wandered onto the set of I Am Legend, an apocalypse movie starring Will Smith.

“The phrase ‘only in New York’ is uttered constantly—for better or worse—in this town,” Carini says. “That morning was one of the more bizarre only-in-New-York moments I’ve had. I was genuinely stunned by how quiet and deserted everything was, and I was amazed that they had been able to pull that off in this city that never sleeps. But that’s one of the reasons I have loved living and working in New York. Things happen here that wouldn’t happen anywhere else.”

The Dream Begins

A 2001 BYU Marriott MISM grad, Carini along with his family—which now includes four children—spent almost a decade walking the streets of the Big Apple and treasuring the moments that make the city such a unique place to live. Carini and Kiasa arrived in New York in 2005 after spending three years at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

“I had pretty much finished the coursework for my PhD at CMU,” Carini explains. “I had studied technology and cybersecurity and had even started my research, but it was moving slow. My wife and I had some goals—including starting a family—that we couldn’t accomplish on a student stipend, so we decided to take a detour from academia for a couple of years, gain some industry experience, have some adventures, and then go back and finish the degree.”

In Carini’s mind, there was only one place to go: New York City. His love for the City That Never Sleeps began when he was a boy growing up two hours north in Connecticut. Carini already had a few months of city living under his belt; he had completed an internship with Deloitte & Touche in New York City before starting his PhD program at CMU. So he and Kiasa headed back to the largest city in the United States. “We didn’t expect to stay for long,” he says. “The plan was to spend a year or two in the city and then move on.”

What the Carinis didn’t plan on was feeling so at home in New York. “We met many people who were building careers, raising strong families, and making it,” Carini says. “So we decided to stick around for a little bit longer, assuming we’d move once we had a baby.”

However, with Isabella tucked in what they called a “junior” (400 square feet) one-bedroom apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, Carini and Kiasa reassessed the situation. “We had gotten to know people in our ward who were successfully raising their families in the city, and the children seemed to thrive on the experience. We decided to stay ‘just another year or two’ until we had a second baby, and then a third. Then we figured we’d certainly move when the kids started school, but we found the public school in our neighborhood was as good as many of the private schools, so we stayed a little longer.”

Drinking Everything In

In fact, the Carini family stayed in New York for almost a decade, moving from Hell’s Kitchen to Harlem to the Upper West Side, where they lived just a block from Central Park and the American Museum of Natural History.

Their living space never got bigger than one thousand square feet, but that didn’t seem to be a problem. “We definitely learned some tricks for fitting a family in a small city apartment,” Carini says, “but people in Manhattan have a knack for optimizing space. A walk-in closet becomes a bedroom, a Murphy bed converts to living space during the day. Everything gets folded up and put away, and you develop a different attitude about stuff.”

You also learn to embrace what’s outside your front door, notes Carini. “You create a life out in the city, instead of entertaining at home,” he explains. “Instead of watching movies in a home theater with your friends,

you meet at a theater down the street. And instead of scheduling playdates in the backyard, you meet up in Central Park.”

There was always something to do, see, or eat in the big city, Carini notes. Always thinking they would stay in New York for “just one more year,” they savored each year as if it were their last in the city. “We drank everything in,” Carini remarks. “We had these incredible fun-filled days, and we were always looking for something new that we had never experienced.” Packing in as many city adventures as one possibly could into a single day became known, among their friends, as a “Carini” day.

Designed for Families

Carini and Kiasa have passed on that same love for adventure and discovery to their children. Friday daddy-daughter dates were often spent at free open-air concerts, where a preschool-aged Isabella learned about every genre of music, from jazz and blues to country and classical. And the family tried foods from all over the world.

But New York City offered the growing family more than music and food. Mom groups were plentiful, and many organizations created programs and activities that catered to young children. Family home evenings were spent in myriad museums and libraries and playgrounds.

“It may seem hard to believe, but New York is actually pretty family friendly,” Carini observes. “Enough people are raising families here that there is a definite demand and need for activities and services designed for family entertainment.”

Another key to the Carinis’ success in New York was the community they found among Church members. “The ward was cohesive and close,” Carini says. “Part of that came from this experience that we were all sharing. Living in New York City is hard. Most everyone’s apartment is too small and too expensive. Schlepping groceries and laundry through the streets and up four flights of stairs, navigating around crowds of tourists in the summer and through giant slush puddles in the winter, dealing with all the unexpected absurdities of urban life—all this brings people closer together. And you see many acts of service and kindness, not just among ward members but among neighbors and even strangers.

“The wards have a good number of long-time New Yorkers,” he notes, “but there were a lot of people who came to the city with temporary plans to work, just like us. And then, just like us, they decided to stick around for a while. We found good friends in the Church and enjoyed the experience of attending meetings with such a diverse group of people.”

The Adventure of It All

Carini has also enjoyed rich diversity throughout his thirteen-year career in information technology. “I had a strong interest in technology from an early age,” explains Carini, who earned his undergrad at BYU in statistics, in part because, at the time, the statistics department had some of the most advanced computing on campus. “After getting my MISM at BYU, I enrolled in a PhD program in information technology management at Carnegie Mellon, and my research emphasis was in the economics of information security.”

When Carini and his wife decided to go to New York, a close friend introduced him to a CIO at Morgan Stanley who hired Carini as part of the firm’s IT administration. “It was there that I learned much of what I still use today,” says Carini, who currently works as an information security manager at American Express. “I learned about managing a large global technology organization, presenting to senior management, strategic planning, and financial management. I also had a strong interest in IT risk and led a global team of risk officers for our infrastructure group.”

Carini was at Morgan Stanley three years later when the economy took a severe downturn. “I felt like I had a front-row seat during the 2008 financial collapse,” he says. “Our building was across the street from Lehman

Brothers, and we could see out the windows as everybody packed up their boxes and walked out of the building. For days I walked past newspaper reporters and photographers lined up on the sidewalks reporting the news, using the Lehman Brothers building as their backdrop. And then one day they moved across the street and started filming my building because Morgan Stanley was expected to be the next to fail.”

Morgan Stanley survived, and Carini stayed on until 2011, when he joined a boutique consulting firm advising hedge funds and private equity firms. Then in 2014, he cofounded a health-tech startup. “I welcomed the entrepreneurial opportunity,” he explains. “I’d always had a strong interest in entrepreneurship, probably instilled by BYU Marriott and my involvement in the program there as well as with the Rollins Center.

At the health-tech startup, Carini and his colleagues developed an innovative platform for mental-health practitioners to provide exercises to, monitor the progress of, and increase communication with their patients between sessions. “The initial product was a mild success,” Carini says, “but not enough to sustain further investment. So after my foray into the startup world, I reentered financial services.”

Carini has been with American Express since 2016. “I had been looking to focus more on the fields of information security and technology risk,” he says. “Information security had been my area of research in graduate school and had remained at the top of my newsfeed since then. I was fortunate to find a role that covers both areas.

“I’d love to say that my career has been part of a master plan,” he adds, “but it’s really been kind of experimenting, making things work, figuring things out as we went along, and seeking guidance along the way. And then, of course, having fun with the adventure of it all.”

A Creative Work Environment

Carini has also been fortunate to work in organizations that have been receptive to a more flexible work arrangement because, after stretching their “just one more year” New York adventure into almost ten years, the Carini family left New York City behind in 2013. “First, we moved just outside the city to a town in Westchester,” Carini says. “But our youngest son was born in a New York City hospital, so we consider all four of our children native New Yorkers. Then in 2016, we moved farther out to Connecticut.”

Despite the move, Carini kept working in the city. In order to make the new arrangement work, he found a small bedroom to rent. He works from home a day or two every week and then commutes into the city for a few days. “My days in the city are long ones,” he acknowledges. “I start early and finish late. But it’s worked out well for us. It minimizes my commute, and I actually end up spending more time with my family.”

Where We Should Be

In a way, Carini, Kiasa, and their children—Isabella, age eleven; Oliver, age nine; Simon, age seven; and Elliot, age two—have gone back to where it all began. “We moved back to my hometown,” Carini explains. “Our kids had a taste of life in New York City, and we decided to give them a taste of the rural life that we both grew up in. Plus we now live closer to a lot of extended family.”

While Kiasa isn’t from the Northeast (she grew up in California), she is familiar with Connecticut: she served her mission there. “We both attended BYU and were in the same ward before she left on her mission,” Carini says. “We were friends, but we didn’t really date. We just played tennis and hung out.” When Kiasa got her call to his home state, Carini was excited for her.

Near the end of her mission, Kiasa actually served in his home ward. “I was home for the summer,” explains Carini, “and she and her companion were at my parents’ house, and I said, ‘I’ll give you a call when you get off your mission.’” Carini’s father served as a counselor in the mission presidency, and the mission president encouraged Carini to follow up on that promise.

“I didn’t need much encouragement,” he admits. “When she got off her mission, I called her up, and the rest is history.” Carini soon started his PhD program in Pittsburgh, so the couple dated long distance for a time. Ultimately, however, Kiasa followed Carini to Pittsburgh, finishing up her last semester at BYU through independent study. The two were married in 2002.

The family now lives in Glastonbury, Connecticut, where Carini’s Italian ancestors settled when they immigrated three generations ago. And while they loved their time in the Big Apple, the children seem content in Glastonbury. “Honestly, I was thinking they would miss the city more than they have,” Carini remarks. “Whenever we ask them, their preference is to be right where we are. It’s mostly because of family and cousins—I guess playing with cousins outweighs eating the world’s best pizza.”

Carini wouldn’t be surprised, however, if each of his kids ends up living in New York City again someday. “You can do almost anything there,” he says. “There’s so much opportunity to become whatever you want to be.”

In fact, he and Kiasa may also end up back in the Big Apple. “For this phase of our life, we’re where we should be,” he acknowledges. “But we’ve talked about going back once the kids are grown. It was such a great experience for us, and we could definitely see ourselves back there. We go back as a family frequently already—for family work events, during the Christmas season, and many other times. And we never miss Summer Streets.”

For now, Carini is enjoying the best of both worlds. “My family and I live in a lovely part of Connecticut, only a few miles from my parents and other relatives and the place where I grew up,” he says. “Yet during the week, I still get to work in this city I love and enjoy all it has to offer.

“New Yorkers often get teased for being a bit myopic,” he concludes. “We have a hard time seeing beyond the big city. But once you live there, you can understand why. New York is so big and so loud and so—well, New York. Even when you leave, it will forever be part of who you are.”

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Written by Kellene Ricks Adams
Photography by Bradley Slade

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