Guest post by Rouba Cheaib, 2013 TechWomen Emerging Leader from Lebanon
This journey started three weeks ago. Seventy-eight women arrived from sixteen different countries, each one holding her own story, cultural background and looking toward her future with bright eyes.
When I arrived in San Francisco, I was amazed by the city. Is it the architecture? Is it the facilities? I couldn’t tell. There is something in the air that makes you breathe better and see better. I was smiling!
When the program started and we met the other Emerging Leaders, successful women who talked about their journey to achieve success I felt happy, but there was also some sadness in me that I couldn’t explain. Their messages were about encouraging each other to go further, and to identify our dreams and pursue them. They explained that the work they do is associated with passion, and their lives with happiness. They also said anything is possible; a failure is always the seed of a new success, and anything can be accomplished, as long as we want to achieve it.
While they were talking, I envisioned myself in another time talking about my experiences with them, and a younger Rouba was listening to her future story. Then I started wondering, why is all the attention directed towards women coming from the Middle East and Africa? Why everyone is being so generous in showing us the way? Are there any hidden motives? When the other women started talking, and everyone was interacting, momentum was created, and all the women felt that positive energy creating a definite change. At that point, I realized something I did not experience before: a feeling of unity that empowers us all, and a feeling of sisterhood where the success of another is our own success. Coming from a divided country like mine, where everything separates everyone, and people seek security from the hostile surroundings, this feeling of belonging brought tears to my eyes. At that moment, I felt that even with all our cultural or even physical differences, we are all so similar, and what is substantially unifying us is greater than all these small differences. This is the ultimate aim of this program—to feel the solidarity between women, generosity, and maternal attention.
One aspect of this experience is to experience the outside world and the United States of America, but inevitably it leads to the inside, to oneself. It is like peeling layers of ideas and concepts to reach your true identity. I realized that the extent of the world is limitless. So are our internal life and potentials.
I have this energy boiling inside me, these ideas, and these plans. They have not really crystallized yet, but they all want to find their way out. I discovered something about myself: I am an entrepreneur—and I didn’t even know it. Now, there is no turning back!
Since her childhood, Rouba has been interested in teaching, appreciating the constructive interaction between students and instructors. She chose to specialize in chemistry, which is related to both the manufacturing sector and the medicine and industry sector. She received a Ph.D. from the Institut National des Sciences Appliquées de Lyon, France, in 2008 and returned to her country to start working as an assistant professor of chemistry for junior and senior levels at the School of Engineering and the School of Pharmacy of the Lebanese University. She was also appointed as a research associate in a laboratory that studies the synthesis of new drugs with interesting biological activities. After two years of academic experience, she was promoted to associate professor at her university.