Guest post by Dana Abdel Khalek, 2022 Emerging Leader of Lebanon
Editor’s note: Dana Abdel Khalek’s guest post is part of our series, Emerging Leader Voices, which invites TechWomen Emerging Leaders to share their voice, perspective and experiences with the TechWomen community.
I am from Lebanon, a country where its youth are hardworking and ambitious. I was a working student that managed to graduate with honors as a biomedical engineer despite the few late after-work hours I had to study. After graduation, I worked hard and got the chance to be the head of the BME department at a small hospital. You can call that my comfort zone: I spent time there without thinking about new goals; I was busy most of the time and getting by with the money I was making.
When COVID-19 hit, I thought of it as something remote that will never affect me. Then one case after another started getting closer and closer to my city until we were in total lockdown. I was not busy all the time anymore, so I had the time to think and reflect on my life and my future goals. I had these realizations:
1. Even though being a biomedical engineer was my aim, something was missing
2. I felt that I was not contributing enough to my community
3. I knew that there was something new I had to learn but I didn’t yet know what it was
4. I was excited to live a pandemic and be able to experience the change
So I decided to make the best out of the pandemic! I quit my job and turned within to find my mission in life. I don’t mean to make the COVID-19 pandemic sound like a zen experience — it wasn’t. I experienced losing a close family member without being able to say goodbye and experienced the most guilt when I got the virus and transmitted it to my mom and spent almost a month at the hospital with her after she was admitted to the COVID ICU, but thank God she made it out alive.
After everything settled down I was back on my endeavor to find my mission in life. I was not very familiar with online events so I made it a goal to learn about this trending tool and make the best out of it. It was there where I discovered a whole new world through hackathons where I challenged myself to work with a diverse team on developing solutions for problems in a few days using skills we learned just there. At hackathons, I discovered communities working for change like Initiatives of Change and decided it is my responsibility to be part of it. It was that world that took me to entrepreneurship and introduced me to mentors that supported me to be a founder of a company serving the community while living a value-driven life. It was there where GenZ, my social startup tackling the problem of unemployment in my country, was born, and it is now thriving.
GenZ is a job market support platform that offers certified, trendy and up-to-date professional skills like e-commerce, data analysis, digital marketing and content creation. Our programs offer training on skills needed for the workplace as well marketable skills and soft skills integration like communication, emotional intelligence, interview mastering and others. GenZ is committed to reaching everyone in need of those skills, so we made it possible for trainees/professionals to register with a minute fee and pay the actual cost when we find them a job. GenZ won second place in Quality Education Hackathon and was accepted by the E-Commerce for Women Entrepreneurs program by the International Trade Center that will provide business strategy support and consultancy to move from idea to a fully functional company.
My mentor, Dana Abu Shakra, not only shared her expertise but believed in me. She was the one that encouraged me to apply for TechWomen, and here I am an Emerging Leader, looking forward to a never-ending process of self development that will be boosted by TechWomen mentors to come back to my beloved country, Lebanon, put my gained expertise in the service of its youth — especially women — and empower them with hope. Because I believe that hope is not to believe change is coming, but to work towards it.