Guest post by Gamilah Al-Qadhi, 2014 Emerging Leader from Yemen
Travelling to the United States was one of my biggest dreams and interacting with American people face to face was one of my cultural targets in life. The thing I love most about the TechWomen program is how it provides a cultural mentorship alongside a professional one. It was a great idea to get involved in many professional and cultural activities concurrently. The moment I saw Lockheed Martin station sign in Sunnyvale, en route to my host company Juniper Networks, I realized that dreams can come true.
When I applied to this program, I stated that I would like to improve myself in many areas such leadership abilities, my research field, and my presentation and communication skills. Initially, I was unsure if four weeks would be enough to make all these improvements. Surprisingly, improvements have been made in all areas!
Regarding to my professional mentorship, I have attended many leadership workshops under either TechWomen team or my management at my host company. I have learned more lessons but certain ones sticks in my mind. If you had a chance to see my room wall, you would find many stickers saying how leadership is a behavior while management is action, such as if you know how to influence people, you will know how to lead them. Visibility is a successful key of leadership. To be visible you should speak up, take initiative and build your relationships.
In addition, my presentation and communication skills were improved by attending Toastmasters speaking sessions, presenting about myself, my country and the TechWomen program in front of my department staff at Juniper. Luzia, one of my host company team members, said “I have been in Yemen many years ago, and you couldn’t imagine how impressive it is that women coming from the least developing country in the Middle East can join us today.”
In fact, I am the first and the only woman in my family who has traveled abroad alone and to be in United States. Moreover, I had a chance to meet different people in charge and discuss with them how they set their plans, how they reach the position of CEO, and what advice they have for Emerging Leaders.
As a PhD student in the oral biology department, I was also fortunate enough to visit the Institute of Stem Cell Biology at Stanford University and iPIERINA stem cell company. I really surprised by the highly equipped instrument they have and their huge campus. These facilities are very different from my country. These visits have inspired me, and one day I would like to have achieve my own scientific research center in Yemen.
My Professional Mentor was Meredith, who is an IP Specialist. We worked to design a survey research to evaluate the knowledge of intellectual property rights among TechWomen Emerging Leaders. As it well known, IP is considered as a basic factor in STEM. The result of my research showed that most of the Emerging Leader need to join training courses about IP.
Culturally, Golden Gate Bridge was the first place the whole group of Emerging Leaders visited. When I was there, I just want to sing and I felt as if I can touch the sky. Different people from different countries, seventy-eight emerging leaders from sixteen countries were all taking in the sight. All of them took a “selfie” of course. What a beautiful place! Also, I’ll never forget Pier 39, fireworks, watching the sunset, Land’s End, the redwood trees, Chinatown, Santa Cruz beach, the fine art museum, and so much more.
Furthermore, I participated as a panelist in a discussion with Model United Nations students at Stanford University and 7th and 10th graders at Crystal Springs Uplands School. They already have studied about Middle East and Arab Spring. Therefore, it was a great opportunity to share thoughts, ideas and experiences with them. As a result, they could expand their knowledge and we could know how American students think about us as well.
Another memorable experience is having dinner with an American family. Different food means different cultures and different minds. In fact, I thought assertive and very outspoken, and this is because the media and movie portray them that way. Through my experiences in America I realized they are really friendly and helpful, especially when I got lost at a complex system of CalTrain station. I have noticed that people in American are usually in hurry. Maybe they ask you how are you but they do not wait to hear your answer — they are busying go to their next destination!
Oh, how could I forget to mention the orange story! Here is an interesting story: one day I wore an orange scarf and incidentally, everyone walking on the street smiled at me and made a victory sign. Yet I did not realize why this was happening. I just thought I was especially beautiful while I was wearing my orange scarf. After a while I started to recognize that many people were wearing orange t-shirts and clothing in support of the San Francisco Giants baseball team. Someone came to me and asked me if I support the Giants since they won. Of course, I cheered and said “Go Giants!”
The last week of program was in Washington, DC. It was an incredible experience filled with unforgettable memories. I will just explain all my feelings in one sentence: when I stood in front of Martin Luther King Memorial and I saw the powerful sentence, “I have a dream” and I said to myself, “I have a dream, too” and it came true with TechWomen!
Gamilah holds a Master’s degree in Oral Biology and was among the top three students in her class, earning a scholarship from the Yemeni Ministry of Higher Education. She focused her dissertation, a part of which was published in a scientific journal, on the effects of Qat chewing on oral tissues, a country-wide issue in Yemen. In addition, Gamilah has three years of working experience as a dentist and a year of experience as a teaching assistant at the University of Science and Technology. Through TechWomen, Gamilah hopes to leverage her knowledge and expertise to become a role model for women and girls in her country who are studying science. She is also committed to community development and is an active volunteer in cultural exchange programs for Arab students in Yemen.