Guest post by Eman Abusaada, 2015 Emerging Leader, Palestine
Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” To be a Palestinian woman who lives in Gaza, it is not the perfect place to fulfill your dreams, yet I see opportunity in every difficulty and take steps toward my short- and long-term goals.
My journey from and to Gaza
I stayed six days in Jordan before my flight to America since the border crossings were closed. Then, on my way back to Gaza, my flight had been cancelled, and I had another flight with a three-hour delay. I stayed two days in Jordan before I was able to enter Gaza.
When I met cultural mentor Maryann Hrichak in San Francisco, she wondered how I travelled from Gaza. Maryann also told me that a fellow TechWomen from Gaza in 2014 said it is better not to let women from Gaza apply for the program, as she faced many obstacles on her way to San Francisco. I smiled and replied, “When you are inspired, you tend to look for a silver lining no matter how challenging your circumstances.”
Mentorship at SunEdison
Gaza needs 450 MW daily, and we have one electricity plant, which produces just 100 MW. As a result, the electrical power is only supplied for six hours a day. This alarming fact fuelled me to apply for the Techwomen program. I aim to learn how energy is generated and distributed to put power in the hands of those who need it. My host company was SunEdison; my mentor was Gina Binnard, a senior manager in the performance and development engineering department. She helped me contact and arrange meetings with her team, other workers in the SunEdison Belmont office and the main office in San Francisco, as well.
On TechWomen’s volunteer day, I spent the day with GRID Alternatives and fellow TechWomen to install solar panels for a family in Oakland. We installed a 1.6 kW system, which is projected to have several positive environmental and economic impacts.
Shortly after, I learned about process flow, visited a large-scale project and installed a small-scale solar system. It was much more than what I had expected.
Friends at SunEdison
The first time I met the other Emerging Leaders who were also placed at SunEdison was on kickoff day at Juniper Networks. From that time until the last day, we were friends, not just Emerging Leaders hosted at the same company. We were four ladies from the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia. My close friend was my Kazakh “mom,” Diana Tsoy. We worked at the same office, had our meals together, went to Berkeley together, watched the “Proof” play together, went hiking and had fun! Diana made me laugh and brought sunshine, light and love into my mentorship.
In addition to the mentorship, I attended a Toastmasters meeting twice and provided an icebreaker at the second meeting. The club inspires hope, builds confidence and eliminates worry when it comes to public speaking.
My special moments
This life-changing experience brought me to places I had never dreamed of when I first applied to the program. It was my first time to travel; my first time to get on a train; my first time to hike and to eat at McDonald’s. These seem to be ordinary things for some; for me, it was like magic! One of my memorable moments was when I was on stage at Instagram and introduced TechWomen. A panel of Instagram leaders shared their career paths and how they overcame obstacles.
Through Mentoring Standard, I became the 12th certified mentor and the first one from the Middle East. I felt so honored when I saw my photo on a Techwomen banner at the U.S. Department of State; that really touched my heart. These memories will instantly shift my character and perspective on my life always.
I feel confident that I will achieve more and more, not only for my country but also for the whole world. I have several goals. Firstly, I will encourage other women to work in STEM fields and to travel outside Gaza for exchange programs, such as TechWomen. Follow my achievements on my blog.
About the author
Eman Abusaada is based in the Gaza Strip. She previously worked as the only female engineer at a large construction site in Al Hawasem, where she learned to face challenges by having a strong personality and self-confidence. Coupled with working at Al Hawasem, she was offered a job to work with Alsalah Association on a housing project for the rehabilitation of poor families with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Eman was one of five engineers who worked in damage assessment in this project, and UNDP acknowledged her efforts as the only female engineer. Eman continues her career as a civil engineer, working on a project funded by UNDP with Khozendar Sons Co. Ltd.