At 5 years old, I discovered my love for astronomy and the solar system. I dreamt that one day I’d work for NASA and made sure that my education focused on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). I ended up not going to work for NASA but thankfully received the chance to go to Japan to study Engineering with a scholarship.
I’m also a big lover of poetry, and couldn’t believe the literary coincidences between the two countries. The word ‘Morocco’ in Arabic means ‘sunset’, whilst the word ‘Japan’ in Japanese means ‘rising sun’ — it truly felt like my journey to Japan was written in the stars! As a child, I only knew Morocco and could only speak Arabic and French. But I was excited about the prospect of moving to a country like Japan that was known for its technological innovation. The tech journey was very much worth it — I love everything in the tech world because it really does not stop innovating!
Unconscious bias has been prevalent in many aspects of my life, and it has shown up in various ways.
An early hurdle in my career was when I was studying engineering in Japan. Being one of the few females in a sea of male students, I was either looked down on as being incompetent or feared as an alien who couldn’t be a ‘normal’ female. I was isolated, unsupported and ostracised simply for being a woman.
When I joined the workforce, I was promoted to my first leadership role a short two years after I started working. As I was young then, the bias I experienced was painful. I was asked to take notes and people questioned my presence in executive board meetings.
This continued throughout my career and it was even more salient after I became a mother. My boss at the time believed that my brain had “shrunk” after maternity leave, to a point that I was apparently unfit to lead. It took all my willpower to realise my worth and look for another job in a different company. The six months between returning to work and leaving the company were the hardest in my 15 years of work. After hitting rock bottom, I was determined to find opportunities to grow in the new company that I had joined, and do right by myself and my team.
A quote I fall back on that was said by Confusious is “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall”. Life is so positive and Allah is Great. When life throws at you lemons, make the best lemonade you can!