I haven’t blogged in a super long time. I have been thinking about posting and there is no doubt that I have had a lot to say since moving to Dubai, but, for some reason, I just haven’t been making it happen. Two things happened lately that have resulted in me breaking my silence. The first is the topic of this post. The second was a friend reminding me that I had a blog and a conversation about how we both have neglected blogs.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to go to dinner with an amazing young woman.
Have you ever been trucking along through life thinking that you’re doing pretty good? Maybe you got to do a few cool things recently or have had some minor successes with which you are feeling pretty satisfied? Then you meet someone who completely blows you out of the water. One of those people who, within minutes, you are convinced will do something in life, probably many things, that are truly outstanding.
A few days ago I was invited to dinner by one of my co-workers. She wanted me to meet a Saudi woman who was here for training in Dubai. I heard that the dinner would be with my co-worker, the Saudi woman, and the Saudi woman’s mom who had come with her to Dubai. My initial reaction was ‘ugh, dinner with work people, what a drag’. I almost said no. After saying yes, I almost backed out. In hindsight, it was stupid that I was so reluctant to go, and I can tell you that, without a doubt, I regret feeling that way because I ended up meeting a really awesome lady.
I think many Americans, probably many Westerners in general, have preconceived ideas about what Saudi women are like, so I feel inspired to write about this lady because she, and, for that matter, every Saudi woman that I have had the pleasure of talking to, are doing awesome things that would put most American women to shame.
My new Saudi friend, I think I will call her my friend, we have plans to go skiing in Dubai later this month, is named Samar and she is an electrical engineer. She has more ambition than you can imagine and the charisma of a great leader. Over the course of three hours, she told me one story after another that left me completely in awe of her.
She was the first woman hired at her company, the only woman working at her company, and it took a huge amount of drive for her to achieve that. When Samar was a student at university, she wanted to do the typical two internships in which most engineering students participate, but there weren’t many opportunities for aspiring young female engineers in Saudi Arabia. Together, Samar and her father talked hiring managers at two well-known, global companies into hiring her for internships. When she finally graduated, armed with solid experience working as an electrical engineer, she got a job at a third company as their first female employee and she is setting the stage for more women to follow her.
As we ate dinner, she mentioned several times that although her head was covered, her mind was not; this really resonated with me. She told me about the program that airs on NBC that she films each year, I hope to watch the next season when it airs again this fall, and about a speaking engagement that she has this month for a global conference of young men and women from developing countries. She plans to speak in English so that the maximum number of people can hear her message when it is posted on YouTube. She is a huge advocate for inspiring a youth movement in her country aimed at arming youth with the business and technology skills needed to bring more industry, and with it more good jobs and better opportunities to Saudi Arabia. I can tell that Samar has a sense of responsibility for her future, the future of Saudi women, and the future of her country that would put most of us to shame.
When asked what was in store for her future, she told me that she would get a Harvard MBA in the next few years. HBS is a competitive program to get accepted to, but I have no doubt that she will do it and that it will set the stage for some life accomplishments that are far beyond what most of us dream of.
I think the take aways from this story are that if we should all keep our minds uncovered. That we should all dream a little bigger. And that we should all more actively take responsibility for the future.
I am looking forward to my trip to Ski Dubai later this month and feeling inspired yet again by Samar.