Lift as you climb

Yesterday was Halloween, everyone was dressed up as the hero they dream to be, so was I. I was dressed up like Nadiah Saba’neh, a female fellow from Palestine, wandering the streets of the colorful White Plains, NY, making her best not to miss the punctual bus and not to get lost.

Wow! I made it so far. It has been a month now for the Palestinian girl from the village who worked very hard… really hard to create her future. Knowing that I am less fortunate in terms of opportunities available for a normal middle class well educated girl in my region as I don’t come from a politically connected family and of course I will never be willing to compromise, I had to study hard and smart, to always be the first in school and in work. I chased opportunities and created ones. I was blessed enough to get the Arab American University scholarship to do my B.Sc in Telecommunications, and the DAAD scholarship to do my M.Sc in Wireless Communication Engineering. I occupied leading positions in the best organizations in all sectors in Palestine; INGOs, Private Sector, Education and Government, yet that was not enough for me.

I experienced all the local challenges I thought of and now it is time for the international ones. Techwomen 2015 mentorship program was the best chance to be among 100 emerging female leaders in STEM fields from 20 countries who thought there is no limit for their potentials nor for their dreams. It was amazing how professional ladies who occupy leading positions in Silicon Valley’s big companies would volunteer their time to meet us and to share with us the experience they have and their beliefs, my favorite quote was “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other”. That was the first time I actually believe that someone would help you grow without getting anything in return but more positive impact in the world. Then I promised myself to do the same on my scale. I went back to Palestine, and since then I have been helping female entrepreneurs and enabling them. I have supported female volunteers in their initiatives and seen female students learn ICT skills and compete on an international level and moreover win.

I have the best mentor ever who is always challenging me to meet and exceed his standards and worth his mentorship, I learn from him and try to practice what I learn when I mentor other females.

Now what! Saturation again! It is time for a new challenge. Friends from the Palestinian entrepreneurship ecosystem recommended that I apply for Atlas Corps fellowship, so I did, and got accepted. Not only that, my host organization is THE IBM! I still cannot believe that.

I serve at the Corporate Service Corps within Tesla’s team. No, not the electric car company 🙂 Gina Tesla is the most professional and smartest yet kindest lady I have ever met. She welcomed me to the team with the sweetest welcome gift and greeting card that says “welcome to the CSC family”.

Even though she is very busy lady, that was once a Peace Corps volunteer herself, she manages to find time to communicate with me, recommends tasks I could tackle and engages me in projects in my focus area which is women empowerment.

John DiMarco, my direct supervisor and Programs manager lead, is contributing the most into building my capacity to meet IBM standards. He has been sharing resources, cases, training that I can learn from. I am studying those very hard. I even got certified as IBM Design Thinking practitioner :). Not to mention the cultural exchange that we have in all times learning about each other’s habits, languages, and practices.

Rick Fernandez is a program manager in the team who is, besides welcoming me with Baklava on the first day, sharing information about current projects and potential ones. We discuss and share thoughts and ideas to build concrete throughput.

In a very nice gesture Jennifer Crozier, Corporate Citizenship VP, has initiated and participated in a welcome gathering for us at an ancient castle, organized by Judy Chin of the IBM International Foundation.

That gathering was also attended by David Raper, who is the Lead, Corporate Citizenship, Asia Pacific & Greater China Group. David was in country for few days yet he drove us to see the beach for the first time in many years. This is a memory that I will have for the rest of my life. We took the chance to record a Blue Monday Greeting to all IBMers!

What a big and supportive family I am member of 🙂

It was Halloween yesterday. Yes of course we celebrated. Jaime McDonald, Operations Manager, has put together a nice event during which all the team members prepared cultural food for the occasion and shared stories from their childhood.

What a month! I wake up every day reminding myself with the many blessings that I have, thinking of new challenges to tackle, of giving back through transferring the knowledge that I gain. I already have been sharing some resources I have now like connecting the Palestinian Education ecosystem to the amazing P-Tech program of IBM.

While, next month, I will be sharing my experience by delivering a presentation at University 88. It will be about innovation in challenging region. That was initiated and suggested by Joel Mangan, Health Initiatives Lead, IBM Citizenship.

I promise myself to make the best out of everyday of this year. To learn from everyone and everything. To expand my professional network and to enrich my life with positive people, to create new opportunities, to give back and to Lift as I climb.