Code word for 2020: Access
I often get asked the question of why do you do what you do? How did you get to this stage in your career and life? I usually go through explaining my career history and backgrounds, explaining how different experiences led to the next stage in my career and life story. My background is definitely not linear, and to many people, it doesn’t make much sense. I started out my post- bachelor career aiming for medical school, like many children of Syrian immigrants. Yet, I got sidetracked when I took time off and worked on the business side of healthcare. It opened up my eyes to a different side of healthcare and way of helping people than I had imagined. So I decided to get a Master’s in Healthcare Management and Policy, hoping to make a greater impact via a platform than on the provider side. That perspective gave me an experience I wouldn’t forget! I worked for the CEO and CFO of a hospital undergoing a 5 yr turnaround plan and under an OIG investigation.
From there I decided to try a different side of healthcare, working for one of the largest pharmaceutical companies. I helped create global, corporate strategy for increasing access to medicine across the world, working with governments and sharing best practices among countries that may differ in size, yet have similar practices or patient populations. I then took a break, moving to Phoenix and taking a career hiatus to rejuvenate, refresh, and refocus on myself and my family. My life had been a world-wind and I hadn’t taken a chance to appreciate my own kids, spend time with them and just get to know them. In the first years in this new city full of sunshine and hope, I ended up co-founding a nonprofit organization–totally not in healthcare! Rather, a community organization focusing on gaps we saw in the American Muslim community. It started out as a kids program to empower kids through high school to understand who they are, gain deep knowledge of their religion and take control of their own spirituality and experience. In the past ten years, it grew to a full program offering workshops and retreats for adults as well, expanding our reach throughout the US.
During this time period in Phoenix, I also started planning my next career move. Healthcare was still a passion and I dabbled with the idea of creating a healthcare company focusing on ease and customer service to patients, yet at that time, Phoenix as a city did not have many available resources to help individuals take their ideas to launch. Through my work and searching of starting this company, my journey started taking shape in another direction as I saw what women were creating and launching in other cities, with the community, collaboration and resources they had surrounding them. At that point, that’s when my journey started in creating a workspace with a mission of being a landing space and launching pad for women across this valley.
So, how does all this relate to each other and tie in? I had an epiphany, as one interviewer asked me with skepticism why does my background preclude me to the business I have taken on. As I look back on my life, one common theme ran through everything I touched. You could say, it might be my subconscious driving force, although I did not have a term clearly articulated for my compass. It was and has always been about Access! I’ve been working tirelessly throughout my life on increasing access to people–different industries, different passions, but nevertheless opening up and leveling the playing field for access. Access to healthcare. Access to medicine. Access to education and personal empowerment. And now, access to resources, connections, and education for women. As I have lived my life as an immigrant from a minority community, knocking on doors, plowing through obstacles, overcoming hurdles and stereotypes to always learn more, challenge myself more, and open the doors for others behind me, especially for Muslim women, for my daughters and hopefully future generations. I have realized it has all been to have access and equal footings to develop, grow, and thrive personally and professionally. I have been striving on this journey for the past few decades. Now, as we enter this new decade in 2020, I have a clear vision of what this journey has been about and where it is leading me, with clear communication and articulation based in foundations. Access for all.