“Upwardly Global made me realize that my education, work experience and skills are valued in this country,”
When living conditions in Baghdad worsened in the early 2000s, Ashwaq applied for Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) in hopes of building a safer life abroad.
“Before the war in Iraq, there weren’t many bombings, killings or kidnappings,” Ashwaq said. “But by 2006, the country was no longer a safe place to live. Like many people escaping war and violence, I hoped to move to a country free from conflict to continue my education and careers.”
For nearly five years, Ashwaq was part of an exclusive group of female engineers who worked as contractors for the U.S. Army to help them rebuild two major hospitals in Baghdad. Her extensive work for the military resulted in an opportunity to apply for an SIV, a program designed for people who helped the U.S. government during conflicts in their home countries, and come to the U.S. as lawful permanent residents.
Leaving Iraq wasn’t easy for Ashwaq. Despite the excitement of being reunited with two of her siblings in Houston, she left Baghdad uncertain of when she’d be able to see her other family members again. “It was almost like a final goodbye,” Ashwaq recalled. Still, she arrived in Texas with tears of joy and a clear commitment to finding the perfect job.
For as long as she can remember, Ashwaq had always dreamed of establishing a successful career in the construction industry. It is not only what motivated her to earn a bachelor’s degree in building and construction engineering from the University of Technology in Baghdad, but also the reason she was unfazed by the competitive U.S. job market.
After numerous failed attempts at securing job interviews in her desired field, Ashwaq voiced her struggles to a close friend who referred her to Upwardly Global. During her initial meeting with an Upwardly Global coach, Ashwaq talked about her work for the U.S. Army and also discussed the logistics support she provided the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad as a civil engineer for the Iraqi branch of KBR, a global construction and engineering firm based in Houston.
Based on this conversation, Upwardly Global coaches helped update Ashwaq’s resume to highlight her impressive job experience and prepped her for a job fair hosted by the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT), where she received and accepted an offer for a construction inspector position in Houston.
“I knew securing a good job in Houston wouldn’t be easy, but that didn’t stop me,” said Ashwaq. “I truly believed that the right employer would recognize my international degree and job experience and want to hire me. And while I did eventually receive a job offer from the Texas Department of Transportation, it wouldn’t have been possible without the help I received from coaches at Upwardly Global.”
As an employee of TXDOT, Ashwaq regularly inspects construction sites to ensure the development of roads, bridges, and sidewalks is carried out as intended. Today, she credits Upwardly Global with giving her the confidence she needed to secure a job in the U.S.
“I couldn’t be happier with where I am in my career and only see myself climbing up the ranks of TXDOT. I’ve already referred some of my friends to Upwardly Global. I know the organization will be able to help them just as much as they’ve helped me.”