Somali Scientist Excels in U.S. STEM

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Despite yearslong job search, Najma lands career of her dreams

When her father passed away in the Somali Civil War, Najma’s mother left the country for Norway when her daughters were still toddlers, hoping for an opportunity to provide for her children — an opportunity she did not have in Somalia. A troop of young sisters — one of them Najma — were then left to be raised by their grandparents.

“I’m from a very humble background,” says Najma. “I was taken care of by my grandmother, and I think she gave us the best she could — she used to work so we could get something to eat. I am grateful for that.”

In  Somalia, Najma had limited opportunities to go to school, but always dreamt of being educated. As a young teen, reconnecting with her mother in Norway finally opened up avenues for her to realize that dream. By 2018, she graduated from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology with a Master’s in Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology.

With her degrees in hand, she then decided to move to the U.S. to be with her husband, facing more barriers despite her academic achievements.

“When I came here, I only had a degree. It became hard for me to [enter] the professional job market,” Najma says, recalling a tough few years of rejected job applications. “I applied to so many different roles I knew I was qualified for, but I never [got] the opportunity to get interviewed. I tried to build up my interview skills and my job search skills, [but] it never worked for me.”

Najma spent years applying for jobs in her field, and her confidence waned. At long last, in 2022, she met a young woman at an English language class for immigrants who told her about Upwardly Global.

“I started to utilize the programs, like ‘how to write a resume,’ ‘how to answer interview questions,’ and I had job coach meetings with Tamar, who is an amazing woman,” she says. “Because I changed my resume, I got [an] interview for the role I’m doing right now. I was so surprised!”

After just a few weeks with Upwardly Global, Najma landed a ‘Scientist’ position with Bangs Laboratories Inc., where she now works to produce and synthesize polymers for different scientific applications. She believes that working with her career coach helped her regain the self-confidence she lost after years of not being able to land roles in her field.

“When you are new to a country with a new culture and a new language, it’s very tough to be where you want to be,” Najma shares, knowing full well the difficulties of restarting one’s life in an entirely new country — in her case, two, having to begin anew in both Norway and the U.S.

“Don’t lose hope. Ask for help. Sometimes, you cannot do everything on your own. You have to be willing to be vulnerable and willing to say, ‘I need help.’”

Find more information on Upwardly Global’s free resources for immigrant job seekers here.

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