I think I was one of the most unusual kids in my family. That's what my mom thinks anyway. Maybe it’s because I was a huge tomboy. Growing up in Dubai with three sisters, I was determined to be the son my father never had. But growing up in a community where women were discouraged from attaining higher education was limiting and I was determined to prove myself.
I moved to the Bay Area to build a better life for myself and save my marriage. Eventually, it was time for me to get out of it since it was beyond saving. It was a hard decision, but I knew I wanted more for myself and being married to someone who kept putting me down made it easy to believe that I wasn’t capable of anything more in life—I knew I needed to get out of that situation.
My first manager once said to me, “Life shows in the eyes, and I didn't see any life in you when you first came to Genentech. You smiled a lot. You always smiled, but there was no life in your eyes.” Work became my safe place. The people here helped me realize that what I was raised to think of as weaknesses were actually my strengths—they taught me that I can't go back into the past and undo mistakes, but I can learn from them and share those experiences with others. I’ve been encouraged to step into management roles and have begun exploring the possibility of becoming a career coach.
It’s true the Bay Area is pretty open-minded, but I still get questioned a lot about my scarf, which very clearly calls out that I’m Muslim.The option for me to take it off is always there, and sometimes tempting, but I just can't bring myself to it. It's not only my identity but it's a part of me and without it I feel like people won't be able to see the real or genuine Ayesha. I’m glad to work in a place that celebrates diversity and where I never have to worry about changing my identity in order to show up to work.
Learn more about Ayesha's journey to Genentech here.