I was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, once called “the Garden of Asia,” surrounded by small mountainous valleys on all sides. Kabul is lively city, where you don’t need lots of entertainment; all you need to do is walk around and you will enjoy it. It’s the place where everyone from across the diverse country of Afghanistan meets.
When the war broke out, I was nine, and we had to leave for Pakistan. I was enrolled in one of the best schools in Islamabad. The school had a curriculum that prepared us very well, both for life and for our professional and career journeys.
But daily life as a refugee was the hardest struggle. In Pakistan, finding three meals a day was a challenge, so when my father and I were able to see our family (my three brothers, a sister, and mother) eating at night, it was a victory. When, at the ages of 10 and nine, my brother and I were able to work all day to buy formula milk for our newly born brother, it was an achievement.
In 2003, when the situation in Afghanistan improved, our family returned. I was always a curious student and keen to learn new things, which paid off on our return. I started teaching English, computing skills, and math, and was making some money to support my education and my family. My brothers and I opened Maihan Educational Center in Kabul where we started teaching various courses. This was another useful source of income. I became interested in IT, something that I love dearly to this day. Some of my students are working for Fortune 500 companies. I take pride in helping my students achieve their dreams, which gives me tremendous happiness. I also started working for American companies and then ran the entire IT Department of a private bank in Kabul. Life was all good.
I came to the U.S. as a student in 2013 to 2015 on a Fulbright Scholarship; it was a much different political climate from what is happening right now. People’s acceptance of diversity and different races in society has decreased and can be noticed considerably.
After completing my Fulbright Scholarship, life back in Afghanistan was both good and bad. Good, mostly, for me and because I was now among the most-educated and most-needed young professionals in the country. Once I served as the Director of Information Technology of the Administrative Office of the President. I had countless opportunities to serve the country, be an agent of change, and make a decent living. However, there was considerable instability in the country, and because of my service for the United States while in Afghanistan, my family faced threats and insecurity. As a result, we had to immigrate.
I immigrated to the U.S. in late 2017 and since then a lot has changed, in particular for my wife and my daughter. They feel more independent when they are able to do things they weren’t able to do easily back home. It is much different for my wife to go out of the house here in the U.S., versus in Afghanistan. My daughter participates in sports and activities that she wasn’t able to do back home, which has given her both a sense of freedom and accomplishment. I am hopeful for the future of my kids here. I loved the openness and welcoming spirit of people here disregarding any racial or religious differences that we had.
Initially, it was quite a struggle to find a job here in the U.S. I wanted to work in my own field so I didn’t do any other work. I searched for jobs in IT, and I was mostly looking for management jobs, but I had no luck at the beginning. I was turned down from several organizations because I had no experience working in the U.S. However, I was committed and continued my job hunt until I found the job of my choice as a Senior Technology Manager at the First Republic Bank in San Francisco. I feel this has been my greatest achievement. I have a dream job now. I was resilient, I worked hard, I tried my best, and secured a good job without any references or links.
Yes, I do feel that our family has been treated fairly, and very well. We received help through the California Health and Human Services Agency to pay for a part of our rent and food until I was able to make a living. We received tremendous help from JFCS (which assists refugee families) and from the community and neighborhood.
Prior to migrating to the U.S., we were blessed with triplets. Taking care of them was very difficult for me and my wife alone, but we were introduced to some women who took turns helping so that I had time to search for jobs and help my wife take her driver’s license test. I believe that this willingness to pitch in is a real American value and this is what defines the American people. We feel very happy that we found an American ‘family’ here; all of them are great women. They always come talk with my wife and help as much possible. One of them helps my daughter with her school work. They have done whatever possible to make us feel at home, well-adjusted, and settled. Eventually, I would like to become a U.S. citizen. In the meantime, I also stay in touch with friends and family back in Afghanistan.
Life has been a struggle; success depends on how determined you are. I believe that “you can win if you want, but remember – only if you really want.”
I believe that as leaders we should inspire our own generation, as well as the generations to come. We should try to leave a legacy that they can learn from and be proud of. We should have stories that impact the lives of others. We must always know that we will have people who will follow us, who will walk in the paths we walked, whether they are our children, our followers, or others. My experience tells me that leaders are capable of changing people and leave a long, lasting impact.
I personally believe in unity, of not only all races, but also all religions. We should truly understand that we, as human beings, are more similar than different and that our differences only complement us.