From Latin American Oil Rigs to Silicon Valley

Student Post — March 18, 2015 — Can you imagine a young Pakistani lady working on oil rigs in the middle of nowhere in amazon jungles in Latin America? It’s hard, but it’s even harder to imagine her transition from that world to a magical place called Silicon Valley. Graduation and Oil and Gas Industry

Rig photo

My name is Maha and I was part of Draper University's Winter 2015 class. I graduated with a Chemical Engineering degree from National University of Sciences and Technology in Islamabad, Pakistan and the University of Mississippi, US in 2013. As a fresh graduate, I was swamped with opportunities, and if you ask me today, I still don’t understand why I chose working as a field engineer on international mobile for Schlumberger. I left my family, everything I had, and took a plane to Brazil. After a week of training in Rio de Janeiro, I flew to Colombia and started working on oil rigs. My job was running measurements and logging while drilling tools to provide data such as gamma ray, resistivity, neutron porosity, bulk density and others to client companies (Ecopetrol, Petrobras, Equion, etc). I was part of the drilling group and had to be on the rig from the moment drilling starts till the time it ends. After working for 5 months, I was sent to the Training Center in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates where I was fortunate to be first in my class of 40 engineers from all over the world - and I was the only woman in my class!

After the training, I went back to Colombia to resume my work. I felt frustrated and tried to figure out why. Was it family, work rotation (I used to go to the rig for 40 days and come back for 3 days off), jungles or what?

It was during the Society of Women Engineers annual conference in Los Angeles a month later that I could see patterns. I realized that I was passionate about research, technologies, and startups.

After conducting a 26-hour long fishing operation in the rig, I stumbled on an e-mail from YouNoodle. The e-mail mentioned something about an entrepreneurship program in Silicon Valley, and that e-mail ended up changing my life!

I applied to Draper University of Heroes, was accepted, and immediately packed my bags and came to Silicon Valley.

Draper University and Silicon Valley

I can neither summarize my time at Draper nor at Silicon Valley in one blog post! It’s an experience, a learning, and a feeling that can only be experienced, learnt, and felt.

But for all the prospective students and avid parents out there, I would jot down some of the key workshops I completed: Vision of the future, Agility, Evangelism, Survival, Resource Acquisition, Incorporation, and the Art of Pitching.

Draper University is not a traditional university. Neither it’s an accelerator nor an incubator. It’s something more than that. It challenges one to think beyond her limits, believe that everything is possible, and be ready to embrace failure. The university leaves no stone unturned by bringing in speakers from Facebook to Twitter to SpaceX to Khosla Ventures to Founder’s Fund to Stanford University. It would take me another 3 hours to compile a list of the incredible speakers who came to speak to our class.

Another significant thing about Draper University is the mentorship the program provides. The university inundates a student with mentors. From famous Silicon Valley VC mentors to Entrepreneurs in Residence to Alumni mentors to personal female mentors, I felt overwhelmed. But mentorship played a very crucial role in helping me build relationships which I’ll cherish forever!

To summarize, I feel completely transformed today. I feel blessed to have gone through the program and built a network of friends, mentors, and people who want to help me succeed. I feel fortunate to have explored the magical Disneyland they call ‘Silicon Valley’ and 10x more excited to begin my PhD in Chemical Engineering at Stanford University this Fall.

As Tim Draper says – the world needs superheroes and I’m going to be one of those superwomen!