“If I had paid attention to my high school guidance counselor, I would have become a cosmetologist.” — Aisha
In an industry highly engulfed by men, there are still quite a handful of women who have managed to maneuver their way through with absolute hard work, determination and above all, the will power and hunger to succeed.
Meet Aisha Bowe, a former NASA engineer, now the CEO of her own Technology company, Stem Board who has persevered to write her own success story by riding on the rough hurdles of life to becoming the admirable woman she is today.
In her words, “When I turned thirty-one (31), I found it a hard time looking in the mirror and seeing the same woman that others perceived me to be. Being a young black woman and a CEO of a multi-million dollar company can be extremely overwhelming and it’s certainly very difficult to throw the quest for love into that equation.” She continued, “When I was much younger; I was very tiny, had zero confidence and not trendy in the least. I remember always being ashamed of my ‘back- to- school’ clothes because they always came from K-Mart. I felt neither beautiful nor smart and no one told me otherwise. On top of it all, I was a gymnast who suffered some sort of discrimination at age ten (10) amongst her peers who were told by their parents that blacks were dirty.”
Aisha’s mum at age twenty-seven (27) found herself as a new divorcee with two kids and without a college education. That unfortunate situation projected some sort of loneliness and insecurity on young Aisha who then found solace in science fiction books which enabled her escape from the harsh realities of life into a whole new world with great possibilities. Since then, she’s spent the past twenty (20) years creating her own narrative and working on being a better person than she was the day before.
“My first day in high school was the most awkward thing.” she continued, “I was uninterested, unmotivated and as a matter of fact, I just didn’t want to be there. It was soon time to graduate and you know how there’s always some sort of guidance and counseling session for graduating students on how to choose the right and appropriate career paths and how to walk towards it; well, my guidance counselor told me that I could be a good cosmetologist. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a cosmetologist but the sad truth was, that was all she thought I could be but I knew and saw within me that I could actually do more.
“My self confidence came from a really unlikely place. In my first semester at the community college I decided to pursue a degree in business because that was what all the cool kids in my year group were doing. At the end of the semester I had a grade ‘C’ in Economics and I did not want to discuss it at all with neither of my parents but my dad went straight to it and offered to pay for me to take a math class. That class changed my life; not with its contents but with the accomplishment that came with it because that ‘A’ in pre- algebra became an ‘A’ in calculus and that really helped grow and shape up the self confidence I never had. Now, there was the girl who never thought she could be anything ever and didn’t have a group of people cheering her on making that effort to throw away everything she ever thought of herself to enable her create a whole new list with the most outrageous things which aided her to create her own narrative.”
ROAD TO NASA
The first outrageous thing on Aisha’s new list to finding herself was to go to the University of Michigan to study aerospace engineering because her immense love for science fiction demanded it. Then with that, the next on her list was to go work with NASA because it represented the best and the brightest in everything she had hoped to become from this list… and she did! And every single thing inserted on this list came true not because it was easy but because she fought through every impossibility and struggle to make it all come to pass.
She described her first day at what she termed as the Tech jungle (NASA} as a dream. She could definitely not contain her joy when she walked through the doors of NASA as an employee with her own identification badge. In the next shocking revelation she said “the craziest thing about my being at NASA was that I turned the job down! They asked me to come and I still felt that I wasn’t good enough because there were kids who had a 4.0 GPA in my class who were bluntly denied this job and there I was asking myself ‘why me?’ my mentor at that time looked at me without forgetting to tell me how insane I was to put myself in that position and further pushed me with no choice but to go back for that job and yeah… after six (6) whole years, they could not get rid of me. The place was filled with amazing people and that experience was very much worth it.
Leaving NASA to creating her very own multi-million dollar company, Aisha Bowe now describes what her company is all about. “StemBoard is a tech start up that creates smart solutions for government and private sector clients. StemBoard is also committed to closing the achieving gap of providing underserved communities with enabling technologies. We have started creating hardwares which are specifically targeted at providing underserved students in stem field with the skills they need to be competitive. Instead of waiting for a four (4) year degree to be able to generate revenue; you can take the problems you face on a daily basis, solve them, put them on a digital platform and make millions. So with our programs, we say it’s not good enough to just be technically proficient but we’d also want you to understand entrepreneurship, branding etc.
END NOTE FROM THE TECH CEO
To wrap it all up, she said,
“Don’t put limits on what you think you can achieve and in fact, don’t be afraid to think that you CAN achieve that very thing and go even further.”