Episode 11: Myra Nawabi

I learned to focus on the humanity of human beings when things look dark and ugly.

"Always believe that the universe has a plan for you, you just have to be open to it."

Myra Nawabi,
Senior Project Engineer, LockHeed,
on being a refugee to doing rocket
cience for a living

Myra Nawabi is a Senior Project Engineer at one of the leading aerospace companies, LockHeed Martin.  She is also the Faciltator of one of the largest Lean In Circles in Northern California.  The journey to this point in her life was a long and difficult one. 
Myra Nawabi has led multiple lives.  In one minute, she is living a comfortable life in Afghanistan belonging to one of the most influential families in power until a coup changes everything.  In the next moment, she is fleeing the country as a refugee, disguising herself as a gypsy, sleeping in caves and walking twelve miles daily in the treacherous winter nights to cross the border into Pakistan.  In another instant, she arrives as a refugee in New York, attends school, learns to assimilate into the American culture, and faces the harsh reality of discrimination.  And from one minute to the next, she is married and divorced, raising her daughter as a single mother, while finishing her college education. 
There are two dreams that Myra always clung to throughout her journey in life:  to get an education and to get to space.  

Podcast Details

Find out from the podcast how Myra:

  • Coped with smugglers, checkpoints and a run in with a gun during her escape from Afghanistan
  • Became curious about space, including her fascination with the moon, stars, and life beyond Earth
  • Learned to deal with discrimination in her new life in America, embodied Tupac’s “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, and learned to appreciate the stories of other humans
  • Turned anger into action and started having peaceful dialog
  • Negotiated with her family and the “bargain” she struck in order to go to college
  • Wrestled with the difficult major of Aeronautical Engineering , including the gender bias she faced from professors/class mates, while working long hours and paying for school
  • Found herself married, pregnant and reliving her dream to go to school
  • Got caught in a challenging divorce, found herself alone, at the same realized for the first time that she was free to stand on her own
  • Finally got her big break in the aerospace industry leading her to her dreams of possibly travelling into space
  • Is a huge proponent of ‘paying it forward’ through all of the support she received from mentors and friends in her trials 

Myra faced a lot adversity.  Throughout her trials, she demonstrated resilience, perseverance, strength and grit.  Recently, Sheryl Sandberg in her commencement speech at UC Berkeley said, “You will be defined not just by what you achieve, but by how you survive”. 

Myra Nawabi is a survivor and I am honored to share her inspiring story.

About Myra

Myra is a Senior Project Engineer, working with rocket scientists to develop next-generation space equipment. In a former life, she was an educator and she still lives and breathes the belief that education has the power to change the world.  Facilitating the largest Lean In circle in Northern California allows Myra to indulge in two of her passions at once: Help women to increase their self-confidence, and give back to her community.  Myra was recently recognized as one of the 2016 Women of Influence by the Silicon Valley Business Journal. 

In her spare time, Myra consults with mobile app start-ups, volunteers to teach women and girls how to get the most from technology, helps with the annual Silicon Valley Tour de Cure, facilitates a book group, and leaps tall buildings in a single bound!

Myra is a princess in an ancient Afghan lineage.  She and her family lived through the horrors of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, finally escaping and finding asylum in the United States in 1987.

Myra holds a BA in Liberal Studies and a MS in Educational Leadership from California State University, East Bay, with minors in Mathematics and History and options in Early Childhood Development and Urban Teacher Leadership.

he is a mom to a lovely and talented daughter.