In Ayesha's native country of Pakistan, it’s virtually unheard of for a woman to take business or computer related courses. But that didn’t stop her; she was eager to explore her possibilities. Ayesha quickly learned she has a “natural knack” when it comes to understanding and using technology. Her family moved to the U.S. in 2014, and she wasted no time in enrolling at Howard Community College, eager to take advantage of the many course offerings available in the fields of cybersecurity, computer science, robotics, and information systems.
“Learning at HCC was a completely different experience for me,” said Ayesha. “My teachers and peers saw my potential and there was no judgement because I am a female. I had opportunities that I didn’t have before. People always told me that I would be a good mentor. At HCC, I gained the confidence to pursue it; I was a math tutor!”
One of those teachers was Mr. Athar Rafiq, manager of computer and cyber lab services at HCC. Ayesha says he played an instrumental role in her success as a student.
“Mr. Athar helped me overcome my mistakes, always encouraged me and challenged me with new ideas and exciting material,” she said. “I can’t thank him enough for all the advice he has given me and the important role he played in my journey.”
Dr. Mengistu Ayane, associate professor of cybersecurity at HCC, also served as an inspiration for Ayesha, encouraging her to think outside of the box and venture beyond her comfort zone.
“Professor Mengi really motivated me to get out of the classroom and try different things,” Ayesha said. “As a result, I found some new interests, passion, and life direction. And all of those things are leading to new opportunities for me as I continue to grow as student and a person.”
During her time at HCC, Ayesha served as vice president of the cyber defense club and was also a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. Additionally, she was the recipient of the Maryland State Senatorial Scholarship by the Maryland Higher Education Commission.
Ayesha graduated in May and has been accepted to UMBC Honors College. She has also applied to University of Maryland’s College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences and expects a decision in mid-July.
In the meantime, she is working with Google Ignite Cybersecurity Camp as the assistant director and camp counselor for this Computer Sciences Project. The camp runs the last week of June, and will teach middle school girls about software, software and coding, robotics, Raspberry Pi Technology and 3D printing.
“I am learning new things every day,” she said. “And love what I’m doing.”