A Yemeni Girl's Dream: An Interview with Yasmeen Munasser

 Yasmeen Munasser, Tech Student at CUNY

Yasmeen Munasser, Tech Student at CUNY

If you ever wanted to meet an inspiring woman, here's your chance. We are so thrilled to introduce you to Yasmeen. Without giving too much away, she's an absolute rockstar who is going to change the world through technology and is already paving the way for more women to enter the STEM field! So, with no futher adue, here's our interview with this lovely lady.

MSC: How did you first hear about My Social Canvas? Why did you want to get involved?

Yasmeen: I first heard about My Social Canvas when I first met Lisa Mayer. I met her from an event hosted by HerHuddle, a movement of women, from executives to young women in college, designed to ignite possibilities and inspire action for a rising circle of women. I wanted to get involved in My Social Canvas because I am all about being a part of a program/organization that inspires young women to be the best that they can be by designing the life they love.

MSC: What does My Social Canvas mean to you? What do you love about MSC’s mission of equipping and empowering the next generation of women and girls to design the life and career they love?

Yasmeen: My Social Canvas means to dream big. What I love about MSC’s mission is that the brand as a whole share a positive message for young women to believe in themselves and they can absolutely achieve the life they love and want to live. The brand is also like a sisterhood and a bond for the next generation of women and girls to just be there for one another as we all flourish in our careers.

MSC: What events have you attended through My Social Canvas? What did you learn?

Yasmeen: I have attended a couple of events. The most recent event I attended was the Apple Event where I learned about how to become a more skilled coder and was introduced to the Procreate app where I can gain design and sketching skills with the Apple Pencil. It was so much fun and very inspiring.

MSC: What is your dream job?

Yasmeen: As a computer science major, my dream job is to be a software engineer. I want to be a representation, and a leader, for women in tech. I also am minoring in business because I want to gain a set of skills that will allow me to explore the business and finance industries.

MSC: Our Founder/CEO Lisa is inspired by your story and the journey you took to pursue your education! Could you share some of your personal story so we can help inspire other women like you to always dream big and never give up? 

Yasmeen: As a Yemeni girl, it was a challenge for me to pursue higher education. In Yemen, most girls end their education at high school. I graduated from high school in 2012 and I did not go to college or work once I finished high school. This remained for three years. For those three years, I didn’t feel like myself. I knew that high school was not the end of my educational career; I always loved school and I was an ambitious girl... I wanted more for myself and my future.

In 2015, I had the realization that I need to do what is best for me. I needed to break the cycle of Yemeni girls’ highest level of education being high school. This lifestyle stems from the culture and not the religion of Islam. I also wanted to be an example for my little sister and to make things easier for her to pursue higher education. In summer of 2015, I had debates with my father about enrolling in college. After three months, he agreed. Now, in August of 2018, having completed three years of college and completed two summer internships, one winter internship, and working a couple jobs while taking multiple classes per semester, my parents could not be prouder. I am also proud of myself. I broke the cycle. I am the first in my family to pursue higher education and to have an Associate’s degree while I am currently pursuing my Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science/ minoring in Business. I am living my truth. I am doing what I love every single day which is being a working young woman pursuing her education.

MSC: What advice would you give to other girls and women in your area of study? 

Yasmeen: One piece of advice I would give to other girls and women in my area of study (STEM) is to “invest in yourself” - it is the best investment you can ever make. This short three-word statement is what I have chosen to live by for three years now. There will be many days where you will feel discouraged or that you do not belong. However, you have to push through those days and never give up. You will only come out the other side stronger. Form study groups, use resources online to study any material you may have trouble with or you feel you may never quite understand. The world is in need of more women in computer science and the tech industry. There isn’t anything women cannot do! I also attest that you will be at a point in your life where you look back at some of your toughest moments and you will smile at the fact that you have pushed through. You will then realize that there is nothing you cannot handle and that you are meant to do what you love. 

MSC: Who are some of your “Design the Life You Love” mentors or role models? (women you look up to)

 Yasmeen: For me, one of my “Design the Life You Love” role models would have to be Lisa Mayer. She is an example of what I hope to achieve in the future as far as creating an organization or a brand that will only inspire young girls and women to be creative and open about what they would love to achieve in their lives. Like Lisa, I hope to someday create a space for young women to be able to be involved in a space where they feel there are other young women like themselves that they can relate to. She is focused and driven to giving back to young women by always inspiring them. She reassures us all that we can achieve anything we want and make our dreams come true. I only hope to do the same.

Another role model for me is Judy Spitz who is the Director and Founder of Women in Technology in New York. I first met her when I applied through the WiTNY Summer Guild Program in 2017 which was a two-week intense program for young women pursuing computer science or related majors and who want to flourish in the tech field. I had an incredible experience. Once I completed the program, I realized I wanted to pursue Computer Science as a major and become a leading woman in technology. My relationship with Judy is not only professional but it has become a personal relationship as well. We stay in contact through email and she is someone I go to ask for advice whether it is about a next job opportunity or school related. She is an amazing, accomplished woman and I hope to one day be at her level and inspire as many young women as she has. I do not think she realizes how her support and guidance has impacted me in an abundant way. I am very appreciative of her. I like to think of her as the Beyoncé of Technology.  

Lastly, a third role model for me is US Olympian and 1st Muslim female medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad. It is refreshing and inspiring to see a Muslim woman pursuing her dreams and designing the life she loves. It can be very challenging for Hijabi women to live in their truths and at the same time balance our religion, Islam, while being a Muslim American pursuing her passion. She is a force to be reckoned with who deserves all the success.