Tooba Fiaz, a senior, has a job as a logistics engineer at Dow Chemical.
America is the land of dreams. And the way to fulfill your dream is to study hard. That’s what Tooba Fiaz’s father always told her, and in her case, he was right.
Tooba, a senior, is graduating from NJIT with a solid entry-level engineering job at Dow Chemical. In a few weeks, she’ll move to Houston and begin working as a site logistics engineer for Dow, one of America’s largest corporations. The bright start to her career is not only a fulfillment of her dreams but also of her father’s.
He father, says Tooba, is an educated man who worked as an analytical chemist in Pakistan. But when she was nine, her family left Pakistan for America: Their motive was simple: they wanted her and her siblings to attend American schools and have better lives. Her father couldn’t work as a chemist in America. Instead, he worked any humble job he could find. He didn’t mind the sacrifice, as long as his children prospered.
“My father couldn’t use his education in America so he struggled at various working-class jobs,” she says. “But he always emphasized education at home and to me. He wanted nothing more than for his children to get good educations and good jobs.”
By her own admission, Tooba is not a brilliant student. Rather, she describes herself as a hard worker who was fortunate on a few fronts. For one, she came to NJIT as part of the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), which mainly helps minority students from low-income families excel at NJIT. EOP is run by Tony Howell, who has won national awards for helping students from low-performing city high schools excel at NJIT. Howell saw that Tooba was hard-working and selfless – even as a student she worked to pay her bills. So he counseled and directed her as best he could.
“Mr. Howell is like my father on campus,” says Tooba. “I came to NJIT because of EOP and I’m grateful to him for his guidance. I can’t describe how helpful it was to have him there for me. He has such a good heart.”
She was also fortunate to find a major she loves: industrial engineering. It’s a major that calls upon students to interact with people and Tooba is good with people. Having good communication skills helps her do well on interviews and when a sophomore she got an internship at Unilever, in Hammond, Indiana. She lived there for the summer – the first time she left home – working in the company’s Dove Soap division. It was also the first time she worked in her field – industrial engineering – and she loved it.
The next summer, she did a second internship at L’Oreal, in Franklin, N.J. She worked in the plant that manufactures make-up, work she also enjoyed. Then, through her close association with the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) at NJIT, Tooba attended a SWE conference that included a career fair. She interviewed for and acquired yet a third internship at Dow Chemical, in Freeport, Texas. She worked in a supply chain unit that focused on improving the transportation of Dow’s products. She called upon her industrial engineering skills and she excelled at the job; so much so that on the last day of the internship her managers offered her a full-time job.
She’ll move to Houston for her job, but will remain close to her family. They live now in Carteret, N.J. Her parents always gave her the freedom to do what she wanted – to select her own major and to live away from home -- which she says is unusually liberal for Muslim parents from South Asia. She’ll thus do whatever she can to help her parents.
“I love my father, and I love my mother more than anything on this planet,” says Tooba. “She raised me and taught me ethics and what to value in life: family, hard work and personal relationships over money. I’ll do all I can to help them buy a house or help my father start his own business. He always told me that America was the land of dreams and that if you study hard you’ll get results. He was right.”
By Robert Florida