I am happy to share with you my just-begun professional journey in the US.
If you are a professional mother, I hope to be able to inspire a little bit of you, who may often be drawn from undertaking such initiatives for professional growth, with the reason not to leave your family and children for some time.
AADF Master’s and Internship Program, a program for which I browsed 2 times a year, 4 years long, with the attempt to try to apply and become a part of it, but always being withdrawn from this attempt.
Reason? My family and leaving it for 6 months (approximately a long time).
I am married and blessed by God with two daughters, 10 and 4 years old. I am also a woman with a long professional experience, during which, in addition to my dedication to my family, I have had at least 3 jobs on my shoulders at the same time: academia, public administration, and entrepreneurship. How is it possible? – “I’m asking myself…” – Because there are opportunities when there are challenges, so you must find the courage and the initiative to win them successfully. Grabbing and winning them, has always been my only way to improve my professional growth, and for more opportunities in my future, which will be automatically possibilities also for my family and my daughters.
“So it’s done! I will apply even though the deadline for applications is 15/10/2021 (today)
It’s 8:00 am right now and I have time until 17:00 to complete it…another challenge with time management …which I like going through very often ;)”
Just simple as that, no stress, nothing too official, just me, my story, and what I’m looking to achieve more in my future going through an American experience. It took me maybe more than 6 hours, and the task was completed! Application Done and Received ?!
Let’s move one step further…Interviews notification…Scheduled on time…So let’s go… no official preparation for the interviews…relaxed and easygoing to tell more about me…I did it quickly and proved all I could…I had that feeling it wasn’t good…but I was accepted ?…I was officially notified as part of the Spring MIP Cohort 2022 supported by AADF…
Let’s begin the real challenge! Let’s prepare the pathway of this new outstanding professional opportunity!
Family first! – blessed to be supported by my husband, my mom, and my dad from the first time I shared with them this notice – “Keep going on with your future goals and achievements, without keeping your mind here!”
Profile definition! – I am a passionate innovative young woman entrepreneur and lecturer in the field of Information Communication Technology, seeking to gain experience with an American company, institution, or university working in innovation, IT, STEM education, and business development.
What strengths me? – I am a simple soft skilled person, a fast learner, and a hard worker always seeking to reach professional growth through new challenges beyond different difficulties may encounter.
Placement preference? –No! I want to let things flow freely, I want to be open to opportunities, to accept the challenge of the placement location and the culture that I will find. Only one condition is related to my placement preference: the host institution had to be a combination of university-based academia and entrepreneurship in innovation.
It didn’t take too long and the first opportunity for placement came to me: The University of Arizona Center for Innovation (UACI) based in Tucson ?, Arizona.
Let’s explore UACI and Tucson. I knew nothing about Tucson before. I had to be the first fellow in this new placement also for the program. Exited me and challenged me, but from the first moment I had that feeling of an appropriate match.
The University of Arizona Center for Innovation (UACI) is a startup incubator network with locations across the Southern Arizona region. The UACI offers leaders of science and technology startups the expertise, connections to the University of Arizona, incubation programs, and office and lab space needed to turn ideas and inventions into strong, scalable, and sustainable businesses that ultimately provide high-paying jobs and fuel Southern Arizona’s economy. As Arizona’s leading incubation organization, with nearly two decades of successful outcomes, UACI is a critical component of Arizona’s innovation ecosystem. This is done by providing access to people, programming, and places that help entrepreneurs take their companies from idea to market.
Tucson is a city in and the county seat of Pima County, Arizona, United States, and is home to the University of Arizona. It is the second largest city in Arizona behind Phoenix. It was founded as a military fort by the Spanish in 1775. Tucson was included in the state of Sonora after Mexico gained independence from the Spanish Empire in 1821. In 1853, the United States acquired a 29,670 square miles (76,840 km2) region of present-day southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico from Mexico under the Gadsden Purchase. Tucson served as the capital of the Arizona Territory from 1867 to 1877 and was Arizona’s largest city by population during the territorial period and early statehood until it was surpassed by Phoenix by 1920. In 2017, Tucson was the first American city to be designated a “City of Gastronomy” by UNESCO. It is sometimes referred to as “The Old Pueblo”, and rightly deserves its more recent moniker as “Optics Valley” with its optical science and telescopes are known worldwide.
As I began to be used to Tucson and UACI every day through virtual browsing during preparation time, I got the first interview invitation from the UACI, where I was informed, too, that I’ll not be alone in this adventure there. Another cohort fellow decided to be placed at the same time and same place as me. They were talking about Erida Curraj (my actual roommate and cohort fellow along this journey).
Although we didn’t know each other before, I had a very positive feeling since the beginning. The smelling of a perfect match for us was noted ahead, and we went together through the whole process, step by step, from the preparation until being here.
I feel blessed for this combination of the two of us, and I recommend this strategy be replicated in the next cohorts of this program.
After more than 8 months of pre-departure preparation, and passing the interviews with the UACI, we have been in Tucson since the 6th of September 2022.
Our supervisor, once Director at the UACI, Anita Bell, is waiting for us. She is our blessing in the town, who has been following our pre-departure preparation and helping us step by step in finding the house, opening the bank accounts, settling up with all the legal documentation needed while we’ll be staying in the US, and of course, preparing for us the most comfortable and welcoming working place at the UACI.
Some journeys are just meant to be!
As you didn’t even realize how quickly time passes, the first day of work at UACI just arrived, almost 5 weeks ago, on the 12th of September 2022.
The University of Arizona Center for Innovation (UACI) is part of the Tech Parks. We have been invited and involved from the first day directly to the monthly meeting of the administrative board of the Tech Parks. Warmly welcomed by all the members and it was definitely a privilege for us and such a good feeling.
After the first meeting, here we are physically in the office…
“Welcome to the Big Fish (UACI) into the Small Fish (Tucson ?)”.
While we struggle with our insecurities, dilemmas of different versions and questions mark in our heads like: Am I good enough to do this job? Did I make the right decision? etc., we just realized that the time has already passed and I can just feel the blessing of working here with amazing people and not overthinking.
From the first day, we started working until now, our involvement has been continuing and intensive in every professional, social and cultural activity scheduled at the UACI. Our capacities and our previous professional experiences have been welcomed and valued, even requested to be implemented and shared within the daily working and projects of UACI.
Startups at the UACI go through a structured program that takes them through a continuum of education provided by mentors, advisors and community collaborators. The University of Arizona Center for Innovation also provides access to service providers, industry cluster groups, interns and connections to potential customers and strategic partners. Entrepreneurs utilize various physical spaces that include offices, wet and dry labs, meeting rooms, a prototyping center, collaboration areas and the infrastructure to support these spaces.
The initial focus which with I am being engaged is supporting the reengineering of the new official website of the UACI and the transition of the educational materials of UACI from the current system onto a web-based platform and assisting in the development of a more formalized training structure for the startup founders. I am working closely with the senior leadership at the University of Arizona Center for Innovation.
Furthermore, I have a lot to explore and to be engaged with in the coming months at the UACI. This is just the beginning of this full of opportunities journey here. I’ll be included in additional projects and specialty programs, such as international startup immersion industry-specific programs, establishing methods of tracking and assessment.
Excited to be on my way to innovation….
Living abroad is a journey by itself, not easy, and not at all always as charming as in social media…;)
But I am blessed to be in Tucson! I am blessed to be in a city of kind and gentle people like Tucsonas ! I am blessed to be and share this experience with Erida! I am blessed to be part of this Internship and Professional Exchange Program! Infinitely grateful to AADF!
Dear reader, it’s important to share with you the compulsory part of this experience, which is the Cultural and Historical Exchange.
Since the first day I have been here, I decided to live in this place.
Every day and minute out of the office has been fully scheduled to explore the city and furthermore, for me and Erida. Although it is not a pedestrian city at all, public transportation is not the best and a car is needed (but still expensive) we have been going around by foot and sometimes by Uber, exploring in a checklist, every corner of this city. It is amazing, and we have a lot more to explore listed in our TO-DO LIST ?
One of the best times passed here since I have been in the US, is the Enrichment Trip that we had at the beginning of October in Boulder, Colorado. We spent a full week of time expanding our professional network by interacting with other fellows of the program. It could contribute to our professional development by gaining insight into various sectors of the U.S. economy through meetings with entrepreneurs and business leaders. An added benefit to this experience was being inspired by the diversity of the United States by experiencing the locality and culture featured on the trip.
To overcome and feel good all we need are PEOPLE!
A big thank you to AADF, CIEE, and the best MIP Cohort 😉
My journey is still on its way to its destination…. New fulfilled opportunities are yet to come on my way to innovation…
© Helga Sallaku, MIP Internship Fellow 2022