‘If you have a dream, go for it’: how one alum landed a job at Google by prioritizing herself
Marah Ayad believes in chasing your dreams wholeheartedly.
Living by that ethos, coupled with hard work, the U of T Scarborough management alum is now a technical account manager at one of the world’s most sought-after tech companies – Google.
The opportunity was only possible because Ayad had already left her full-time job of three years at another prestigious company, Microsoft. She wanted to travel, but before she left for South America, she got the call from Google. Two months of studying new technical skills and six interviews later, she got the job and still travelled to Ecuador to volunteer as a hiking guide.
“If I had stayed at Microsoft as everyone told me to, I would have never been able to prepare for my job at Google,” says Ayad, who graduated from the first cohort of the Management and International Business Co-op Program (MIB) in 2017.
“Listen to your body, mind and heart, and if you have a dream, go for it,” she says.
The MIB program offers students strong fundamental management skills, combined with domestic and international work and study opportunities to network and learn the industry through a global lens.
Ayad studied economics at University College London before landing an internship at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya. She also completed two co-ops at Microsoft Canada throughout her academic career, where she gained valuable work experience with non-cloud and cloud technologies.
If you invest the time and effort and truly believe in yourself, you can achieve anything
As a communications facilitator in Kenya, Ayad worked at the hospital’s Provost Office to obtain donations from private companies to assist families with the cost of health care. She credits the experience to one that prepared her for the industry.
“As a 19-year-old, I learned a lot about how to communicate and get people to hear you. To be a girl who can speak loud and have her voice heard is super useful, especially in tech and business, which is still a male-dominated industry.”
As a student, Ayad pursued extracurriculars that prioritized connecting communities and facilitating insightful conversations. This is what made TEDxUTSC the perfect place for her, first as the director of speakers relations and later as chair. Under the role, Ayad organized their 2015 conference, Unleash Your Fantasy.
Despite a strong passion for public speaking, Ayad was not always comfortable with the idea, having moved to Canada from Saudi Arabia a couple of years before enrolling in UTSC. She credits lecturer James Howard’s management communications course as a launchpad that equipped her with presentation and leadership skills.
“It changed everything for me. The entire class was about being good at standing up in front of a group, and speaking loudly and clearly to communicate meaningful points,” says Ayad, who was Howard’s teaching assistant for two semesters. “He helped us discover a side of ourselves that we always wanted to show.”
In keeping true to her journey and now in a position to help others, Ayad highlights servant leadership, which focuses on supporting employees' professional and personal goals, as crucial to nurturing an inclusive, uplifting work environment, compared to traditional models.
“Servant leadership is key to having a diverse workplace–it allows someone to climb the ladder, the new parent to have stability, and the 22-year-old a chance to travel. It's non-negotiable in the future of the workforce," Ayad says.
What advice does she have for students?
Ayad encourages students pursuing any field to get certified in fundamental knowledge of the cloud ecosystem, coding languages and data science – all platforms that drive our everyday lives and decision-making.
She also wants to share her experience and mentor business students considering the tech industry, especially new immigrants, women and LGBTQ professionals.
“I will never question if it’s alright to take time off. I won’t have doubts about my employability with a gap on my resume. We need to let go of that mentality.”
“If you invest the time and effort and truly believe in yourself, you can achieve anything.”
Ayad will be joining the management pathways IT career panel on Feb. 8 to share her career story and advice to students about breaking into the technology industry.
Students interested in attending can register here.
“There has been an increased demand for talent and growth in the technology industry for management co-op students from the BBA program,” says Sischa Maharaj, assistant director, external relations and communications in the department of management.
“It’s wonderful to have supportive alumni like Marah willing to help current students break into emerging technology careers.”