It is really hard to select one outstanding attribute about oneself to speak about but when I look at most of the things I have done in my life one trait appears to cut across all my actions; pragmatism. I am logical to a fault, approaching all problems in a sensible, practical manner. In a sense this may be interpreted to mean that I am not an overly optimistic person. Far from it, I believe a little good luck goes a long way in helping us achieve our goals. Although I only realized it when I was older, my pragmatic nature had become evident while I was only eight years old. I recall walking home from school one afternoon when I ran into a stray dog on the path. It looked horrible with matted dry fur and angry eyes. At that age, I was terrified of dogs. As the beast approached, my first instinct was to scale the nearest fence. However, the nearest fence was fifteen meters away and I was completely sure I could not outrun the dog despite all the adrenaline coursing through me. Drawing a breath I decided to walk, slowly. It was the only prudent option. My legs felt like lead and my movements were mechanical. The dog followed. At first, it walked about two meters behind me, growling softly. Then somehow, it ended up beside me and together we walked home. After that incident the dog would walk me to our gate every day after school. Now some would regard that as courage or sheer madness but I believe it was all a matter of being logical and of course a little good luck; the dog was not as hungry as I envisioned. Every time I am faced with a difficult situation I recall the incident and the solution suddenly becomes evident.
I live in Saudi Arabia which is regarded by many as a developing country. This is correct. Our economy relies mainly on petroleum production which has enabled us to maintain our developing status. However, advances in technology have led to the discovery of cleaner renewable sources of energy which may significantly decrease trade in petroleum. Our growing population poses several problems such as overcrowding and deteriorating living standards in light of the present harsh economic times. There is growing pressure to address the housing, energy, water and sanitation needs of the population. There is a need to expand the existing industries in order to create employment and increase the nation’s gross output. These are social problems which can only be addressed through engineering.
I believe I can make the greatest contribution to my country as an engineer. I can solve real social problems through the application of science. In the past my country has had to rely on technical assistance from others but this kind of aid has no sustainable effect. As a matter of fact it may hinder our development by creating dependency on foreign technical assistance. Most of the projects undertaken by expatriate engineers are expected to benefit foreign corporations and powerful governmental officials. Additionally, such engineering projects tend to fail due to the fact that the long term needs of the project are not addressed. For example, a grand highway may be constructed but without the necessary technical knowledge on how to maintain the road, the whole project will deteriorate in a few years. The development of a nation can only be sustained if it is directed by the people on whom it impacts. I plan on being the engineer my country and the world at large needs.
One of my parents is American while the other comes from Saudi Arabia. Needless to say, that represents two cultural extremes. I have grown up surrounded by both cultures and I am pretty certain most people would regard that as having the best of both worlds. This is partly correct; it opened up my mind to how diverse the world can actually be. It afforded me a choice on which cultural values I would chose to uphold. Not many people get to choose their culture. However, there is also the sense of having the worst of both worlds when you feel like you do not fully belong to either. All my life I have tried to figure out whether I was truly American or Saudi Arabian. Every time I thought about it, I felt like I was trying to choose between my parents and I never could. After a long time I came to realize that neither the color of my skin nor my last name could determine my core values. I was a human being and a universal one at that. Rather than fuss over which culture to belong to, I could use my unique position as well as my knowledge of engineering to build a bridge between the two worlds. Rather than widen the divide by making a choice, I chose to embrace both cultures. I am American and I am Saudi Arabian. Sometimes a challenge is really an opportunity dressed in overalls and looks like work. By addressing my challenge I found a stepping stone to a greater opportunity; engineering is not affiliated by any culture and is embraced by all. I am not defined by my culture.