I beat impostor syndrome – Safiia Maarouf Mohammed


Safiia is currently a student at my former school called AIMS in Ghana. Here is our interview about her scientific journey:

Hi Safiia, thank you for joining us today
Hi Winnie, thank you for the opportunity.

Kindly give us your full name
My name is Safiia Maarouf Mohammed.

Tell us about your current occupation
I am currently doing my second masters degree, pursuing the African Master of Machine Intelligence (AMMI) at The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences – Ghana (AIMS Ghana), in Accra and expect to finish at the end of this year (2020).

Please take us through a summary of your life experience
I was born and raised in Khartoum,Sudan, and completed my primary school from Al-shaima bint Alharith primary school – North Khartoum. From there, I joined Bahri Model Secondary School for girls. During my second year at Bahri Model, I developed interest in sciences, especially computer science. My passion and interest, plus good grades, made me join the Faculty of Mathematical Science the at University of Khartoum. From my undergraduate degree, my journey in STEM never stopped until today. After spending 5 years doing mathematics, statistic and computer science, I graduated with a bachelors degree as the best student in my department – computer sciences.

Upon graduation I started working at my university as a teaching assistant for 2 years. At the end of my tenure, I realised it was time for me to consider my next step, career-wise. After thorough thought, the best option was for me to pursue a postgraduate degree. I decided to do my masters in information security because of my interest in tackling and dealing with cyber security crimes. My biggest challenge that time was that the digital forensics field was very new in my country, and there was no chance of achieving my passion there. However, with the encouragement and support of my parents, I applied for, and received a partial scholarship at the institute of technology, Blanchardstown in Dublin, Ireland.

To describe my exact feelings when I received the news; I was very excited, but also worried about many issues! For example, I was wondering whether I could really do it! That was the real definition of impostor syndrome – the epitome of that monster! Was I fit to be called a masters holder a year later? All this happened because of two main reasons; that was going to be my first time to step outside Sudan, I wasn’t going to be with my friends! I was also worried about the language problem, given the fact that English is not my first language. Fast-forward, I returned home as a masters degree holder with a first-class. My lesson from that experience was that if you decide to achieve your goals you definitely can!

In 2016, I returned to Sudan as a lecturer in the department of information system management and security, at Sudan International University. This was a wonderful opportunity until October 2019 when I received a full scholarship from AIMS for the African Masters of Machine Intelligence program in Ghana.

This opportunity gives me a chance to explore the world of machine learning as well as practice different types of models and algorithms. My future plan is to complete the academic journey by doing a Ph.D. degree in computer sciences and pursuing a career as a researcher in reputable educational institutions.

My long-term plan is to start a business that will support the technical revolution in Sudan and our national economy. The business will be based on technical skills related to IT and computer sciences. The aim is to train young people (especially women and girls) in these skills and teach them other life skills (leadership and soft skills).

What have you found inspiring and challenging along this journey?
Firstly, my biggest inspiration is the support I get from my friends and family. That pushes me to go further each new day. It’s because of them that I have achieved all this so far.

As for challenges; it’s never easy finding yourself outside your normal community and environment. That affected me to some degree but I later used it as a chance to develop my social and personal skills. It was a good time for me to experience the new challenge and give myself time to engage in the new environment.

What do you enjoy doing outside work?
I can describe my self as a bookworm :), I generally love reading about history, cultures, personal development, and religions.

I also used to write short stories from time to time and do some life coaching in my small community.

How about your prestigious achievements & awards?
I have got some awards through my academic journey;

  • the prize of the model student in my local area, during my last year of primary school,
  • the prize for Best academic performance in my third year at university, and
  • last year, I was a recipient of the Google & Facebook scholarship to study MSc in Machine intelligence – AIMS-Ghana.

What is your favourite quote?
I would like to say my own quote, 🙂
No one can stop you from doing what you want, they can make you late, take it as a chance to improve yourself”.

Please leave us with a word of encouragement
Take your time to have the best version of you, and keep going at the same time.

Thank you Safiia for taking time to speak to us and encourage other girls in STEM. We wish you all the best with your program.

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