110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Jen Horton
posted Dec 13, 2012 - 8:01:16pm
Maryam Ghyabi came to the United States years ago, at the age of 18. She and her brother were refugees from the ongoing revolution in Iran.
“My parents knew I wouldn’t survive it,” she said. “My best friend was executed.”
Today, Ghyabi is CEO of Ghyabi and Associates in Daytona Beach, a leader among transportation-engineering firms in Central Florida.
At the DeLand Area Chamber of Commerce’s Dec. 6 “Salute to Women in Business,” she told the group nothing is impossible with enough hard work, perseverance and hope.
In Iran, Ghyabi told the luncheon audience, she had never known a woman to graduate from high school.
Her first inspiration was her mother, but the one who planted in Ghyabi the idea of becoming a civil engineer was her grandfather.
Ghyabi’s grandfather had a broken teakettle. She quickly fixed it.
“He said, ‘You ought to be an engineer,’” she recalled. “I decided to go into civil engineering at age 14.”
Four years later, the young refugee was alone with her brother in a strange new country.
“My parents couldn’t come. Then they stopped sending money. Then they stopped contacting me,” she said. “Survival was day to day. I didn’t know how to grocery-shop here. I had to relearn how to live at age 18.”
Ghyabi was determined to seize the opportunities the United States presented. She didn’t speak the language.
“I walked around with a dictionary under my arm,” Ghyabi said. “It was a Webster’s, and it was big.”
Education was the foundation of her life. That she was able to achieve a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a master’s degree in transportation engineering were keys in her success.
“I knew if I did good, good would happen,” she said.
She was the only girl in her engineering classes.
“I am still the only girl in the class when I speak at colleges,” Ghyabi said.
The journey, she said, was wonderful. It was hard, but it allowed her to live, to raise her daughter, to be successful, and to be a philanthropist.
“I say I was born here at age 18,” she said.
When trying to start her business, Ghyabi faced gender discrimination.
She went to a bank and asked for a $50,000 loan to get the business started.
“They said I should have my husband or brother sign for me,” Ghyabi said.
She asked to speak to a supervisor, and said, “A master’s degree in civil engineering doesn’t qualify for a $50,000 loan?”
Ghyabi added, “I left alone with $50,000.”
Today, she is recognized as a leader in the transportation industry. Her firm has devised innovative solutions to transportation problems across the Central Florida region.
Every day she said, you need to evaluate your life.
“Are we operating from the point of despair, or hope?” she asked. “I choose every day to operate with hope, because we live in America.”
Ghyabi’s talk was the keynote address at the Chamber gathering. The affair was hosted by the Chamber’s Females About Business (FAB) Committee.
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