Fathima Lahar: Making Dreams Come True
Fathima Lahar has always had soaring professional aspirations. After the birth of her daughter four years ago, she chose to focus on her family. Last Friday she graduated with a degree in building construction and she’s ready to get her career back on track.
“Being a stay-at-home mom was a drastic change for someone like me. I loved staying with my baby. But losing my career was painful,” Lahar said. “I decided that if I wanted to rebuild my career, it had to be with something big. Getting a degree from Georgia Tech would be a great place to start.”
When she was considering applying to Tech, a friend discouraged her because she had been out of the workforce for a while. Lahar took that as motivation to prepare for the admissions exam. Not only was she accepted, but she also received a fellowship. She went on to receive the Construction Management Association of America-South Atlantic Chapter Dylan Thomas Memorial Scholarship, a Professional Women in Building Fellowship, and the Georgia Chapter of the Association for Learning Environments (GA4LE) Scholarship.
“I don’t believe that your responsibilities, class, race, gender, or age should stop you from dreaming and achieving. It is you who decides what you can be,” she said. “It is your determination and persistence that can make you successful.”
Lahar has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Vidya Academy of Science and Technology, which is part of the University of Calicut in Kerala, India. Her master’s degree in building construction will help her get back to the work she loves.
“I always had a passion for construction. I wanted to study something that I could touch and feel, instead of solely working with computers,” she said. Her professional experience in India included working in estimation, or cost analysis, for three years.
“Also, with this being a male dominated industry, I want to encourage more women coming into construction,” she said.
Lahar concentrated solely on childrearing for two years in India and for another year when she moved to the U.S. to join her husband. After enrolling in the graduate program at Tech, she and her husband continued to take care of the child without the aid of day care, balancing and sharing responsibilities to ensure that Lahar could attend class.
“It was not easy. I have to thank my department for being supportive,” Lahar said. She also believes a quote by Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist, rings true: “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
While at Tech, everything fell into place for Lahar. She earned scholarships that covered 70% of her tuition. She received four offers for internships, from which she chose Gleeds, a program management company. Her dream job is to become a construction manager, and she has two job offers awaiting her decision.
Lahar believes it is important for her to tell her story.
“I really want to inspire others who think their career has stalled. It’s never too late,” she said. “I also have a daughter, and I want to be her role model. I want her to be proud that I am her mom,” she said.