On Wednesday, Ahram Online spoke to Bowe at the American embassy in Cairo on the sidelines of the highly anticipated round table discussion held in her honour.
Bowe, a former NASA rocket scientist and founder and CEO of STEM Board, has been making headlines for years for her inspirational story.
By the end of 2024, she is scheduled to travel to space with Blue Origin as the first black woman aboard a commercial space flight.
She had been under the spotlight lately not only because of her future trip into space but also because of her mission to make a positive impact through her businesses and speeches around the world.
On her first visit to Egypt, Bowe has also given keynote speeches at the American University in Cairo, STEM schools, and the American Embassy in Cairo.
Spirit of bravery and change
“I failed early and I failed often. This is one of the secrets of success, Failure is the best mentor, because humans tend to move on if they do not fail, as if there is nothing more to explore,” she told Ahram Online
“I graduated high school with a GPA of 2.3. I was not getting into a top university with this score and I was forced to rethink and reexamine my choices,” she said
Bowe explained that the journey from starting at a community college, to becoming a rocket scientist at NSA, to leading two companies, and to becoming a global motivational speaker has taught her the importance of having multiple goals. She saw that success comes to those who are persistent rather that those who are just clever, she added.
“I had to create my own ideas, and those were created by success as well as misfires. I am not afraid of change, rather embrace it. Change means growth,” she said.
Women in space
Reflecting upon the fact that she is set to be only the sixth black woman in history to travel into space, Bowe said that she is honoured.
“I feel lucky to bring my story to the moment. People like myself are having the opportunity to do things that were previously inconceivable; going to space is now within reach of many people.
“I feel that STEM is the great democratizer. I credit my engineering degree to my ability to embrace analytical thinking as a skill and apply it to problems and turn that into an enterprise that has made me who I am today.”
“Things like that do not happen to those who are perfect, but rather to those who are persistent, confident, and move with purpose,” she said.
Mental health at stake
Touching on the importance of protecting mental health for those with stressful careers, she emphasized that reinforcing positive ideas for oneself is pivotal.
“Although my concept of balance in life might not align with what people perceive – as I think it varies according to the stage of life – nevertheless I believe it is very important for one to reinforce positive ideas each day, and this is what I do every morning for an hour early in the morning,” she said.
Bowe said that she dedicates this hour to positive affirmation, exercise, and prayer, and this sets the day for her on the right track.
A two-way inspiration journey
Although she is a motivational speaker and a role model, Bowe insisted that inspiration goes both ways and shared a story that illustrated this idea.
“When I was in NASA, I met with 13-year-old Claire who said she wanted to work as a space scientist when she grew up. I invited her for a day and started a journey of mentoring her.
“She eventually became a NASA intern and graduated airspace engineering at Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo, California. Today, she works as a rocket engineer in the Blue Origin company with whom I will travel to space, and she told me she will bring me back safe,” Bowe said.
Another woman whom she met at a speech in South Africa provided the idea for one of her projects.
“So yes, inspiration goes both ways, and mentorship of girls and women really matters; it turns them into successful people,” she said.
“The skill I acquired is not about science and space but rather the ability to make decisions and make them quick. I run a business of 65 employees without having a business degree, but rather the ability to learn and not be defeated.
“I know what it feels to be hungry, broke, or scared. I knew these feelings earlier on; I learned to build on my feelings to create a space of growth and success,” she concluded.