Bareera Saeed, an engineer in Nuclear Site Procurement at Plant Farley, didn’t take a typical path to the U.S. nuclear industry. In fact, her route started in Pakistan, where she was born and spent the first eight years of her life.
“My family moved to the United States for a better future,” she says, “living first in California and then in Birmingham, Alabama.
“I came here in 2001, and it was a tough time,” she says. “I was bullied. The prejudice was racial and faith-based.
“I didn’t talk about it with my parents because I thought it normal,” she continues. “Not many good things came from those years.”
That changed when she entered the University of Alabama at Birmingham as a material science and engineering major. “For the very first time, I felt like I belonged. I met incredible friends and faculty.
“Initially, I was all metallurgical engineering. I didn’t know anything about nuclear, but when a co-op opportunity at Southern Nuclear came up, I checked it out. I did one rotation at corporate and one at Farley. I knew from the beginning that I’m a plant person. I like working with my hands in an industrial environment. I also like how clean nuclear is, especially compared to my previous experience in a foundry.”
Although her parents were initially hesitant – “They pictured mushroom clouds. My mom said, ‘Why can’t you be a dentist?’” – they were very supportive once Saeed convinced them of the safety of nuclear power and the benefits of emission-free electricity for current and future generations.
She accepted a job offer from Southern Nuclear and started in January at Farley. “Right now, my major focus is becoming proficient, learning about the plant and becoming a good colleague and employee. I want to do work that I’m proud of.”
Saeed says she hasn’t experienced any of the prejudice from her school years. “Everyone is friendly and warm, and if anything comes up about my background, it’s because they’re curious.”
Saeed says her childhood experiences have affected her adult outlook. “Kids say what their parents say. It took me becoming an adult to realize that. I’m not angry at any of them. I’m quite sure those kids have grown past that. Hopefully, their parents have grown too and realized that fear and prejudice aren’t the way we should treat each other.”
Saeed’s experiences have influenced her in other ways. “I’m empathetic and soft, and my parents and friends will tell you that I wear my heart on my sleeve. I try to be welcoming toward others. In college, I volunteered with immigrants, like children and college students whose first language wasn’t English, and I was selected to be one of the engineering mentors for new students. Now I’m involved in NAYGN and WIN.
“I'm also very curious about the world. I went back to Pakistan a couple years ago, which was very emotional. And I’m studying Chinese because I was interested in learning a language that doesn’t share our alphabet.”
Saeed’s journey to nuclear wasn’t conventional. “If you’d asked me two to five years ago what I’d be doing now, it wouldn’t have been this,” she says. “I’ve learned to be flexible and adaptable and to realize that things always work out. And now, I am building a long-term future in nuclear.”