I Am San Francisco: Ayman Nadeem | San Francisco Travel
Portrait of Ayman Nadeem

I Am San Francisco:
Ayman Nadeem

Born in Islamabad, Pakistan, Ayman Nadeem came to San Francisco via Canada. Growing up Muslim in a post-9/11 United States, she works to build bridges with her voice and her pen.

Holding on to the back of her grandfather, the open air flooding her senses, weaving through the streets of Islamabad in the ‘90s is one of Ayman Nadeem’s most cherished childhood memories. Fast forward nearly two decades; this time, a cooler, crisper air is flooding her senses as she takes her first jog along the Embarcadero in San Francisco. The city that she would end up calling home welcomed her with a cool embrace and the charm of its iconic waterfront. This was her “I made it” moment: from the congested city streets of Islamabad to a crowded one-bedroom apartment in Canada to a product manager at one of the most prized San Francisco tech companies, Dropbox.

Ayman Nadeem video still

I am Ayman Nadeem and I am San Francisco

You are always welcome.

How far she traveled to get to San Francisco isn’t best explained by the distance, but rather by the barriers she broke through. Growing up Muslim in the post-9/11 world, her ideas of fairness and safety were different than those of her non-Muslim peers. She saw the world differently and was undoubtedly perceived differently by the world. Yet just as she approached all other challenges in her life, she approached fear and misunderstanding and worked to build bridges, using her voice, her pen, and ultimately her code as a means of protest.

This petite, brown-skinned young woman wearing a hijab would step on stage in front of hundreds of show-goers to rap. With pen in hand and paper on her desk, she would sketch contemporary allegories in comic form. Today, she writes semantic code at GitHub, providing developers with the building blocks for more creative and globally accessible engineering.

Ayman has become a cultural translator not only for Islam but for all the other subcultures and identities she has claimed over the years. When she was the only woman on a team of 60 engineers and product managers at Dropbox, she was not only an outlier but also the sole representative for a severely underrepresented faction within the tech community. Earning a place at the table where no one looks like you, talks like you, or prays like you is an act of defiance, but even more so, it’s an opportunity to bring people together. San Francisco, home to an incredible diversity of people with all different types of lived experiences, offers no shortage of opportunities to bring people together. As an artist, rapper, engineer, Muslim woman, and San Francisco resident, is there anyone better than Ayman to help us celebrate our unique and shared experiences?

Ayman Nadeem writing on a whiteboard.

I remember seeing two minorities in solidarity within the city present through this beautiful, epic form of art.

Hear Ayman in Her Own Words

The Golden Gate Bridge at sunset with a multicolored sky and the San Francisco Bay in the foreground.
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