Cameroonian Immigrant and Family Plant Resilient Roots in Massachusetts

Laurier Hamidou Tabayi, Manufacturing supervisor, Thermos-Fisher

Cameroonian-born and French-educated computer scientist, Laurier Hamidou Tabayi, received a diversity visa in 2011, and arrived in Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. But it wasn’t the transition she expected. The visa program provided no guidance about how to get established with housing or work. 
Soon after arriving, for instance, the family had the misfortune to be targeted by scammers who pretended to be landlords and made off with over $5,000. The police couldn’t help, and without any savings or housing, the family entered a homeless shelter in Danvers. 
Meanwhile, Hamidou Tabayi had the rude awakening that employers weren’t impressed by her foreign master’s degrees. So she enrolled in an associate’s degree at North Shore Community College and took classes to improve her English. “I knew I couldn’t fall back — that I had to keep pushing forward,” she says. 
The family eventually moved out of the shelter with a Section 8 housing voucher, and Hamidou Tabayi worked two jobs, stocking shelves at a local Market Basket and operating equipment at a medical devices manufacturer. Working 90-hour weeks, it took her five years to complete her degree. When she started applying for engineering jobs, some employers told her she was now overqualified. “I felt like I couldn’t win,” she says. 
But in 2022, Hamidou Tabayi finally found a better-paid job as a manufacturing supervisor at the laboratory and biotech equipment company Thermos-Fisher. Though her husband, also a computer scientist, is still struggling to find work, Hamidou Tabayi has been able to buy her own home and dreams of one day getting a PhD. 
For now, though, she’s focused on her daughters’ educations. Her eldest just graduated from UMass Lowell with a master's degree in engineering management, and is working as a validation engineer, while her youngest attends Dartmouth College and hopes to become a lawyer. “God is good, and so is the American Dream,” she says. “But in the beginning it’s really hard — you have to keep hope, no matter what.” 
She says transportation assistance would have helped the family leave the shelter much sooner, since they didn’t have a car to scout apartments. And career guidance would have helped her find work in her field. “There needs to be more guidance and support for people who are starting out in this country.”

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