Zenab Abubakari is a current IO MPS student and a Clinical Research Assistant with Georgetown MedStar.


What made you want to pursue a career in IO Psychology?

I believe that IO is the future. I am pursuing a career in IO because seeing my mom's experience in the workplace, and having my own experiences in the workplace, I see how work could be better. When it comes to career growth and progression, from my background, and that of a lot of people of color, we get taught that we should stay in an organization and have loyalty and work hard, and it will pay off. But in this program, I’m learning how a lot of organizations do things, or go about things, in the wrong way. It makes me want to help them do things the right way. For example, helping build retention and making people happy to go to work and believe in the organizations they work for, rather than seeing their job as just a paycheck. I feel like IO is one of these practices where you can work in so many different sectors. One of the professors in this program said that IO’s are like the Jane Goodall of the workplace, and that really stuck out to me.


Why did you choose UMD’s program for your studies?

I went to undergrad here and had a really great experience. I was a research assistant under Dr. Jennifer Wessel for the Identity Management lab, which is IO focused. That introduced me to the field of IO. And being in an area where it's so diverse, and you meet so many different people, was the biggest appeal for me to stay in Maryland and choose the UMD IO Psychology program. My cohort is so diverse and I’ve met so many different people, not just in terms of race, but also age, gender, and background, to name a few. Personally, I need to be in places where I can see people who look like me and also meet people who don't look like me, so that I feel like I'm growing as an individual. Maryland is perfect for that. If I had decided to go to a different IO program in another state, I think I would really miss that experience. 

I also felt that this program genuinely cares about training people of color to be IO practitioners. It's not like the program is just checking a mark on a box, I feel the genuineness of all the professors and all the people in the program. Going into the first class and seeing everyone, I thought, this is gonna be a good year. The diversity and variety of perspectives and backgrounds is so interesting. I like to talk to people and hear about their life experiences and understand what they want to get out of this program. This has become our network, and it’s cool.


What skills did you learn at UMD that will help you in your career?

One big thing I've learned from the program so far is the importance of collaboration and knowing how to combine your ideas with others to make something great. That's definitely been forefront in the program so far, as we've done several group projects. Seeing all of our ideas come together to create something has been amazing. 

Another thing I've learned is how data can be presented in order to get your stakeholders to buy into your argument. Because when you're going into the real world and presenting data, you can't just show them the numbers; they need to understand what you're trying to present. That's really been on the forefront this semester for me, and it will definitely translate for me moving forward into my career.


What’s one item that you can’t live without?

If I didn't have anything, I would want photos of all the memories I've had with my family, my friends and my loved ones. No matter what age I am, I'm always going to cherish those experiences. That's something that means a lot to me.


What is the best piece of advice or feedback you received?

The best feedback that I've ever received is to always be willing to get feedback from others. Sometimes it's easy to feel like, “I'm the best at this,” or that you are at the highest point you could be, but getting feedback from others and being willing to be introspective, is how you can grow. You'll grow every day if you live like that and try not to take things personally. Genuinely taking constructive feedback and looking in myself, I find ways that I can better myself in this regard. There's always ways in which we can be better no matter how good we already are at something, and I try to make this a practice.

A woman is smiling at the camera. She is wearing graduation regalia, with a red sash and a cap.