Affraa Al-Shoaibi
30 January 2019
Michael Eppelmann

Don't wait for opportunities, create them yourself!

All around the world, Boehringer Ingelheim employees work on creating value through innovation. Travelling with the sun, our “Star Storytellers” series features aspirational individuals from east to west who embody our values and bring them to life.

This article is dedicated to Affraa Al-Shoaibi, the first Saudi Arabian woman to work for Boehringer Ingelheim – despite numerous obstacles since her childhood.

“I am a mother, I work, I travel, and study” – this is how Affraa Al-Shoaibi sums up her current life situation, and it should not be taken for granted. Along with six sisters, Affraa grew up in a traditional small house in Saudi Arabia. This is where her positive attitude already started, though: “We faced difficult times together, but I was a happy child. I always tried to be positive.”


Of passions and strokes of fate

If you want to stay positive, at least occasional moments of success are key. For Affraa, it was finding one of her passions in high school. “I love writing,” she says. “I wrote stories and sent them to a newspaper – and sooner than expected, I was writing as a journalist!” Being able to move on after a while to work as a TV presenter for kids, “learning with an open mind” became even more possible for Affraa.

However, shortly after she began to face hurdles in life. Difficult circumstances put her dream to continue her education on hold. Married by this time, Affraa turned her attention towards becoming a mother, but not without a lot of struggles. She knew then that something needed to change: “Among all these closed doors, I decided to force one door to open.”


Finding purpose with regaining confidence

Determined to change her circumstances, she got her first job in the reservations department of a hotel. “I really wanted to push forward my career,” she explains. And finally things began to change for the better. Although struggling to find a purpose at the hotel where she worked at that time, her dream to become a mother was fulfilled. At the same time, another door opened. A client recommended that she should apply for a position at Boehringer Ingelheim. “As much as I disliked my job in hotel reservations, I have to be grateful for this,” Affraa says when looking back. “We must have the will to create opportunities even if they don’t exist – and Boehringer Ingelheim gave me the environment, support and guidance I needed to regain my confidence.”

From the very first day, she strove to become a true ambassador for the company. “I started as a sales and marketing coordinator. Dealing with the vendors was difficult, but I discovered more about my own capabilities,” says Affraa, who claims that her thirst for knowledge has not ceased until today.

Furthermore, being a single mother by this time, Afraa was now able to give her daughter “the support she needed”. Even her biggest dream in life eventually came true: Studying at a university. “My manager encouraged me to pursue my goals,” says Affraa, who is grateful to receive the encouragement she needed to succeed.


Giving back to the community

Affraa recognizes that there is an opportunity to transfer her experiences into helping others. Proud of her hometown and her community, she returns from time to time to help people realize their own dreams. This can be as simple as sharing her own story, or even sharing the skills and capabilities she has developed in Boehringer Ingelheim.


Follow your dreams!

So what can we learn from Affraa’s story?


- No matter who you are, or how humble your beginning might be, it is okay to challenge the status quo.

- Find your own ambitions and follow your dreams, no matter how big the difficulty may seem.

- When there are no opportunities, create them!


Our first female Saudi Arabian colleague is the proof that you should never give up on your dreams, despite the limitations. She has now even been awarded with the Israr award for the most inspiring person in the North and West region of Saudi Arabia – congratulations!

"We must have the will to create opportunities even if they don’t exist, says Affraa Al-Shoaibi. "
Michael Eppelmann

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