by StreetWise Partners

June 20th, 2023


When Drita Shyti came to the US from Albania in 2014, she didn’t know any English. While she had a computer science degree from a university in Albania, she was unsure how to use her degree and knowledge to enter the professional world.


“I was starting from less than zero in every area,” Drita says. “I was trying to adapt to a different culture, learn English on my own, and survive. I wanted to be able to be someone one day.”


After coming to the US, Drita started working as a cleaner at the Morgan Stanley building in New York City. As someone who takes every opportunity to connect with people and practice her English, Drita made many friends at Morgan Stanley who were eager to help her find her dream job. One day in 2018, someone told her about StreetWise Partners.


Within weeks, she applied and was accepted to the StreetWise mentorship program — a choice that helped her forge a new path and launch her career in the U.S.


A passion for learning


StreetWise paired Drita with two mentors, who helped her learn resume writing, interviewing, and networking skills. She met people from different companies and had the chance to practice public speaking on a weekly basis, which was especially helpful since she was trying to improve her English. Most importantly, she learned how things work in the U.S. and how to adapt to the corporate culture as a professional.


“All of these experiences made me more comfortable,” says Drita. “Every single day I was learning something new.”


That thirst for learning has always been present in Drita. She grew up in a small village in communist-era Albania, where her family faced persecution and it was challenging to attend school. While she excelled in high school, her family did not allow her to continue with formal education; it was shameful at the time for a woman to go to university. Yet, her mother always encouraged her to keep learning — because “that’s something nobody can take away from you.”


Gain a mentor, gain knowledge


That advice from her mom remains a guidepost for Drita. She believes that the more people you connect with, the more knowledge you gain. Two people who had a big impact on Drita were her StreetWise mentors: Adam Karibinos and Qasim Isphahani. When they first met, Adam was an Internal Auditor at Morgan Stanley and Qasim was a Vice President at HSBC. Today, Adam is a Director at Morgan Stanley, and Qasim is a Senior Vice President at Citi.


“My mentors were always available to give me advice and share their knowledge,” says Drita. “They were phenomenal in the ways they taught, supported, and encouraged me.”


“My mentors were always available to give me advice and share their knowledge,” says Drita. “They were phenomenal in the ways they taught, supported, and encouraged me.”


During the StreetWise mentorship program, Drita also participated in Morgan Stanley’s “Return to Work” program, which helps people re-enter the workforce after a career break. Following the program, she didn’t get an offer for a full-time job. At first she was disappointed, but she didn’t see it as a failure; she saw it as motivation to keep pushing herself.


“Many doors are going to close,” says Drita, “but I believe many doors are also going to open for you.”


Launching a career in the U.S.


For the next several years, while Drita continued her job as a cleaner, she kept working on learning English on her own and took online training to stay up to date on technology. She stayed in touch with Adam and Qasim, who continued to give her advice, and applied for many jobs — but none of the jobs panned out.


“Sometimes things looked impossible for me, but I never gave up,” explains Drita. “My mentors never gave up on helping me get my dream job.”


In 2022, another door opened.


Through StreetWise’s weekly alumni email, Drita learned about Lockheed Martin’s “Chapter Next” program for people who have more than a two-year gap in the professional workforce. She applied to the program, interviewed for the role, and landed the opportunity.


Qasim and Adam mentored and supported her every step of the way, helping with everything from editing her resume and practicing for the interview, to preparing for the job and learning how to communicate with managers.


Her work paid off: seven weeks into the 12-week program, Sikorsky Aircraft, Lockheed Martin offered Drita a full-time position as Systems Engineer.


“I wouldn’t have gotten this job without StreetWise,” says Drita. “The team is so helpful, I’m learning everything from scratch, and I’m working on a project that has a major impact on the organization. It’s a dream job.”


Ready to help others change their lives


For now, Drita is focused on learning everything she can about her new company and finding ways to add value. She plans to start a Master’s Degree in Systems Engineering later this year and hopes to be a mentor in the future.


“StreetWise opened a life-long door for me when I met Adam and Qasim,” says Drita. “If I didn’t have the chance to get to know mentors through StreetWise, I don’t know where I would’ve found them.”


She now knows first-hand the impact a mentor can have on a life, and she wants to pass that on.


“I want to be able to give something back to someone who needs it and collaborate for a better community,” she explains. “It’s always good to offer help because someone may only be one step away, waiting for another person to take their hand and go, to help change and save their life.”


Want to volunteer?


StreetWise Partners has volunteer opportunities available in New York and Washington D.C., including serving as a mentor and participating in our speed networking events and Mock Interview Day. Sign up to learn more today.

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