In the fall, 18-year-old Nushrat Ahmed will not go to college to study biomedicine, sociology or cybersecurity like his friends, or even computer science, as his parents originally wanted. (“I wasn’t very good at it,” she admitted).
Instead, Ahmed – who drives a stick, has locks of purple hair, and recently lowered his black 2007 Ford Mustang GT (his “pride and joy”) – attends the NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville, North Carolina. .
His dream? Be a NASCAR racing engineer.
In September, the Port native will pack her bags and head south, where she will be one of 21 women participating in the 69-week program.
“So I’m here, working on an engine,” she laughs, comparing her life to that of her best friend. “But I’m so excited to be around the cars. I’m excited right now to be around an engine.
For now, Ahmed is happy to finish her internship at Madhouse Motors in Roxbury, where she has a special relationship with its founder: J. Shia, originally from Cambridge and motorcycle specialist.
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Shia’s full-service workshop, specializing in custom builds and antique restorations, is the only one of its kind in Boston. And it’s the only female-owned motorcycle store on the East Coast.
Now 31, Shia started her business at the age of 15 at her father’s house on Prince Street in Cambridge’s Coast district. So if anyone has any idea about early teens who know what they want and obsess over ‘how it all works’, it’s Shia.
The child takes the cake
Shia met Ahmed, or “Kid” as Shia calls him, through Nina Berg, Creative Director of the Central Square Business Improvement District. Berg heard about Ahmed through Sara Reese, a career counselor at the Rindge School of Technical Arts.
Berg is the “most amazing person in Cambridge” and is “like family,” Shia said. So when Berg asked Shia to take Ahmed under her wing, she couldn’t say no.
“I used to do internships and apprenticeships, but I’ve been working on a project for a few years and get distracted while teaching,” Shia said. “But because it was Nina, I was like, ‘Damn, fine, send the kid. “”
Of Shia’s 10 to 15 apprentices, Kid “takes the cake”.
Why? Because she’s hungry, says Shia, and has a constant interest in learning. She was asking for homework, so Shia would tell her to research the different types of brake systems and fuels and the meaning of the numbers on the tires. And Ahmed would “imbibe it”.
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“Then one day, it was actually her birthday, I asked her – and I ask this question of a lot of my interns -“ It’s hard work. It’s a crappy career. What are you going to do when it doesn’t work, “Shia recalls.” Ninety-nine percent say, ‘Well, if it doesn’t work, I’ll go to culinary arts school. . I’m going to work in a restaurant, or I’m going to work in my family’s law firm ‘or whatever, right? I ask Nushrat: ‘Alright, so you want to be a NASCAR racing technician’ – very specific, very hard work – ‘what are you going to do if you don’t do that?’ “
“She thought about it and said, ‘Well, if I go to school to be a NASCAR technician, then I probably would have been trained to be a mechanic. So I will look for a job as a mechanic as a replacement, then I will try again.
“I never heard that from anyone,” Shia said. “She didn’t take no for an answer. I found that very impressive.”
Ahmed has the same esteem for Shia, whom she praises for her loyalty and generosity.
“She’s like my mother now,” Ahmed said. “She is still supportive and very protective, but in a good way. She is very understanding. She’s taking care of me. She put me in touch with dozens of people in the field. It’s really nice to have someone so good in your bubble.
A race for the future
As the interview wrapped up in Madhouse, Ahmed was sent to “run an errand” for the Shiites. But it really was a race for Ahmed’s future. Ahmed was to meet with the owner of a high-end car store in Newton called AVI Boston to make connections about possible future employment. Cars are more Ahmed’s business than motorcycles, she said.
As she walks over to her Mustang to say goodbye, Ahmed takes off her work boots – she can’t drive a stick with them – and explains what it all means to her.
At first, her parents weren’t happy with her decision to switch to cars during her freshman year of high school, but she convinced them to let her give it a try.
“And then it became more of an outlet, then it became kind of all I stood for,” she said.
Her work ethic began to gain attention – attention her parents couldn’t ignore – and she was offered internships and scholarships to pursue automotive programs.
As she moves forward, she will continue to break standards, not only in her family and group of friends, but in the automotive world.
“It’s very rare for a woman to be in this industry in the first place – for a Muslim woman, in particular,” Shia said. “A lot of Muslim friends I have in the industry are just bikers, not necessarily on the front lines. Even that is very new. “
“What’s different about Nushrat is that it’s against all odds and it’s based on passion,” she continued. “That says a lot. It’s promising. I don’t really invest in people. But I do make connections for this kid.”