Zahra Sabir: No Limitations

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Zahra Sabir, '18 Marketing, may one day be in the White House, or may be the best grilled chef in the world, or just may help break down barriers in the marketing industry.

Zahra Sabir plans one day to be White House Communications Director. She’ll serve in the role for eight years (two terms) before leaving politics and opening her own grilled cheese restaurant in Los Angeles. “I’m the best grilled chef there is, I’m a grilled cheese connoisseur,” said Sabir. “More times than not, I’ve gotten ‘Wow, this is the best grilled cheese I’ve ever had.’”

Sabir graduates June 11 with a degree in business administration. “I chose the marketing option because I realized I really love interacting with people,” Sabir said. She currently works as a marketing coordinator for Microsoft, a position that requires her to drive “two hours and seventeen minutes” from her home in Poulsbo to Redmond. “I’m helping create a social media strategy for the company’s Supplier Diversity and Responsible Sourcing Program,” said Sabir. “Part of what I’m doing is developing articles that will appear on different outlets like LinkedIn or The Wall Street Journal.”

Sabir leaves campus with a wealth of experience already under her belt. She completed two internships while at UW Tacoma, one with the Students of Color Conference Washington, the other with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). Sabir was also offered an internship at the Veteran’s Administration but opted to go with HPE. “I worked on a lot of really great projects including an event to empower female small business owners,” said Sabir.

Success is never a foregone conclusion but it feels that way with Sabir. She has been chosen by her peers to be one of two official student speakers at the UW Tacoma commencement ceremony in the Tacoma Dome.

“My parents raised us to achieve our potential,” said Sabir. “I was lucky to grow up with a family that never said I couldn’t be president.” Sabir’s oldest sister graduated from UW Tacoma a few years ago with a degree in healthcare leadership. She now works as the director of state and federal affairs for King County Public Health. “I remember walking around the campus with her and thinking it was so cool,” said Sabir.

College has always been in Sabir’s future but she could have easily gone to school in Japan and not UW Tacoma. Her father served in the U.S. Navy and was assigned to the military base in Okinawa. “I lived the first six years of my life in Japan, then we moved to Bremerton before moving back to Okinawa when I was 13,” said Sabir. The family eventually settled in Washington after Sabir’s father retired from the Navy. “I really consider Japan home,” she said. “I think it’s pretty uncommon for a military dependent to think of somewhere as home because we move around so much.”

If either the grilled cheese shop or White House Communications Director position seem too far in the future to feel real, consider Sabir’s history.  “My dad signed my sister and I up for a money-management class when I was eight,” she said. “From that I created a card-making business where I’d create the design, come up with the words and sell the finished product to people.”

Why not be president? For one, Sabir sees other ways to affect change. Also, she prefers more of a behind-the-scenes role, like Olivia Pope from the ABC drama Scandal. “She was chief of staff,” said Sabir. “I like talking to people but I don’t really enjoy managing them.” Finally, Sabir sees an opportunity in business, and not just to make money. “This industry is severely lacking women of color as well as females of mixed race backgrounds,” she said. “I don’t see a lot of people who look like me and I want to be a reference for other people. They can look at me and see themselves and know there are no limitations.”

Return to 2018 Commencement: 1,850 Change Makers

Written by: 
Eric Wilson-Edge / June 7, 2018
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or