In this latest series of articles, we are publishing interviews of some incredible women who are part of the tech industry or the broader STEM fields.
In these interviews, you will find women working on solving real-world problems, breaking stereotypes and creating the next big impact on the industry. This series of interviews shows that even with the lowest rate of women participation in the labor market in Pakistan, there are still lots of smart women who are creating and using technology to work wonders.
Today, we are featuring Asra Shoaib. Read on to know more about her work and get inspired.
Tell us a little about yourself, your background, your education, and your work.
I am a hardcore programmer, fortunate enough that what I do for a living is something that I adore to do. I belong to a normal middle-class family, started my education from a government school with yellow walls. Later, my father was posted to a small town called Haripur near Abbottabad and then I completed my education till Intermediate from there. The turning point in life was when I got admission at NED University. I was an average student but was active in co-curricular activities. I had no idea about the tech industry until my first class, and that day when our advisor told us about freelancing, I knew this is what I am going to do. I was not sure how to do, where to do, which technology I am going to use, but one thing I was sure about that I will do this only. Right after my graduation, back in 2010, I started working as a freelancer, and later got hired as a remote developer by one of my clients, and the journey still continues
What are your future plans/aspirations? What impact it will have on the community/society/your team/your project?
Most of the readers already aware that I am the ambassador of working from home. I had done this my entire career, except for a short period. We all know there is still a stigma associated with working women in our society. Even if you don’t care about the stigmas, there are certain points in life where a woman’s career is some way or other being compromised, and that’s totally natural. But my motto is to educate women that they can continue their career remotely with good management skills. Another project which I am working on, and is very raw now, is to coach individuals about working from home. There is a common misunderstanding that remote jobs are very easy and super cool. I am planning to design something that can assess them by their personality traits, circumstances, and resources. And by that assessment, we can warn them by the challenges they will be going to face and train them to cope up with them.
Please brag about your career accomplishments, what are the things you are really proud of?
Firstly, getting a full-time remote job is one of my career accomplishment. Secondly, I was the first female in the family who got admission at NED University. I take pride in being a self-learner and accomplishing my goals on my own hard work.
What has been your best education/career decision and why?
As I mentioned earlier, I was very fascinated by freelancing at the time of my education. Later, one of my clients insisted me to join their small company for part-time. It was a remote job in Chicago based software house, very fancy to sound but was very less paid. At that time I did not want to have any contractual commitments, but I listened to him. This was the best decision of my life. Later I realized freelancing or any sort of business is not my cup of tea.
I would like to advise every youngster out there. It’s not necessary that you are good at something you dreamt of, you might have a talent for something else. Therefore, try to explore and avail opportunities that come forward.
What’re the best lessons you’ve learned?
When there is a will, there is a way. One hard reality of life which I have learned and want to share on personal experience: “Not everyone is as sincere as you are, some people don’t care about loyalty and devotion. Still, you remain sincere, because there must be a difference between you and them.”
Which woman inspires you and why?
There are very big names in our industry like Jehan Ara, she made her mark when the industry was mostly male-dominated. Faiza Yousuf, who is seamlessly paying back to the community which is commendable. Also, I want to take the name of my mother and both grandmothers. My mother is a graduate in B.Ed when she got married. She focused on our good education while being in the paternal family. Additionally, when I was getting admission into a university, my mother also got admission in Madrassa and completed Wifaaq ul Madaris (4-year course) to become Aalima. While her daughter was out-stationed, she managed her studies pretty well with all of the house chores. Now, my mother teaches at the same Madrassa, though we have shifted to Karachi, she still teaches on call.
One more thing, it’s very hard to be a granddaughter of super (saleeqa mand) grandmothers! Both led an inspiring journey of hardships and struggles. They are perfect examples of a housewife who can raise their children to be respectable citizens of society.
Do you think Pakistan has changed as a society, in terms of accepting career-oriented women? What needs to change to help more women come forward?
Yes definitely, if I look back ten years ago, there was a smaller number of working women as compared to the current scenario. Even matrimonial aunties have accepted it as a quality, not a disgrace. We as a society, need to accept that a woman’s career is as significant as of a man. Also, we should understand that a women’s job is not solely for the purpose of making money; but for her own satisfaction, identity, and pride.
What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?
I have been working in the tech industry for 8 years, still, I get the shocking looks for being a programmer. Recently, one of my colleagues asked me which field he should suggest for her sister. When I said computer science, he gave me the same shocking look and said that women cannot code. First, there is a lot more in tech industry apart from programming. Secondly, why can’t she? This stereotype is not in the tech industry, it is in all fields.
If you could change one thing about the tech industry/business, what would it be?
As the tech industry is growing, companies are investing in their employee’s development and technical training but they should also focus on their physical and mental health. Medical allowance is provided in lots of companies, yet mental health is not catered in any way. Also, unrealistic deadlines & cooperate pressures are making people unhealthy. There should be policies to counter such issues. Also, one thing that is not being highlighted yet, is the middle age crisis. As the experience of a person increases definitely his pay scale should be increased. Companies without any notices either fire the senior resources or create such circumstances that they resign by themselves. There should be laws or policies that provide job security to senior employees and discourage the company’s attitude of hiring freshers on very less amount. They should realize a fresher can do the job but cannot do with the excellence that a senior can.
How can WomenInTechPK help you and other women?
If I get to rant or have any technical queries, I always write a post on WomenInTechPK’s Facebook group. It’s a great platform for tech ladies to share their opinions and solve each other’s social & technical problems.
You can follow Asra Shoaib using her profiles below, and please do not hesitate in hiring her for your next project.