In this latest series of articles, we are publishing interviews of women who are working as a professional or a student in the technology sector. The objective is to highlight their work and contribution to the industry as well as to the community.
In these interviews, you will find women working in technology to solve real-world problems, to break stereotypes and to create the next big impact on the tech 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 Farah Saad. Read on to know more about her work and get inspired.
Tell us a little about yourself, your background, your education, and your work.
My name is Farah Saad. After completing my Bachelors in Business Administration (BBA) from Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Vancouver, Canada, I started my career at PepsiCo Beverages Canada in the accelerated Sales Management Program. After a successful career at Pepsi, I was recruited as a Customer Business Development Manager at Maple Leaf Foods. I was in charge of managing one of the largest corporate accounts for the Western Canada region. I know firsthand the stress and high anxiety people feel daily.
Like many others, I experienced a burnout and many unexpected absences which led me to take time off to travel the world alone in 2016. During this trip, I discovered Eastern wellness practices to cope with stress, anxiety and other mental health issues through a silent meditation retreat in Myanmar and training with spiritual healers in a temple in Bali, Indonesia.
Upon my return to Canada, I founded Be Kalm. This mindfulness consulting agency specializes in stress and anxiety management and integrating wellness in the workplace. This is done through a full range of effective, results-driven services including online and in-person customized workshops, solution-focused audits and wellness integration plan to help organizations maximize their team’s potential. Be Kalm’s core principles of Authenticity, Freedom, and Innovation guide my work.
Some of Be Kalm Mindfulness Consulting past clients include Arbisoft, iQmetrix, Work BC, Canada Food Inspection Agency, Simon Fraser University, Global Affairs Canada, and Department of Canadian Heritage. I am passionate about living life whole-heartedly and embracing mindfulness daily. When I am not helping my clients, I am either travelling to a new place or going on my favourite hike.
What are your plans/aspirations? What impact will it have on the community/society/your team/your project?
My goal is to shift the corporate culture in the world through making mindfulness a daily practise in the workplace and community at large. I feel like with the modern times we are in with this global pandemic, it brings to light the importance of self-care and mental health.
Growing up, we are taught Science, English, Math in school, but no one teaches us how to take care of our mental well-being or how to cope if we are not feeling like ourselves. My goal is to help people become the best version of themselves. If we were all showing up as the best versions of ourselves, the world would be a more positive and happy place.
Please brag about your career accomplishments, what are the things you are really proud of?
I was one of seven people selected into the Pepsi Beverages Canada Sales Management Program out of hundreds of applicants coming out of university. Ten months into my job, PepsiCo Beverages Canada offered me a promotion and moved to Calgary. This promotion came three weeks after my dad passed away, and I only knew one person in Calgary at the time. At 23 years old, I decided to make a move, and that experience taught me a lot about work and life. I climbed the corporate ladder fairly quickly. By the age of 25 years old, I was the youngest and only minority female in my last job as Customer Business Development Manager taking care of the most extensive account in Western Canada for Maple Leaf Foods managing over one million in volume. In 2016, I left my corporate career to pursue my dream of starting my own business. I travelled the world alone for two years and lived in Bali, Indonesia, to learn from spiritual healers.
Upon returning to Canada, I founded Be Kalm, a mindfulness consulting agency that specializes in stress and anxiety management. And integrating wellness in the workplace through a full range of practical, results-driven services including online and in-person customized workshops, solution-focused audits, and wellness integration plans to help organizations maximize their team’s potential. Some of Be Kalm’s past clients include Arbisoft, iQmetrix, Work BC, Canada Food Inspection Agency, Simon Fraser University, Global Affairs Canada, and Department of Canadian Heritage.
What has been your best education/career decision, and why?
When I was in university, I had the opportunity to participate in international work experience in Glasgow, Scotland. The program was called Encouraging Dynamic Global Entrepreneurs through which I had the chance to work with Scottish businesses with team members from China, Poland, Scotland and Canada. I learned so much about living alone, consulting and building a marketing plan and re-strategize for businesses. This experience taught me what I wanted to do with my life. Before this experience, I was planning on majoring in accounting because it was safe and a good career for a woman. After this experience, I realized I could be anything I want to be and being away from my family taught me about the areas I needed to grow in. It shifted the trajectory of my life. I wasn’t afraid to take risks after this experience.
What’re the best lessons you’ve learned?
Don’t be afraid to ask for the salary you think you deserve! The difference between men and women is, men aren’t afraid to ask for what they want while women become shy and hold back.
I have also learned always to follow my heart even if that meant not knowing what the future holds for me and embracing the unknown. Some of the best experiences I have had in my life were from embracing the unknown, including quitting my corporate job to travel the world, moving to Bali and starting my business, Be Kalm. I followed my heart in these moments.
Even if something scares you, take the first step anyway. The fear is there because our nervous system is used to an old way of thinking, and this new action is uncomfortable and new to our bodies. So don’t stop something because it is scary, but take the first step despite the fear.
Which woman inspires you and why?
So many women inspire me. I feel all humans are so unique and special. Everyone has such an extraordinary story if you get the time to know them. I am surrounded by women who are older and younger who have been through so much adversity in their life and had many successes. One of my friends moved out on her own when she was 15 years old and now owns her own business making $500,000 in revenue every year. I admire people like my mother, who moved to a new country where she didn’t speak the language and sacrificed her dreams to raise her four children and give them the best education in the world. I admire the women who got themselves out of abusive relationships or raised their children on their own after their husbands passed away. There are too many women to name each with their own remarkable story.
Do you think Pakistan has changed as a society, in terms of accepting career-oriented women?
I think society in general all across the world needs to do a better job of accepting career-oriented women. I feel like it is our responsibility as women to lead that conversation and men to support that conversation. I do think the gaps are merging, and we need to set the example for the next generation of females coming to be strong. Pakistan, after all, was one of the first countries to have a female prime minister and we have made a lot of headway that some of the western states still have not been able to do until this day including individuals like Asma Jahangir who created the law firm by women in Pakistan. We need to keep the conversations going and pushing forward.
What needs to change to help more women come forward?
More women should be educated and encouraged. Women are often the ones who sacrifice themselves for everyone’s happiness in a lot of cultures, including ours. I think women need to be empowered and shown that they can do anything they desire. This shift needs to happen at many levels from the government offering more programs to educate women and men in the rural areas of Pakistan. More organizations like WomeninTechPK raising awareness and education around careers in Tech, more individual women are stepping out of the norm and being the change themselves. Change always starts with us first. So more women need to step out of their comfort zone and embrace the uncertainty and chase their dreams even if no one understands. From what I have learned from my own experience, if you believe so much in your dream, other people will start believing in it too. But sometimes we do have to walk the path alone in the beginning even if it is scary.
What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?
The biggest challenge for the coming generation of women will be to feel heard. The next generation of women is so strong and sturdy. They know their worth and are not afraid to speak up. Sometimes, the world isn’t ready to hear what they have to say. Their challenge will be to speak up and take action regardless of the world is prepared for the change or not. It was always a few visionaries that challenged society and the way of life, which led to the change and made the world a better place. I think as humans, our goal is to leave the world a little better and safer than when we came into it for the coming generations. So women need to speak up.
If you could change one thing about the tech industry/business, what would it be?
I feel like the Tech industry is usually a leader in shifting the corporate culture. I wouldn’t change anything parse but encourage the tech industry to continue to be forward-thinking and encourage more women to pursue a career in Tech by creating more of an inclusive culture. I would also make it more open to people that aren’t in Tech to share their expertise with the tech community. Even though I don’t directly work in Tech, a lot of the work I do could support people in the tech industry.
How can WomenInTechPK help you and other women?
I feel WomeninTechPK already does such an excellent job of creating a safe space for women to share and help each other grow. I am very impressed by the Coding Girls program and all the work they have done to empower women. I feel like a Pakistani living outside Pakistan, I always want to give back to my fellow Pakistanis but don’t know-how. I feel WomeninTechPK can bridge that gap for people by connecting women to each other around the world.
You can follow Farah Saad using her profiles below, and please do not hesitate in hiring her for your next project.
ProWomen Profile: https://www.prowomen.pk/farah-saad