Merai Syed

In this latest series of articles, we are publishing interviews of women working as a professional or a student in the technology sector. The objective is

to highlight their work and contribution to the industry and the community.

In these interviews, you will find women working in technology to solve real-world problems, break stereotypes, and 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 many smart women who are creating and using technology to work wonders.

Today, we are featuring Merai Syed. Read on to learn more about her work and get inspired.

Merai Syed

1. Tell us a little about yourself, your background, your education, and your work.

I am Merai, the Director of Programs at Invest2Innovate. I have a background in Telecommunications Engineering, having graduated from NUCES-FAST in 2006. I began my career as a Radio Frequency Optimization Engineer at Telenor, gaining valuable experience in the telecom industry. However, my passion led me toward the product field, where I discovered the power of bridging the gap between technology and business.

After a few years in the telecom sector, I transitioned to the startup ecosystem, joining the National Incubation Center (NIC) with a focus on supporting startups to create social-economic impact and raise investment. This journey allowed me to leverage my engineering background to understand business dynamics better and facilitate effective communication between technical and non-technical stakeholders.

Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to work in multinational corporations, startups, and incubators/accelerators. This diverse experience has enabled me to connect knowledge, experiences, and insights across various industries. I am passionate about driving positive change and creating value in Pakistan’s entrepreneurial landscape, leveraging my expertise to empower startups and foster innovation.

2. What are your future plans/aspirations? How will it impact the community/society/your team/your project?

As an entrepreneur and professional, my ultimate ambition is to empower and support entrepreneurs to reach their full potential, with a particular focus on women. By providing guidance, resources, and mentorship, I aim to help women entrepreneurs overcome barriers, unlock their creativity, and build successful and sustainable businesses. I am dedicated to fostering an inclusive and supportive ecosystem that embraces diversity, equality, and innovation. 

3. Please brag about your career accomplishments. What are the things you are proud of? 

I am an entrepreneurship ecosystem expert with a track record of successfully building and delivering over 500 technology-driven high-growth products and services, from concept to the series A stage. My experience spans global markets, including the USA, UK, India, and Pakistan, and I have worked in areas such as digital deep tech, AR/VR, and AIoT.

A significant part of my expertise is helping startups in the Pakistani ecosystem raise funds, starting from the pre-seed to the seed stage. I provide investment readiness coaching to these startups, guiding them in curating data rooms, structuring deals, formulating fundraising strategies, and engaging with potential investors.

I have also designed and executed numerous entrepreneurship training programs for various foundations and accelerator programs. Some of my notable partners include the IFC World Bank, Meta, Step Dubai, Invest2Innovate, GAIN, Pakistan Mission Society, and the National Bank of Pakistan.

I am a strong advocate for women in business, and I have actively contributed to empowering women entrepreneurs. I have trained over 90 women-led businesses in the MENA region on investment readiness in collaboration with esteemed organizations such as IFC, World Bank, Mashriq Gender Facility, Invest2Innovate, and Step Dubai. Moreover, I have worked with Invest2Innovate, the Ministry of Commerce, and Facebook to run an e-commerce accelerator training program for the SheMeansBusiness initiative, enhancing the capacity of over 100 Pakistani women entrepreneurs running small and medium enterprises. As an alumna of the Cherie Blair Foundation Mentor Program for Women in Business, I continue to champion women’s economic empowerment.

My experience spans many industries, including eCommerce, telecom, EdTech, health, climate, agriculture, travel, social, and construction tech. I bring a unique perspective to my work, combining my hands-on experience as a telecom engineer with a specialization in Six Sigma, along with my expertise in managing systems and processes for large commercial teams in multinational corporations.

With over 17 years of diverse experience, I have worked in teams of various sizes, ranging from small groups to large organizations with hundreds of employees. This breadth and depth of experience enable me to provide valuable insights and support to businesses at different stages of their product lifecycle.

4. What has been your best education/career decision, and why?

Learning how to develop technology through development and commercialization is a valuable skill that gave me an edge in understanding business and helping startups scale. Furthermore, having a solid foundation in technology development empowered me to navigate the world of fundraising with confidence. 

Investors are often attracted to startups with a solid technical foundation and demonstrate the potential for scalability and market viability. With the technical know-how, I could effectively communicate the value proposition of any technology to investors, showcasing its unique features, competitive advantage, and market potential.

Moreover, understanding the technical aspects of the product or service allowed me to better strategize for growth and scalability. It helped me to make informed decisions regarding technology stack, infrastructure, and product roadmap, ensuring that the business can adapt to evolving market needs and handle increased demand.

In summary, learning how to develop technology and getting into the world of fundraising provides you with a powerful combination of skills. The technical know-how not only allows you to create innovative products but also enhances your understanding of business dynamics, helping you make strategic decisions and propel startups toward successful scaling and commercialization.

Merai Syed

5. What’re the best lessons you’ve learned?

Throughout my personal and professional life, I experienced many challenges that helped me understand the value of the advice mentioned below.

Surround yourself with the right people: The saying “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” emphasizes the impact of your social circle on your personal growth. Surrounding yourself with positive, supportive, and motivated individuals can inspire and uplift you to reach your full potential.

Continuous learning: Reading is a powerful habit that opens doors to knowledge and personal development. It allows you to gain new perspectives, expand your understanding of the world, and continuously grow intellectually. The more you read, the more you empower yourself with information and insights.

Value and appreciation: It’s essential to recognize your worth and seek environments where you are valued and appreciated. Surrounding yourself with people and organizations that recognize and respect your contributions can have a significant impact on your happiness and personal growth.

Embrace change and take risks: Change is inevitable, and embracing it can lead to new opportunities and personal growth. Stepping outside of your comfort zone, taking calculated risks, and being open to new experiences can lead to personal and professional development.

Persistence and resilience: Success rarely comes without setbacks and challenges. Being persistent and resilient in the face of obstacles can help you overcome adversity and achieve your goals. Learn from failures, adapt, and keep moving forward.

6. Which woman inspires you and why?

Fatima Ali Jinnah and Brené Brown are two remarkable women who have significantly contributed to their respective fields and impacted how I view life. 

Fatima Ali Jinnah: Fatima Ali Jinnah was an influential political leader and activist in Pakistan. She was the younger sister of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. Fatima Ali Jinnah played a vital role in the Pakistan Movement and fought for women’s rights and social justice. She was known for her courage, determination, and commitment to democracy and equality.

Brené Brown: Brené Brown is a renowned researcher, author, and public speaker known for her work on vulnerability, courage, and shame. Her TED Talk on the power of vulnerability is one of the most-watched TED Talks ever. Brown’s work focuses on embracing vulnerability, building resilience, and cultivating empathy in personal and professional relationships. She is admired for her authenticity, compassion, and ability to connect with audiences on a deep emotional level.

Fatima Ali Jinnah and Brené Brown have left a lasting impact on me through their courage, leadership, and dedication to making a positive difference in the lives of others. They serve as inspiring role models for women seeking to create change, challenge societal norms, and promote inclusivity and empowerment.

7. 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?

Indeed, there has been significant progress in empowering women and promoting gender equality in first-tier cities of Pakistan. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that second and third-tier cities still face considerable challenges. Deep-rooted cultural constraints continue to limit women’s opportunities and hinder their progress. To address these issues, a multi-faceted approach is required.

Firstly, the media can be vital in shaping societal perceptions and promoting positive narratives about women. By highlighting the achievements and stories of successful women, the media can inspire and encourage others to break barriers.

Secondly, having strong women role models in various fields is essential. When women see others who have achieved success in their respective industries, it helps to challenge gender stereotypes and instill confidence in their abilities.

Creating a safe and inclusive work environment is crucial for women to thrive. Organizations need to implement effective inclusion and diversity policies that promote equal opportunities and ensure the safety and well-being of all employees.

While progress has been made, there is still much work to be done. Continued efforts to challenge cultural constraints, improve access to education and healthcare, and create supportive policies and programs are necessary to empower women in all tiers of cities and achieve true gender equality.

8. What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?

While it is important to recognize and appreciate the efforts made by those who paved the way for progress, it is equally crucial for women to strive for continuous improvement and not take the achievements of previous generations for granted. This mindset encourages women to build upon the progress made by their predecessors and push boundaries even further.

By aiming to be better than what came before them, women can drive positive change and break through the remaining barriers. It involves taking on new challenges, acquiring new skills, and continuously seeking personal and professional growth. It also means embracing leadership roles, setting higher standards, and inspiring future generations of women.

Additionally, recognizing the ongoing work needed to achieve gender equality helps women remain vigilant and proactive in advocating for their rights and addressing persisting challenges. It requires an understanding that progress is not linear and that there will always be new hurdles to overcome.

By staying committed to improvement and acknowledging the collective efforts of those who fought for gender equality, women can continue to drive change and create a more inclusive and equal society for themselves and future generations.

9. What would it be if you could change one thing about the tech industry/business?

Ensuring access to the latest technology and trends in third-world countries is crucial for their development and progress. Here are a few strategies that can help make this access easier:

Infrastructure Development: Focus on improving infrastructure, such as reliable internet connectivity and electricity, to enable the adoption and use of technology in remote areas. This includes expanding network coverage, building data centers, and investing in renewable energy sources to power digital devices.

Digital Skills Training: Provide comprehensive training programs that equip individuals with digital skills to use and leverage technology effectively. This can include coding, digital literacy, data analysis, and other relevant skills, empowering them to take advantage of the latest trends and tools.

Public-Private Partnerships: Foster collaborations between governments, private sector organizations, and nonprofit entities to bring the latest technology to underserved areas. This can involve initiatives like subsidized devices, low-cost internet plans, and partnerships with tech companies to provide access to their products and services.

Technology Hubs and Incubators: Establish technology hubs and incubators in third-world countries to create an environment conducive to innovation and entrepreneurship. These hubs can offer resources, mentorship, and networking opportunities for local startups and tech enthusiasts, enabling them to access and utilize the latest technology trends.

Open-source and Affordable Solutions: Promote the use of open-source software and affordable hardware solutions to make technology more accessible and affordable in third-world countries. This encourages innovation and allows for customization to suit local needs and requirements.

Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration: Encourage knowledge sharing and collaboration between countries, organizations, and individuals through conferences, workshops, and online platforms. This facilitates the exchange of ideas, best practices, and technological advancements, bridging the gap between third-world countries and the global tech community.

By implementing these strategies, it becomes easier for individuals and communities in third-world countries to access and benefit from the latest technology and trends, enabling them to participate in the digital economy and drive their own development.

10. How can WomenInTechPK help you and other women?

WomenInTechPK can play a crucial role in supporting and empowering women in various ways, most of which the community already does but can be optimized further for the best results.

Networking and Mentoring: WomenInTechPK can provide platforms for women to connect, network, and form supportive relationships. They can facilitate mentorship programs where experienced women professionals can guide and inspire younger women, helping them navigate their careers and personal growth.

Skill Development and Education: WomenInTechPK can organize workshops, training sessions, and educational programs to enhance the skills and knowledge of women. This can include technical skills, leadership development, financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and personal development.

Advocacy and Awareness: WomenInTechPK can advocate for women’s rights, gender equality, and social issues that affect women. They can raise awareness about challenges faced by women, promote diversity and inclusion, and work towards eliminating gender-based discrimination and bias.

Entrepreneurship and Business Support: WomenInTechPK can offer support and resources for women entrepreneurs and business owners. This can include access to funding opportunities, business mentorship, networking events, and guidance on navigating the challenges specific to women in business.

Safe Spaces and Emotional Support: WomenInTechPK can create safe and inclusive spaces where women can share their experiences, challenges, and achievements. They can provide emotional support, encouragement, and a sense of belonging, helping women overcome obstacles and build resilience.

Policy and Systemic Change: WomenInTechPK can advocate for policy changes and systemic reforms that promote gender equality and empower women. They can collaborate with organizations, government bodies, and policymakers to drive change and address gender disparities in various sectors.

Collaboration and Partnerships: WomenInTechPK can collaborate with other organizations, both within and outside their community, to amplify their impact and reach. By joining forces with like-minded groups, they can leverage resources, expertise, and networks to create meaningful change.

You can follow Merai Syed using her profile(s) below, and please do not hesitate to hire her for your next project.


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