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 Sanam Asif. 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 Computer engineer by qualification and started working as an SQA engineer, the very next month I gave my final year exams before I got my degree. I took a career break after I got married but got back into the workforce when my daughter turned 2. After I left that job in 2017, I shifted my attention to my freelancing career. It wasn’t easy at the start, but in a few months I started getting jobs there and freelancing career took off. In 2018, I also started an online business of natural homemade skin care products and now manage both freelancing and the business, side by side.
What are your future plans/aspirations? What impact it will have on the community/society/your team/your project?
Growing up, my parents always emphasized the need for a girl to be financially independent, have backup money for the rainy days, and because of this, I have this ‘keep hustling’ thing going on with me, which sometimes gets overwhelming for me. My aspiration is to motivate other women to get up and do something. Pick something that they love to do and turn it into a livelihood. I plan on starting a program “Do what you love for a living” which will work on making women think about what they enjoy doing and then help them turn their aspirations into tangible realities. I just want people to realize that life is too short to be spent on a job you hate and there is nothing wrong with changing careers. It is hard but absolutely doable.
Please brag about your career accomplishments, what are the things you are really proud of?
The accomplishments I am proudest of started to come my way after I left my full-time job in 2017. My freelancing career, my home-based business, and now my upcoming book, Just Like Fire.
What has been your best education/career decision and why?
Hands down the best decision of my life was to leave the soul-sucking job I was doing and pursue anything and everything I loved to do. I don’t think much before I do anything, it will sound cheesy but I really listen to my heart and follow it.
What’re the best lessons you’ve learned?
The best lesson I have learned the hard way is being contented when experiencing failure. Be content with what you have but that doesn’t mean stop dreaming or stop working to fulfill those dreams. It just means when failure comes your way, don’t let it get to your heart. Once you fail, the chase to achieve the goals makes it so much more rewarding.
And another lesson that has become my life mantra, follow your heart, your intuition. It will lead you in the right direction. I can’t believe I wrote the lines from my favorite song ‘Intuition’, here.
Which woman inspires you and why?
All the women I have met in my life are inspirational because they all have their own story, their own struggles.
But I really want to name some who had an impact on me.
Faiza Yousuf: I met her at a meetup she was hosting #WomenInTechPK at IBA in 2017, this was right after I left my job and was looking for a purpose. Before that meetup, I had never seen women supporting women at such a big level. I had experienced misogyny and had faced work politics at my office before leaving it, and being among so many women who were genuinely focused on getting women to work and put their education to use, was inspiring for me. I don’t have words to describe how empowered I felt that day. I was attending that meet up with my sister and when we left, we both had felt encouraged. Not many people have this effect on others, but Faiza does.
Raheela Badar: A woman I can proudly say broke the Glass ceiling.
She is my phoopo and an amazing woman, who has the heart of an angel. Her positivity towards life and her capability to love others without expecting anything in return inspires me. She was among the very first recruits of Custom House Chemical Laboratory. Working as a Government officer in an institution ruled by men.
She broke the glass ceiling when she became deputy chemical examiner at Customs Laboratory, Custom House, all because of her hard work and dedication. For me, she is an example of resilience and persistence.
I want to mention so many others like Nadia Patel, Mehreen Farhan, Sarah D Fawad, Sonia Adnan, Kainaat Maqbool, Shumaila Khan, and Varah Musavvir. The list goes on and on.
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?
I think we are getting there, but there is still so much more to be done. Having been a target of misogyny, I know firsthand how bad we need to educate men that women can do home and job, both. Men in the workforce still have a difficult time digesting the success of women. Many believe that as soon as a female employee is married she will start being a burden on the team and ask for leaves every now and then. For this mindset to change, women in the workforce need to have a tightly-knit circle and have each other’s back. Because being career-oriented is much harder for women as compared to men. They have to juggle between their responsibilities as a mother/daughter/wife and be an ideal employee. To help women come forward, we need to have a platform where they can openly share their problems and seek guidance. We need to build a strong support system in the work industry for women so they know who to turn to.
What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?
The generation behind me will have pretty big shoes to fill. That glass ceiling has been broken, women have entered the workforce as leaders. They have become the breadwinners now. I think they will have a lot going on and feel that they have to live up to the level of the women before them have set, in managing home and work together. But the thing is that every generation of women has its own challenges. What matters is what you do with them, and how you adjust and grow through those challenges.
If you could change one thing about the tech industry/business, what would it be?
- The change is already happening. I always wanted the tech industry to adapt to work from home and consider it a full-time option for employees who have their own reason. I don’t know what I did right, because it is happening in the entire world right now.
- Start proper investigation to out misogynists, sexists, harassers, abusers the moment you get a complaint about them, instead of waiting for them to make life worse for the victim.
- EQUAL PAY!
- Facilitate working women who have kids, help them out, make it easier for them to acquire work-life balance, and then do not rub it in their faces.
How can WomenInTechPK help you and other women?
WomenInTechPk has already helped me a great deal and keep on helping so many other women in tech. You guys have become a voice for all women in tech. This is the support system that women in the workforce need.
You can follow Sanam Asif using her profiles below, and please do not hesitate in hiring her for your next project.