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 Sukaina Abbas. Read on to know more about her work and get inspired.
Tell us a little about yourself, your background, your education, and your work.
Although a Software Engineer by degree, I had been a homemaker and mother till I started my brand Enchanté, designing and selling silver jewelry online. I always say that Enchanté wasn’t a planned journey, but it was destined to be. What made this journey possible was the passion for perpetual learning and the pursuit of excellence. I learned essential business skills from courses like the WomenX, a World Bank-sponsored initiative aimed at training women entrepreneurs, and the Mentorship Program at The Cherie Blair Foundation UK. Technological advancements in the field of Gemology and Jewelry design have yet to make an impact in a geologically enriched country like Pakistan, where to date, the age-old techniques of craftsmanship are being used. In order to introduce and implement the new processes, it is essential to learn in-depth and thoroughly about them, and this is where Gemological Institute of America (GIA) Courses come in. I completed my AJP (Applied Jewellery Professional) Program in August 2020. And my first on-campus Gem Identification lab in Jan 2022. I am currently enrolled for my Diamond Grading Certification.
My boys are the axis around which my world revolves, and I am a passionate ambassador for women’s empowerment and a strong advocate for mental health awareness for all.
What are your future plans/aspirations? What impact will it have on the community/society/your team/your project?
My brand Enchanté offers a wide range of designs using exquisite craftsmanship, incorporating gemstones with a special focus on custom-made designs on request. We work closely with special artisans, smoothly and seamlessly creating designs that highlight how fine quality designs reviving our traditional heritage are innovated, made locally, and yet are at par with International brands. Each piece reflects our commitment to excellence in quality and finish. In this world of Global consumerism, Enchanté aims to differentiate itself as a brand focused on sustainable fashion, and I hope to raise awareness about it. I believe my passion for upskilling myself and the artisans I employ will set me apart from others in the local industry.
Please brag about your career accomplishments. What are the things you are really proud of?
I was a homemaker by choice after getting a degree from FAST because I believed at that point in time, my ultimate objective to be a dedicated housewife and mother would be hindered by pursuing a career. And then, when destiny led me to start Enchanté, every decision was dictated by the mantra that kids first, family first.
I was part of the World Bank-sponsored training program for women entrepreneurs conducted at IBA as part of their first cohort in 2014.
Today almost eight years later, with an Applied Jewellery Professional diploma from the Gemological Institute of America and a Gemstone Identification Lab course from London- I have established clientele both locally and in 8 countries across the globe. Have served corporates, including Hilton Pharma, PSO, National Savings, and Sentiments Express, amongst others. And recently launched a collaborative project with Pakistan’s biggest fashion retail giant Khaadi. I am also actively engaged in the entrepreneurial community as a mentor and ambassador for women empowerment.
What has been your best education/career decision, and why?
The best thing to happen by far was my introduction to courses at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). Manufacturing designs in Sterling Silver, I always focused on the quality of the gemstones I used. Though at first, it was all trial and error, then GIA opened me to a whole new world of learning!! Through DE learning, I proudly completed my AJP (Applied Jewellery Professional) Program in August 2020. And finally did my first on-campus Gem Identification lab in Jan 2022 on a scholarship! The experience of learning in class was exhilarating for the designer and gemstone aficionado in me.
The AJP from GIA is just the start, and I am eager to learn more as I grow both as a business and as a jewelry-cum-gemstone professional. I also believe that in-depth knowledge about the different varieties of gemstones, their sources, and properties will enable me to create better, more sophisticated designs and help me understand better the mechanics of manufacturing these designs adding value to my products.
What’re the best lessons you’ve learned?
I personally believe that the values we uphold define us as a human, who we are, and how we interact with the world around us! I think it’s very important to align your business or work with your values. Otherwise, it gets very difficult to make the right choices.
Learning to negotiate, compromise and patience are essentials for an entrepreneur. And when stuck, learn to let your intuition guide you. But most importantly, always give back in whatever way possible and help those who are stuck. The ecosystem will only prosper when we support our tribe and nourish it.
Which woman inspires you and why?
There is a list of those who have inspired me, from women in my family to entrepreneurs building their brands. But what all these women have in common is their unwavering determination and courage to never give up. A special mention (without any biases) to my friend & mentor, Faiza Yousuf (Founder of WomenInTechPK), who has influenced me deeply as a lot of other women around her. She is one of the few Pakistani women who are breaking glass ceilings, bringing change through their work, and empowering other females selflessly. I have learned a lot from her and am very proud of her fantastic journey.
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?
We can only bring the desired change in society by educating the masses. Although the narrative has changed, I believe we still have a long way to go. In recent years there’s been awareness about gender inclusion, pay gaps, maternity leaves, and equal opportunities, but implementation is needed both in the private sector and government institutions.
What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?
The upcoming generation will face the daunting task of making an impact in highly competitive environments, which will not be easy. Though opportunities may increase, they will face new challenges like the impact of AI, global recession, global workforce, and consumerism, in addition to unseen ones like we did with the Pandemic. Climate change, a harsh reality, will also devastatingly affect our changing world.
If you could change one thing about the tech industry/business, what would it be?
In the past few years, we have seen a mushroom growth of incubation centers, accelerators, and venture capitalists, especially in the Tech industry of Pakistan, which is commendable. However, I feel that we also need to encourage the setup of Research centers and facilities in the country. Unfortunately, not only do we lack behind, but our industry doesn’t facilitate research. I hope that one day we realize that the only way to lead forward in this rapidly changing world is to advance in the field of Technology Research and make it a sustainable career option for future generations.
How can WomenInTechPK help you and other women?
WomenInTechPK is a strong, interactive support system for women like me who are actively seeking support, guidance, and counseling. I have proudly seen it grow as one of the biggest platforms for the women in Pakistan belonging to the tech industry, where they freely voice their concerns, share their issues, and seek career guidance and mentorship. The best part is that the issues are not only heard without prejudice, but solutions are offered as well, uplifting and promoting each other selflessly. In our male-dominated society, having a community that has your back is absolutely fantastic! May this community prosper more each day.
You can follow Sukaina Abbas using her profiles below, and please do not hesitate in hiring her for your next project.