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 Bushra Anjum. Read on to know more about her work and get inspired.
Tell us a little about yourself, your background, your education, and your work.
Well, most of my career choices have been guided by a sense of adventure. After completing MCS from LUMS in 2007 I opted for a Ph.D. degree as it was an ambitious adventure. No one in my family has a Ph.D. and going halfway across the world to earn it made it even more exciting. Hence, I came to the US, studied and completed the Ph.D. (CS) from North Carolina State University (NCSU) in 2012, with a specialization in performance evaluation and queueing theory.
The next adventure was to teach, and I did so in Pakistan at FAST-NU Lahore and NCSU and Missouri S&T in the US. The succeeding adventure was the industry. I fancied exploring the world of global technology giants, thus I joined Amazon. I worked there for four years and learned a great deal about large scale distributed systems with an emphasis on highly scalable fault-tolerant engineering. Next, I aimed at combining my engineering skills with the love for math, advanced probability, and statistics. Fueled by my curiosity of learning more about the startup culture, I decided on my next adventure, i.e., leading the data team of a San Francisco based startup Doximity. This is where I currently am.
What are your future plans/aspirations? What impact it will have on the community/society/your team/your project?
I work for a San Francisco based startup Doximity as their Data Analytics Manager. Doximity is providing digital workflow tools for medical professionals such as doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and pharmacists in the US. It is surprising how the health care system is one of the last benefactors of the digital revolution. My team, the data department consisting of data analysts, ML engineers, etc. ensures that we understand user engagement, needs, and preferences accurately. We then advise the product decision making accordingly. We are also building out advanced analysis pipelines and prediction models to better support digital fax, appointment and referral, health records sharing, continued medical education credits, and other services. It will not be incorrect to say that my team, and Doximity in general, is leading the efforts of bringing the health care systems to the 21st century.
Please brag about your career accomplishments, what are the things you are really proud of?
I am blessed to have my work and service contributions recognized by several international venues. I am a humble recipient of the Tribune Top 20 under 40 award in 2018 for career excellence and community service. However, my recent selection for the LUMS Vice Chancellor’s Alumni Achievement Award is a recognition extremely close to my heart. The award email stated, “we are appreciative of how well you have represented and demonstrated the positive impact of our alumni to the communities we serve. Your leadership, commitment and contributions as an ambassador of LUMS personify values that make us extremely proud of you.” These words are an award in themselves! I acknowledge that wherever I may be working, I am representing my educational institutions. I am also aware that it is both my privilege and responsibility to turn around and make things easier for the next person. I am both humbled and proud that these efforts are getting recognized.
What has been your best education/career decision and why?
Doing a Ph.D. from abroad. LUMS is a fantastic institute, second to none. Since I did MCS from LUMS, it was a clear candidate for Ph.D. I knew my work at LUMS will be comparable to that done at any international institution, however, it was the exposure I went for.
While sticking to familiar is comforting, international cross-cultural exposure has distinctive benefits for personal growth. It helps you become a self-aware, responsible adult. It assists you in identifying your unique passion, strengths, and weaknesses. It primes you to understand global scenarios better from different cultural perspectives. The experience has enabled me to live life fully, with an enhanced and broadened vision and a sense of community responsibility. Besides, in today’s hyper-connected exponentially evolving tech industry, having an international professional network only accelerates your career progress.
What’re the best lessons you’ve learned?
Every day, every experience brings with it a new lesson. If I have to pick one, it will have to be to remain teachable. Every act of learning requires taking a hit on your ego. That is one of the reasons kids are easier to teach than adults because kids do not yet have their ego blocking their understanding and progress. Remaining open to feedback, learning, and employing a growth mindset are essential skills for staying relevant in today’s modern workforce.
Which woman inspires you and why?
Every single woman who is holding her own in the face of opposition, fighting her inner and outer demons, and is persistently working towards a positive cause inspires me.
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?
Any society that is unclear about the distinction between religion and societal norms will resist evolution. So in Pakistan, the change will be slow. But it is inevitable. As far as what needs to change, more women need to come forward and make it easier for other women behind them. More mothers need to move beyond “boys don’t cry” and “don’t be like a girl” when raising their sons. More fathers need to support their daughter’s ambitions and life choices rather than adhering to “what will people think.” More men should call out other men when they make derogatory comments about females; not letting them get away with “its only a joke, lighten up” for it is never a joke, it is always veiled disrespect and deep-rooted bias.
If you could change one thing about the tech industry/business, what would it be?
Continuing on the previous response, I hope men for the sake of their sisters, daughters, female family members, and friends – this generation and generations to come – will make their existing workplace more equitable by shifting norms. I hope they will stand up for their female colleagues when other male colleagues deem them less competent. I hope they will intervene when their male colleagues discuss or treat their female colleagues in less than respectful ways. I hope they will not be a silent bystander but take responsibility and help stop these professionally and emotionally damaging situations for their female colleagues.
What has been the role of male voices around you in your career and your personal and professional progress?
The most important male figure in my life has been my father. He was my most trusted confidant and advisor. I like to celebrate him at every opportunity as I have learned from him how to empower women truly. Though he is no more, his words of encouragement as we were growing up are my constant source of strength, even today. I would like to share a few here:
“You are not my or anyone else’s property.”
“Go ahead with it; we will deal with whatever happens.”
“I am very proud of you.”
“These are the risks, but it is your decision. I will support you, no matter which way you go. “
“I trust your judgment.”
What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?
The biggest challenge for my and the next generation, both men and women, is to maintain a balanced perspective. We all need to stand up to intolerance without becoming conceited and judgmental ourselves. We need to learn to respect choices. There are only a few exceptional choices that may be considered wrong, and that’s where the law of the land comes in. Other than that, it’s a matter of personal preference. If a woman chooses to be a homemaker, more power to her. If a woman chooses to prioritize a career, let it be her choice. If a man chooses to have a beard and dress in shalwar kameez, good for him. If a man chooses to learn cooking or is interested in painting, let him be. We need to stop putting people in boxes, both men and women.
How can WomenInTechPK help you and other women?
Well, the statistics indicate that the lack of women in tech is a global issue. In the US, for example, women hold only 20% of computing jobs. We are stuck in a vicious cycle where young women do not opt for technology careers because they do not find role models, and there are limited role models because women are not entering the technology field. We all need a role model, someone to look up to for inspiration and reach out to for guidance. A British documentary maker summarized this perfectly: “If she does not see it, she can’t be it.” There are numerous trailblazing women in technology. However, they do not get their fair share of visibility. We need to get better at promoting women leaders and technologists in media. I am extremely appreciative of the initiatives taken by WomenInTechPK in this regard. Possibly, in the future, you can consider collaborating with local print and electronic media to have a weekly or monthly section featuring these women to give them even broader visibility.
You can follow Bushra Anjum using her profiles below, and please do not hesitate in hiring her for your next project.
ProWomen Profile: https://www.prowomen.pk/bushra-anjum