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 Ifrah Waqar. 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 come from a working-class family where education remains to this day, the top-most priority and I was supremely blessed to have a support system where books were not only part of your school curriculum. My mom wanted me to study medicine but I wanted to write and study to be an Egyptologist. She wasn’t ready to have her child fly out of the country for a period of 5 years and that’s how I struck a deal with her. I promised her to complete my education in Medicinal Sciences and then I will start writing for the rest of my life. She happily agreed, I completed my Masters in Medical Biotechnology and began my career as a Copy Writer. A decade later, I find myself nestled comfortably between words and technology. I’ve had my fair share of work in both agency, and product companies. Currently, I am serving as SVP for Care, Communications and Tech/Product Development at a mobile-app based Service Company that I co-founded with two extra-ordinary humans.
What are your future plans/aspirations? What impact it will have on the community/society/your team/your project?
Currently, all my focus is towards SEEDO, my mobile app-based stitching service and making it a household name not only for our customers but equally for the many people who work out of homes and have their very own small businesses. My co-founders and I have been very clear about our definitive mission – to activate women in our society who have the right skills but fail to attract the right kind of exposure and platform. I am hoping that people will turn to SEEDO for a tailored-fit ensemble as well as fair livelihood. And if I can somehow strike that magical work-life balance, I’d also like to continually reduce my carbon footprint on the planet – another aspect of my life, I feel extremely passionate about.
Please brag about your career accomplishments, what are the things you are really proud of?
Brag eh? To quote Shakespeare, ‘Let me count the ways…” *chuckles* honestly I think the single, greatest moment of my professional life was sandwiched between closing my deal with Microsoft OCP and winning a contest with Atlassian. My projects with Facebook, Singapore, and Google, UAE have also been my career highlights. But I’d like to give a special mention to the day when a new member of my team walked up to me and said: “Thank you for creating an unbeatable environment for females in this company”. This will always hold a special place in my heart.
What has been your best education/career decision and why?
One year into my role as a Project Manager, I fell in love with everything agile and decided to pursue it academically as well and it has done wonders for my field of work. In terms of my career, the best move was to opt-out of an employment opportunity that asked me to take a pay cut just because I was a female resource and the ‘Male’ Marketing Head of the company won’t be ‘offended’. Having said that people close to me say that I am lucky that I was able to find my true calling and paid heed to it, I, however, do not believe in such things, you don’t always have a choice, but you do have the option to prioritize and I did just that – I knew my priorities in life and I made them the goal.
What’re the best lessons you’ve learned?
- Create an environment where your team never has to think twice before speaking up.
- Resource Management is an art. Master it!
- Nothing beats Data.
Which woman inspires you and why?
So many great women around the world why just pick one. Learning never stops, I just keep my eyes open. And READ excessively!
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?
In the last decade, I’ve seen many women come forward and break the glass ceiling, which means the change has already begun but it breaks my heart to see that as a society we still have a lot of learning and accepting on our hands. Peers, supervisors, relatives still point fingers. We have witnessed countless initiatives surfacing by women for women but that support from the back that woman deserves at home is still not where it should be.
What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?
Every generation has its own set of struggles; they just evolve with time and space. Discrimination on the basis of your wardrobe choices, institutions barriers and above all assumptions are perhaps what women of all ages and class face in and outside the country, sadly you and I struggle with it as well. Lack of education and opportunities top the list as always!
If you could change one thing about the tech industry/business, what would it be?
I’d like to change three please; lack of security protocols/procedures (in regard to Product Development) and lack of patience. All good things take time, believe in the idea, work on it, let it brew and keep the freaking out to a minimum. And above all, I’d very much like to see de-lobbying (if that’s a word), diversity in terms of gender is no doubt crucial but people need to be more open to inviting new people inside this little community that we have, clans grow with people, not with preferences.
How can WomenInTechPK help you and other women?
Whenever I scroll down my Twitter feed, I see how WomenInTechPK is doing one thing or the other to help women in our field of work, please keep doing that. I think the number one problem is within ourselves, as women, we are told not to have a voice or the fact that we cannot sit at the table, we’ve been told to ‘shut up’ since Homer’s Odyssey and that was 3,000 years ago, as a community we should do whatever it takes, big or little to remove this specific barrier from within, turn the negative voices inside our heads to positive. My work with ‘The Akram Foundation’ focuses on this very issue, where we do our best to establish programs that help women shape their lives in both personal and professional capacities. Please continue to engage women and create opportunities where women come forward and decide to stay for the long-run. You have all my support, time and prayers!
You can follow Ifrah Waqar using her profiles below, and please do not hesitate in hiring her for your next project.
ProWomen Profile: https://www.prowomen.pk/ifrah-waqar