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 Nazish Hussain. 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 graduated with a degree in marketing from George Washington University in Washington DC. After which I spent some time in New York before moving back home to Pakistan and started my career as a Media Planner at Starcom Pakistan. I spent 3.5 years there and then joined the media department at Unilever where I got my passion for digital. While traveling abroad, I got inspired and came up with the idea for Secret Stash. I decided to leave my corporate career and give entrepreneurship a shot. I launched Secret Stash in December 2014 and it took me 2 years to go full time and focus solely on my business and I haven’t looked back since.
What are your future plans/aspirations? What impact it will have on the community/society/your team/your project?
My biggest focus is to continue to grow the business. We’ve had phenomenal growth so far and I’m now looking to accelerate it with one of the first steps I’m undertaking is to expand my team. As a company that focuses on empowering women, I want to get smarter millennial women who’re looking to do something different on-board. We also recently conducted a charity sale for the first time last month, which had a tremendous response. It was our way of giving back and after the incredible success, it’s definitely something we’re going to be looking at doing more frequently.
Please brag about your career accomplishments, what are the things you are really proud of?
One of the most exciting things I’ve done was to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Silicon Valley in 2016. That was a major turning point for me as after hearing all the leaders from the top tech companies in the world and President Obama, I was so inspired I came back and decided to go all-in and focus 100% on my own business. The other major highlight of my career has been to be a part of the Alibaba & UNCTAD eFounders Fellowship Program. A group of startup founders from Asia were invited to spend 2.5 weeks in China at Alibaba’s headquarters to learn how this phenomenal company became the giant that it is. And most excitedly we had Jack Ma come and speak to our class which was extremely inspirational.
What has been your best education/career decision and why?
I think I’ve made a few interesting decisions over the years which I wasn’t sure about at the time but all of them worked out. During my college years, I spent a semester in Paris even though I didn’t speak the language and it was one of my favorite times at university. I think joining Unilever when I was doing really well at Starcom was a great move for my career and then choosing to leave Unilever and pursue my own entrepreneurship venture was also the right thing to do. And of course, then going full time and focusing solely on my own company was one of the best decisions I’ve made.
What’re the best lessons you’ve learned?
Entrepreneurship is tough, starting and making a business work is not as simple as just having an idea. I did client servicing for a long time in my corporate career but dealing with female customers in retail-focused e-commerce is a whole other ball game. You learn to survive and you need to have thick skin and that you have to provide the best customer service to get loyal customers but you also need to know where to draw a line to ensure they don’t take advantage of you. You have to trust your instincts and always do things in writing no matter who the customer is. Lastly, Entrepreneurship can be lonely and tough especially as a solo female founder but then the rewards are also great as there’s nothing like building a brand from scratch that now has thousands of customers and followers across the country.
Which woman inspires you and why?
Michelle Obama – I always found her to be so inspirational when she spoke especially after I read her autobiography. Another woman I’ve always admired is the former CEO of PepsiCo Indra Nooyi with everything she’s accomplished and continues to do so as a South Asian woman.
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’ve always seen women working in my own family and even during my corporate career but I think it’s a lot more acceptable. Women now have more of a choice to consciously decide whether they want to work or not. But I still think we have a long way to go but with the advent of the internet and the impact of social media, it has really given women more opportunities to start something especially without leaving their homes which I think will continue to grow. I think their needs to be a focus on this area and to grow awareness and empower more women the confidence and tools to become a homepreneur.
What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?
To continue to break the stereotypes and make strides for gender equality.
If you could change one thing about the tech industry/business, what would it be?
More visibility and focus on including women. And have more women involved in the forefront. There are already a lot of them doing a fantastic job but for example, at conferences, it’s rare to see women speak except as a token good to have or then being on the gender-focused panels – we need more opportunities for women.
How can WomenInTechPK help you and other women?
I think one of the areas I’ve struggled with is hiring so I would definitely appreciate it if a pool of resources or something along those lines was created for us to recruit from. And of course, building a strong network is important so perhaps networking events and of course to share tools, articles, and resources we can learn from and just continuing to build the community.
You can follow Nazish Hussain using her profiles below, and please do not hesitate in hiring her for your next project.
ProWomen Profile: https://www.prowomen.pk/nazish-hussain