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 Nitasha Syed. 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 was born and raised in Vancouver to Pakistani immigrant parents. My father was a computer scientist and so I followed in his footsteps and got a degree in software engineering and machine learning. Out of university, I started working in the gaming industry and was part of the FIFA14 team for the PS3 platform. I then moved into the smart city and building space where I went from engineering to product marketing. I moved out to Silicon Valley four years ago where I am a Sr. Product Manager leading one of the largest healthcare tech applications in the United States and also a former startup founder.
What are your future plans/aspirations? What impact it will have on the community/society/your team/your project?
My personal passion has always been to change the narrative of women in the media. Growing up, I was always trying to reconcile the stereotypes that society told me to follow. I never looked like an engineer, I didn’t dress like someone who could be good at math. I never understood why I had to give up my feminine side in order to be included in the STEM community. As I got older, I saw younger girls struggling with the same issues and I wanted to change that. I didn’t want girls to grow up thinking they need to choose between being themselves and being in technology.
Please brag about your career accomplishments, what are the things you are really proud of?
My proudest moment was when I had just started working on my startup Unboxd, I got an email from a girl from Scotland. She told me the stories I had published about women in STEM had encouraged her to change her major to computer science because she finally saw someone that looked like her succeeding in that role. Even though I have launched products that are used by millions of people around the world, that first email has got to be my proudest moment. I had put something into the world that had changed somebody’s life forever, little did I know I would start getting dozens of these emails over the course of the next two years thus sparking conversations around why intellect and femininity are always mutually exclusive.
What has been your best education/career decision and why?
Becoming a software engineer was definitely my best education decision. At its core, engineering enables you to take large problems, break them down into smaller chunks, and solve the smaller pieces in an interactive manner. You can take that skill set and apply it to marketing, product, sales, ops, and so many more roles.
What’re the best lessons you’ve learned?
Make career decisions based on who you’re going to be working for and not what you’re going to be doing. A good boss, that promotes you, builds you, and challenges you is worth more than a thousand mediocre bosses on projects that may sound cool.
Which woman inspires you and why?
My mother – without a shadow of a doubt. She’s handled every challenge with such grace and resilience that I continue to be in awe of her even to this day.
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 it’s getting there but there is still so much work that needs to be done. Building a career is not done single-handedly. It’s not something you do from 9-5, it’s a lifestyle that requires support in all other areas of your life (like your home, your relationships, and your kids). I think the first thing that needs to change, is that Pakistani women need to realize they don’t need to do it all. If they are trying to build a career, but also want to be in the race of being called a perfect wife that keeps her house sparkling clean with fresh home-cooked meals everyday then eventually they will have to sacrifice something. It’s okay to say no, to have boundaries. It’s okay to let your spouse know what you can and cannot contribute to the home so that they know where to step up. Once you have your boundaries set, it’s important to find someone that will respect them.
What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?
Learning not to do it all. Success requires hyper-focus on a select few things. I think the generation before mine paved the way for women like me to be able to invest in our careers. My generation fought to have our voices heard and be at the table as an executive or C suite member. What we don’t do as well is celebrate failure and setting boundaries. It’s like women want to get an A+ in every subject, but that’s not a sustainable way to live your life. We may make it easier for the next generation of women to climb up the corporate ladder, but they’re going to have to learn from our mistakes and be truly okay with not having it all.
If you could change one thing about the tech industry/business, what would it be?
I’d love to see diverse backgrounds profiled in tech. Girls need to see someone who looks and acts like them in technical roles. They should know that they can be a data security engineer and a ballerina at the same time (should they want to be). Do I think every girl should go into technology? No absolutely not, you should find a career path that is fulfilling for you. Do I think that every girl that is interested in technology deserves a space in that field? YES.
How can WomenInTechPK help you and other women?
I am happy to answer questions about career transitions & product management. The number of women in Product is still pretty low and if we’re going to put products into the world that can benefit a diverse audience, we need diverse people in these roles. If you have questions about product management or careers, feel free to reach out to @therealnitashasyed on Instagram
You can follow Nitasha Syed using her profiles below, and please do not hesitate in hiring her for your next project.