The following is a heartfelt post by Zahra Andleeb, describing her journey as a Pakistani, Muslim participant in the United States for the TechWomen 2017. Zahra was a part of the first-ever cohort to represent Pakistan at Tech Women.
It all started with the email, “Congratulations! You have been selected for TechWomen 2017”, and I was jumping with tears of joy and enormous bliss. I felt so fortunate to be amongst the top one hundred women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) from twenty different countries who were selected to participate at TechWomen 2017; each woman reflected a compelling success story that inspires women everywhere.
My TechWomen journey began long before my arrival in the United States, TechWomen team started preparing me while I was still in Pakistan for a jam-packed five weeks full of learning and development that transformed me into a leader for change. After reaching Silicon Valley, I observed that many well-known companies collaborated with TechWomen to provide necessary support for changing the face of tech industry by challenging stereotypes.
I attended interactive workshops, inspirational sessions and networking events at the leading tech giants including Symantec, Synopsis, Yahoo/Oath, NASA, Autodesk, Juniper Network, SalesForce, Microsoft and Twitter that shaped me into a leader who is driven, capable and passionate about giving back to her community. In addition, I also visited the offices of Facebook, Tesla, Flextronics, Foxconn and Google with my professional mentor and team.
My host company, Juniper Networks, was committed to strengthening my professional development, capacity and potential. The Senior Mechanical Manager at Juniper Networks, Rebecca Biswas, was assigned for my professional mentorship considering my background in mechanical and manufacturing. I had a keen interest in learning the innovative manufacturing techniques exercised at Juniper Networks for the production processes. I was able to understand and learn the techniques quickly with the guidance of my mentor and her team. Rebecca was more than a mentor to me, with her warm, caring, and friendly attitude, she quickly became my lifelong friend and ensured to support my professional and personal endeavors.
Besides professional development, TechWomen also presented an opportunity to identify social issues of one’s home country and propose solutions along with an action plan to address and overcome the issue. Along with my team members, we brainstormed the ideas and focused on the issue ‘low participation of Pakistani women in higher education’. We formulated the business model to overcome the issue and pitched it in front of the panel of judges and audience. The remarks of the judges and warm applause of the audience furthermore uplifted my confidence in the cause.
The last week of TechWomen was even more exciting as we all traveled to Washington D.C. A networking reception was hosted for us at the World Bank and the U.S. Department of State that provided an opportunity to interact with several leaders, innovators, and investors. The journey which started from twenty countries concluded at the graduating ceremony where we received our certificate of participation upon successful completion of the program. It was, indeed, an emotional moment yet my heart was filled with phenomenal energy and passion to bring about the positive changes I want to see in my community and in the world.
Today, I can proudly state that:
I’m a TechWoman, phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman, That’s me.