* This article is part of a press release distributed by SMEC (Member of the Surbana Jurong Group)
SMEC Senior Programmer Mobina Zafar was named Young Female Professional of the Year at the Surbana Jurong (SJ) International Awards held in Brisbane, Australia in December 2018.
Based in Lahore, Pakistan with her husband Husnain and one-year-old son Rayyan, Mobina has been working with SMEC, a member of the Surbana Jurong group of companies, since 2012. The annual SJ International Awards recognise the most outstanding employees, projects and innovations of the Surbana Jurong Group, which operates in more than 40 countries. From a number of exceptional nominees, Mobina was chosen for her technical skill, innovation and dedication.
“Mobina played a key role in pioneering the development of a Project Management and Monitoring Information System (PMIS) for our water resources projects here in Pakistan”, said Ahsam Arshad, SMEC Director Pakistan. “These systems are key to monitoring progress and risk on very significant infrastructure and energy projects.”
“Thanks to Mobina’s skill, dedication and hard work, this system has largely been developed in-house, under the supervision and guidance of technical specialists.”
For her part, Mobina says she is ‘humbled and honoured’ to have been named Young Female Professional of the Year. “We are a global group of companies with thousands of experts – to have my efforts be acknowledged is a really great feeling.”
Mobina grew up in a family that values learning, with both parents working in Pakistan’s education sector. “My mother has worked as a secondary school principal and education development officer. She’s a real source of inspiration and, along with my father, has been a role model for me throughout my life.”
Her siblings opted to study engineering and information technology, and she recalls being excited by digital transformation from a young age. “Information technology has changed our world and this fascinates me! It’s why I chose to do my graduate degree in Computer Sciences and later completed a Master of Science in Software Engineering.”
One might imagine that, sitting behind a computer working with digits and software, Mobina is removed from the project coalface. In reality, she says that one of the most rewarding aspects of her role is seeing the direct link between her work and the community. “Pakistan is an agriculturist country, so irrigation systems are really the backbone of our economy. Our project management team used the Project Management Information System to effectively monitor progress and manage project deadlines and resources on a significant water infrastructure project for the Government of Punjab. The project supports irrigated agriculture which accounts for 28% of Punjab's gross domestic product (GDP) and is making a difference to over 275,000 rural households in the area who derive their livelihood from crops.” Mobina also had the opportunity to work on project sites, which she describes as ‘thrilling’ and a ‘life-long learning experience’.
The Project Management Information System has now been implemented on several major projects in Pakistan and has been recommended for implementation across the South Asia and Middle East region. “I’m really excited to see my work being leveraged across the world and am looking forward to implementing more innovative ideas in 2019.”
Reflecting on her career success, Mobina names several factors that have been fundamental to successfully managing her roles as wife, mother and senior software programmer.
“I’ve been very consistent and focused in my work, but I’ve also had the constant support of my supervisors and my family throughout my career. This has made a huge difference. My current manager at SMEC, Mr. Abdul Mussawar Waqar, has mentored and guided me throughout my professional carrier. And I couldn’t have done it without the support of my husband, Husnain Ishtiaq, who is always standing beside me.”
“It’s not always easy, especially when my son Rayyan was born. But I manage all my roles with the great support of my family, parents-in-law, and my company. After returning from maternity leave I was able to benefit from the day care facility that SMEC provides at the office.”
“My son is my real motivation and aspiration at work. Every day when I come home and he receives me at the door with his smile and sparkling eyes, it’s like I’ve regained all my energy.”
Mobina is keen to see more females study for and take up careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). “We should support and motivate more females in Pakistan to enter STEM fields. Information technology is such an exciting sector with tremendous opportunity for innovation and learning.”
Training to be a female programmer in a traditionally male-dominated industry has not been without its challenges. “There are certain perceived barriers for females in STEM fields, mostly based on stereotypes and cultural ethos, and I was not an exception. I accepted and overcame these challenges with the encouragement and support of my parents, husband, friends and colleagues at SMEC. It is true there are barriers, but I feel the way to break them down is to demonstrate our true potential and quality contribution to our fields.”
“I want to encourage young women to identify their potential and add their valuable contribution to the industries that are shaping our world.”
Mobina Zafar is a senior software programmer at SMEC, a global a global engineering, management and development consultancy
Corporate Communications and Marketing Manager,
SMEC (Member of the Surbana Jurong Group)
Pakistani Women in Tech: Meet Engr. Dr. Shehla Saleem, Role Model, Wifi Engineer at Apple, California
Women Engineers Pakistan had the chance to speak to the amazing Engr. Dr. Shehla Saleem, a truly inspiring role model for Pakistani women in STEM fields, and in general as well. Shehla completed her engineering degree from Military College of Signals, NUST and followed her dream to complete a PhD from the prestigious University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA. And she didn't stop, reaching all the way to work at Apple, California where she works in Wifi Engineering!! A true role mode, Shehla rose against all challenges to become the face of talented Pakistani women everywhere in the world. One question many women face during the progress of their career and education is how would they ensure a "work-life balance"? Dr. Shehla is a shining example of having done a phenomenal job at just that, and we think you should read on and be just as inspired as we are!
"Being the youngest of four sisters and a brother, I grew up in a big, busy family. A lot of my motivation to do well came from seeing how hard my parents worked every single day to provide for us. Each time any of us did well at school or elsewhere, I could see a unique sense of joy and pride in my parents’ eyes and I would resolve to always make them feel that way.
I was always taught that we must try to be good at whatever comes our way. Our approach to problems in life can be influenced significantly by how we learn to handle stress, success as well as boredom and failure from a young age. I enjoyed most subjects at school but when I found something disinteresting, rather than complain, I’d try to identify exactly what I didn’t enjoy about it. Thinking this way helps you learn what excites you and what your strengths are, and gives you clarity and conviction when you’re in a position to actually choose your path.
I chose engineering because I found mathematical topics stimulating and challenging. However, at the time, engineering was still a very “male-dominated” path in Pakistan and people had doubts regarding the place of women in that field. Rather than be deterred by it, I took it as an opportunity to change a widely held perception and I feel humbled at having played my small part in doing just that. I graduated at the top of my undergraduate engineering class and was the first girl to do that. For some, it was hard to accept that a girl engineer was finishing ahead of all the males, but I am thankful for the many more supporting and encouraging voices. The struggle didn’t end with graduation though. I was once employed at a telecom company in Islamabad that did not have a women’s restroom in their whole office space. I am glad that I had the courage to bring it to their attention and have them create a safe
and healthy work environment where both men and women can thrive professionally.
I do not subscribe to the idea of having one or even a couple role models. I believe that everyone who crosses our path in life, offers a new lesson, a new perspective, and we are essentially a weighted combination of all of those lessons. I have many role models, some taught me kindness, some humility, others taught me resilience and bouncing back from failure. If I were to choose one character trait, that can make a superior contribution to success, I would call on “grit” and the idea of not giving up, but at the same time, knowing when to walk away.
I believe in the power of collaboration, sharing of ideas and building meaningful relationships. I try to take initiative and raise my voice wherever I find it can be useful. It helps being thorough, because it gives you the right amount of confidence that you can be assertive without being combative. I had two kids during my PhD and their father and I were equal partners in everything related to our children. I believe girls must be sure of their rights and abilities and be prepared to stand-up against the status-quo to make sure they are neither silenced nor denied their rights. I would end by saying that while I strongly believe that ambition to succeed professionally is a noble pursuit, we must also feed our ‘human’ side all along. Find a cause that matters to us and commit to it, stand-by for family and friends, and always be willing to lend a helping hand. In my work-life, I go through periods of high-stress but that human connection gives me the support I need to keep going and see things through. Life is all about finding joys in the middle of any amount of chaos."
Who inspired you to STEM forward?
Do you know any extraordinary Woman in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and Medicine? Help us Nominate Role Models for the coming generation!
We had the privilege of speaking to Engr. Dr. Maria Riaz, a truly stellar engineer from Pakistan who has shattered glass ceilings and reached all the way to Google. Maria graduated from NUST (MCS Rawalpindi) as a software engineer, and later received a PhD from North Carolina State University. She is a true role model in both academic and career streams, and her story is sure to inspire many more superstar women in STEM fields from Pakistan. Following is Maria's story, and her very inspiring message to the women both already in the field and those aspiring to join in:
"I grew up in a closely knit family with two sisters and one brother. The strong bond that I have with my family is a blessing and provides me with a lot of positive reinforcement. I am thankful that growing up, I was never compared with others and was rather expected to do the best I can in a given situation. This has helped me feel empowered to learn and grow without any external constraints.
My favorite subjects in school were Mathematics and Physics. I was always encouraged to develop an understanding of the subject over rote memorization. Later in undergrad, I really enjoyed logical reasoning and programming related courses. All of these provided a strong foundation for analytical thinking and problem solving. The knowledge itself, but more so the underlying skills to understand the requirements and constraints of a given situation and figure things out, definitely helps in day to day situations.
Growing up in Pakistan, we are not exposed to a lot of the career options that are out there. I was motivated to be an engineer as I felt inclined towards subjects and concepts that are closely associated with engineering. This was not the most popular choice for girls and many individuals encouraged me to choose a different career path. Initially, the biggest barrier was that people were constantly questioning my choice and I had to justify why I would rather not be a doctor or something deemed more suitable for women. I think it is important to realize that engineering is not one profession, there are many options available and many type of career paths and job opportunities to meet different types of interests within engineering. There is room for everyone to explore their individual strengths and passion when choosing a STEM career.
I am thankful to have had strong role models in all walks of life, be at home, school or as part of other social / professional interactions. I feel inspired by individuals who are kind and compassionate as providing a little encouragement and reassurance can go a long way.
I think it is very important to have a support network as no one individual has all the answers. The most trusted way to create a support network is to be of support to others where and when you can. I would like to see newcomer girls, and all newcomers in general, to develop strategies that help them be resilient in the face of challenges and not be afraid to seek guidance and opportunities that can lead to personal growth and excellence."
Who inspired you to STEM forward?
Do you know any extraordinary Woman in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and Medicine? Help us Nominate Role Models for the coming generation!
Are you a woman in engineering? Or rather, are you a woman affiliated with any of the fields within the umbrella of science, technology, engineering, medicine and/or math? If yes, chances are you know how it feels to be a minority. Chances are you have been told you aren't made for engineering, that it's a field suitable only for boys, or that you shouldn't get the job as you'll leave when you get married (we know, duh!! We know..)
Here's the thing: We as women can either buy in to that narrative, and sit down - or we can change the narrative and reclaim this space.
June 23rd 2018 is the International Women in Engineering Day (trending as INWED). Here's our chance to turn the mic right back on. In 2018, the INWED theme is 'Raising The Bar'. Its time to show the world how you are raising the bar in STEM, and how your amazing work is paving way for new-coming women in STEM. Let's show them how your participation and existence matters. We created a few selfie cards for you. Download whichever you like most (or create your own), and share it on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) with the following hashtags:
#IlookLikeAnEngineer #WomenEngineersPakistan #WomenInScience #WomenInEngineering #WomenInSTEM #INWED18 #RaisingTheBar
Or grab a pen and write your own message:
And to our male allies: Your support is vital to the movement. Show support for women engineers by distributing these cards in the hallways of your office, classrooms, schools, colleges, universities and professional networks. Get people talking, start the conversation. The above cards are perfect to distribute among young people and get them interested about science, technology, engineering, math, medicine, and of course, art!
What are the best engineering fields for girls? The bigger question is why do you want to know that? Why is there no question like: What are the best engineering fields for boys? Do girls lack talent? Are girls devoid of problem-solving skills? No, right? Then what is the issue? Why should a girl chose a field in the light of being a girl, and not being a brilliant student? Why does a girl need to think of her marriage and responsibilities even before she chooses her academic path? In my opinion, the only problem is the prevalent mind-set in our culture. Unless this problem (or should I say epidemic) is cured, the answers will remain muddled.
Throughout their educational career, from nursery to graduation, girls study hard and manage to clear all exams with flying colors. After graduation many want to be professional and put forth all that hard work into reality. The "REAL" challenge begins then, i.e. being girls, can they work professionally in their fields of graduation? So many girls have to hear unwelcome suggestions of the like: “You should do a job in school because you are a girl and you cannot work in a male dominated office.”
Dwelling in this fast-paced high-tech world, it is quite the right time that girls, based on their interests step forward to choose engineering, and especially within the engineering field that allures them most. Girls across Pakistan have started to realize that they can do anything and they do not lack talent! Here are few examples of Pakistani girls who have chosen their field not under societal influence but in the light of their brilliance and competencies.
Can a girl become a professional Aeronautical Engineer? The answer might just be as simple as no. When you think of an Aeronautical Engineer, an image of a boy must be formed in your mind. Let me unravel that image and introduce you to this Aeronautical Engineer who is not a boy. Maria Shahzad with her love for planes is proving herself as an Aeronautical Engineer. After graduating from College of Aeronautical Engineering, Risalpur, she is now working in Airblue Airline as an Aeronautical Engineer. She endures night shifts, extra hard work, and stays strong.
Ayesha Imtiaz has always been a top scorer like many girls are during their study years. She graduated from University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore. But unlike many girls, Ayesha Imtiaz is not wasting her expertise and not giving up on her endeavors. She has overcome her so called girlish fear and has become a Performance Engineer at General Electric, Saif Power Plant, Sahiwal, Pakistan.
They say a girl cannot be a Site Engineer. When asked why, they do not give a specific reply. That blunt reply which stems out of the mist revolves around: this is not our culture, site job is tough, there are only men at site, freshness of a girl is affected, she has to marry soon, what people will say, etc. This type of talk has caused many talented girls to be dormant and has ruined countless careers. But this daunting drill of defining fields for girls might not be able to stop those with courage, perseverance, and determination. After graduating from Mehran University of Engineering and Technology (MUET) when Kiran Sadhwani developed her love towards tech, she wanted to be a Site Engineer. She not only faced opposition from her immediate family but also from her Thari community of Tharparker. Instead of giving up on her dreams, she decided to withstand the odds and stood firm for her aims. She has become Engineer in Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC), at Thar Coal Project.
The above are but few examples of girls thinking and working out of the box. The point is that there is no field yet devised which can be genuinely gender-specific. Girls stay confused and do lots of calculations before they pursue any field. The time has come that girls choose fields and jobs that they want to, even if these careers are notoriously known to be men-only domains. Girls, we must recognize our responsibility in creating a better path for other, forth-coming girls.
So ladies, after knowing the above mentioned engineers, you need not worry anymore. Just overcome your own suspicions and jump right in. You must live your life as per your potential, instead of opting to teach at school at somebody else's opinion, or doing literally nothing at home. Choose a field that lets you dive into the ocean of brilliance. Choose a career that lets you unleash you potential.
Engr. Ayesha Alam Khurram
Be brave to challenge the norm you can’t digest.