Pakistani Women in Space: Meet Zartaj Waseem, CEO & Co-Founder Pakistan Space Science Education Centre
Did you think that Pakistani women are not passionate about science? Well, you were wrong. Meet Zartaj Waseem, a STEAM Education specialist (a software engineer by profession) focused on transforming the methods of teaching and learning Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM). Zartaj is the CEO and Co-founder of Pakistan Space Science Education Centre. She is pioneering & spearheading Pakistan's first ever Space Science Education initiative focused on exploration of Mars. And that's not half of it! She is leading Destination Imagination (DI), a US-based STEAM Program at Haque Academy, focal person of National Organizer in Pakistan for World Robot Olympiad (WRO) on behalf of STEM360, and is the first Pakistani STEAM Education Professional to be designated as Global STEM Corps Advisor for FIRST Global and also as an International Award Judge. Zartaj, you are truly a Role Model for many women and girls in Pakistan!
Women Engineers Pakistan got in touch with Zartaj, and of course we couldn't wait to share her incredible achievements with all of you! Here is what Zartaj had to say about her path as an engineer and as an educator:
I was born in Karachi and belonged to a middle class family. My father is a Mechanical & Electrical Engineer (retired) and I studied Science/Computer Science because I liked it. My grandfather wanted me to be a doctor however my parents gave me the liberty to pursue the career of my choice but they wanted good grades. My cousin who is associated with the field of IT (currently in the US) guided me towards the field of Computer Science and I ended up doing Software Engineering.
My favorite subject was English and Science. I didn’t like Math until I did Math in college and it was my math teachers because of whom I actually started liking the subject. I firmly believe that teaching strategies and imparting subject knowledge in an engaging way is a vital element for inspiring students. Many people have content/subject knowledge but not all of them can teach.
I certainly feel that studying Science and Mathematics was a very good decision, as it helped me apply subject knowledge while I was doing my degree in Software Engineering. I truly realized the importance of studying these subjects when I entered my professional life.
I am a STEM Education Professional, currently the CEO & Co-Founder of Pakistan Space Science Education Centre (PSSEC). My Co-Founder, Nahyan Farooq, Chief Design Officer (CDO) of PSSEC came up with the idea of introducing Space Science Education in Pakistan. He confided in my capabilities to join hands with him in inspiring and educating our young generation and present them with the quality STEM Education opportunities available to the children in the developed countries.
In addition to my corporate experience in the field of IT, I have enjoyed being in the STEM Education field since 2010. STEM Education was quite a novel idea back then and I have always wanted to do something different, something unique, and not just follow the trends. I find myself as more of a leader and trendsetter, somebody who confidently spearheads initiatives.
I founded the Robotics & STEM Studio at Haque Academy, followed by a leading role in establishing Pakistan’s first STEM Education organization, Robotics Labs. Becoming a coach/trainer for school kids Robotics teams and representing Pakistan at International Robotics Competitions with my teams namely, FIRST Lego League and Destination Imagination and as International Judge at FIRST Global.
This experience has led me to enjoy facing challenges when I try to execute and implement a new idea. I realized that Computer Science is a very diverse field, be it in the education or the corporate sector, it gives one the autonomy and flexibility to make almost everything possible. Yet, Software Engineering is a male dominated field. Although the team members I have worked with have always been very supportive and respectful, I feel that people do not have enough faith in a woman’s capabilities that she will be able to handle matters independently in such fields. Good news is that this has certainly improved over the years now.
STEM Education has been quite a game changer for me. I have been on a roller coaster ride all these years struggling to strike a balance between home/family and work. At the same time, I have been blessed with opportunities that I had never thought would come my way. My family has been quite understanding and supportive particularly my kids.
As far as where I derive inspiration from; Bill Gates has been my role model. His character trait of being innovative in ideas and introducing newer and better technology to the world has always inspired me.
I consider barriers as challenges to overcome, just like in a game you progress by overcoming obstacles and you keep trying until you succeed. I don’t think that these challenges are meant to stop us. I feel that barriers are there to make us change our strategy about approaching something and becoming better at it.
Girls are a miraculous creation of Allah. We have a very powerful role be it at home or outside home as a professional. First of all, it is very important to get education and then something that I have assimilated and found very useful is the skill of self-learning. If you are good at self-learning and you are self-motivated you are unstoppable. Our girls should be adaptable, assertive and committed to what they dream to achieve.
Inspired? Tell us about your Role Models in STEM!