Sadaf grew up in the small city of Sheikhupura. Earlier in her life, she was told to confine her education towards English Literature as a core subject (as this is considered as a predominantly feminine subject in the country), but her passion was always directed towards science and computers. She had to fight for her passion, and only after a struggle was she able to join computer science. Barriers for women in I.T. are very common. Pakistan has few universities that offer CS graduation. It's even more difficult for girls not coming from urban areas, as they were often not allowed to stay in hostels. But Sadaf kept raising herself and her family, and ultimately she achieved her dream of STEM education. Reminiscing about 1996, she says, "I don't know how, but computers always fascinate me. I bought my first computer from family friends and learned how to use a mouse from them. I explored every single thing in the computer myself." Now, Sadaf runs her own Robotics Club in Lahore, Pakistan.
Women Engineers Pakistan find Sadaf immensely inspiring. We feel that many young girls in Pakistan go through what Sadaf did, and her example of unrelenting passion sets her apart as a role model for many. So we sat down for an interview with her, and we're sure her answers will encourage many young girls towards tech fields.
Women Engineers Pakistan: What were your favorite subjects in school? Did these subjects help you do the job that you do today?
Sadaf Ahmed: In school days I had one favorite subject, and that was Math. Yes, mathematics helped me a lot in becoming what I am today. Math skills helped me in CS, Programming and Analysis. I consider myself as a "self-made learner". I learned Visual Basic programming by using tutorials. It helped me a lot in understanding logic behind every code.
WEP: What motivated you to choose the career that you have today? What were the biggest barriers?
SA: Motivation, hmm... "STEM" was a new word for me when I heard about it in 2012 during my visit to Sydney. There, I explored many institutes and learned how I can use my education and training and be helpful for next generation. Throughout my career, I have worked in different organizations, like Warid, Wateen and Shaukat Khanum, and I believe that STEM fields are magical. They provide deep-learning and hands-on training, and so I stuck with it. When I started my endeavor towards establishing "The Robotics Club Pakistan" in 2017, I faced many difficulties especially as a female entrepreneur. But I believe I am successful as I am able to show I CAN DO it! It's never easy, learning process stays in every step of one's life; so I am still a learner :)
WEP: Did you have any role models growing up? What was the one important character trait in them that inspired you?
SA: The genius, Arfa Kareem always inspired me. At such a young age she achieved so much! I think we need to build this capability in other children as well. I believe I can be part of this change, and teach as many children as possible the many ways how they can learn skills that suit the progressive nature of the 21st century. We need more people like Arfa, and I am sure it's possible to do so!
WEP: How do you handle barriers towards progress now that you are in the professional field? What would you like to see newcomer girls excel at?
SA: Well, some or the other barriers will always be there. Personally, I never thought it's impossible to achieve what I want. With enough struggle, I crossed all barriers in my field, and learnt to take the right steps by taking a few wrong ones. I stuck to my plans and made sincere efforts. With that, Allah always helped me! What I see in newcomer girls is they are moving more towards science and math. The conceptual segregation that "girls can't code" or "girls can't do engineering" is changing. But we have to boost this positivity much more. We need to bring more girls into science and math.
Few Words from the Nominator:
Miss Zainab Amin nominated Sadaf for WEP "Nominate a Pakistani Female Role Model in STEM" Program. She says, "Sadaf aims to be the flag bearer in making STEM education a part of regular education in Pakistan, and equipping the new generation with 21st century skills. For the accomplishment of her passion, she has started her own robotics club in which multiple courses are being offered from robotics and related fields. I see her as a role model for so many who want to come forward & put their contribution."
If you would like to hear more from your Role Model, let us know by nominating them here!