In our latest series of articles, we want to highlight the wonderful women from Pakistan who are the movers and shakers of their tech scene. Pakistan is a country which earns a reputation for all the wrong reasons. However, it is full of amazing and talented people. In this article, we focus on NoorJehan Arif. Read more about her below.
Tell us a little about yourself, your background, your work and your motivations.
I am an alumnus of the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), the prestigious business school, well known across the Asian region. When I got into the institute, I wasn’t really sure of the kind of person or professional I was or would turn out to be. But, post that, I have 11 years of work experience, mostly in the tech industry as a consultant, and change manager, and have worked as a consultant in some top names in the local industry, including Khaadi, Systems Limited and J., TCF, along with some names within the UAE region as well, particularly in the government sector. I now work independently as a tech consultant, project manager and change consultant for business and HR processes for the local industry, in the services, non-profit and technology sector. I also run a full-circle business consulting company, under the name of Mushawar Consulting (mushawar.com), with a branch office in the UK, Mushawar UK Ltd (www.mushawar.co.uk). I feel that organizations are generally not equipped to handle change, and an objective person from the outside is always needed to play the role of a bad cop to help the transition towards improvement. That is what I do in a nutshell. I am also passionate about the education of the female child and have been volunteering and working for this cause since 2010. I hope to do something more concrete for this cause in the near future. And perhaps finish my debut piece of fiction that I have been lingering on for some time.
Do you think Pakistan has changed as a society, in terms of letting women take on jobs?
This is a question that generalizes the entire country’s womenfolk in a single sentence. I would say yes and no. The other day, I was talking to a friend of mine, in a similar context, where I was trying to point out the fact that we live in an urban setting where our cultural context has been modified due to our exposure and our expanding horizon. But I cannot say the same thing for someone living in a remote town, city or village. What I can definitely say is, women are stepping up, changing the way this game is being played. Patriarchal blood still runs deep. And not every woman knows what c-level executive management means. That does not mean, change is not happening. I hope to continue to see changes in the way women come forward, in all areas, in all fields and from all corners of this country.
What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?
Her mind. My mind. All of our minds. We have this ingrained notion that we grow up with. It gives us significant amounts of imposter syndrome. And it makes us feel inferior in the larger context. The rest is just speed bumps on the road. Its difficult to go around them, because most of us become either too sensitive to these speed bumps, or become extremely cynical to them. But a lot of women do get around them and have.
What is the best and worst decision you’ve ever made?
Decisions are essentially choices, there are no good or bad ones, only choices. The choice that I made in 2010 to move away from being a corporate banker to a change and tech consultant, has paved the way for me being here today.
What woman inspires you and why?
There are so many of them. Some of the names if I take them, would be controversial here. But it would be safe to say, that all the female friends I have, are my biggest source of inspiration.
Do we have any role models for women? If not, what can we do to create them in Pakistan?
Yes, there are role models in every field. But I’ll come out and say this, I don’t believe in looking up to a role model, I believe in becoming one. Why would you want to be like someone, when you can be an unbeatable, most awesome, amazing, most inspirational, and most distinguished role model on your own. You know, an entity that people look up to. I believe that every single human should want to look up to you, not just women.
Is there a neutral platform or forum for women to discuss their career needs?
Yes, there are tons of them out there. But again, the fact is, a person needs to pave way for him or herself. You can get guidance from whomever you want, by building a network of mentors. There are tons of social channels out there now that you can choose from. At the end of the day, however, you will have to choose your own path, nobody will be able to tell you what to do. It is your life, you get to choose.
What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?
Overconfidence, playing the female victim card, for some of us, imposter syndrome, being overly nitpicky, and lack of professionalism. And then for women who are building their careers with their personal and private lives, an ideal work-life balance.
What needs to change to help more women come forward?
Women helping women. Just because we had it difficult does not mean we shouldn’t help women around us, especially ones who are struggling.
If you could change one thing, what would it be?
About me, nothing. I like myself the way I am. But in general, professionalism and ethics. On a more grassroots level, education – if only education up to bachelors were made mandatory for every single child in this country.
How can OxGadgets and its readers help you and other women of the industry?
I think by highlighting important areas of improvement, OxGadgets is already doing its part!
You can find out more about NoorJehan by visiting her professional and social profiles:
NoorJehan has also done some writing for OxGadgets, which can be found at the following link: