Be the one who not only can code, but be someone who inspires others – What diversity means to Senior Frontend Engineer, Shafaq Kazmi
At finleap connect, one of our values is diversity. We have made it not just the responsibility of our recruiters to ensure that our hiring process fosters diversity, we have emphasized the importance of promoting openness and inclusiveness on a company-wide scale. According to recent statistics from the European Commission, only 29 out of every 1,000 female university graduates in the EU has a computing (or otherwise related) degree, and only 4 of those 1,000 graduates end up working in information and communications technologies. And in the EU workforce as a whole, women in information and communication technologies make up just 2% of the total workforce. At the end of the day, it is not just important to hire diversely, it is important to support and empower each and every employee.
Shafaq Kazmi is a Senior Frontend Engineer at finleap connect, working on our SwitchKit product with a variety of development platforms, like React.js, ROR & JAVA. The finleap connect SwitchKit is a white label product made for any bank that wants to offer a simple, secure, and fast option to switch bank and portfolio accounts, with the help of our Account Switch Kit (ASK), Payment Accounts Directive Service (PADS) and Portfolio Switch Kit (PSK) products.
A Pakistan native, Shafaq has been in Berlin and working for connect since July of 2019. Over her many years of experience in front-end engineering, she has gained valuable insight into both the strengths and areas in need of improvement when it comes to diversity in the industry.
We recently spoke to Shafaq about her experiences here in Berlin. Read on to find out about her upbringing in Pakistan along with her advice to companies looking to become more diverse.
What brought you to Berlin and finleap connect?
I came to Berlin to take on a new challenge, gain diverse experiences, and progress up the career ladder.
What is your perspective as a female engineer on the global tech scene in terms of career development and overall equality?
Being a woman, people often assume that you may not be able to perform better as a “developer” because some are brought up to believe that women have not the same capabilities as men when it comes to math and science. Also, I find many women are looked over for leadership positions in tech. At the end of the day, I believe that only you know the full potential of your strengths and weaknesses.
My perspective is, be the one who not only can code, but be someone who inspires others, even if you feel like you haven’t done something unconventional. Just as important is making a conscious effort to meet other amazing women in tech and support them.
How would you describe your experience in the Berlin tech scene so far as a woman? What is good/bad about it?
In the overall Berlin tech scene, there are lots of conferences and tech talks about encouraging women in tech. Many include very inspirational keynotes, deep insights into tech trends, and career development workshops.
The good thing about the tech scene in Berlin is that many companies are driving tech diversity. I see room for improvement in that the amount of women in development teams needs to be much higher than it currently is.
What are the main differences to Pakistan?
In Berlin, women more often openly celebrate the successes of other women from across the tech sector, which is not something that I have noticed as much in Pakistan.
What advice would you give to companies to become more diverse and especially nurture equality in regards to jobs for women in tech? What needs to be done to close the gap?
Before attempting to hire for gender diversity, first, look within and evaluate your own company culture – is it / would it be open and supportive enough to adequately encourage diverse hires?
In general, be open to hiring women, remove gender biases from the job description, set a diverse group of interviewers, and make compensation much more strategic, transparent, and fair.
What was your education in Pakistan like? What is the main difference in European education?
I did my post-graduate degree in Computer Science in Pakistan, while also working full-time. The degree itself was more theoretical than practical. Overall, there are fewer universities in Pakistan that focus on research, and I feel that needs to be improved.
Within my university, the ratio of women to men was 40:60. Thankfully, my parents supported me throughout my higher education.
The major difference to European education is “research-based projects” which we do not have much of in Pakistan. Moreover, the European education system has different cultural diversity, due to student exchange programs, like Erasmus. Exchange programs and the ability to work while going to school definitely promote an open working culture in European companies.
Do you get the impression that women and girls are more supported in Pakistan in terms of education and preparation for jobs in tech?
Most of the women, especially in rural areas, are not supported for their education and jobs due to some barriers, like lack of accessibility, social norms, and societal expectations.
However, over the past few years, there has been a significant increase in female education and working women. People are adapting their mindset and creating awareness of how important it is to be educated and to work for all genders.
What are your main challenges?
My first challenge was being immersed in cultural diversity. 😀
Secondly, I thrive at the challenge of developing and managing many projects concurrently. I am looking forward to continuing to be in such a position.
If you could, what advice would you give your younger self in terms of career development?
Do not be afraid of failures, every day is a huge learning experience. Overwhelming dread and self-doubt is a greater challenge than learning any programming language or skill.
Capitalize your abilities — it helps you learn how you can use them to gain a higher sense of confidence and boost your career.
What would you have done differently?
To be completely honest, I would not have done anything differently. However, in a male-dominant society, I worked as a technical project manager and managed a team of software engineers on various projects. Alongside many other things, I’ve been a programmer who enhanced tech diversity throughout my whole career. At times it was really hard, but I’m happy to be where I am now.
Do you have any role models, if so who?
My role model is a woman who was a school teacher, a house-wife and a mother of 5 children. An ambitious and a strong lady — my mother!
She believed in me and stood by my side to encourage me in everything.
Thank you Shafaq for your wonderful insight, and for actively promoting diversity both in and outside of finleap connect!
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