Asia, Interviews

Humaira Anwar – Social Entrepreneur and Co-founder & COO of “Girl Digital Leader”

Meet Humaira Anwar, co-founder, COO and Master Trainer for “Girl Digital Leader” – a social enterprise that aims to digitally transform the lives of 1 Million young women across the globe.

What role does technology play in your everyday life?

I’m a proud digital native; I have a very personal connection with technology as I believe it’s something that has shaped my overall life and lead me to greater achievements in my profession. Internet & social media have helped me become what I am today hence I’m empowering all the women & girls to see its real potential.

I belong from the generation of social media & internet’s initial users in Pakistan. I still remember connecting my internet through a dial up connection and buying internet prepaid cards from my weekly pocket money that is worth 20 – 50 PKR, good enough for 2 hours use of internet – on a happier note all that hassle was so much WORTH IT!.

Earlier, I was much inclined to find and make new friends but things changes rapidly and I was introduced to the world’s largest search engine Google and boom! My life just took a turn from where I never came back. The world of Google empowers me to search & learn anything without spending a dime; I have brushed up my intellectual, interpersonal and writing skills. I was able to shut off all my insecurities and gain confidence by expressing myself and connecting with people on social media. My charismatic speaking and knowledge is the outcome of my mindless searching and learning over internet. So I would say technology has opened up avenues for me that I never know were ever existed and give me opportunities that I don’t feel myself worthy of.

Tell us a bit about your journey? How did you get to where you are now?

I really don’t have a teary story of hardships or worst consequences. I’d rather position myself as “spoiled insecure” – trust me this type actually exist. I’m blessed with this amazing, independent, fulfilled life for which I took 20 years to be grateful for. As my life’s biggest challenge has always been my own “self doubt’.

My journey of self exploration begun when I was 18 years old and took the biggest decision of my life to ditch doing MBBS and go for Journalism. Unfortunately, parent and peer pressure built up a fog of self-doubt over my decision and I had to fall back. I then pursued my bachelor’s in Paramedic Sciences.

For almost all parts of my life I have been introvert so as in my university days but due to use of different learning methods like presentation, quizzes, industrial tours etc. I have started seeing the hidden traits of my personality like great speaking, effective communication, convincing & negotiating, efficient writing, sensible confrontation & arguments and more. Gradually and deliberately I polished these skills to be this confident, bold and driven person that I’m today, but confidence versus self doubt was still a continued battle.

Being self-sufficient and independent in terms of finances was my greatest dream at that time, hence I started giving tuitions that earned me relevant income per month. After the completion of my degree, I had to face an utter disappointment. In Pakistan’s health scene there are no such things as Paramedics and if it exists, it has no career growth. In short, all of us graduates have near to zero employment opportunities. Thus I had to make a major decision of switching my career from Paramedic to Administration.

I worked 2 part time jobs in a day (pretty much 12 – 14 hours a day) in a school and institution. Moving on, I have got a great full time opportunity with an organization that leads me into the field of social development sector, from there I never looked back and continued paving my way towards social development specifically in women development and empowerment.

Making tough decisions and insane choices, hopping from one company to another, battling between my confidence and self doubt – fast forward to today I’m Pakistan’s one of the prominent feminist voices and leading an organization to empower the 51% the “Women” of the world through technology. At this point in my life, my dreams have also took a big turn – from being only financially independent, now I want to build Pakistan’s first unicorn with a vision for sustainable development.

What and who were the influencers of who you are today?

My family, my family and my family, we share a bond and pact that is unshakable. My mother, father and three siblings are the family of Starks that‘ll stick around, even if we are thousands of miles apart.

What is the hardest lesson you have learned as a founder and woman in tech?

No one cares what your vision is, how great as person you are, which background you came from, what awards you win until you prove it with your work and I’m talking about the actual GROUND WORK here. The profits and losses you are making every day, the impact and jobs you are creating every day, the numbers you are adding into your country’s economy every passing year are the key performance indicators of a great entrepreneur. Otherwise, there is already so much noise on social media but at the end of the day this is just noise, mountains are moved by real action which is the hardest thing to do!

What are three tech trends you see happening in the next 5 years?

Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain and Internet of Things are the undisputed Kings & Queens of current technological revolution. I only see these growing exponentially in the upcoming years. I don’t think that any of these technologies are overlooked but I would say misunderstood in numerous ways. Especially since they are generating a fear which is growing far & wide. All these technologies have the potential to change the course of humankind’s future. Yet, if these are not understood well and not made socially inclined, it could create a chaos which will infest our future generations to come.

What is the thing you’re currently most excited about?

I’m always excited about my work because it something that makes me feels in control and focused.

Which job in tech, other than your current one, would you like to have?

Designer! I just loveeeeeeeeee the world of digital designs and creations.

If you could host a dinner party with 3 influential people in tech, who would you invite and what would the setting be?

For my dinner party I would like to invite Gary Vaynerchuk, Guy Kawasaki and Mark Zuckerberg. The dinner setting will be a casual rooftop affair, where we sit on floors in traditional Pakistani floor setup with cushions and carpet, enjoying scrumptious Pakistani cuisine like Biryani, Korma etc.

Humaira Anwar is a social entrepreneur gone ‘techy’ who is determined to utilize the potential of technology in raising the role of women in Pakistan. Following her motto of empowering 51% (total percentage of women population in Pakistan), she has dedicated her energies to the economic development of women across Pakistan.

She’s co-founder, COO and Master Trainer for “Girl Digital Leader” a social enterprise that aims to digitally transform the lives of 1 Million young women across the globe. GDL is selected & featured at Wonder Women Tech Conference London 2018, as one the prominent Diversity & Inclusion in Technology Initiative, also finalist for Women In Tech Challenge, in the category of Social Inclusion Paris, France. Humaira is also serving as COO at Blogspay.com & Developmental Strategist at TECH Pakistan here along with her team, she work towards building a technology inclusive Pakistan in order to form sustainable solutions to pressing issues.

Humaira also holds honorary position at Iridescent (a silicon-valley based initiative) for their worldwide girls’ coding & entrepreneurship challenge called “Technovation Challenge” as National Ambassador.

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