Back in the days when nobody had computers and internet in their households, Farah Ali a young female who lived in Karachi was really passionate about playing games. She used to play games such as arcade and puzzle games with her brother and developed an interest in that area.
She really wanted to develop a computer game and thought that this was the coolest job in the world.
Farah did her O’Levels form The City School in Karachi, she chose pre-engineering subjects which she found interesting. Her attention toward Math’s and Computer subjects grew. After she did her A‘Levels from The Lyceum School, She started studying at LUMS University as a Bachelors for Computer Science student. Farah wanted to study abroad, so after studying for some time in LUMS, she was able to transfer at Waterloo University in Canada. After that, she went to City University in the US.
Her Journey in technology began as a un-paid internee to a full-time entry-level engineer on a work Visa in Microsoft to a Director of engineering in eBay and then finally a Vice President of Engineering at Electronic Arts Inc, (EA).
Career in Technology:
Farah was always comfortable behind a computer screen. She knew that she will either pursue her career in either computer or Mathematics. She became further attracted to games when she developed a puzzle game in LUMS with her class fellows.
Farah told TechJuice that: “Since we had no concept of career counseling or mentorship growing up, all the options we knew were related to what we saw the people around us doing. And there were not many men or women in my circle who were professional software engineers. I am sure there were quite a few people in tech in Pakistan at that time but I just did not have the awareness or visibility growing up”
From Microsoft to eBay:
Farah received a lot of support and mentorship from Microsoft. She learned a lot from her time in Microsoft and developed a lot of skills there.
She said: “I think I would have missed out on that (the experience) had I started off in a smaller company or a start-up and I do not think I would have gotten the same learning & growth opportunities. The move from Microsoft to eBay and then to EA has been a great learning and growth opportunity in and of itself.”
Furthermore, she had a lot of support from her family, managers, and co-members. She embraces much advice from her mentors, which she still implements on. Farah has now become a mentor and leader for others. She now guides new employees to become respectable and successful in their fields.
Gender and geographical Diversity:
While working abroad she had overcome gender and geographical diversity. Many of her co-workers and employees had never met a Pakistani person before. Most of them had the impression that Pakistani women are not allowed to work and were oppressed. At first, she was bothered by a lot of stereotypes that she came across. But, she thought of this as a great opportunity to teach others about this and to correct them and break the stereotypes about Pakistani people.
She was involved in many of the Diversity groups and took part in many of the campaigns. She also worked with the HR department and took part in many recruitment and selection processes.
Farah wants to further educate Pakistani women as she says that Pakistani women had a very skillful and resourceful mind and they can do anything that they put their mind to. They may feel behind due to their lack of computer skills and social inequality but they can overcome this obstacle if they work hard.
She advises women to “Silence your inner critic and focus on your strengths and what you bring to the table rather than focusing on their perceived weaknesses. If someone tells you that you cannot do it ignore them. Look instead for people around you who will support you and lift you up. Find your tribe and channel that positive energy to propel you further.”
Her experience at EA:
Farah leads at least 130 employees across different locations. This reflects many different challenges in management and brings diversity.
Diversity has always been important in EA either for gameplay. Moreover, they also developed the first female team in FIFA. Farah truly believes that they should represent everyone and the diverse population in their games. Hence, they have employee diversity in their organization so that they can maintain diversity in their games.
Pakistani Women in Technology:
Farah has always wanted to gather Pakistani women living in the US for technology purposes. She had many obstacles while gathering women because she couldn’t find any active community for women in Pakistan to reach out to.
To overcome this Farah applied to the Syster community with Anita Borg Institute. There Farah met many women that could create a global community.
IN 2007, Farah started a non-profit organization registered with the state in Washington. It works with the partners in the US and in Pakistan. Additionally, One Good Act partnered with Code Girls and are collecting donations to fund 10 laptops per year.
Farah hopes to inspire young women to take the path that is less taken and to their role model. As, she finds these women to be aspiring, very creative and capable of doing things .that they put their mind to. Farah thinks that everyone’s learning capabilities are different regardless of gender. No matter what if you do hard work it pays off.