5 Days Of Career Talk – Day 1: Women At Work (Evening Edition)

5 Days Of Career Talk – Day 1: Women At Work (Evening Edition)

This whole week is ‘5 Days Of Career’ on the blog where I’m sharing profiles of super relatable and confident working women, tips from HR pros, workwear inspiration and a whole lot more.

Continuing the Women At Work series with two more extremely real stories today. If you missed the first part, check it out here. There will be two stories everyday (along with other posts!).

I haven’t edited the answers the girls’ sent me (except some punctuation/grammar/flow here and there) because I wanted to retain their voice and hopefully you can hear them speak through their words (I actually can!).
These women have solid work advice to offer, tips to share from their personal experience, and their own viewpoint on how to manage a career. You’ll relate to some of the thoughts, you’ll have a different perspective on some. I hope we can respect all points of view and I hope you’ll join me in not just encouraging each of these women for where they are in life but also be able to get inspiration if you’re feeling stuck.

Meet Nataliya, who is such an inspiration especially for all those girls who feel stuck after getting married and moving countries (I get so many questions on this). You don’t have to figure it all out at once. Loved and learned from her advice and tips.
Type of work: I have a photography business near Seattle, WA in the United States.
Work schedule: I work for myself so my hours are totally flexible. I usually schedule photo sessions on the weekend (though as my daughter started full-day kindergarten this year, I am trying to move some of those to weekdays too) and then try to put in 4 hours every day to work on editing + emailing + all the behind-the-scenes work that a business entails.
Family Situation:
It’s just the three of us right now; my husband, myself and our energetic little daughter. She is 5 and a half Masha’Allah.
How did you get into photography? And how long have you been doing this?
My parents, especially my dad, loved taking photos as a hobby so we grew up with an appreciation for photography. It was 2009 though when my husband gifted me my first DSLR and it was love at first sight! I started taking photos as a hobby for friends and people around me in 2010. I had my daughter in 2011 and tragically lost my dad less than a year later in 2012 and through both these experiences I learned the value of photo memories immensely! As I captured my daughter’s growth through the first year and beyond, I realized how very, very fast these initial years go by and I became even more passionate about capturing these fleeting moment phases for other people. I gradually started taking more work and started to take it all more seriously. Last year in 2015, with a little push from my husband, I went ahead and registered my business and since then it has started feeling more like my career, at least for right now 🙂
Did you ever do anything else for work before this?
I actually have a BS in Computer Sciences from FAST, Islamabad. I worked a typical desk job in a multinational after graduating. I hated it though and had the privilege of being able to take a break from that lifestyle once I got married and moved to Seattle. I basically spent the next few years switching between utter laziness/getting frustrated at work options/researching educational opportunities/discovering myself.. Until, just by chance I stumbled upon photography. Initially it was only a hobby and it was only in recent years that I started thinking of it as my work!
Tips for someone looking to do the same? How does one become a photographer or more generally, a small business owner? Or even turn a creative hobby into a business?
If you are interested in starting something of your own, it helps to think it over for a few months and brainstorm ideas. It can help to keep a journal to record your thoughts and ideas. Doing your homework and research well before you start helps a lot. It is very easy to make a Facebook page, start taking orders and even make a little money from that but to be able to grow your business and consistently provide your customer with something they love, you have to be willing to put in time and hard work through any challenges and keep going.

Starting a business around your creative interest can feel scary at times and you might have to step out of your comfort zone many times, but taking risks is important. Learn from every mistake that you make. For me, there has been no better teacher than experience. At the end of the day, as a business owner your goal is leaving a happy client. Even if a client is being difficult or unreasonable remember that your customer is always right and you should do whatever is possible to leave them satisfied. As desis sometimes we aren’t very professional with our business dealings and to me that is extremely important – even if in the beginning, you are working for friends and people that you know, make sure that when they pay you, they are getting your absolute best work! After working with mostly the desi community around here, I have learned that if you are professional, people will be professional with you too. 

Lastly it is cliché’ but so true – it’s okay to fail as long as you know you tried your best!
Tips for someone looking to start a self-employed career in general – how do you get started?
Just start somewhere! You will never know your path till you start walking on it! For women who have had to take a break from their careers to be with their children (which I think is amazing in itself by the way), if you think you are now ready to do something of your own, start months in advance by taking out a little time daily or weekly to research your options. Register in a course (Coursera is a great place to start for free courses), come up with a road map for yourself. Make peace with what needs to be done and then take baby steps to get there. Sometimes we get so focused on the past, what could’ve been, what we should’ve done or even comparing ourselves to people around us, we don’t realize we are stuck in the same place forever.
Do you think you can continue to do this in the long-term?
I hope so! With creative fields, the tides keep changing; one day everyone likes your work, and the next day something new comes up and all of a sudden you and your work seems ‘old’. But I absolutely love taking pictures and I love that being my own boss I get to choose how much work I take on every month so I get to be an active part of my daughter’s life. I have some plans to expand in some other ways too in the future so let’s see where time takes me and my business 🙂

This was never the career path I thought I would take back in university studying Computer Science (though all the while hating programming and wondering why the hell was I there). I definitely stumbled across this path and I am very happy that I did!
You can check out Nataliya’s work at her website (here), Facebook page (here) or Instagram (here).

Next meet Anum, whose simple but go-getter approach really made me smile. I love, love her attitude.

Type of work:

I’m currently teaching at the Trainers Allied School which is located near my house while continuing my studies as well (I am in my final semester of BS in computer science). I decided to work to gain some experience and exposure into practical life and I really enjoy it all a lot.

Work schedule: My work falls in the category of part-time since I take a leave when I have to go to university for my project or to take classes. This is a big bonus for me because I have a lot of flexibility to carry both my job and studies together.
Family Situation: My family is quite supportive in every way. Both my parents take care of everything I need, I love them. But one reason why I looked for part-time work was that although my parents take care of everything, but still as a grown-up university student I felt awkward asking my parents for every small thing, and decided that I should start some form of work.
How did you get into teaching?
It’s only been six months since I started working as a teacher. I always wanted to have some work experience along with my studies and because it was my last year and I didn’t have to go to university a lot, I decided to check teaching out. I did not have a complete thought-out plan to get into this, I just got up one day and decided to drop my CV there. After an initial interview, I got selected for a demo (which was 3 days), I got cleared in that process as well and I was selected by the management. Apart from being a teacher I am a computer expert there as well.
Do you have any tips for someone looking to do the same?
Well, I am not some career expert 🙂 but all I can say is that you should have the vision and confidence to start a career. When I was going to drop in my CV I was quite hesitant, but once I walked in there and sat in front of the management team, all my hesitation was gone. Just push yourself and it can be pretty smooth once you get started.
Do you think you can continue to do this in the long-term?
You never know. But currently, I am planning to move towards something related to my field which is CS. I plan to complete one academic year here so that I can do something in the field of Computer Science. Being a teacher is not easy, something I have come to realize since I became one. As I mentioned, that I wanted some exposure into practical life which was the major reason for working and since teaching seemed to be a good option so I took it up. I hope to use the practical experience I’ve gained and use it for my future technical career.

If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like (and drop a comment if you really feel generous). I am so grateful to these girls for sharing this information so candidly and I’d love it if you’d give them a high-five (I really want them to feel appreciated #please).

AND, look out for some amazing career tips from my best friend/HR superhero tomorrow afternoon as well as two more of these awesome working women stories in the evening!

See the entire 5 Days Of Career series so far, here.

Disclaimer: All opinions expressed in this post are in the interviewee’s own personal capacity and do not reflect those of her employer (where applicable).


  1. Photography as a career , wow it would be a dream come true. Maybe someday , thanks for the interesting post <3

  2. Loving this series. Thank you to all the girls who've participated. Nataliya, do you mind answering these two questions:
    1. What was your first assignment and how did you get it?
    2. How do I go about getting more work? Do you have any tips?

  3. I love anum's drive. not many girls move and do extra work especially when they are well taken care of at home. inspiring!

  4. So looking forward to the rest of the posts. I pray/hope that there is the story of a woman engineer/programmer in there as well because women are grossly underrepresented in the STEM fields.
    Lovely initiative.

    – Mahnoor

  5. Ok this week is sounding just too cool. These girls are champs masha Allah

  6. Enjoying it a lot…
    I found Anums profile very relatable .I feel I too have good teaching capabilities. I am thinking of joining my childrens school once my second one starts going as well. Maybe as a computer science teacher.
    Meanwhile with a CS and MBA I like reading about opportunities for working from home.
    But I am so laid back and lazy and good at nothing so lets see…..just love reading and getting inspired from success stories though

  7. I love Anum's energy and the fact of being a go-getter.
    However, being an ELT myself, I would immensely disagree here that teaching is a part-time profession.
    Rather teaching is a 24-hour profession.The ONLY 24-hour profession!
    We, teachers even dream about our students.(not kidding!)
    And, I strongly believe that it should not be taken as a part-time profession.
    (PS: All this is my own opinion. I'm not judging Anam.)

    1. Author

      Of course 🙂 she's also mentioned that it's not easy. She's doing a part time role as a teacher, like an engineer could be doing a part time assignment even though it is also a full time job. My own sister is a teacher and she's always working round the clock. Xx

    2. Author

      There's a full time teacher story also coming up, look out for that.

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