5 Days Of Career Talk – Day 2: Women At Work

5 Days Of Career Talk – Day 2: Women At Work

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. 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.

 

 

 
When you read Amina’s part, you’ll hear the commitment in her words. I love how she’s a strong, independent girl who sounds super clear on her career (not a specific job) and where she wants to go.  Loved her general viewpoint and tips.
Type of work:  I’m working in London for a leading consultancy company. My job involves working with client companies to help them improve their business processes using the latest technologies. It’s a varied job – a new client and new role every few months so I’m always doing something different. My role is aligned to implementation so I work within a mixture of client/my own team to deliver the devised solution. As an example, I am currently working for a FTSE 100 company to implement change to their HR processes globally. Since they have offices in most countries, I developed a tool to track all activities, issues and risks centrally and am now training all regional and country leads on this so they can manage this process themselves.
Work schedule: Full-time. Depending on the role, we can be flexible e.g. I tend to work from home at least one day a week since I found that I am more productive that way. My company allows people to choose flexible working where they are able since everyone’s family situation is different. They try to accommodate as much as possible without impacting the work delivered.
Family Situation: Divorced, no kids. (Note: I would have mentioned Amina as single because past marital background is irrelevant to this post, but so many girls wrote to me about their struggle to support themselves/find careers after the end of a marriage and I feel this adds such incredible perspective that nothing can stop you if you’re willing)

How did you get into this line of work? And how long have you been doing this?
I had been interested in management consultancy for awhile but I thought top companies only take the smartest people from the best schools and there are a lot of hoops to jump through to get through to the interview stage so I always held back. My friends pushed me to apply for this role even with its technological alignment since it matched my interests but I had not really expected an affirmative answer. But it happened for me and now I’ve been working in the field for almost a year now.
Have you always had this job/arrangement? What did you do before this?
After my Bachelors, I worked as the assistant for the COO of a company which was a good experience in office management and diplomacy. I found I enjoyed management and improving business processes and wanted to pursue it further so I came to the UK for a Masters in International Management which gave me insight in how multinational businesses operate. Consultancy had been a dream and I wrote my thesis on it as well so I was glad to get a chance to work in one of the most respected firms in the field.
Tips for someone looking to do the same? How does one become a ‘consultant’?
Apply for advertised roles or look for someone within the company who is willing to refer you – many companies have reference schemes. It does not matter what you studied or currently work as, big consultancies want people who are smart and willing to learn new things since industries and technology moves fast. If you have experience in a certain field that’s always an added bonus. To work in consulting you should able to adapt quickly, keep a clear head in high pressure situations, work well within teams and don’t mind travelling and long working hours depending on your project/role.
Tips for someone looking to start a career in general? How do you get started?
Apply, and apply some more. Look for work you want to do but keep an open mind. If you are having a hard time finding the exact role you are looking for, start in something similar or a different role within your dream company and switch later on. On an average, millennials change careers 2-3 times in their lives, and no experience is bad experience. Also, don’t be afraid to learn from failure – if you don’t get a job always ask for ways you could have done better so you could improve for the next interview.

Do you think you can continue to do this in the long-term?Yes, I enjoy consulting a lot, and you learn something new everyday. I have the flexibility to move from industry to industry, learn applications of different technologies and work in different areas of business according to what I want to shape my career as. I enjoy the variety and the responsibility as well as being on the forefront of new changes in technology and how to use it to improve the lives of people around the world since there is a huge focus on charity within the company.I always wanted to do consultancy, but since one moves from project to project, they may not all be what you wanted to do and it can be frustrating but I have found that as cliché as it sounds, everything is a learning experience and if you do a good job it will open more opportunities in the future.

How did you move out of Pakistan and find placement in the UK? Do you have any tips for people looking for employment in a location different to theirs? I studied in the UK for a year so I was able to attend interviews/assessment centers in person which is generally a requirement. Getting a UK work visa is incredibly difficult especially in the last couple of years due to new laws since companies have to pay for sponsorship for non UK and EU residents. In their application process most companies will point out that they do not sponsor visas.But big companies and consultancies are still more willing to pay sponsorship fees if they see potential in you. They want the best talent around the world and if you can prove that you will be an asset to them, they can arrange sponsorship. If you are currently in the country you want to work in, it is a bit easier since you can shift your visa status but if you apply from another country for a new visa altogether then it takes longer but generally the company will help you through the process.

 

 
I met Anum through a blog project and she quickly became one of my most favorite people to have worked with. Honest, driven and humble, I love her spirit and how she’s established a tiny business for herself (with big plans to grow) despite having NO prior work experience. Anything is possible if you set your mind to it.
Type of work: I provide food/catering services within Dubai & Sharjah. I offer services ranging from individual orders to parties. My vision is to support those people who don’t want to eat junk food every day and cannot cook because of their busy work schedules. I make sure that people living in Dubai away from their families can experience homemade (maa kay hath type khana) where health, hygiene and taste remains my main priorities.
Work schedule: Currently, I’m on a part time & flexible work hours arrangement as my main aim is to understand the challenges of this industry till I start something at a bigger scale.

 

Family Situation: I am happily married to a finance guy who works in a well-reputable audit firm. I have a 2 year old beautiful daughter and while it is sometimes a challenge to work with your little one, my passion to cook keeps me going. I do love that I can manage how many orders I take so I can manage my work life-balance as I want.

 

How did you get into this line of work? 
My mother is a working woman back in Pakistan and since school I got involved in daily kitchen activities. I got to understand the science of taste very early and started enjoying cooking and experimenting with new things. Very quickly cooking became my passion and I loved the feeling of someone appreciating what I cooked with love. After I got married, I moved to Dubai where I would usually have quite a lot of get-togethers at our place with friends and relatives. They all loved the taste of my food. One day my mother-in-law gave me an idea to start catering as she had first-hand experience of this back in Pakistan. I thought of just posting a status on few of Dubai’s Facebook groups/pages about my services in Ramadan (because lots of people are looking for frozen snacks during Ramadan). People really loved my food and since then I’ve kept on going. It’s been 6 months since I started 🙂

 

Did you do anything before this? Why did you move into this?
No, I never did any sort of work as I got married after my graduation and moved to Dubai immediately. I moved into this, because I realized that in Dubai there is a high need of homemade desi food; everyone here has a stressful lifestyle and no one wants to get into the hustle of cooking but at the same time are fed up of junk, sub-standard or highly expensive food.

 

Do you have any tips for someone looking to start a small food business?
1. Set prices right. I personally believe that if you set food prices right and provide good quality food you have a high chance of success.
2. Hygiene. Never compromise on quality.
3. Prepare stuff which others don’t provide. There is a high need of tailor-made food in Dubai (fit to suit individual needs) as people demand good taste at low prices but are also looking for healthy (less oil) options. I offer food based on individual needs and demand which helps me retain my customers.

4. Market yourself on a small scale first. You can find a lot of people on Facebook UAE pages looking for people who can provide home-made food. Start by posting status on different UAE groups to see response and get a few orders to get started.

 

Tips for someone looking to start an order-based service career in general?
The best source to understand the needs of people in Dubai (or anywhere else) is to socialize on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Once you understand what people look for, you can match it with your capabilities and limitations. Once you are done planning and you have decided on what you want to work on, start spreading the word through Facebook and friends. Post statuses about your services on Facebook groups and communities to get noticed. Start by taking few small orders to understand how things work and once you have successfully completed a few assignments, you need to set up your social media pages, where you can promote your services and provide an idea of how you do business. Post your client reviews on your page and get people to like your page so that you have a presence on social networks.

 

Do you think you can continue to do this in the long-term?

Yes. I want to grow and be recognized so I’ll expand/transform this into something large-scale (full-time restaurant or chef). My main aim is to learn and understand the industry before I make this my full-time work. Such work can also suit someone who wants to do it part-time only; you can easily work from home and continue on a small-scale for as long as you want.You can follow Anum’s Cuisine on Facebook here and Instagram here.

 

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 really cool workwear inspiration coming tomorrow afternoon.

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).

8 Comments

  1. when you announced career week, I never imagined having such detailed material. you are on fire!! I just want to appreciate all the girls and you for all the hard work and bringing all of this to us. love! aqsa

  2. You're blowing my mind. You're the BEST blogger. Period.

  3. All of them are so inspiring and awesome! Seeing these women empowered makes me SO happy I can explode. Kudos to them all and to you for bringing them to us!

  4. Much appreciated all the details these ladies are sharing. Thanks to them and to you as well 🙂

  5. Love this series! Much needed in the desi blogosphere 🙂

    I graduated end of last year with a Masters and Bachelor from German universities in international business and 2 years interning in mostly marketing. Then started the grueling 5 month hellish period looking for my first full time job in marketing and/or sales. Anybody with a Pakistani passport living in Europe can attest to how hard it is these days to have a company sponsor a work permit, specially for non-STEM jobs. With patience and preserverence I kept applying and attending interviews till I found my current job.

    In hindsight, I can see how much I learned personally and professionally during that job application period. The ability to handle rejection strengthened me as a person, whereas giving interviews and tests to various companies helped professionally.

    I ended up getting a job in a field in which I didn't have much prior experience in (post-sales support) and an industry totally alien to me (telecom). But it was pragmatically the best way for me to get a foot in the door professionally speaking, considering the circumstances. 2 years into this I can see myself looking for a job more aligned to what I used to intern in before, but till then going I plan on learning as much as I can from this work experience 🙂

  6. These posts are great Shehzeen!! Super inspirational yet relatable!?

  7. I said it on your IG account and i am saying it again. I was reading this post on my email. Suddenly i say Amina's face pop up. I taught Amina in the BS program. Its a delight to know that she has settled well into her career. All the best Amina.
    -Maria

  8. good work aamina and anum!! lots of respect for both of you!

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