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Part IV: In Discussion with Zahrah

Last but not the least, we bring to you Zahrah Ayub, Product Manager for Eon. Zahrah has a degree in Computer Software Engineering and is deeply involved in the Eon account, supervising a team of 10 people. She is mainly responsible for building and managing product needs, and works closely with the Dev QA and Product teams to ensure a seamless workflow. This is a highly critical role, especially when the teams are split over two continents and are distanced by time zones. Here’s what our chat entailed.

What made you choose the field you work in?

I have always loved to know how everything around us works; whether it’s a tree, a VCR, or any video game; how they are made, what is their use. The logical explanation of how everything around us is synced used to give me an adrenal rush. My parents knew these things and kept me motivated to see things from a logical perspective and introduced me to the field of software engineering where limits also become just a question. The idea of exploring more and reasoning made me choose my current field.

What motivates you to come to work every morning?

I have a deep love and passion for science and technology, and how it has the capability to drastically improve lives and benefit living things. Luckily, I get to work with a client that is actually helping change lives using machine learning to diagnose cancers early on — Eon. It’s what makes me want to come to work every day.

Did you find it difficult to get to a leadership position as a woman in your industry?

I believe if you know your own goals and what you want to achieve, everything becomes a learning opportunity for how to get to your destination and handle different situations during the journey. Irrespective of gender, there is always a learning curve but it helps you understand different perspectives and ultimately become a good leader. I have been very fortunate to be mentored by some truly great people; leaders in the IT industry who guided me and directed me on how to see the bigger picture. Yes, I did face some challenges, but I took all of them as an opportunity to grow and be better.

Do you struggle with maintaining a work-life balance because of the expectations people have from women?

Again, I don’t think gender has much to do with struggling to maintain a work-life balance. Expectations are set equally high for men and women in the field I work in, but it is individuals who have different perspectives. Some men may think that women are given a more flexible schedule as compared to men, and some women may believe that men get more leadership opportunities. However, my ethos has always been that if you give your input with sincerity in work and life both, expectations can be met and struggle can be reduced. I also think a healthy mindset and a healthy environment also play key roles in maintaining this balance.

Who are some women who inspired you to do what you do?

  1. Adele Goldberg, whose concepts and perception of things set the basis of what we see on screens today.
  2. Radia Perlman, widely known as the mother of the Internet.
  3. Katherine Johnson, one of the first African-American women to work as a NASA scientist.
  4. Wonder Woman, a superhero who proves that good and evil are not gender-specific, and women can fight just as hard as men for the right thing. She is opinionated with a fighter spirit, yet always full of compassion and care.
  5. And most importantly, my mother (Musrat Noreen), who taught me what truly matters in life. Being a single parent, she taught me how to maintain a work-life balance, and how to manage each and every aspect of life from dressing up to managing bills, where to stop, and where to push and believe in yourself.

What are some of the things you’ve learned working in a leadership position — in general, and as a woman?

Empathy, the value in working as a team, that everyone is different and has different goals, and how I can help them achieve where they want to be in life. I learned how to help others take pride in and ownership of what they do.

Do you have any words of wisdom for the women who will follow?

Always take pride in what you do and keep a positive mindset. Be sure and assertive. Keep blending smart & hard work in whatever you are doing.

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