Breaking the Bias by Asma Zeeshan

Automatic Summary

Breaking the Bias: An Inspiring Journey

Hello, my name is Asma Zan, a dedicated professional hailing from Pakistan, working in one of the leading telco organizations - Telenor Pakistan. Today, I'd like to talk to you about my journey to breaking the bias, a topic that has gained critical importance on a global scale and was the theme for 2022 International Women's Day as well.

My Journey

Let me start by walking you through my personal journey. Hailing from an underdeveloped country like Pakistan, embarking on my career in 2002 as a woman in the field of sales, especially in selling financial products, was a daunting task. It was not conventionally accepted because the financial industry was purely male-dominated and very biased.

Despite the societal pressures and biases, I managed my affairs effectively, later joining the banking industry, which is very traditional and conservative. The journey was not always smooth, no, there was fear, but it was the principle of "what worst can happen?" that kept me motivated. If I failed, I knew I could always return to my previous industry, having gained valuable experience and lessons, and move on.

Breaking the Bias: Tips and Experiences

Throughout my journey, I faced several biases, topped by the most unexpected - having a female boss. Overcoming these challenges required conscious efforts and resilience. I made choices that looked risky and adopted a diversified approach to my career. Failure became part of my learning curve, boosting my courage and confidence.

What if I told you that everyone has fears, but overcoming them is what matters? My journey should remind you that biases are prevalent worldwide. It's all about the choices we make. Today, let's have a closer look at some of the key takeaways from my journey that might help you in breaking your own biases.

  1. Take Risks: Based on studies, only 43% of women take big risks to boost their careers. Speaking up and taking risks is often the way forward for career enhancement. Fear shouldn't hold you back from taking that critical next step in your career.
  2. Build a Career Portfolio: In today's world, focusing on a specific professional identity is no longer considered normal. You should explore different roles and industries. Having a career portfolio brings a sense of achievement.
  3. Influence Relationships: Women leaders see possibilities through new ideas and innovative thinking. They tend to express competition by influencing relationships rather than hunting for the kill.
  4. Share your Struggle Stories: Sharing your struggle stories and vulnerabilities holds power by connecting authentically with others. It is always inspiring and motivating.

Remember the three Rs - take Risks, show Resilience, and reap Rewards. It’s time to think outside the box, explore new avenues, and set new benchmarks to help not just you, but women all around the world to break the bias.

Feel Free to Connect

If you have any questions or need any guidance, feel free to connect with me via LinkedIn. I would be happy to mentor anyone in the world. Remember, collectively, we can make the world a better place for women by supporting each other to break the bias. So let's discuss, share our experiences, and do not hide our vulnerabilities.

Nothing stops me from sharing my experience, inspiring other women, and smashing biases to work successfully in a male-dominated industry. If I can do it, so can you!

Let's work on this together! Thank you so much.

Video Transcription

Hello, my name is Asma Zan and I'm from Pakistan and I'm working in one of the leading telco organizations here that is Telenor Pakistan.So um I'm so glad and I'm super excited to be part of this uh a great platform where I've got this chance to connect with the female leaders around the globe and it will definitely increase in my experience and I will share uh my experience and stories to inspire other women around me.

Today. I'm gonna talk about uh breaking the bias. It is such a critical topic discussed globally and was a theme for 2022 International Women Day as well. And I'm sure every one of you might have talked about it uh experienced that and um show that in your organization, I will share my personal story and the perspective around this topic to inspire other young women who really need to uh or want to break the bias in their career.

Let's get started. So, first of all, I will just walk you through about my journey. I'm from Pakistan. It is um uh underdeveloped country and here it is uh when I started my career back in 2002, it was a taboo for uh females to go into the field, to go into technical roles or in the sales roles in the market and start doing uh independently uh working in the field. So what I did that uh at that time, uh I started my career from sales. Uh I'm a graduate, I'm an economics graduate. I did my masters in economics and I started my career in the financial industry and I was responsible to sell financial products. And that was at that time, there was no concept for other women to join that industry. It was purely a male dominated um and very biased industry. And I faced a lot of biases uh around this that how can a woman actually join this industry and go into the market and, and very rough markets where, where she can sell financial products. But I did that and um successfully managed a good uh uh number of uh team members. And later on, I joined the banking industry, a very traditional one again, a very conservative uh uh field.

Um And I managed it well, later on what exactly happened, the exciting part in my career uh after five years when I took a 360 degree shift in my career, uh in my experience, I I've changed the industry. So from financial banking industry, I moved to telecommute and in telecommunication, it was not only an industry shift, it was also um uh the experience shift as well. So there I joined them as their regional head for it, customer services and the it service management area was the focused one. And again, coming from a very non technical background and from a very different industry and going into a very fast paced uh um uh technology based industry was a different experience and I was honestly, I was a bit of afraid, but the only thing which kept me motivated to join that industry was that what worst can happen?

And that's my advice for you all as well. That what worse can happen? We should try new things, we should try new. Um And we should, we should break these uh vices uh about certain rules and try something different. And that's my experience which said that at that time, I, I thought that uh why can't I try that? And if I feel I can always go back to my previous industry, I, I will learn something. I will experience something and I will move on. So with that thought I moved, I jumped into something really um uh exciting for which I did not have any experience. And um I, I managed it well really well for like five years, I completed my another degree, my MS degree uh in total quality management during that time period. And um later on, uh I got an opportunity in one of the leading Co uh Coca Cola and one of the leading uh uh F MC G organizations. And there I was responsible even for more technical stuff. I was responsible for infrastructure, for information security, for networks, for servers, for cloud management. And coming from an economics background, all these things looks really, really um tough.

But um honestly, all I've learned was uh um on my job and one thing I will talk about the biases throughout my journey, I faced a lot of biases and the number one bias was uh that uh having a female boss. So it was uh uh yes, it was difficult for the teens initially to accept that. How can a uh how can a woman lead us? And especially when she's coming uh from a non technical B around. And there was one bias and another one, the first bias which I faced was how can a woman actually work in this industry? It is not uh um uh um a female or woman oriented industry. It is for us. So I, I break that barrier and I took the challenge. I, I've got the experience and I kept my learning intact. Uh OK. So uh today, the topic is breaking bias. So what is breaking the bias? We all need a world free of biases, stereotypes and discrimination. A world that is diverse, equitable and inclusive, have equal opportunities for all of us. But for that, some conscious efforts are required, I will be covering some tips around this topic. Which I have learned through my experience. And uh as I have uh walked you through my personal story, and I will also tell you specifically that what biases I have faced and what choices I have made. So started my career in a male dominated function and face a lot of discrimination.

But I took challenge and had a 360 degree shift in my career by changing the indus industry and role faced resistance to get accept acceptance from technical teams. Uh being a female technical boss faced uh faced a tag of being bossy while being assertive, took challenge to relocate with my family. So later on what happened after my co journey, I got an opportunity, a very exciting opportunity in one of the uh cosmopolitan cities in Pakistan.

That is Karachi. So that was a choice in my career that whether I would like to opt out and, but I had to make some compromises. I had to meet and make some decisions. And the biggest decision was moving with family, convincing my family that yes, let's move because of my career. And I was lucky enough to have the support from family. Um And I moved on um I worked in that um wonderful city. I'm still working there and then I've joined again the telco industry. And now right now the the kind of role I'm managing, it's, it's heading the technical operations of the sales side and the RF part as well. That is entirely different what I've been doing in all these years. So it does not matter at what age bracket you are, at what experience level you are. You should take that risk. You should learn something new. Failure might happen, that happens. And that failure should be for the learning. Uh Only not for, um, just to, to get failed and just get depressed, just move on. That gives you a lot of courage and confidence to achieve more and to go up to the career letter, right? So nothing stopped me. Um And my learning and uh jumping one field from another field and jumping into the core uh technical industry and delivering, I'm, I'm delivering successfully delivering my KPIS. So here are some tips for young women aspiring uh to grow. Number one, taking risk in your career to grow.

Studies showed that uh um only 43% of the women will take big risks to boost careers and women desire to take career risks even declines as they have more experience. They think that we have mature, we can't take this risk. So we, we, we should uh consider that factor as well. And um we should also explicitly uh taught that speaking up and taking the risk uh is the way forward to get a career um boost. Another thing is some, the uh uh which uh the uh which we can do is make conscious effort and ask for what you want be aware um of the impression you make, speak early often and calmly. Finally, no risk, no reward. So take a risk. And I I understand a fear of failure can some sometimes prevent us from taking that critical next step. But we should work on the mindset. Just think nothing is the worst can happen and we can always learn and move on. Always remember the three hours taking risk, resilience and get the reward, choose diversified rules and work on on career portfolio. So it's no more the time to work on career path and stick to one path and you can move the ladder. But yes, you should now think about building a career portfolio. Today, the world has changed in some amazing and profound ways. So broadening your career uh focus and professional identity is no longer seen as abnormal.

It is now uh uh there, there's a shift from pursuing a career path for uh uh to creating your own career portfolio. So career portfolio is a never ending source of discovery and fulfillment. My portfolio as an example includes financial advisor, banker, it service manager, it infrastructure head and I am now heading the technical operations. So the beauty of having career portfolio is the sense of achievement. You get in different roles to explore different industries.

Another thing uh which you should consider uh to do is inspire other women, uplift each other, be the leader you were, you always were and embrace your family and energy. I will touch upon this point. Woman at times wants to develop masculine leadership qualities to climb the corporate ladder. However, when women step into their true identities with openness, transparency, owning emotions, being clear about values vulnerabilities and fears. Modern audience embrace the humanness when it comes to leading.

So, so focus on that natural ability to lead and there is no way you can't uh get that success, right? So another thing which you can do is influencing relationship. So women see possibilities through new ideas and innovative thinking, value, empathy and collaboration, which is part of the hard wiring women leaders express competition differently by influencing relationship rather than just hunting for the kill. And we can learn the skill by uh by these influential leaders around us.

And and I believe that's a great platform to connect with these um wonderful women, share your struggle stories. It is very, very, very important. That is what I do everywhere in my organization, outside my organization, I mentor other uh female uh youngsters and other female colleagues to uh and I share my struggle stories because it then it, it inspired others and it gives them confidence and courage, the chess. If I can do, you can al you can also do the the same. So sharing the struggle stories and your vulnerabilities uh hold power by connecting authentically with your people. Uh And it inspires and motivates everyone around you. So it's always a great idea to share stories, create leaning circles, create that small circles where women lift each other, they listen to each other, they mentor each other, they guide each other. It's very, very important and we, as women leaders can play that vital role to bridge the gap and to bring women together uh on this. And uh um II, I believe it's a, it's a great way. Uh uh uh And this topic breaking the bias is a great way. Um uh It's a great way to uh to pursue your dreams. So the first thing is important that you should have that confidence.

Uh y everybody has got fears but you, we, we should all try overcome our fears. Look around, find mentors, find those circles and see how can you seek help. How can you find similar role models? How can you find similar stories and how can you find similar struggles? And um having biases is very common worldwide? But it is about what choices you made. And uh that is what, what actually um what actually boost your career, what actually uh push you upward and what, what actually makes you a better leader. So, uh that's all about my story and we still have five minutes. So I would like to hear uh from the audience if you have any questions. Um I will paste my um linkedin um the URL as well. You can connect me on linkedin and you can ask any question and I would be happy to mentor anybody uh in the world. So, um uh I'm so thankful for this platform for giving me this opportunity. Uh Wonderful, connecting with you all. Have a great day. Thank you. I will wait for a few more minutes. If anyone has any question. Let's see. Thank you, Sonia. Thank you. It always great. It feels great when, when you, when you find that energy in other women as well, the energy is always there. It is just finding the right uh connect. It is just finding the right uh person with whom you can discuss with whom you can talk. And it is a group responsibility on female leaders like me to, to share experience and, and do not hide vulnerabilities.

So let's discuss and um uh break this bias all together and we can make this world a better place to live um by connecting together. And yes, thank you. Thank you very much. And it feels so great when you uh when you see that happiness um uh among other women. Yes. Thank you. So yes, do connect with me. Yeah, somebody is talking about three hours risk resilience and reward. Yes. Yes. Take risk. Have resilience and you will get rewarded. Yes. So we still have four minutes and um yes, please do contact me. Uh and um I will be very happy uh to listen and to guide to mentor and uh let's utilize these four minutes as well. Right now, currently I am, I am in uh in the industry where I'm the only one I in this industry at this position in technical operations. So you see in Pakistan, there are four or five major telecommunication companies and no woman is heading operations. It is such a hard and it is such a rough job and it is such a diversified job that I had to deal with the, with different geographies, with different dynamics and cultural issues and different kind of personalities. And there are like 150 people, more than that, even the the the partner level, the sub one level and my team do I have to manage and I am the only female leader uh in the whole team managing this big um uh geography.

And my target is to get more women in this domain, to inspire more women to get, get into this domain and break this bias that yes, operations can be run. Um The field operations can be run by um by a female in a, in a very good manner um where she actually inspired other men as well. So um I take this pride of uh being the only woman in the industry and I, I'm looking forward uh seeing more women in Pakistani industry uh to join this technical uh field to join stem field. And that's my objective. And I also um I also participate in external events where I mentor young students, especially um when they want advice that what care we should choose, what, what, what educational um fields we should choose, which can help us to be uh to work. Uh like um uh all other people are working because there's no man, woman, we all are equal, we all have equal rights and we all can do um e everything together. So let's just be um a professional, not a male professional or a female professional. And let's let's work together and uh holding each other being females uh will definitely strengthen us and uh we can work on this together. Thank you so much.

Uh with this, I will leave my session because time is almost up uh lovely uh connecting with you all and just stay in touch. Thank you so much.