The girls are showing the way
Sarah Ahmad was also featured in ‘Girls Who Code’ video on Microsoft Channel 9 as a part of women empowerment initiative. In the video, the girls share their story on how they started coding and their experience with it
The women of our country have remained a constant source of pride for the nation. From youngest Microsoft certified Arfa Karim to Oscar winner Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy and mountaineer Samina Baig, all these women have contributed to building a positive image of Pakistan.
Sarah Ahmad, a young Microsoft Student Partner (MSP) from University of Engineering and Technology (UET), Lahore, who was recently awarded the title of ‘Microsoft Student Partners Hero’ is a welcome addition to the list.
The MSPs are student technology leaders, empowered to build Microsoft communities on their campuses and share their deep knowledge and passion for technology with their fellow classmates. Sarah was one of the two candidates who got this award from Middle East and African region by Microsoft. Through this award, Microsoft acknowledged her efforts for the IT community, Microsoft Virtual Academy certifications, technical trainings and helping out community members within and outside her university.
Sarah Ahmad was also featured in ‘Girls Who Code’ video on Microsoft Channel 9 as a part of women empowerment initiative. In the video, the girls share their story on how they started coding and their experience with it.
DNA talked to Sarah Ahmed to know about her journey of being a Microsoft hero.
DNA: Tell us about your academic life?
Sarah: I did my matriculation in 2011 from Cambridge Madrasatul Banat, Lahore. Then I made my way to Kinnaird College for intermediate. Then came the phase of entry tests – I wondered if I would pass them but I got selected in some of the universities and a few weeks later I found my name in the first merit list of Bachelors in Computer Science (BSCS) at UET, which had always been my first preference. I believe that it was the best decision of my life. If today someone gives me a choice of joining LUMS, NUST, FAST or any other university, I would still go for UET as it offers cultural diversity along with education and extra-curricular activities.
Throughout my academic life I have always tried to do something out of the box. I always try to physically implement the things I learn and do queer experiments.
DNA: What has been your inspiration to join a computer science course at UET?
Sarah: Computer science has remained my major area of interest throughout my academic career. I always enjoyed this subject and when I was selected at UET, I knew that this was the best field for me. I knew I could study in this programme with full passion and this was the best place that could accommodate me.
DNA: Tell us about how you managed to engage in the MSP programme?
Sarah: I was engaged in various societies of my university like UET Literary Society, Software Square, UET Startup leaders and PSWO – an NGO initialed by UET students, so I had an idea of how to manage things, divide work load and work in a team. When I got selected as an MSP, I knew nothing can work without forming a student body so I managed to engage students of my university and urged them to come and work together as a single entity. In this way, a new society ‘Microsoft Student Partner UET Lahore Chapter’ was found.
Then I divided the students into sub-teams, including social media team, documentation, development, registration and Decore team etc, each with a leader. We altogether succeeded in conducting various events related to Microsoft technologies, freelancing, soft skills and other tools used in the industry.
We also collaborated with KICS UET, UET Media Society, UET AKS, Software Square, TICK USLs, Swift Vertical, LOOP and other societies of the university. These collaborator efforts helped us in conducting our events and making them a success.
I am interested in game development and I am currently working on one too. But what’s next is always a mystery and along with that I am also very passionate about my startup, so I would like to work on both the things side by side
DNA: How does Microsoft rank individuals for the award you got?
Sarah: Microsoft recruits MSPs each year. Students send their resumes, the Microsoft team shortlists the candidates and calls for interviews. Once selected, the MSPs are given a Key Priority Indicators (KPI) list. They include attending all the free trainings from Microsoft (online and offline), conducting some events in your respective campus along with other things.
They keep a track of all the MSP activates and rank them according to the work they do, their performance throughout the programme and their services.
DNA: How was the whole experience of being an MSP and getting the ‘hero’ award?
Sarah: Honestly, it was an awesome experience. Now I can easily say that technology is my absolute passion. It entirely changed my life, gave me leadership skills, increased my social circle, enabled me to interact with more of my fellow students and most importantly, it helped me gain more technical skills. I explored various emerging technologies and also participated in Girls Who Code international video.
Interestingly, I never knew that Microsoft gives a ‘hero’ award but it felt great when Microsoft appreciated my services by ranking me as one of the top MSPs in Middle East and Africa (MEA) region.
DNA: Apart from coding and programming, where do your interests lie?
Sarah: I am more of an entrepreneur than a tech person. I love the trend of startups and have also been a part of one. Currently, I am running a software house, right now on small scale, apart from blogging and freelancing.
DNA: With all the appreciation you got at home and abroad, how much do you think our universities invest in the young talent?
Sarah: I believe that every university wants to see their students successful but yes, there are some barriers – they lack good faculty, they have weak management, low budget and limited resources. But what matters more is a student’s passion. It is not about just studying ‘ABC’, we should explore ‘XYZ’ too. For that, make Google your best friend. Moreover, if you have some plan in your mind but you lack the right tools, present your idea in different startup incubators. I believe you will definitely get a good response. So don’t just rely on the university, do your own efforts too.
DNA: Any specific areas of IT you would like to explore in future? Any other projects you want to work for?
Sarah: I am interested in game development and I am currently working on one too. But what’s next is always a mystery and along with that I am also very passionate about my startup, so I would like to work on both the things side by side.
DNA: What are your future plans and where do you see yourself in five years?
Sarah: An entrepreneur should be dynamic. No one can predict the future, but one thing that I have faith in is that wherever I would go I know I will be able to do the job well and will be satisfied with it.
DNA: Any tips you would like to give to the young IT professionals who want to work for such projects?
Sarah: Open your minds. Don’t just program but look around too.