A story of a 24-year-old Pakistani girl Shafiqa Iqbal has recently been making rounds on social media. The story is not only inspiring many young people, especially girls, to be confident about jobs in the tech industry but it’s also raising some questions about Pakitan’s failure to produce quality resources for the ever-growing tech industry.
Last year, Google hired Shafiqa Iqbal as a data engineer for its office in Warsaw. She is a native of Sadiqabad, Punjab, and can be often seen documenting her life with some lighter notes on her Instagram account @littlelazyalpaca. For a country of 220 million, Shafiqa Iqbal is the only Pakistani out of around 1300 employees at Gooogle’s Warsaw office in Poland.
Before joining Google, Shafiqa Iqbal was working as a freelance Data Engineer out of Lahore, Pakistan, for two and half years. According to her interview with Junaid Akram of GanjiSwag fame, she was hired by Google through LinkedIn.
According to Shafiqa’s LinkedIn account, she is now working for Google as a Big Data Engineer. She has also been associated with WomenTech Network as a Global Ambassador for Women in Technology. She was a top-rated seller on the freelancing platform Upwork where she developed scalable, distributed solutions for companies all across the world using her expertise in cloud computing, backend development, database migrations and development, ETL pipelines, and logical programming, among other things.
In an interview with the Pakistani YouTuber Junaid Akram who visited Shafiqa’s Google office in Warsaw, Poland, Shafiqa said that organizations like Google and Facebook value open source projects.
Moreover, Shafiqa Iqbal also wanted to be independent, so she chose the sector and improved through it until a prestigious organization such as Google hired her.
In addition, she asserted, “there are talented software engineers in Pakistan, but they are unaware of the recruiting process because Google doesn’t have a physical presence here, such as an office, that’s why fewer Pakistanis get hired by firms like Google and Facebook.
Shafiqa said that she has observed that Indian students have the Big Five Firms as their employment targets since the beginning of their studies, and they start training for interviews and internships as soon as they graduate. She added that Pakistani students lag because they don’t aim high and are unaware of the hiring process”.
This is where the government of Pakistan as well as other stakeholders can play a role amid the deteriorating economic condition of the country. Pakistan isn’t yet recognized as a high-quality tech manpower producing country while the neighboring and long-time rival India has an education policy that has put their men and women at every big company there is in the tech sector as well as other top companies around the globe. Pakistan has much to learn from India, but until there are serious government-level policies, young people like Shafiqa Iqbal will keep the spark alive.
Shafiqa hopes to someday make Pakistan proud by using the exposure and knowledge she is currently acquiring while working at Google’s Poland Office.