woman @ work
Having worked on global brands in both local and international markets, Fariha Shah has more than 20 years of professional experience in Marketing, Branding, Corporate Communications and PR in the Media, Technology, Telecommunications, Government and Aviation Sector. She has worked side by side with some of the best talent in the world and learnt about different cultures and nationalities at NCR Corporation, Teradata, Microsoft, CNBC, Comptel Corporation and Nokia.
In her various roles, she gained international experience in managing multi-cultural teams, positioning brands and making new market entry plans for Middle East & Africa region and also contributed significantly on customer marketing initiatives and engaging international media platforms in UK, Ireland and Scotland.
Currently, she is managing PR and Digital marketing portfolios at PTCL, where she has developed a cohesive communication strategy to manage reputation and image of PTCL by reinforcing positive stories through strong internal & external communication channels. Furthermore, having done leadership roles, she has also been invited by prestigious universities such as NUST and Bahria University as a guest speaker to motivate the next generation.
Fariha has travelled extensively around the world and has a passion for learning, philosophy, mentoring and arts. Fariha has a degree in Law and a Masters in English Literature. “Although my professional career started from Journalism and Law, however, I ended up being a marketer as I believe education has little to do with what you are passionate about,” says Fariha. In an exclusive interview with You! Fariha shares her experiences as a woman in the corporate world...
You! How it has been working in a corporate sector?
Fariha Shah: I have worked in corporate sector both in Pakistan and abroad. I have found great mentors and exceptional colleagues, who provided guidance and support. Corporate sector gives us an enabling environment with vast opportunities to excel and grow to the next level. You just need to be strong and resilient to face challenges and take risks.
You! What made you interested in joining PTCL?
FS: PTCL has always been an organisation and a brand that has been part of our lives since the inception of Pakistan. Being a national carrier and having a massive footprint across Pakistan, it is my honour to be serving my country through PTCL. It has almost been 3 years since I started working for PTCL.
You! What are your current areas of focus?
FS: Currently, I am handling two portfolios i.e. PR and Digital Marketing. In today’s digitally connected world, communication has to be seamless and consistent across all platforms and channels. My focus is to ensure that we are proactively managing our communication effectively. Secondly, our brand building activities are being showcased at the right forums for better visibility.
You! Not many women are at senior positions in the corporate world. What skills are most important for this field?
FS: I believe that more women are taking leadership roles as the world is changing now, with more young women joining the workforce. It’s important that you have strong PR and communication skills to develop professional relationship that is based on mutual respect and trust.
I think women have more empathy and a softer image that can sometimes be perceived as not being strong as a leader. So, it is important that women in senior positions should be assertive and confident, while remaining compassionate. You can stand out whether you are a man or a woman if your work is exceptional.
You! Does your organisation give equal opportunities to men and women?
FS: PTCL is an equal opportunity employer and treats everyone with dignity and respect and believes in providing opportunities to both men and women, who are talented and have required experience and education for the job role. We have a lot of women at senior roles whether it is HR, Technology, Legal or Marketing. A workplace with equal opportunities for all creates the perfect recipe for an organisation to achieve its objectives.
You! What do you like most about your job?
FS: I like being connected with people and this role gives me an opportunity to interact with internal and external stakeholders. I am able to take the learning and be a catalyst to make good things happen at PTCL, whether it is to adapt communication for better impact or motivate teams to give their best.
You! Have you ever faced sexual harassment workplace?
FS: I have been lucky in having worked in organisations that have provided a safe and enabling environment for women to support their professional growth.
You! What are the perks of being in a corporate sector?
FS: The perks of being in a corporate sector is that you are engaged with top talent internally and working with media and leading corporate brands for collaborations. I also believe that companies like PTCL, who invest in their employees by providing them ample training opportunities whether in-house or inviting international speakers, nurture their talent and help in upskilling. PTCL work culture is unique as we have offices and representation from small towns to metropolitan cities that we consider to be as PTCL family.
You! Do you think general mindset of our society is changing towards working women?
FS: Yes, of course. I see a lot of change as young women are going abroad to study, getting international exposure and gaining more confidence as they come back to join the workforce with a different mindset. In Pakistan, we are seeing more and more women joining media newsrooms, entertainment industry, aviation, startups, etc. and generally being part of the corporate sector. I would credit this change to the parents, who have finally accepted that daughters, along with their sons, play a pivotal role in contributing as professionals and support the family ecosystem by being financially independent.
You! What are the challenges are being faced by Pakistani women today?
FS: Although challenges are there, however, this is the right time for women in Pakistan to leverage their education and talent for better economic opportunities. Even women at home can develop their digital skills and get relevant trainings for taking on jobs that are available on digital platforms. Secondly, they also have an opportunity to showcase their work using various free platforms that will get them eyeballs and new customers to kickstart their business idea. Every challenge has an opportunity hidden in it and we just need to find it.
You! What is the best relationship lesson you have learnt the hard way?
FS: Keep your boundaries so that people don’t take unfair advantage of your good nature.
You! What is the most important advice you can give to women?
FS: You just can’t beat a person who never gives up.
You! How do you unwind?
FS: I am a foodie, so I like to try new dishes at new places and then try recreating them at home. By the way, my father is my biggest critique when it comes to cooking because he has been taught by my grandmother. I also like travelling, listening to music, writing and spending time with my family.
You! What are the positive points of being economically independent?
FS: The foremost advantage of being economically independent is the absolute freedom you have to lead your life as you are not dependent on someone else. I also believe that you become part of the decision-making process in the family once you are economically contributing as you become a relevant stakeholder in the larger picture. Also, as I love to travel, it gives me a sense of independence and empowerment that I can explore the world and learn new cultures.
You! What is a typical day in your life?
FS: I start my day early with a healthy breakfast and spend time with my parents before starting work. Usually, I start my workday with a team meeting where we discuss our priorities for the day and week. The idea is to support the team in successful delivery of their projects and ensuring that all tasks for the day are completed. Ending the day on this note always provides a sense of accomplishment and boosts morale to get ready for the next day!
You! You have travelled extensively, which city of the world you liked the best?
FS: Oh yes! I have had the opportunity to travel the world on so many occasions, be it for a business meeting or personal trips. The places I have been to are all marvellous, it is quite difficult to choose but if I get a chance to travel again, I would definitely go to Rome and Turkey again.
You! Any interesting tips you would like to share with our readers regarding your trips abroad?
FS: The history, architecture and culture can inspire you as you travel in different countries and continents. My most frequent traveller with me is my sister as we take road trips together around the world. I also make plans with my friends and other family members as it is always fun to have a group of like-minded people to explore together and it is cheaper too!
You! Given a chance, what essential changes would you like to make in our country?
FS: This is an interesting question given that Pakistan holds a strategic position in the region and in the world. First, being a working woman, I would like to make this country more safe and secure for women, be it their office, restaurants or streets, where they can have freedom to express themselves, work independently and move without any fear. I would like to mentor our youth, as I believe that they can bring innovation and new ideas that can take our country to the next level of growth and progress.