SMEC Senior Programmer Mobina Zafar was named Young Female Professional of the Year at the Surbana Jurong (SJ) International Awards held in Brisbane, Australia in December 2018.

Based in Lahore, Pakistan with her husband Husnain and one-year-old son Rayyan, Mobina has been working with SMEC, a member of the Surbana Jurong group of companies, since 2012. The annual SJ International Awards recognise the most outstanding employees, projects and innovations of the Surbana Jurong Group, which operates in more than 40 countries. Of a number of exceptional nominees, Mobina was chosen for her technical skill, innovation and dedication.

“Mobina played a key role in pioneering the development of a Project Management and Monitoring Information System (PMIS) for our water resources projects here in Pakistan”, said Ahsam Arshad, SMEC Director Pakistan. “These systems are key to monitoring progress and risk on very significant infrastructure and energy projects.”

“Thanks to Mobina’s skill, dedication and hard work, this system has largely been developed in-house, under the supervision and guidance of technical specialists.”

For her part, Mobina says she is ‘humbled and honoured’ to have been named Young Female Professional of the Year. “We are a global group of companies with thousands of experts – to have my efforts be acknowledged is a really great feeling.” Mobina grew up in a family that values learning, with both parents working in Pakistan’s education sector. “My mother has worked as a secondary school principal and education development officer. She’s a real source of inspiration and, along with my father, has been a role model for me throughout my life.”

Her siblings opted to study engineering and information technology, and she recalls being excited by digital transformation from a young age. “Information technology has changed our world and this fascinates me! It’s why I chose to do my graduate degree in Computer Sciences and later completed a Master of Science in Software Engineering.”

One might imagine that, sitting behind a computer working with digits and software, Mobina is removed from the project coalface. In reality, she says that one of the most rewarding aspects of her role is seeing the direct link between her work and the community. “Pakistan is an agriculturist country, so irrigation systems are really the backbone of our economy. Our project management team used the Project Management Information System to effectively monitor progress and manage project deadlines and resources on a significant water infrastructure project for the Government of Punjab. The project supports irrigated agriculture which accounts for 28% of Punjab’s gross domestic product (GDP) and is making a difference to over 275,000 rural households in the area who derive their livelihood from crops.” Mobina also had the opportunity to work on project sites, which she describes as ‘thrilling’ and a ‘life-long learning experience’.

There are certain perceived barriers for females in STEM fields, mostly based on stereotypes and cultural ethos, and I was not an exception. The Project Management Information System has now been implemented on several major projects in Pakistan and has been recommended for implementation across South Asia and the Middle East region. “I’m really excited to see my work being leveraged across the world and am looking forward to implementing more innovative ideas in 2019.”

Reflecting on her career success, Mobina names several factors that have been fundamental to successfully manage her roles as wife, mother and senior software programmer.

“I’ve been very consistent and focused in my work, but I’ve also had the constant support of my supervisors and my family throughout my career. This has made a huge difference. My current manager at SMEC, Mr Abdul Mussawar Waqar, has mentored and guided me throughout my professional carrier. And I couldn’t have done it without the support of my husband, Husnain Ishtiaq, who is always standing beside me.”

“It’s not always easy, especially when my son Rayyan was born. But I manage all my roles with the great support of my family, parents-in-law, and my company. After returning from maternity leave I was able to benefit from the daycare facility that SMEC provides at the office.”

“My son is my real motivation and aspiration at work. Every day when I come home and he receives me at the door with his smile and sparkling eyes, it’s like I’ve regained all my energy.” Mobina is keen to see more females study for and take up careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). “We should support and motivate more females in Pakistan to enter STEM fields. Information technology is such an exciting sector with tremendous opportunity for innovation and learning.”

Training to be a female programmer in a traditionally male-dominated industry has not been without its challenges. “There are certain perceived barriers for females in STEM fields, mostly based on stereotypes and cultural ethos, and I was not an exception. I accepted and overcame these challenges with the encouragement and support of my parents, husband, friends and colleagues at SMEC. It is true there are barriers, but I feel the way to break them down is to demonstrate our true potential and quality contribution to our fields.”

I want to encourage young women to identify their potential and add their valuable contribution to the industries that are shaping our world.”
———— Mobina Zafar


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