Interview with Zartasha Naeem Khan | Code for Pakistan

Interview with Zartasha Naeem Khan

Interview with Zartasha Naeem Khan

Q1: Tell me something about yourself. Where did you grow up?

I was born and brought up in one of the most beautiful, famous and culturally rich areas of Pakistan, Abbottabad. Born to a family of educators, with both of my parents working as teachers, my life began with school and by the time I was four and a half I had already made it to first grade.

As the eldest child I enjoyed all the attention at home.  Growing up with two brothers, my childhood was quite a deviation from most girls. I enjoyed playing cricket and flying kites and loved having cars over dolls.


Q2: You were an excellent student throughout your studies. Tell us about your academic achievements.

I am not a studious person at all. It is something that comes to me naturally and I haven’t had to work hard. However, it doesn’t mean that I don’t like to study. I have always been a good student and got good grades. In my matriculation I got 10th position in BISE Abbottabad and for that I was awarded the National Talent Scholarship and later, a scholarship from my college as well. For my undergrad, I had to move to Peshawar and live in a hostel as I got admission in UET. Studying at UET wasn’t quite easy; it took me three years to convince my family to allow me to move cities! I messed up my first three semesters badly but always ended up getting one of the top four positions.

For my post-grad studies, I got a scholarship from GIKI but could not attend the university, so I took admission in UET once again and now I am fully engrossed in my course work.


Q3: You earned a degree in systems engineering. So how did you end up in the field of IT?

Computer Systems Engineering and IT are related fields- one emphasizes on hardware whereas the other is related to software, so it wasn’t a big shift for me as both are inter-related. The factor that made me choose IT over my parent field is its innovative and ever evolving nature. You can never call yourself an expert, everyday is a new beginning.


Q4: You have been working as a developer for different companies. Tell us about your overall work experience?

Everywhere I have worked my experience has been great, I learnt new skills and met inspirational people who helped me grow into what I am today. I started as an internee at aiztek technologies, a private company based in Islamabad where I worked on open CMSs like WordPress and developed quite a number of websites. Later I joined another company where I learnt Slim framework and how to write APIs and used it to develop cross-platform apps. It was then that I realized I needed a break from work.  I went back home and did nothing for almost six months.

As a strong believer in civic innovation, I then joined Code for Pakistan. Over here I am working as a front-end developer and polishing my skills better than I could have done anywhere else. Another great thing about being a part of this program is that I have learnt how to work with government departments. I have particularly been learning about how to handle the government as a client.


Q5: How did you find the courage to move to another city for studies and to build your career?

My mother has always been an inspiration for me. She was the first woman from our family to attend a university. She did her Masters from Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad, so she too had to move to another city. I grew up listening to her experiences at university and in the hostel. Ever since I was a child I had it in my mind that one day I too will join some good university and for that, of course, I  will have to move out of my city; mentally I was all prepared.


Q6: What made you apply for the KP Civic Innovation Fellowship Program and how do you think this Fellowship is impacting your professional career?

I believe in civic innovation and have strong faith that a step towards digital revolution is a step towards better governance, which in turn is a step towards betterment of life for the whole nation. Code for Pakistan works towards bridging the gap between government and citizens  and this is exactly what we are doing at the Fellowship Program- developing systems that can help shape a new digital revolution in KP.

Before joining this platform I had never worked in a team. For me the biggest achievement so far is that I am using my skills and abilities to help the people of KP alongside grooming myself as a team-player.


Q7: Do you take interest in any field other than IT?

I am very inclined towards arts. I feel like every piece of art is a complete story in itself. Every small piece has its own logic and meaning and these small pieces add up to form the big picture, that only delicate hearts can feel.


Q8: Share some of your greatest passions in life with us.

Funnily, unlike most of the people that I know who want to be role-models and an inspiration for others, the biggest passion of my life is to travel to Spain. I want to observe its rich culture closely, visit its huge libraries and art galleries daily, enjoy all the festivities going on there and gather everything that I can. Eventually I would like to publish a book about my adventures.


Q9: How would you categorize your biggest strengths and weaknesses in life?

In my opinion my biggest strength and weakness is my calmness. Sometimes it comes in very handy as I avoid conflicts but at the same time it prevents me from responding the way I should in certain situations.


Q10: Is there anyone or anything that you idealize?

If there is anything that I idealize, it’s diversity and adaption. I love it when people can have conversations about so many things- they can talk about social issues, they have updated information about technology etc. Ironically, as much as I love being a person who possesses knowledge about various disciplines, I am always lagging behind.  

I idealize people who have the ability to adapt to any situation and any environment and yet be themselves. I am ever afraid of moving out of my comfort zone. I find it very hard to adapt to new things and changing environment. Although I have managed to overcome my fears to a great extent, some part of me still feels like it’s not enough. I need to work more on myself.


Q11: How do you spend your leisure time? And what are the things that you avoid?

When you are the only girl in your home it’s very difficult to find spare time, even if you haven’t got anything to do. I am always busy, talking of course! I am also fond of reading; whenever I have some spare time I find myself hooked to a good book. Apart from reading, I do nothing; it’s your free time, if you are not free then it’s not your leisure time.


Q12: What message would you like to give to our readers?

The only message that I would like to give is that own your failures as you own your success. If you don’t have the courage to own your failures then you will never find the courage to move on. Failures are a critical part of your life. If you fail you learn two things: why did you fail? And how do you correct it? Making mistakes and failing isn’t a big deal but not learning from them is another big failure.


Product Manager