So all of you now don’t go and die (Translated from “Ab saray maro mat”). I promised you photographs and photographs though shalt get.
Haven’t blogged in a while. Hot the worse ever writer’s block. So a quick round up to let you know what I have been up to.
Got a mention on Mashable. You can read it here: http://mashable.com/2013/06/29/pakistan-woman-entrepreneur-2/ For a few hours, it was the HOTTEST story.
Was invited to speak at Plan 9 for their Startup Series. That was fun. Speaking to a room full of techies about running a biz. I tried to do the potato trick I learned from Sharon Lechter during Project Artemis. Didn’t work too well. Will take industrial strength Mickey D straws next time.
Was interviewed by a team of researchers from The Fletcher School at Tufts University and Harvard Kennedy School about “the constraints as well as opportunities women entrepreneurs face both culturally and systemically in Pakistan.” That was an interesting experience.
Got tons of CVs in my inbox for our internship program. That’s exciting but at the same time intimidating. I BADLY need an assistant. Anyone interested?
Ooh I almost forgot. Pulled off the first Google Business Group (GBG) Islamabad event in Peshawar, Pakistan. It was meant for women entrepreneurs but a bunch of guys showed up too.
Am I enjoying all of this? Yeah. Sort of. Now when I tweet something a lot of times I actually get a response from other tweeples. Dunno really. Mixed feelings. Am grateful for sure – no doubt about that. I hope I am able to deliver now. Need tons of work for those tons of CVs. And I NEED CrowdFlower / MTurk. And what am I gonna do if the Paypal account I use gets blocked for whatever reason (it’s my friend’s)? What if all I am is a mere celebrity and nothing more?
At the Plan 9 Incubator I kept debating whether to go with a semi-formal presentation or just speak about my own experience – from the start. I went with the former. I mean what was I supposed to say – business just happens? One day you wake up and someone tells you you are a tech-preneur? You apply on the last day of a competition and you actually win it and are sent on the most inspiring, encouraging 3 weeks of your life? That every few months you decide to give up on your biz and just as you announce it to the world something huge comes along your way out of the blue? That if you are sincere and passionate things will just fall into place? That Mashable happened coz you don’t say no to free lunch and also out of curiosity to meet a guy you had no inkling about and just turned out he was buddies with Reid Hoffman and loved the way you used LinkedIn – so much so he mentioned you in his TedTalk? And of course who should be in attendance but a journalist from Mashable.
All of this is true but it’s too much of a fairy tale. Truth is I don’t know anything. I am not a techie person. I am not a business person either. But somehow here I am. How do you make that sound real and not utterly corny? Just that I have never cared enough about the fame or the success or the money although I can’t say I don’t enjoy it when it comes along.
OK now I am getting all confused again.
I leave you with this extract from Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s poem, The Invitation:
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes!”
It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.
Tomorrow is the end of the world so thought it was a good time to say my goodbyes to the World. Dramatic, right? Gosh, what is all this end of Mayan calendar and people moving to the hills etc bull? Even NASA jumped in to stop the madness. But whatever …
2012 has been a special year just like 2011 was super cool. I know if I tell you one more time about the business plan adventure in UAE thanks to GIST, (you) will look for (me), (you) will find (me), and (you) will kill (me). Then there was the Business Basics workshop at Islamabad Women’s Chamber of Commerce, the Success with Social Media one at Kuch Khaas, incredible honor of attending a workshop by Ken and Laura Morse (of the MIT fame) and so on.
But the two highlights of the year were;
1. Learning I Knew Nothing
I spent 7 months working at a BPO company in Islamabad. To be honest I was a bit snooty. Me? Work in a run-of-the-mill BPO company that has become a trademark with the South Asians and Filipinos? I was too cool for all of that. I read TechCrunch and Mashable. I worked with cool firms based in Silicon Valley. What can a BPO teach me that I don’t already know or something that I would want to know? How wrong I was! Those 7 months taught me more than the gruelling 4 years I had spent pouring over all those fancy Valley publications and, my love, Quora. You see, doing business in Pakistan has completely different dynamics. There are so many hurdles and power shortage is just one of them. That comes after you have successfully built a team and a company large enough that can’t be run from your basement any more on a backup device you can buy easily for $500. Where do you find the people to work with? Pakistanis are incredibly talented. I mean challenge them to hack the hardest website in the world and they will do it blindfolded. We have TED Fellows, we have entrepreneurs covered by Forbes. We have sportspeople (YES THAT’S A WORD). Scientists. Guinness record holder students. But how do I reach them? Where do they hide?
And then of course, it’s learning about pipelines and funnels. Oh God, how I hate those two words. They were my bane and still are. Truth is, the most brilliant, amazing business plan means nothing if you don’t tweak it to your market. So you may impress a judge in a business competition with your beautifully and most articulately written plan with some sprinkling of facts and figures here and there but implementing that plan is a completely different game all together.
Above all, I realized how important it was to work with a positive energy. Sitting on a garbage dump and getting frustrated over why you can’t smell the roses is just foolish. 🙂
Here is a great quote my friend posted on her Facebook wall:
Some people will kill you over time if you let them; and how they’ll kill you is with tiny, harmless phrases like, “be realistic.” When this happens, close your ears and listen to your inner voice instead. Remember that real success in life isn’t what others see, but how you feel. It’s living your truth and doing what makes you feel alive.
Who doesn’t like buying new gadgets and travelling and getting lipo? This is also what people judge your success by. There was a great TED Talk about what is failure and a more humane idea of success. When I walk into a room full of people, no one rushes towards me to greet me and offer me a chair and requests photographs with me. WDL is not huge. But you know what … it makes me HAPPY. Also, being a social enterprise you don’t measure success by numbers but by smiles. Who can put a number on that? Yes, it hurts at time when you know there are people out there sniggering at you coz of the awards you haven’t won or the goodies you don’t own. But all of that disappears when someone looks at the difference, minute but difference nevertheless, that you are making.
Alec Ross, whom I met a couple of months back and blogged about here, gave a shout out to WDL that has left me honored and humbled.
In his TEDxMidAtlantic talk, “What Alec Ross Learned in 1,298 Days Working for Hilary Clinton” he mentions how despite visiting Pakistan at a terrible time when Malala was shot he found hope in the story of WDL.
Not a very long time ago I remember the annoying 25 yr old telling me WDL was about HOPE. It was about telling people there was a way out if they cared enough to look for it.
I am ending 2012 on a very positive note. Don’t let anyone stop you from dreaming and if you are gonna dream, might as well dream big. Forget about what others think you can or can’t do. It’s just them saying THEY can’t do it but using YOU instead. Don’t be the guy who tries to please everyone and ends up looking like a fool.
When you get invited to a US Embassy event to meet some guy working with the government, your reaction is?
Mine was … *blech
But today I was in GEEK HEAVEN I tell you.
So there is this guy called Alec Ross who is associated with Clinton and ran Obama’s election-winning Twitter campaign. Used to run a NFP. Wants to meet bloggers and ppl active in social media. The Embassy sends some bio that I skim through but all I see is “blah blah blah blah blah”. But I go anyway. I am soon moving to Peshawar (another story for another day … or maybe not) and thought what the heck. I’ll go see the guy. And then I have never been accused of saying NO to free lunch. So that was a good incentive as well.
So I arrive at the Ambassador’s house. Am greeted by the Ambassador … had no idea who he was until much later during the conversation. Am introduced to this young-ish guy. We shake hands and he says, “Hi, I am Alec”. Me, being me, said, “Hi Alex, I am Maria”. KILL ME!
Small gathering – made me feel very fancy shmancy and important. Then Mr. Alec decided to come and sit with me and start asking about what I do. I give my very rehearsed pitch about WDL. And the usual “oh wow, how great, wonderful, excellent, fabulous” followed. Americans do that a lot, no? I have picked up on it too. “Mr XYZ, what do you do?” “I do blah blah blah”. Me: “Oh how wonderful!”
I was saying …
Yeah, I mentioned how I found most clients through LinkedIn. And he takes out his BB and says you know what – Reid Hoffman is my friend and he will be very happy to hear about this so I am gonna email him right now”.
I find it hard to type any more. My heart stopped for a minute and all I could do was give him one of my goofy grins coz I didn’t trust myself to speak. I knew I was gonna start screaming. And he asked, “You know who Reid Hoffman is?”
Gun – trigger – face – BANG
I don’t know who Hilary Clinton is but I sure know Reid Hoffman.
Just thinking he has my name in his inbox in an email which he will prolly lay his eyes on in the next … say … 3 hours (he is on US PT) does funny things to my heart. SHIT!
I can’t talk any more. But just so you know – I wasn’t a complete idiot. I remembered to ask about PayPal. Dudettes, back me up on that one.
The land where unicorns graze in rainbow colored fields exists …
and that’s where I am gonna be for a while.