The picture painted by the word empowerment is that of confidence and self autonomy. Female empowerment has long been in conversation, and it is the females themselves that become light bearers to others. One such light bearer is Ashfia Rahman currently working at Facebook in the United States of America.
1. Let’s begin with introducing yourself. (Your childhood, hobbies, academic background, personality)
I grew up in Dhaka with my parents and two younger brothers and lived in the same house with my grandmother and cousins. Some of my favorite childhood memories are of all the mischief I’d get into with my cousins. I left Bangladesh to attend Brown University in the US and went on to build a home in New York with my husband and 2 kids. I love traveling, learning about other cultures and their history, meeting new people and baking with my 3 year old daughter, Ayanna. I am drawn to the unknown and untested which has led to a fulfilling career as a researcher.
2. Tell us about your Career Journey and how did you reach where you are today?
I have had an unconventional career journey. I started off as a media researcher in Omnicom, then completed my Masters in Economics from NYU, worked at a hedge-fund, as a consultant in KPMG and then I decided to transition into the non-profit world, leading consumer research at Teach for America and charity:water. I entered the tech world in 2016 with my job at Quantcast. I am now a researcher at Facebook leading our efforts in understanding how people shop online so we can help shoppers discover and connect to the brands and products they love.
3. Why Facebook? Did you always vision yourself to be working in Facebook?
I always wanted to work at companies like Facebook that are changing the way we use technology and building innovative products that connect people, supports community building and helps small businesses sell products without a physical store. Over 160 million businesses use Facebook’s platforms every month to connect with customers and this has been critical to their survival during the global pandemic. For me personally it was important to find a company that adds value to society and where I could do the type of research I enjoyed.
4. What is the one thing that you enjoy most about working in Facebook?
I work with very smart people who are doing innovative, cutting edge research and I learn a lot from them. It’s a place where I see myself growing and flourishing professionally. And of course, not to mention the lunch chefs at Facebook serve Michelin quality food!
5. What would an alternate career look like for Ashfia?
I am very interested in behavioral psychology and fascinated by the works of Daniel Kahneman, Richard Thaler and Dan Ariely. I would have pursued a PHD in Behavioral Science and Economics and spent my time doing research on how people make decisions.
6. Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years? What are your future career plans?
Hopefully leading a small team working to promote the livelihoods of small business owners.
7. What are your thoughts on Women Empowerment?
Education is empowerment. Freedom of choice is empowerment. Equal opportunity is empowerment. There is still a lot of work to be done in all those areas.
8. How do you plan on helping other woman and in what ways?
I am currently looking for nonprofit board opportunities whose work supports marginalized women. Although I’ve worked as a mentor to unemployed/underemployed women and continue to mentor younger work associates on my free time, I want to find an opportunity where I can use my professional skills to influence strategy and programs.
9. Any particular future plans to implement in Bangladesh?
It’s my dream to go back and start a social entrepreneurship in Bangladesh. I would love to start a venture to train women for leadership positions in the corporate sector. But I have no definite plans yet, still have two little ones at home so can’t commit to starting a business, which would be like having a third child!
10. Name 3 people you look up to?
It’s hard to pick 3 people so I will tell you about the type of women I look up to!
i. I look up to my Dadi and my husband’s Nani, women of silent strength who persevered through life’s hardship with such dignity and grace they made it look easy.
ii. I look up to women like Michelle Obama and Rutha Bader Ginsburg, who have dedicated their life to empowering girls and uplifting other women.
iii. And I look up to girls like Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg who refuse to accept the dismal future handed to them and are speaking up against injustice for the hopes of a better future.
11. What advice would you give to young woman?
Never become too comfortable in your career. It means you are not challenged enough and capable of accomplishing a lot more than you think. And never be silent in the face of injustice, if you feel like you are being treated unfairly or being discriminated against then speak up! Your stories need to be heard to improve the lives of women who will come after you.