Mother, architect, fashion store affiliate and restaurant partner, the fashionably multi-talented Mrs. Azrin Alom speaks to The Prestige Magazine. Mother of two, Mrs. Alom does not let the often harsh realities of life stop her from being the best she can be. We talk to Mrs. Alom as she shares her journey of motherhood, managing a professional life and overcoming the challenges many like herself face on a regular basis.
1. Let’s begin with introducing yourself.
I’m Azrin Alom; By profession I’m an architect and I’m passionate about the fashion store, Sciccoso. It is basically Bangladeshi based, but is also internationally recognised. I am also a partner of the restaurant, O’Play, and in sha Allah within the next two weeks, I’m going to venture on a home-solution store, which will have interior solution as well.
2. How do you balance work, a family, and yourself? Did you ever experience “mommy guilt”? How do you suggest other women to deal with it?
Well, honestly, if I were alone, I wouldn’t have been able to do it properly. I live in a joint family, which is a blessing I must say. Because of that, my kids are most of the time taken care of by my mother-in-law or mom when I’m busy at work. Since I work as a freelancing architect, what happens is that I don’t always have work to do. So, when I’m focusing on architectural projects, I less prioritise my fashion store, but when I have to launch new wardrobes for every new season, I try to keep my architecture-related work done from beforehand. This is so that I don’t get distracted by one when the other needs my undivided attention.
Balancing is not an easy task, especially for new moms who are much more conscious about their kids’ needs. However, when the kids will grow up in a few years, they’ll have their own lives, and moms get more time to work on their craft. What I do is that when I must give time to my kids, I try to be there 100%, so that when I’m busy with work, I know that it’s time to be professional, focus on my career that is not only for myself but them too, and not feel THAT guilty – even though the feeling is still always there. I don’t see career-oriented women as selfish as we are doing it for our respective families.
3. How do you stay productive and focused while managing so many responsibilities?
I always try to maintain a diary because once I have things noted down, I feel like 50% of my workload has been reduced as then I’m sure by when I’ll be done with which work or chore.
I divide my day into slots which are allocated to what I want to give time and attention to, be it my architectural work, fashion store, restaurant partners, or my family. If I’m in Dhaka with my kids, most of the time I’ll get calls from here and there regarding this and that, for which I can’t properly give time to them. So, I try to go on trips with my kids after at least every 3-4 months, when I’ll just spend time with them, and nobody can disturb us.
4. How important is family support behind a working mom?
Family support is the most important to me. If they weren’t so encouraging, even before I had my kids, I wouldn’t have been this motivated to work. It was my dad who pushed me to be serious about architecture.
After I completed studying architecture, I got married and got passionate about opening a fashion store and creating my own fashion brand. And I got so invested in that dream that I slowly started to be less involved in the architectural world. That’s when my dad told me that since I’ve spent my whole life preparing to be an architect, and I’m also good at it, I shouldn’t give up on it.
But what happened is that I lost confidence in myself as I wasn’t working on architectural projects for a while. But thank God, my dad gave me my dream job which was to work on his corporate office. That was my first project, and alhamdulillah, it was so good that it boosted my confidence.
That’s when I realised that I won’t leave this side of me behind. It may be hard to balance everything, but why should I give up on something that I’m good at?
5. What are the things that help you stay organized throughout the day and get time for everyone and everything? Tell us your time management secrets!
As I already told you, I’m a bit old-school and I maintain a diary that I carry everywhere. Yes, my phone has notes, reminders, and all sorts of apps. But still, I prefer writing in my diary. I write down everything date-wise that when I’ll be doing what, and I love crossing them out once I’m done, haha.
6. Does being a mom help you be more professional at what you do? Has your career changed in any way?
I would say it does as I feel that my career got a direction when I first got pregnant. And when I got pregnant for the second time, alhamdulillah, I was the busiest in my entire life. At the end of my second pregnancy, it was found that I had bacterial meningitis which lead me to be in a coma. I was on life-support for 4 days, and at the time I was involved in 4 different ongoing projects.
When I was in the ICU, the first thing I thought about after opening my eyes were about my projects getting delayed. All my projects were in Bangladesh and I had gone to Dubai for 2 days when I suddenly fell so seriously ill.
It was a miracle that I was safe, my baby was safe, and alhamdulillah we both survived it with no side-effects. But, after that I was so depressed, probably because of pregnancy’s hormonal imbalance and strong antibiotics I had to take to fight off bacterial meningitis. I used to cry every day, and that is when my mom told me that I’m a strong person, that I have so much to do and look forward to, that I have so many unfinished projects left back in Dhaka. After that, I called the office and cussed them – that actually made me feel better, haha.
Since then I’m very career driven, I feel good about myself when I work, and I don’t like staying at home for too long.
7. There’s an opinion that businesspeople shouldn’t talk about their private life on social media, blogs, etc. What’s your opinion on this?
Honestly, I think it varies from person to person. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or something else, my kids always get ill right after I post their photos on social media.
I’m very active on social media for a very long time, I post about everything that is going on in my life, and I used to be into photography as well. So, at first, when there weren’t any apps such as Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat, I used to capture everything in life and kept the photos in various albums. People used to see and love them a lot, which encouraged me to do it even more.
When I joined Instagram in 2012, I started uploading photos there, and eventually posted on Snapchat too. It has become a habit. Before, we used to take photos to hold on to memories, but now we are creating memories to get the perfect photo – which I don’t think is right.
I travel a lot; I like exploring new places and learning about new cultures. My work is inspired by various things that I’ve seen around the world. I like to take photos of what I see and share it with the world via social media. But I’ve seen/travelled with people who are not enjoying the trip at all but are posting photos with captions saying that they’re having such a wonderful time, haha.
I don’t think it should be like that; we don’t live for Instagram; Instagram is to showcase our lives. My lifestyle should reflect my individuality.
8. Tell us a funny child-work balancing story.
It’s been 1.5 years that I got a new laptop, but I still haven’t used it because I don’t get the time to set it up and whenever I do sit with the laptop, one of my kids would be on my keyboard and the other would run away with the mouse to open it and put the batteries in his/her mouth. This happens on a daily basis!
And so, when they finally go to sleep, I can get to work at around 1 am, and finish by 7 am and go to bed. I wake up a little late in the morning, when the kids are with their grandmother, and I believe that is my biggest support. If I weren’t living with them, nothing would have been possible. I don’t know what I would have done without them, to be very honest.
9. What are the 3 recommendations that you’d like to give to the moms who dream about being entrepreneurs but just can’t get started?
1. I’ve seen a lot of people who think that they don’t have to focus on their studies as they want to become an entrepreneur. Back in the day, when I was studying in BUET, we used to first attain a good education, graduate, and then focus on getting a job. And now, a lot of people have started working from a very young age, which is really good; they are independent and don’t have to ask their parents for pocket money now and then – which is great. But that doesn’t mean the importance of education has gotten any lesser over the years.
Once I graduated with an architectural degree, I was an architect as well as was focusing on other work, such as Sciccoso. From its logo to everything else, I designed them all myself to make it one of the finest brands in Bangladesh. And why is that? It’s because designing is ingrained in me since I attained knowledge on architecture. As I studied it, I know what composition is, how to frame, etc. which helped me a lot and still do.
There is always a risk factor when one becomes an entrepreneur, but if his/her educational background is strong, if the business fails, he/she will not break down and will easily find another way to survive.
2. Just because a lot of people are doing something which is getting them profits, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should do it as well or that you’ll be just as successful as them. Whatever others are doing aren’t sustainable, and it won’t last for long. If you want to do something, do what may last forever.
If you copy someone else, yes maybe you’ll have a good source of income for a while. But if you work on your craft that reflects your personality, it’ll stand out, it’ll become your identity, and more people will be drawn to it.
3. From your pregnancy to when your kid grows up a little, it’s a tough journey. I’d say that career-oriented ladies have it a lot easier than career-oriented mothers, who in turn have it easier than home-makers who are constantly worried about their child’s need and wants and may become depressed thinking that becoming a mother is the end of their careers.
So, what I’d like to say is that when your child first arrives in this world, that time should be dedicated to him/her. You should happily give this time to your baby so that you can raise him/her in a manner that can help you focus on your work in the future.