Women-Only: Out with the Bucket-list, In with the Action Plan

For those unfamiliar with the term, a bucket-list is essentially a list of experiences one wants to gain before ‘kicking the bucket’ or ‘meeting their Maker’. Hollywood is partially responsible for making ‘The Bucket-List” concept widely popular. It has been romanticized endlessly as the ultimate gift one character can give another; they are to help the other main character cross off all of the items, travel to remote destinations and partake in kooky adventures- all this mentioned on the bucket-list before they die.

Ever seen Mandy Moore’s ‘A Walk to Remember’ ?  One of Jamie’s wishes is to be in two places at the same time, so Landon makes it happen:

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It is easy to see the allure in choosing this concept for moviemakers as it makes for a straightforward plot line.  But here, on this blog, we are sticking to the real world.

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I say down with the bucket-list! Enough with adding bullet-points upon bullet-points to soothe the frustrated soul and the impatient mind  into believing that you will, indeed, take a big juicy bite out of Life- Someday.

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As a South Asian woman, especially as a Pakistani woman in today’s world, the lingering narrative is to ‘wait’ – wait until you are married to travel, wait for approval from a large, faceless ominous presence called “log” (a Desi-Urdu term for community) before choosing your major for graduate school, wait until the kids are older before going back to work (or to begin working in the first place!), wait for a better time for your partner before trying out a side hustle – just keep waiting.

If you are reading this, you are practically enrolled in the Catalyst Woman movement. I will let you in on a little secret-  us Catalyst Women, we do not wait for change to happen – we are the ones who make it happen!

Ease off the brakes and gently push down upon the accelerator when it comes to living your best life in 2018.  Replace the winding scroll of travel destinations, quirky hobbies and languages to learn with a point-by-point Action Plan.  Rather than dampen your dreams (and your spirit) by banishing them to a distant, undefined point in the future, try feeding the same list into a task management tool like Asana and start figuring out the logistics for attaining “Experience #1”.

 

Be realistic about what resources you have at hand – so that means taking a long, hard look at whether you have the basic requirements sorted – the savings, the passport,the right credentials- before embarking on “Experience #1”. Worst case scenario? You’ll find out  exactly what needs to be done before you can scale Mt. Kilimanjaro or enroll in vegan cooking classes.  Add that to your ‘to-do’ list and get cracking!

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If your dreams are founded upon undeniable aspirations, they deserve a chance to be actualized. No one will give you express permission to do so – not your boss, not your partner, not your pets- so you will need to be practical, focused and find motivation from within yourself about it all.

What is more logical and practical than an action plan?!

Untapped Talent (Quote)

“It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. As for you, Agnes, you have so far used about one-third of your talent.” – Martha Graham to Agnes De Mille

bits, bytes, blockchain

CW bits,bytes,blockchainBlockchain is today what Big Data/ Cloud Data was back in 2012- part new-kid-on-the-block and part mysterious technological chanteuse. Everybody’s talking about it, everybody wants a piece of it and almost everybody is intrigued by it.

The open ledger-mining method for tracking, trading and creating digital -slash- cryptocurrency called Bitcoin for monetary transactions across the internet – that’s how most of us have been introduced to Blockchain technology.

Not familiar with what  Blockchain is?

“The blockchain is a digital ledger of sorts, where all transactions that have been made, or events that may have occurred, can be seen online, by anyone, without compromising the privacy of the parties involved. These ledgers are shared and distributed amongst different computing nodes, and can only be changed once there is a shared consensus among all nodes. Once information is entered, it cannot be erased, and the distributed nature of these records — along with a built-in layer of cryptographic protections — make them difficult to hack or alter by any one individual.”

A blockchain is a massive, fraud-resistant distributed ledger that could be the new infrastructure of the future. The open ledger uses consensus algorithms to transparently record and verify any transactions without a third party. It replaces the middleman with mathematics. Because the blockchain infrastructure is decentralized, there’s a lot less friction and time wasted than traditional, centralized processes.

CW blockchain everythingNow, more and more, we hear of Blockchain being paired up with varying partners – Education, the Banking sector, Governance  to the Music industry- any discipline where records are kept.

Zeroing in on my particular favourite, what can we expect if Blockchain technology is applied to Education? In particular, what, if any, revolutionizing will take place if the open ledger database system is applied to everyone’s academic records?

Looping back to last year’s hottest story, the Axact – Fake Degree scandal, there are enough people out there with inauthentic academic qualifications, intentional or not, to make a case for verification of academic credentials and to identify products of diploma mills. Then the question is raised whether a public ledger system for educational records will be considered reliable.

Audrey Watters covers this particular conundrum wonderfully in a recent post of hers. Here’s an excerpt:

…When it comes to issues of “trust” and, say, academic certification, who is not trusted here? Is it the problem that folks believe students/employees lie about their credentials? Or is the problem that credential-issuing entities aren’t trustworthy? I mean, why/how would we “trust” the entity issuing blockchained credentials? (What is actually the source of “trust” in our current credentialing system? Spoiler alert: it’s not necessarily accreditation.) How would the trustworthiness of blockchained credential-issuing institutions be measured or verified? If it’s by the number of transactions (eg. badges issued), doesn’t that encourage diploma milling?”

Audrey Watters of  Aud.Life 

According to The New Stack blog, the Holberton School in San Francisco is using blockchain technology in a bid to authenticate degrees it offers. Effectively providing a service to both the graduate as well as the potential employer by being the very first educational institution to offer secured and publicly accessible academic certificates in the world.  Sounds like music to my ears, what with recent experiences in hiring department, though it seems to put the pressure on other institutions to either follow suit or share why they will stick with the status quo.

Sony Global Education announced it’s launch of  block-chain-based technology to share academic records; Sony’s product will be in the market sometime in 2017.

I had been meaning to write about this for a few days now, however, with the global uproar over the Panama Leaks, it seems to be kismet!

The Panama Papers are an unprecedented leak of 11.5m files from the database of the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca….The documents show the myriad ways in which the rich can exploit secretive offshore tax regimes. Twelve national leaders are among 143 politicians, their families and close associates from around the world known to have been using offshore tax havens.

The scandal lines up nicely with the topic at-hand; with such wide-scale corruption, a decentralized, distributed model of public record-keeping applied to the purchase and transfer of assets seems to be a scheme worth trying.

data_transferIs the growing enthusiasm for uber-transparency in all services up for consumption a symptom of the decaying global economies?

Are we abandoning the bogeymans enforced on us in the era of Capitalism and trumped up banking charges to embrace the glaring authenticity of a public record-keeping system for all transactions  – all to avoid a dystopian future where no markets exist except for under totalitarian rule? (Think of any post-apocolyptical society represented in popular Hollywood cinema)

Is this the continuation of the global equality movement underpinned by technology – such as open source softwares or free online college courses?

Or is this forced declaration of one’s records (financial, academic, professional, etc) exploiting technology and millennial zeal for transparency to satisfy the need of habitual whistle-blowers and conspiracy theorists?

Tell me what you think. Leave a comment below. Tweet at @marsonearth or @catalystwoman

 

IMHO:Every Day is Women’s Day

According to social media today is International Women’s Day 2016.

Every day is Women’s Day. **

Every day will remain Women’s Day until being a woman and being a professional is no longer exceptional, rather it’s the rule.

Every day will remain Women’s Day until being a mother and working full-time will be a choice made out of free will rather than financial constraints.

Every day will remain Women’s Day until we run out of ‘First’s to attach to a female executive, legislator, politician, academic, prize-winner, artist, and so on.

Everyday will remain Women’s Day until writing ‘homemaker’ in the box marked occupation is a recognized as a form of skilled labor, with pay and all the other privileges of traditional 9-5 jobs.

Every day will remain Women’s Day until the invisible burden of Emotional Labour is evenly distributed amongst all relationships, women AND men.

**Send in your ideas – complete the phrase ‘ Every day will remain Women’s Day until…’  and tweet @catalystwoman or email talktocatalystwoman at gmail dot com.

 

“Phir ban gaya na, equal -equal” – Fair and Lovely takes a Jab at Fairness in Adulting expectations

You *must* have eye-rolled at this fairness cream ad by now. It depicts a father-daughter duo jogging in a park when the father pitches a potential suitor who has EVERYTHING a young girl could desire ‘a good job, his own house, well-settled’.  Since this is a fairness cream commercial, based in India but also shown in Pakistan, the young woman gains confidence to ward off the potential suitor with her OWN plan to get a ‘good job, her own car, etc’ in three years.

Surprisingly, my issue this time around with the fairness creme advertisement is not that the systematic bleaching of one’s skin makes a woman not only more beautiful, but also endows her with wit and savvy.  (That is a long-standing objection with the prejudicial and superficial approach that such beauty cream adverts take when marketing to multi-complexion communities such as Pakistan. No complexion takes precedence over another.)

She is effectively bargaining with her parents/guardians  for a paltry three years to put into play all that she has learned at university (even Life) before entering into an arranged marriage situation.hqdefault

Can Fair & Lovely ad execs back up the claim that Snow White makes that she can accomplish all the markings of financial and vocational success fresh out of university in 3 years? a car, home, “good job” in THIS  global economy? It is impossible to afford a home independently on just a Bachelor’s degree in Pakistan or India, especially within three years of graduation.

Going with the general dynamics when desi folks go ‘rishta’-ing, it is likely that that the potential groom is at least 5 to 7 years older than our  formerly- dark and distressed damsel. Why does this invisible casanova of her father’s dreams get a minimum 5 year advantage on the whole ‘success’ aspect?

This ad reinforces that the double-standard that is glaringly relevant in Pakistani and Indian communities the world over; if a young woman is to experience her adulthood as singleton, she MUST be achieving the very pinnacle of vocational, educational and social success.  That, too, on a considerably shorter deadline (leash?) than her male counterparts; to be exact, before her  ‘looks’  or ‘charm’ fade into oblivion. 

F&L, if you are listening, this may be the one time I will applaud you for illustrating just how drastically societal expectations for  young men and women vary, especially when it comes to leading one’s life as an Adult.

What do you think? Drop me a tweet @catalystwoman. 

 

 

M.I.A.: Work Culture

First, read this tweet.

When the Wiggle-Room Becomes the Bermuda Triangle 

As social animals, us humans have an inherent sense of how compatible we are with others.  This compatibility does extend beyond the typical domains of romance or familial duties; we have a definite compatibility ratio when it comes to our colleagues at the workplace.

In today’s project-driven offices it is quite common for us to be communicating with coworkers in the next city over or even the next timezone.  Given this reality, despite the numerous advantages of instantaneous connections via the internet (Skype, WhatsApp, Email), colleagues often provide each other some wiggle room when it comes to responding back on tasks that aren’t red-hot, Priority #1.

Working in Pakistan there are times we are dealing with choppy internet, poor bandwidth and plain ol’ power breakdowns; to battle all this, Pakistani professionals make it a priority to build in a cushion of time/space to ensure work gets delivered on-time.  We also invest a hefty sum of money in back-up power and multiple internet service providers;  I would specially give credit to our independent freelancing professionals who maintain this high-level of responsiveness without the buffer of a mega-corp or the mega-corp budget.

Going back to the compatibility aspect, we usually have a good sense of who will not exploit the wiggle room given; until that wiggle room becomes the never-ending Bermuda Triangle. Something inexplicable happens and the perfect syncopation fizzles out into unanswered emails and missed deadlines.

I write this only to trigger a conversation about this phenomenon. What makes us, all of us, lose steam during a project? Is this an indication of poor leadership?  Aside from the obvious communication breakdown, are there expectations from the project associates that aren’t being met?  How to jump-start such failing connections?

Is this a failing of our national work culture?  Can work culture even be generalized to include multiple industries across a beautifully complex and rapidly metamorphosing country like Pakistan?

Note: I am sure I am not the only one who has experienced this phenomenon in the workplace. If you have any stories, please leave a comment or drop a tweet at @catalystwoman

 

Stranded in Career Hell?

Slowly but surely, your career search is starting to resemble the Sahara Desert *- miles upon miles of punishing expanse with no guarantee of relief. Interview calls that never arrive – CVs and resumes that illicit no response – the future looks bleak and lifeless.

The thirst is unbearable, the need to live, truly live and regain control, even for the simple things, paying the bills on time or buying your sweetheart their favorite book, has reached it’s pinnacle.  You reach for a glass of water only to find it empty – the last drop long evaporated in this never-ending summer.

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Any hope of a viable career opportunity has long abandoned you. Panting, dusty, and covered with the stench of failure, you drop to your knees in the burning sand and squint upwards into the Sun.

Should you wave the white flag?  Settle for the ‘job-you-can -get’ versus the ‘career-of-your-dreams’?

Continue reading “Stranded in Career Hell?”

Why Are You Scared of LinkedIn? (Real Life Scenarios)

I recently heard of a young man who is facing a tough time finding a new job, while in a role that was about to end.  Shahzad is currently working at one of the leading hotels in the country in the Marketing department. He holds a North American undergraduate degree in Marketing and about 4.5 years of work experience, to-date.  Here is where the challenge is: Shahzad recently got married and is looking for a position with significantly more responsibilities as he wants to diversify his work experience and a higher salary package. Since moving back Pakistan after completing his studies, Faisal admits he hasn’t networked much professionally.

” I just jumped at the first offer that I received. Seeing that I had only a 3 months internship experience, I was relieved to find my place in an established organisation so early on in my career.”  That’s Shahzad speaking, by the way.

He shares that he has not had much luck while looking for a new position.  I asked what his strategy is.  Shahzad says that he has been spreading the word amongst his friends and family members that he is actively searching for a new job. Also, he says that he religiously scans the classifieds section in Dawn and other major national newspapers every Sunday morning.

“And…?”  I ask.

“That’s about it. I have been at it for months now and frankly, I’m getting worried.  I recently got a call from HR for my exit interview. ” responds Shahzad.

It was clear that Shahzad had skipped a few crucial steps in his job search, so I sent over some recommended sites. Using online job boards and social platforms, including even Facebook and Twitter, are no longer optional for jobseekers. You need to be online.

“I see.  Can you do me a favour? Set up your profile on the following websites.  Begin with LinkedIn and then move on to Rozee.pk. If you are interested in working in the Middle East, I would suggest signing up on Bayt.com as well.”

“LinkedIn? Why LinkedIn? A few of my friends have sent me invites. I just never got the point of it. ”  answers Shahzad.

“Easy. LinkedIn is currently the best social platform to network with professionals from all over globe.  Think of it as your virtual Resume that is open to recruiters and  HR managers actively searching for new employees.”  I respond eagerly.

Why are You Afraid of LinkedIn?

For those who are unfamiliar with LinkedIn, logging on for the very first time CAN be an intimidating experience.  I have found that if you approach such sites with a positive attitude, it is easier to see the benefits of an untraditional job search approach.

Afraid of Linked In

LinkedIn puts you in the driver’s seat of your job search. You are no longer passively waiting for someone to pluck your resume out of the hundreds (even thousands!) received in an HR Manager’s inbox.  You are opening up a window to allow potential employers and recruiters to see your career ambitions and accomplishments in an interactive environment.

Why is Shahzad scared of LinkedIn?

A few days later, I gave Shahzad a call to check on his progress.  “How’s it going?”

” Still not sure about LinkedIn, it is so busy!  There are company pages popping up all the time and then I was asked to list my volunteering experience. How will all of that help me get a job in Marketing?!” inquires a clearly frustrated Shahzad.

” Hold up! Take it one step at a time.  Let’s go over the facts:

Did you know that 92% of Fortune 1000 companies are LinkedIn customers? Your profile needs to be on LinkedIn so the chances of being recruited increases. Not only that, being on LinkedIn gives you a chance to do a targeted search for the type of role you are looking for.

Add on friends and colleagues on LinkedIn – it is a great way to practice your professional networking skills. If someone from your industry writes an insightful blog on Pulse, leave a comment or share on your profile. It is pretty similar to Facebook in that way!

During your job search, you must have come across a company or two that you aren’t too familiar with? LinkedIn’s Company pages provide you the background information and allows you to browse the list current employees. All of this information can you help you determine the culture of an unfamiliar organisation before you apply.

As for volunteering experience, that shows more about your personality and the causes that you believe in.  Talent hunters are looking for the right person to fit the work culture at their organisation – that means they need a complete a 3-dimensional view of who you are!  Ever spend time tutoring at a local orphanage? Or  go door-to-door raising money for a Build-a-School campaign?  Stuff like that counts!.”

“Hmmm. That makes sense.  For  starters, how do I add you on LinkedIn?” asks  Shahzad.

“Scroll over to the Connections tab in the top bar and click on Add Connections.  Choose an email account to sync with and you are good to go! You will see all your contacts who are already on LinkedIn. ” I answer.

Stay tuned for the next instalment, where we will compare and contrast using LinkedIn and Rozee.pk during a job search.

Oh, also  we will get an update from our friend Shahzad!

Good luck to all of you on the Job Hunt!

Ambitiously Yours,

Catalyst Woman

If you have a question for Catalyst Woman, email me here:  talktocatalystwoman@gmail.com .  I will try to answer it on here a.s.a.p.!

Lessons from the Silver Linings Playbook Movie

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If you just lean in a bit, lemme put these headphones on you. Comfy?

I can watch the Silver Linings Playbook a hundred times. I have already watched a couple hundred already. That’s what playing in the background as I type this.

What is the movie about?

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It’s about loyalty. Figuring out that your best people are not of your own choosing — you will be surprised at who shows up when it matters. Surprised and grateful. Don’t forget to show up for them, too.

It’s about accepting yourself as you are. With the internal crazies and the obsessions. With the impractical dreams and the practical rituals.

It’s about focusing on the interior life. Taking those same internal crazies and obsessions, being unafraid to change if it means stability. Being open-minded to alternative views about the world and how to deal.

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It’s about accomplishment. Keeping your head above water and reaching the shore of your own picking. Never giving up half-way. No excuses. Especially not to yourself.

It’s about keeping promises and delivering. Even over-delivering. The reason being that your word matters. As Tiffany screams to Pat to be a ‘Stand-Up Guy’, think if you are being ‘stand-up’ to the commitments you’ve made.

It’s about living your life with a sense of Love and Gratitude. silverNot like you are gonna get out it alive, anyway.

Go on, go find your Silver Lining. I’ll be right here if you need me.