February 9, 2019

Pakistani software programmer receives prestigious international award

Ms. Zafar with her Husnain and one-year-old son Rayyan

Mobina Zafar, a Pakistani software programmer working in irrigation systems in her home country, has been named the Young Female Professional of the Year at Surbana Jurong, the international urban planning consultancy based in Singapore. Ms. Zafar is a senior programmer at SMEC Holdings, an infrastructure consultancy that SJ acquired in 2016.

“Mobina played a key role in pioneering the development of a Project Management and Monitoring Information System for our water resources projects here in Pakistan”, Ahsam Arshad, SMEC Director Pakistan, said in a statement. “These systems are key to monitoring progress and risk on very significant infrastructure and energy projects.”

For her part, Ms. Zafar says she is ‘humbled and honored’ to have been named Young Female Professional of the Year. “We are a global group of companies with thousands of experts – to have my efforts be acknowledged is a really great feeling.”

Ms. Zafar lives in Lahore, Pakistan with her husband Husnain and one-year-old son Rayyan. She grew up in a family that values learning, with both parents working in Pakistan’s education sector. “My mother has worked as a secondary school principal and education development officer. She’s a real source of inspiration and, along with my father, has been a role model for me throughout my life,” Ms. Zafar says.

One might imagine that, sitting behind a computer working with digits and software, Ms. Zafar is removed from the project coalface. In reality, she says that one of the most rewarding aspects of her role is seeing the direct link between her work and the community.

“Pakistan is an agriculturist country, so irrigation systems are really the backbone of our economy. Our project management team used the Project Management Information System to effectively monitor progress and manage project deadlines and resources on a significant water infrastructure project for the Government of Punjab. The project supports irrigated agriculture which accounts for 28 percent of Punjab’s gross domestic product (GDP) and is making a difference to over 275,000 rural households in the area who derive their livelihood from crops,” Ms. Zafar says.

The Project Management Information System has now been implemented on several major projects in Pakistan and has been recommended for implementation across the South Asia and Middle East region.

Ms. Zafar being presented with the Young Female Professional of the Year award by Dr Uma Maheswaran, SMEC Chief Operating Officer South Asia Middle East, in Brisbane, Australia

“I’m really excited to see my work being leveraged across the world and am looking forward to implementing more innovative ideas in 2019,” Ms. Zafar says.

Reflecting on her career success, Ms. Zafar names several factors that have been fundamental to successfully managing her roles as wife, mother and senior software programmer.

“My son is my real motivation and aspiration at work. Every day when I come home and he receives me at the door with his smile and sparkling eyes, it’s like I’ve regained all my energy,” Ms. Zafar says.

Training to be a female programmer in a traditionally male-dominated industry has not been without its challenges.

“There are certain perceived barriers for females in STEM fields, mostly based on stereotypes and cultural ethos, and I was not an exception. I accepted and overcame these challenges with the encouragement and support of my parents, husband, friends and colleagues at SMEC. It is true there are barriers, but I feel the way to break them down is to demonstrate our true potential and quality contribution to our fields,” Ms. Zafar says. “I want to encourage young women to identify their potential and add their valuable contribution to the industries that are shaping our world.”

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