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Challenging stereotypes: From JAVA developer to tech leader

Mubashsharaha Khan's journey from the bustling city of Pune in India to a position of influence in the Norwegian tech industry is a story of personal triumph.

Mubashsharaha Khan / April 05, 2023

In parallel, her story is a beacon of transformation in a world where gender disparity in tech still looms large.

– The journey wasn't easy, but it was worth every challenge, reflects Mubashsharaha Khan, emphasizing the resilience that fuelled her path.

Why IT and tech, Mubashsharaha?

– I am passionate about technology and problem solving. Digitalization is always expanding and growing, it's like an ocean of opportunities to learn. Technology goes beyond and above, there is so much to explore, explains Khan.

As the Lead Delivery Manager at Tietoevry Banking since 2022, and an integral part of the organization since 2006, Khan has been instrumental in driving change both within and beyond the company. Her journey began modestly: a young girl traveling five kilometres to the nearest cybercafe, driven by an unquenchable thirst for knowledge.

– Back then, women rarely pursued higher education; most of my cousins married after their bachelor's. The internet and smartphones weren't readily accessible, and information on female-centric NGOs and scholarships was scarce, reminisces Khan.

– My grandfather, who was a freelancer for local newspapers, tipped me about a scholarship. It changed everything.

Her determination and the scholarship she received from Lila Poonawalla Foundation, LPF, paved the way for her master's degree in tech and computers, marking the beginning of an exceptional career.

Empowering women in the workplace

Khan's journey is not just about overcoming societal norms and challenges; it's also about how she leveraged her position and experience to create a more inclusive and supportive work environment for women in the tech industry in India.

– I realized early on that if I wanted change, I'd have to be a part of making it happen, states Khan firmly.

Her efforts, ranging from advocating for better maternity policies and workplace equality to founding the iLead group with a few of her colleagues at Tietoevry, have not only paved the way for other women in her community but also challenged and changed the narrative around women in technology.

– It’s about creating spaces where women can thrive without barriers, emphasizes Khan.

– I started out as a JAVA developer at a Japanese company in Pune during the 2000 IT boom. Many Indian men thought women couldn’t grasp technology. But when I began working as an engineer, I earned their respect, Khan recalls.

Recognizing the unique challenges faced by her Indian female colleagues, she initiated a series of impactful changes. Khan championed policy reforms to extend maternity leave from three to six months, well ahead of government mandates, and introduced sanitary napkin availability and nursing rooms in the office – a significant step in a culture where such discussions were often taboo. She also advocated for daycare facilities, recognizing the struggles of working mothers.

– I remember the struggle of nursing my first child with only three months of maternity leave. Hiring managers often preferred not to hire women because they would get married and have children. It was imperative for me to change that for others.

Stepping out of the comfort zone

For many Indian women, the idea of independent travel, unaccompanied by a father, brother, or husband, was almost unthinkable. This social norm was rooted in traditional and religious beliefs about the perceived vulnerabilities of women, often intertwined with concerns about safety and societal reputation. Khan, in her daring move to travel alone for her professional commitments, challenged the status quo.

– Stepping out of my comfort zone and navigating new environments independently was eye-opening. It taught me the value of self-reliance and gave me a new perspective on what I could achieve, she says.

Coming from a multicultural and diverse country like India, Khan has also experienced the rich tapestry of cultural celebrations across borders.

– Particularly on occasions like Easter, and Holi — an Indian festival of colour — I've observed a growing interest for Holi in Norway. Due to the influx of Indian expats and the curiosity of Norwegians to learn about and explore new cultures, Khan observes.

Reflecting on her upbringing in a cosmopolitan area and her education in a Christian school, she recalls.

– Friday before Easter Sunday was our holiday, where we engaged in activities like decorating Easter eggs at school. Easter Sunday itself was dedicated to attending mass at church, followed by a day of food and festivities with the family.

Her experiences in Norway, however, shed light on a different perspective:

– Here, I've come to realize that Easter might even surpass Christmas in its significance. Easter holidays are much longer, and while families do come together, there's a pronounced emphasis on outdoor activities.

Khan then shifts focus to Holi, the festival of colours, a celebration marked by an abundance of food, sweets, and the joyous throwing of coloured powders amongst family, neighbours, and friends.

– Holi is celebrated with slight regional variations across India, but the essence of joy and colour remains constant across the country.

– Having the chance to immerse myself in the cultures of both India and Norway has been a privilege. While Indian festivities often centre around gastronomic delights, I've observed that Norwegians place a greater emphasis on outdoor activities like hiking and skiing during their celebrations, shares Khan.

A partnership of empowerment

Central to her journey was the support of her family, especially her husband. In a cultural context where women often grapple with balancing professional aspirations and familial expectations, her husband's encouragement was pivotal. His decision to take a break from his medical practice to move to Norway, and his understanding of the significance of her career opportunities, exemplify a progressive and supportive partnership.

– His belief in me and willingness to share responsibilities at home made it possible for me to chase my dreams. He understood the importance of my career and stood by me, says Khan.

Her husband's support extended beyond mere encouragement; it involved active participation in domestic responsibilities and child-rearing, challenging traditional gender roles. The backing from her family not only empowered Khan to pursue her ambitions fearlessly but also set a positive example for their children and the community. This blend of professional tenacity and personal support has been crucial in Khan's journey.

– True growth begins when you step out of your comfort zone. Women shouldn’t feel low in confidence, nor should we play the ‘female card.’ It's about doing the right thing to achieve equality, advises Khan, reflecting on her experiences.

Mubashsharaha Khan
Lead Delivery Manager, Tietoevry Banking


Mubashsharaha Khan

Lead Delivery Manager, Tietoevry Banking

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