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Hina Akhtar, Royal Danish Embassy of Pakistan

Hina Akhtar is a Communication and PR professional with more than 10 years of experience in Strategic Communications, PR, Media, Social Development and Corporate Social Responsibility Programs (CSR). Currently, Hina is working as a communication consultant for the MoFA, Government of Denmark in Pakistan.

‘Breaking the blocks’ is always about perception management. If you look at things as an obstacle feeling that this has in any way ‘blocked’ your path or is not fulfilling your immediate goals- look beyond and see what kind of opportunities you can take out of the situation and let those teach you and let you grow  – only then will you be able to move forward successfully.

What are some of the biggest roadblocks you’ve hit in your professional life?

I always try to see things in a positive way but of course there are moments where you wonder if you are headed the right direction or if you will achieve what you have aimed for. However, one should not lose focus or hope. When I decided to leave a good and comfortable job with an international organization to enter into the Pakistani media, I was strongly discouraged by friends, family and peers. I was told that it would be one of the worst career choices as a working mother.

However, at that time I chose to go for it, because I believed that the Pakistani media is one of the most important stakeholders for a communication professional – and I wanted to learn about how media works and thinks. It indeed turned out to be one of the most demanding jobs I have ever had, as the working environment in media is completely different from other organizations – with no fixed timings of work and very tight deadlines. It was a 24/7 job.

Also the Pakistani media was not completely mature or open to the idea of balancing socio-political content, so it was also difficult to get people within my own organization to understand the concept and implement it accordingly.

I spent a lot of time discussing why there was a need to develop new indicators for media content – a debate that ended up in deadlocks on numerous occasions, as it is not an easy task to convince hardcore news managers to revamp their strategy or policies. On several occasions I would reflect on my choice and feel very frustrated, but I chose not to be de-motivated and instead focus on the long-term goal I had set.

I chose to see it as an opportunity for me to learn and to contribute to a new role for media in Pakistan, and today I am glad that my initiatives left its mark with the media industry.

In return I also got the opportunity to develop good relations with journalists from across the media industry – relations which today are a strong reason behind my success in media management for various organizations.  Additionally, my understanding of media allows me to design and develop media development programs that cater the actual needs of the media in Pakistan.

‘Breaking the blocks’ is always about perception management. If you look at things as an obstacle feeling that this has in any ‘blocked’ your path or is not fulfilling your immediate goals- look beyond and see what kind of opportunities you can take out of the situation and let those teach you and let you grow  – only then will you be able to move forward successfully.

What led you to a leading position at Royal Danish Embassy of Pakistan?

Since I am born in Denmark and lived there for more than 20 years, I have in-depth knowledge about the Danish society, language and people, just like I have of Pakistan. People like me are great ambassadors for both these countries; however it was due to my work experience within the Pakistani media and development sector that led me to this opportunity. Being a Danish citizen was of course an added value.

How do you define happiness and success as you now see it?

In my early days I used to think success would bring happiness. However today, I feel it is important to know the difference between happiness and success. To me happiness is not work related. My happiness is driven by the well being of my family and friends and the special moments I have with them, especially with my children. Success on the other hand is recognition of the work that you are doing. You don’t have to be on a top position in order to be successful. Any professional who works sincerely, has gained credibility and trust from his/her peers and inspires other people is in my opinion a successful professional.

Have you found a balance between your life and work?

Today I feel I have that balance. Once you have reached the level, where you know exactly what you want and how to do it, things become more manageable. However, it wasn’t always so. In the years, where I worked hard to build up my career, I had to give a lot of time to work and also had to travel a lot.

At times, I felt I wasn’t able to give my family the time and attention they deserved. If I hadn’t had a great support system through my family and friends, things would have been far more difficult. Just like other working mothers, I too used to feel the ‘guilt’, but then I would think of my own parents, who were both working parents.

They were able to give my siblings and me a great childhood through quality time, and although they both worked, we always felt their support and love. I have tried my level best to do the same with my children.  As my children are now growing into their teens, they too understand the importance of my work and how much I enjoy doing it. Younger children will always have more difficulty in understand this. So things also get easier as your children grow up.

What would you say are your strengths and your weaknesses?

I would always leave this analysis to my colleagues and family as they would be the best judge. However, if I do have to view it from my point, I would say that my biggest strength is that I work very focused and believe strongly in ethics and transparency. As for my weakness, I think I do tend to be impatient at times. I need things to get done as quickly as possible, as I myself have developed the ability to deliver work very quickly. I then expect everyone else to do the same, which isn’t always fair.

Your advice to talented women in Pakistan

I don’t think I can say anything new. Women are coming forward and taking up top positions on the job market, and they are an inspiration to other aspiring young girls. The only thing I would say – drawn from my own experience – is that know what kind of expert you want to be 10 years from now and start building your career accordingly.

Be focused. Also, talent will always be noticed, so if you are good at what you do, believe that you can come a long way in your career. Very few women take interest in self-financed training programs, but if you have the resources, build your CV with additional thematic training hat will serve as an added value to your area of expertise. Enhance your communication skills. Today’s competition depends on how good you are in ‘selling your strengths’.

Lastly, if you are facing hardships at work in terms of balancing work and family, do not feel bad. You can work this out with the support of good colleagues and family.

Select a time in your career or life when you chose to “lean in” or “lean back.”

I have always been a ‘lean in’ kind of person and haven’t really leaned back so far

About Hina Akhtar

Hina Akhtar is a Communication and PR professional with more than 10 years of experience in Strategic Communications, PR, Media, Social Development and Corporate Social Responsibility Programs (CSR). Currently, Hina is working as a communication consultant for the MoFA, Government of Denmark in Pakistan, promoting bilateral ties between Denmark and Pakistan. Her role also entails advising on development programs related to Democracy, Human Rights, Gender and Media Development for the Danish development program for Pakistan. Within one year, Hina has managed to position her communication strategy as a benchmark of best practices, which has been adopted as a global strategy by the Danish MOFA in Copenhagen. In addition to her advisory role at the Danish Embassy, Hina is also member of various Communication taskforces of leading international development organizations, incl The World Bank and the EU.

Hina also made her mark by being one of the leading people, who initiated the concept of integrating social responsibility into the Pakistani media. In her role as the Sr. Manager of Strategic Communications of one of the leading media groups in Pakistan (SAMAA TV), she developed and led Pakistan’s first Media CSR outreach program, which aimed at developing content and initiatives to educate and empower communities and promote a responsible national media. Her initiatives made SAMAA TV the first media channel in the Asian region to carry out CSR and thus created a new role for media in Pakistan as watchdogs on development issues, which many channels have now adopted as a marketing strategy.

Several of Hina’s PR campaigns have been recognized on national and global platforms. She is the winner of the Asian CSR Excellence Award 2009 by INTEL, the National CSR Award and a Bronze Medalist of US Bulldog Reporter Award.

Prior to this, Hina was working with BHP Petroleum Pakistan, where she was part of their communication and external affairs program. She has also been actively engaged in the USAID Pakistan program on competitiveness and economic growth and worked with the World Economic Forum for Pakistan. Her aim is to be part of responsible, transparent and committed organizations, who through content development and collaborations seek to make a difference for wide range of communities.

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