With a determined ambition and a smile on her face, Saiyyidah Zaidi represents a new age of women who believe that balancing career, family and faith is totally achievable. Around this concept, she started a blog.
In 2010, Saiyyidah Zaidi was living in London, working as a program director for the government earning about £100,000 (~$170,000) a year. At the time, she was responsible for a budget of £500 million and over 50 staffers.
“Senior jobs like that don’t come easy, and I spent my whole life with that ambition to be a Muslimah, hijab-wearing chief executive of a local authority in the UK,” she says. “I got within an inch of it and realized I didn’t want it anymore.”
Increasingly frustrated by the decisions being made around her, dismayed by the 12-hour days that kept her away from her two children, and spurred by budget cuts that “would affect the lives of millions of people,” the now 42-year-old decided to pursue a different path.”I thought, ‘there is no other option,’” she says. “I knew I had to leave. I didn’t care what I was going to do, I just knew I had to get out of there. For me, my well-being and happiness is the most important thing.”
Zaidi and her husband, a teacher at an independent school, had made a habit out of living off one salary. When Zaidi, the primary earner in the family, decided to leave her job, the family income went from six figures to $25,000 overnight, she says. They had about six to nine months worth of living expenses saved, and Zaidi took half a year to reflect on what she’d do next.
“I had this informal arrangement where I’d coach up-and-coming managers if they would coach people on my team, and I realized that’s a skill set that I have, and that there was something I could do with it,” she says. She started learning more about her options and taking professional development classes, even traveling to Toronto in 2010 for a course on setting up an online business.
At first, Zaidi started one-on-one coaching individuals who wanted to change paths in their careers, and set up a blog on the side. “As I started to blog, and as my knowledge of the online business thing grew, I realized the easiest ways to make the difference I wanted to make and be home for my family was to put my business online,” she says.
“My first project was to create a practical dialogue between employers and the Muslim workforce,” she says. “Unfortunately there’s extremes on both sides, and I wanted to create something that was effective. People started to come to me for the last few years, but working with them one-on-one, there’s only so much I could do.” She set up her first online business, a site to help people leave their jobs to start their own businesses, in January 2011.
In April 2015, Zaidi’s mother told her of a friend who was offered an incredible job, but felt unable to take it because she couldn’t afford childcare. “I was so angry, because she is so talented and could crush it in that job,” Zaidi says. “I thought, that’s enough.’”
This inspired her to start her website- Millionaire Muslimah where she could empower other Muslim entrepreneurs and businesses by providing access to executive coaching, leadership training and strategic advice, as well as enabling non-Muslim employers to develop and understand their Muslim workforce better.
“No matter how much progress you’ve made in your career, your life, if you’re not enjoying it, don’t do it,” she advises. “We only live this life once, and I don’t want to wake up when I’m old with any regrets. I would never ever have imagined doing what I’m doing now, and the opportunities I’m able to offer to my kids are significantly more.”
Her aim in life is to provide fearless financial freedom to others so that they can be rich, happy and whole following in the footsteps of Khadija radiallahu anha.