Let’s take you through a conversation we had with Nadine regarding her career, goals, and so much more that goes on a woman’s career life.
Hi Nadine, tell us about yourself.
I graduated from Bryn Mawr College, USA and started my career as a banker with Citibank Pakistan. After 4 years at Citi, I decided to pursue my MBA at INSEAD, France and then worked for 2 years as a Management Consultant for Bain and Company in Singapore and Dubai.
After I got married, I moved back to Pakistan and started working with Engro Foods. I joined Rocket Internet in August 2014 to establish operations for Jovago.com, Pakistan’s first online hotel booking platform. Another important thing about myself: I’m a full time working mother! My son is 2 years old, but it’s more of an adjustment for me than him!
How did you step into this idea of Jovago?
When I moved back to Pakistan, I was really interested in working in the e-commerce space as it was a relatively new industry here and with lots of room for innovation and growth. Rocket Internet was interested in setting up an online hotel booking platform in Pakistan and approached me to launch this in Pakistan.
It was an incredibly exciting opportunity as I believe that Pakistan has a lot of potential for tourism, and by launching a service like Jovago, we would be addressing some of the issues travelers face in Pakistan. We have now signed more than 2000 hotels in more than 150 cities of Pakistan and we are constantly trying to further increase our inventory. Being a fond traveler, I wish to see people travel here more because Pakistan has so much to offer!
How different is running the show as compared to working for companies/people?
I believe that running a team involves a lot more accountability and ownership. You are accountable for every part of the business- from hiring the right people for your organization, retaining and managing your invaluable human resources, delivering on your brand promise and adding value to your organization every single moment.
It also comes with a lot of ownership and independence which makes it a dynamic and tough at times, but also really fun. This, for me, is the key motivation to get out of the bed every morning and go to work and strive to make some positive change every single day! It’s a lot more fulfilling.
That does sound fun!
The majority of educated women face various challenges and barriers when seeking employment. Did you face any?
Women face multiple issues entering the work force- from learning how to succeed in a male dominated environment, managing a family along with a household and establishing a clear career path.
I believe that companies are moving in the right direction in terms of encouraging women in the workforce, but there is still a long way to go and policies need to be more adaptable for women such as flexible working hours, maternity leave etc.
Unfortunately, our society is not making it any easier or paving an easier path for women to work.
However, what is most important is that the mindset at home changes first. Unfortunately, our society is not making it any easier or paving an easier path for women to work- for a woman to have a career, she needs to have a supportive structure at home, whether it’s parents placing the same value of education on their daughters, or husband being equal partners in the household and in the children’s upbringing.
Ahan. This makes us curious; what is your take on the whole working woman taboo and the hurdles that come with it?
Once we teach our sons that women are equal that’s where we will start seeing the change coming in the mindset of people and we will see more women not only coming into the labor force but not dropping out a few years later.
I see a lot of women choosing not to work because there is so much pressure mounting on them from various angles.
To bring any change in this regard, the effort should be two-fold. First, we should encourage women to come into the workplace. Companies should design women-friendly workplace so that they can sustain their careers alongside managing their family commitments.
Further, we need to address the pay gap between women and men. Women need to be rewarded according to their hard work – studies show that females are underpaid in comparison to their male colleagues.
Secondly, the change has to be societal. Often, if women do not have the right support at home, having a career path becomes incredibly challenging.
Wow. That is indeed something that SHOULD be done. Can you describe examples of how you have witnessed the gender issue in the workplace?
It’s everywhere! In school, college, at work! In fact, you kind of go into a job, assuming that you will face gender bias so nothing surprises you. After ten years of working, nothing surprises me! As a woman, you can use it to your advantage as well.
People are softer and kinder to you. Instead of making yourself a victim, ask yourself how can I make myself more efficient.
Once when I was negotiating my salary, I was told that you don’t need a raise because your husband works! This is a common mentality of our society. A woman’s effort should be seen independently and should be compensated appropriately.
Unfortunately, it is generally observed that when it comes to salary negotiations, people don’t take you seriously because they assume you are not the primary breadwinner.
What would be your advice on this issue?
My personal take is: First remove yourself from emotional situation and think rationally about it. Correct mentorship can play a very important role here. Align yourself with a mentor who can advise you through such rough patches.
Mentors are generally very accomplished and experienced in their position and can help you to adopt approaches and practices that may help you to rationally deal with such situations whenever arises within an organization,
Tell me about your workforce composition? What gender initiatives have you started or plan to start to support women in the workplace?
Initially, there was a lot more balance. We had a lot of women. Right now it’s 70% men, 30% women. 6 months ago, there were more women on the floor than men.
Our biggest team is the customer service team which is a night shift. Once you move into the night shift, you see more men taking such roles than women due to security issues etc.
Tell us about a time you almost lost hope but something made you get back on track?
I joined a local company when I moved back to Pakistan after working for Bain & Company. Unlike my previous job where I was constantly on the go, where I had to visit 3 different countries every week, my work was slower.
I had projects at Bain and Co. which made me busy day in and day out. My job was very exhausting, but I absolutely loved my work. I missed this independence, the quality of work and the strategic exposure I was getting when I worked for companies such as Bain and Co.
To adjust to such different professional lives was tough! However, I decided not settle for an easy job because I wanted to be tested with a job which gets me out of bed with new rigor every single day. I found such opportunity here at Rocket and it is very fulfilling.
What companies should do to help women succeed?
As mentioned, providing a day care or flexible hours helps a lot. Further, a formal mentorship program and a defined career path will help. This is important in the long run as well, as the more female senior managers there are in a company, the more role models there are for other women to follow or take advice from.
Well said indeed. We see a lot of companies changing their ways and adopting such methods. Let’s hope all of the organizations in Pakistan do the same!
Thank you for your time Nadine. It really was an inspiring conversation and we hope it will help women be more strong and firm in their careers.