Rini, you have an incredible position at a global financial firm UBS. Tell us about your journey
I came to the UK when I was almost two years old. My parents came because of work. My father joined the Pakistan Air force and he travelled the world, eventually settling in the UK. He had to support his elderly parents so he worked in restaurants initially and then opened his own restaurant in Hertfordshire.
From a young age, it was always natural we would go to University. I studied politics and philosophy as my first degree and I suddenly thought ‘oh my god what am I going to do when I leave, what kind of career can I do? I want to earn money!’ So I thought I would go into IT. At that time it was a big thing to work with computers. I looked at a company called Logica, which were offering an internship for £13,500 which at that time was a huge amount of money. I got the internship and it changed my whole life. I learned about business management consulting. I later went on to do a Masters in Engineering at Warwick university.
I worked as a management consultant for a small niche consultancy called Chaucher consulting. I was managing projects very early on in my career. I also worked for BP as an independent contractor. I also worked for the Dubai World Trade centre. Dubai is a different ballgame all together; the hours are long and the management is not great. You work a minimum of 12 hours per day and when I got pregnant with my daughter I did not want anything with too much pressure so I went back to BP. It was a good role as I was working from home two to three days a week. I had a great supportive network. After my daughter was two years old, I started to focus on my career and now
I am a Director at UBS. In detail, I am a Programme Manager for Artificial Intelligence and Information, leading some of the top IT intelligence of the bank. I am looking after 44 initiatives and I have a huge team working with me. I love my job.
Have you encountered any challenges along the way?
When I first joined a management consultancy 20 years ago, one of the directors told me he had never met a Muslim woman before! He was so shocked and so surprised as he fed into stereotype that Muslim women were supposed to stay at home. There was hardly any ethnic diversity in my field but 20 years later it’s all changed and there is so much more diversity.
Decades ago when I was first starting out, I joined a team once and it was full of Indians Hindu’s and the guy that hired me asked me ‘how did you celebrate Diwali’? I never told them. If they knew I was Muslim they wouldn’t have hired me as they are still quite traditional in their attitude but this isn’t across the board and it was just one personal experience.
I recently gave a talk at the NHS and a consultancy. I told people I do pray five times a day, at the same time I party but I don’t smoke or drink. One guy told me later he was impressed that I had achieved a lot in my career but I kept my faith and didn’t become completely westernised. I still hold onto my roots; I see myself as a spiritual person and I am not totally westernised.
What does the term British Muslim mean to you?
The term ‘British Muslim’ has been taken over by the media and we’ve been pushed their explanation and imagery of muslims; think of the Dewsbury bombers, the Westminster attack for example. That is far from the truth and not one I identify with. Remember the media presents one image and a term attached to it. It’s not correct.
You’re advocating for more women to get into STEM. Tell us more.
What I discovered in the west is that there fewer women going into STEM. Remarkably the statistics for women in STEM in the Arab world is much higher. Why? Because STEM careers traditionally offer more money and if a woman goes into STEM they will be more empowered. This works really well for women in the Arab world. This brings me to my own career path, especially my initial journey. I was brought up on a council estate and worked my way to empower myself as an independent woman. And that’s why STEM has always been attractive for me.
Just tell more and more women, if you want to make lot’s of money go into STEM!