Technology is often thought of as an industry for mathematicians and engineers that attracts brilliant minds and innovators, not necessarily creative thinkers. However, "many don’t often realize how technology and creativity go hand-in-hand,” says Nishat Hashem, company director for HN Holdings B.V. and founder of HNH Solutions. “This is something no one had ever said to me explicitly in the 15 years I have been in the tech industry.”
Last year, Nishat set off on a journey of self-discovery that led her to the companies she has since founded. They combined her passion for creativity, as well as her many years of experience in the technology industry.
“This is what I find most fascinating and exhilarating about working in my current field — ensuring creativity and technology can go hand-in-hand, playing a distinct role in shaping the future,” she says. “I use STEM in every aspect of my life and have been doing so since I was intrigued by science when I was 12 years old. My love for technology came much later, but they are now very much intertwined in my career and personal life.”
Pursuing a human component
Nishat received her Bachelor of Information Systems and Bachelor of Commerce double degree at Melbourne University. Despite her interest in technology – and her belief that it would provide career longevity – she initially planned to work in other areas, at least for a while. But when she applied for graduate roles, she received multiple offers from the tech divisions of finance and management consulting firms.
“That’s how I got started in my tech career,” she says. “However, in my need to fulfill my personal thirst, I decided to pursue roles with a human component. My inspiration has always been to give technology a human face and voice.”
Nishat now focuses on elevating intelligent automation in organizations through change leadership. She applies a holistic approach to intelligent automation, which takes the people component into consideration, seeking to avoid pushback from human employees.
“I am also the founder of the world’s first e-commerce platform for creatives, Apojo Publications,” she says. “At Apojo, we are working towards implementing AI to drive various parts of the value chain.”
Finding her own way in a challenging field
Nishat’s career did not include the usual list of mentors that accompany someone of her success. After discovering that her thought process differed from the norm, she realized that what she wanted to achieve, and how she wanted to achieve it, did not resonate with those with whom she shared her aspirations.
“I have moved around over the past 15 years, lived in seven different cities, worked in multiple organizations – all with the intention of learning everything I needed to know about various organizations and industries,” she explains. Her goal was to absorb local regulations, legislation, and cultural needs around the world to bring her to the point of being able to create something truly global. “Instead of having mentors, I have engaged with like-minded individuals who would inspire me in my rather unconventional journey without feeling demotivated through ‘traditional’ thinking.”
In discussing how other women can advance their own careers in STEM, Nishat says there is definitely a need for more strong female leaders. She says their inclusion is “absolutely necessary” in motivating young women to pursue a career in this space.
“It’s important to show both patience and support,” she adds. “I have had some unpleasant conversations with women leaders who have said they prefer to work with men due to a lack of patience. If you are willing to invest years building out AI, do the same in building expertise in the field. And bring more women along for that journey, as this will have more of the greater good benefits in the long run. It’s no use being a leader if you can’t be a forward-thinking leader.”
Lending a helping hand
By paying it forward, female leaders can create a ripple effect that leads to positive results for many years down the line. Nishat says she personally spends time with new female graduates and tries to understand their motivations and aspirations.
“This gives them a clear path and direction,” she says. “And gets them enthusiastic about a career in STEM.”
Nishat also has some advice for women who are pursuing a career in a STEM field. She says women should start by making use of their skill sets and unique attributes, whether it’s intelligence, experience or intuition. She encourages women to be resilient and ask a lot of questions. She also says they should be clear on their own personal definition of success, whether it’s monetary, experience or educational.
“Be inspirational and motivate other women along the way,” she says. “They are your compatriots, not your competitors. Live and breathe STEM because, at the end of the day, it is who we are – how we operate and what we can be. Find that connection between a career in STEM and your everyday life.”