Farida Ansari shares her experiences attending Pakathon Toronto's weekend workshop in 2016. A Management Consultant at IBM, she enjoys bringing people together and helps them harness their skills to build successful careers. Farida has three adult children and two grandchildren; she plans on returning to Pakistan from Toronto to work on Hunarmand, her startup, with her husband.
The buzz, the energy and commitment at the event was infectious.
The #PakathonTO team did an amazing job hosting the three-day ideation camp. Pitches, elimination by crowd voting, mentoring, skills development and resource workshops for the teams were well developed and meaningful. All this creativity leads to the Global Pakathon event where the winner gets funded for startups and social entrepreneurship.
One of the most striking things that hit me as I participated at the Pakathon Toronto was that 99.9% of participants were students and millennials.
Where were all the professionals and experienced Pakistani Canadians?
After all, this is Toronto; hub of one of the largest Pakistani communities in North America. The organizing team gave me an honest answer:
"When we approach established professionals and successful baby boomers from a Pakistani descent, they are mostly interested in being mentors, judges and facilitators, not participants."
The common perception is that Pakathon is for students and millennials.
My idea to develop "Hunarmand" A P-TECH talent development program to empower the middle class Pakistani youth did not get the crowd excited and was not voted by this group of 70+ young Pakistani adults. I was SURPRISED! My idea was about youth empowerment and education, after all.
Here was a room full of young Pakistani-Canadian university students and professionals and they did not vote for Education or for Youth empowerment !!! At the moment I thought, "My idea was not cool, I was not cool, hmmm..." but I had met three believers that evening! Saad, Ayisha and Nabeel. From the start Saad believed, Nabeel got it, and Ayisha prompted me gently, "It's a great idea go for it."
During the three days of Pakathon, I did my rounds to talk to these millennials to understand what was driving them, what were their ideas and I got to know them a little. The ideas ranged from and more:
- A drone delivery for life saving medicine in remote areas
- A venture capital (Team Pak Invest) and
- An app for low income women to sell home cooked food (Team Falak) winner round two and off to Global!!
Most participants were international students, some in contrast had never been to Pakistan but were pitching ideas for Pakistan, some came from The University of Waterloo and most of them knew each other.
Where were the girls? It struck me that there was such low participation of girls; only two girls were actually participating. Speaking to others outside the event, I also found out that cultural barriers, perceptions, and peer group dynamics kept some girls away from participating. It reminded of what I had recently read that the biggest threat to innovation is culture.
Lets see where these *Anganay Rastay take me and my team.
*Hunarmand: Talented person
* Anganay Rastay: Untrodden paths
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