“Nothing is impossible. Hard work, focus and determination; if you have these 3 things you won’t be less than anyone else.”Shagufta Hassan’s two elder siblings were the studious ones while she was amongst the younger ones who never wanted to study. After performing poorly in her intermediate exams, she saw her dream of becoming an engineer shatter. She did not have a plan B for her career and the only option she had was to switch to commerce. After failing to get into any college in Karachi, Shagufta decided to pursue her education privately. She had learnt her lesson. It was her fault she was in this situation and it was time to make amends. Hence she immersed herself in her studies with fervor and eventually obtained a national level position in her exams.
Shagufta was ready to take on more challenges. She convinced her family to put marriage on the backseat temporarily while she studied to become a Chartered Accountant. The field comprised of only a handful of women at that time. The passing percentage was 1% and Shagufta managed to get through it in 4 years. She passed all her exams in her first attempt and was one of the few to complete her CA in the 4 year duration. By the time her results came, she had gotten married and soon had a child. She had just begun her career when her baby started falling ill very frequently. Her entire family asked her to quit her job, and after consulting several people, she decided to work part time. However, luck was not on her side and she failed to find a job. Instead, she took up hourly based teaching assignments and started teaching CA students. This way, even after 5 years of not working professionally, she was able to retain all her knowledge.
After Shagufta’s children got older, she switched back to a full time job. Coming back to work after such a long period, however, left her at a disadvantage against her colleagues but she was determined to catch up. Her field was male dominated but she had faith in her capabilities and knew she was as good, if not better, than her male colleagues. As a qualified CA, she did her article-ship from AF Ferguson and Co and completed her advanced management program from Spain. Today, Shagufta is a mother of two lovely children, trustee of a charitable organization and much, much more. “Currently I’m working as COO of AKU hospital, clinical labs and outreach services. I’m basically responsible for 236 lab specimen collection units from Karachi through to Gilgit, 11 stat labs spread through the country, one tertiary lab at stadium road campus, and 12 outpatient medical centers in Karachi, Rawalpindi and Lahore.”
Despite all her achievements, Shagufta is no stranger to self-doubt. In fact every day there are moments of weakness. “Whatever weakness I highlight; workplace pressure, home pressure, kid’s demands, husband’s demands, one thing everyone has to be very clear about, is their goals. Every moment of weakness I encounter, I step back and give time to myself to reflect. What went wrong and how can I correct it? If you start thinking like that, you’ll be able to figure out your way through any situation. Life does give you chances, there are several paths. Sometimes you need to take a detour even when the goalpost is within your sight”.
According to Shagufta these goals should include financial and emotional independence since they are the two most important elements of life for a woman. Every woman should have the ability to support herself if she chooses to. That way she won’t have to compromise. In our society a lot of women depend on their families for little things that provide them happiness. Looking back, this is the only thing Shagufta would change if she had the chance - to create room for herself. Somewhere between her studies, family, and career she lost sight of herself. She stopped giving time to herself, stopped reading, listening to music and put a lot of unnecessary restrictions on herself. Looking back at moments like these, Shagufta feels indebted to her mother for everything she did for her during this time. “For the nights she stayed awake for me, perseverance she taught me, love and care she gave me, thank you mother. I miss you.”
It is seldom that people encounter life-changing moments and moments that have the ability to give someone a lot of power and courage. Chartered Accountancy was such a challenge for Shagufta. She wasn’t the best student, pass percentage was low and there were only a handful of women in the field. But managing to complete her CA despite all the odds was Shagufta’s miracle moment. “It was like climbing a mountain. When I did it, that moment gave me power and courage. It reaffirmed to me that I am capable of doing anything I want to.” Thank you Shagufta for teaching us it is never too late to start anew, for teaching us to have faith in ourselves and embrace each challenge with a stride.