Kristen guest posts today with an inspiring profile on Ruzwana Bashir, who grew up in a close-knit Pakistani community in northern England to attend Oxford University and then become the confident CEO of travel tech startup Peek.
Females in the world today and Ruzwana Bashir
Women are changing the world. It might feel like baby steps, but that’s how change happens usually.
Now women are going to college, starting businesses, and finding the strength to give themselves a voice with #MeToo. Inspiring women are everywhere, and we’re taking note.
For an absolute awe-inspiring story to give you the courage to take your next leap in whatever direction you want to go, you need to know about Ruzwana Bashir. This Pakistani-British, travel-tech entrepreneur has almost a rags to riches story, but that’s not quite how her story goes.
Catapulting beyond barriers
Coming from a small Pakistani community where most people didn’t go to college, Ruzwana always knew she wanted something more. Her mother didn’t (and doesn’t) speak English, and the system she was raised in was very patriarchal. There was no expectation for her to go to school or even to work.
Always a good student, she caught the attention of her teachers. Luckily, those same instructors encouraged her to apply to universities, including Oxford and Cambridge.
Accepted into Oxford, it was there, when she was 18 years old, that she finally wore Western clothes for the very first time.
Fitting in or taking control
Even with her new clothes on, though, she felt like she never quite fit in.
Not only was she not prepped to enter the modern world of academia, but she also didn’t quite match the Oxford student profile. Her race, gender, and class were all factors that could have slowed her down but she wasn’t afraid of the things that made her stand apart.
Instead, she learned to be comfortable with being unique. She was determined to take every effort to grow, taking those factors that could have been obstacles and making them her strengths.
As she explains in the video below, the more people with a unique perspective when it comes to building a startup, the better.
Ruzwana Bashir bio: More about her education
After earning her degree in Economics, she went on to work for big names like Goldman Sachs and Blackstone. In these male-dominated worlds, she stayed confident in her fresh perspective and held her own.
Her life truly changed when she was accepted into Harvard Business School on a Fulbright scholarship. So she moved to America to continue her schooling.
While at Harvard, she had the opportunity to work with and around tech startups. All of this would be the beginnings for her future organization called Peek.
The inspiration for Peek sparked while Ruzwana Bashir was booking her trip to Istanbul, she encountered difficulties trying to book activities. Not just little difficulties, either; she spent at least 20 hours trying to find her way through the disjointed system.
With more and more travelers, and we aren’t even just talking about women travelers here, where was the tool to simplify this process? That’s exactly what Ruzwana wanted to know. There was a huge space between booking adventures and the digital world.
She believed she could mend this gap. First, Ruzwana educated herself, working for some small startups to get experience and then took the plunge in 2012 to give everything to her own, naming it Peek.com.
After successfully gaining solid investors, she was able to realize her idea. In the Tech world, she was an anomaly. Far from the white-male profile, her unique background and education gave her a perspective that rivaled all the others.
Her rule for success-diversity reigns. That rule has proven true. Now, years later, her business continues to expand and grow.
She is not only providing a way to make booking easier for travelers, but she has also provided a platform for businesses. Google, Yelp and Groupon searchers can even now make real-time bookings thanks to partnerships with Peek.
Her organization recently opened offices in Utah and there’s no slowing down in the near future. She is a boss that encourages her teams to share their perspectives and ideas.
According to her, the best way to find new and better solutions is to have teams from a variety of backgrounds. If everyone was cut from the same cloth, there would never be any new ideas, as she indicates in the earlier YouTube video.
A few takeaways from Ruzwana Bashir
Having women who inspire us gives us the courage to change our own trajectory. Women know that navigating male-dominated fields can be an uphill climb. The magic and finesse to succeed is not just an art, it’s a skill.
So how is it possible to get there? What can we learn from the story of Ruzwana Bashir?
1. Recognize your differences bring value
Not once did Ruzwana Bashir let her difference bring her down. Sure, she probably had moments when it was hard and she felt lost or pulled down by others.
However, she always kept believing in herself and trusted that her unique perspective had value. Believing in yourself is hard, but when you do that, great things can happen.
2. Take risks
Going to university, moving to America, and building a startup were all risks for Ruzwana. Of course, these steps aren’t ones for everyone, but we can take an important lesson from her here.
The next time you are up for a promotion or have the opportunity to voice your opinion, take the risk. Sometimes taking an uncomfortable risk can take you to the next great thing.
Ruzwana Bashir is still inspiring great change and we can’t wait to see how her business evolves over the next few years. Take some of her perseverance and courage to encourage you to believe in yourself.
About today’s writer
Kristen Klepac is a freelance writer and international traveler learning French who adores words, uncovering new flavors, and exploring new places. She currently works as a contributor for Reservations.com where she shares her appreciation of travel, women making both big and small changes, and the importance of self-care.
Top photo credit: Christopher Michel, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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