Whether Rabia Garib, Editor-in-Chief of CIO Pakistan, is playing her guitar and singing to enthusiastic moppets in her Kahani Time sessions at The Second Floor (T2F) or having a discussion with professionals from the IT industry, there is something absolutely contagious about her energy. Always dressed in a crease-free shalwar kameez and her trademark kohlapuris, it’s almost impossible to find a frown on Gharib’s cosmetic-free face. The secret behind it all, she explains is: “I work a lot, but I love every bit of it.”
And there’s good reason to love what she does. It was because of her representation as an Eisenhower Fellow in 2011 that the world’s largest technology business leadership magazine brand CIO was brought to Pakistan. Additionally, she is the Chief Wrapper of Toffee TV, which is an initiative that seeks to entertain children through songs, stories and activities in Urdu. Besides this, she is also co-founder of Rasala Publications which runs IT trade publications. She is also an active blogger and an experienced TV anchor who has hosted numerous technology and music related shows on leading channels. In 2011, she was also presented with the Ladiesfund Trailblazer Award, an honour given to acknowledge and celebrate the top female role models and achievers in Pakistan.
With all these accomplishments, it doesn’t come as a big shock that work always takes precedence over everything else in her life. As a self-proclaimed hardcore workaholic, she believes that family life always suffers when a person is dedicated to their job. And this equation only works out if the family is understanding and supportive.
In Garib’s case, her conservative family, especially her mother, has backed her every step of the way. While her mother was a housewife herself, she never objected to Garib pursuing her professional ambitions. And Rabia found this unwavering source of support early on in her childhood.
“My father wanted me to study in an all-girls school. However, when my brother got admission at the Karachi American School (KAS), my mother said that if her son got to go there, so would her daughter. For the rest of my life, that’s always been my pretext for everything,” she said.
When asked whether a working woman has to tradeoff her family life to be successful, she said, “It primarily depends on the kind of work you do. In my case, and especially because of the kind of work I do, there is a tradeoff. The IT sector works 24/7 which is why I have to work 24/7,” says Garib.
“Although smart phones and gadgets make work easier and timings more flexible, the drawback of it all is that work always follows you around. So you’ll find me responding to e-mails even at three or five in the morning,” she adds.
Considering her passion for IT, one can’t help but wonder if this love was cemented from the start. Talking about her childhood dreams, she says, “I wanted to pursue music, sports and writing. My first preference was music, but having found no avenue to pursue it, I turned to towards writing. To a great extent, all three things are still part of my life,” she says.
But while she was still studying, she got disheartened and lost her thirst to learn. “That’s when I became a part-time music teacher at The City School. It was just so much fun to teach kids that I thought to myself how can I hate learning? That’s how the love affair with education and learning came alive. It also rekindled my love for music,” she exclaims.
But was the road from her teaching days to being the editor of an international magazine difficult? “Surprisingly enough, it was pretty smooth. I didn’t have to battle the traditional difficulties women face on the highway to professional success. Mainly because there were not a lot of women working in this industry.”
One of the key people who helped make this transition smoother was her partner Salaina Haroon. “Salaina and I found a particular niche and we pursued it wholeheartedly. This worked to our advantage. Since we started really early on in our lives, we found everyone quite forthcoming. People were ready to meet with us and invest in our ideas. They’d usually give us two reasons for it — either they really liked us or they thought we were absolutely crazy and on the verge of something really big,” she says.
Working with a female partner, we asked if the relationship was difficult or easy. “As sexist as it may sound, I find female employees more efficient, loyal and supportive especially when a woman is heading them. They don’t take work as a 9-to-5 job the way men usually do. However, when they’re working at the same level, women tend to treat each other like rivals,” she says.
Her preference for female employees is so strong that her organisation makes a deliberate effort to hire primarily women.
On the topic of female bosses, she says, “They are terrible. They are extremely proficient but at times they are cut off from reality, at least I certainly am. I don’t care what’s happening — I just want my work done. I am an extremist by nature — I’ll never be moderate when it comes to work.”
When it comes to her future, she sees her life as full as it is right now. In terms of her career in IT journalism, she says, “I feel there is a lot of community, corporate enterprise and consumer level support given to this industry and I plan on maintaining and strengthening it. I plan to push the news and articles out to the international market. A lot of the traffic that comes in for CIO and ToffeeTV is from the US. Through us, they get a chance to interact with the local community as well which helps in moulding a better image for Pakistan,” she says.
Garib’s advice for all the working women in Pakistan is to never start off a business or job thinking you are going to be a millionaire. She says that one should dream big, but also be persistent over a course of time in order to achieve what one aspires. Most of all, she believes in always supporting other women and never getting intimidated by men.
Published in The Express Tribune, Ms T, August 12th, 2012.