‘Take a risk, challenge yourself and always be positive’
Sonia Bashir Kabir, the outgoing managing director of Microsoft Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan and Laos, wants to play a role in making technology available for the citizens of Bangladesh at the grassroots level going beyond urban settings.
“My dream is to have digital inclusion leaving no one behind,” Sonia, who is leaving Microsoft after five “successful years” with amazing experiences and beautiful memories, told UNB in an interview.
She is the founder of technology hubs and they have built tech hubs in 64 districts of Bangladesh. “I would like to take it to 4,500 unions and then the hundred thousand villages. That’s my dream,” she said.
Thanking Microsoft for letting her contribute and be part of the growth, Sonia, a role model for women and youths in the country, said, “I don’t think I’m very successful. I have a lot of things to do.”
“Today, with an excited heart I’m heading to another venture, where I’m passionate about building local software for the international market. I’m excited about what the future holds and I’m looking forward to new challenges,” she said.
Asked where she wants to see herself in the next 10 years, Sonia said she is working very hard and she never wants to retire. “So, till the day I die, I see myself working very hard.”
Responding to a question, she said women definitely feel intimidated in business. “Definitely, they do. Because they aren’t so many in numbers and they feel like they have to prove themselves.”
Sonia who does not think there is a lot of successes in her bag but struggles with her time management, said, “I’m very grateful to Allah and my family. Luck has been a big part of my success.”
As she leaves Microsoft on April 30, Sonia said she does not want people to know her as Sonia Bashir Kabir of a multinational company. “I want people to know me as a Bangladeshi. I want people to know me as a person who’s passionate about promoting technology to women and to youth. That’s what I would like my identity to be.”
Asked about her work-life balance, she said she believes in the quality of time and not the quantity because obviously she does not have a lot of time to give to her family members but whatever time she gives, she gives it hundred percent.
“If I give an hour, it’ll be from my heart and I won’t fool, not be there for the sake of being there for my family. That’s the only thing I can say,” she added.
Responding to a question on how she is changing the landscape for women in IT, Sonia said, “I’m not really sure I’ve been successful in doing things for my country. I would like to do a lot. And my passion is promoting technology to women. I think I’ve a long way to go. I do have a plan. And my role in Microsoft definitely helped me but it doesn’t take me to where my dream is.”
She said people are now realising the value of intellectual property slowly in Bangladesh. “Emails are being hacked, information is being stolen. If you are on the genuine software with that realm, then you’ll be protected. So, protection is the key and I think Bangladeshis are slowing understanding that.”
Many people want to climb corporate ladders and they want to have inspiration from persons like Sonia. Asked what would be her advice for them, Sonia said, “I would say, be curious, take a risk, challenge yourself and always be positive.”
She encouraged women to take challenges, to believe in themselves, to have self-respect and say, “I can do it.” She also said, “Women should have more jobs, women should be recognised, women themselves should jump, that needs to happen.”
Sharing her beautiful childhood memories, Sonia said her dad wanted her to be who she is today. “When I was growing up, my parents had different roles. My dad was the person who actually taught me to be ambitious. He taught me not to think that I am a woman and encouraged to compete with men equally.”
Her mother, Sonia added, gave her the finer qualities of life. “It was about compassion, about caring for other people, about sharing. So, both of them hopefully are proud of me but I still strive to live up to my parents’ expectations.”
Sonia used to see her dad wear suit and tie. “I always looked at him (a very well-dressed person) and I wanted to be like my dad. So from my childhood I knew I wanted to be working in an institution where I could dress well, travel the world and meet the leading minds globally.”
That is what Sonia knew but she did not know where it would be. And having married and moving to Silicon Valley, she got exposed to technology and that is where her journey began.
“I wanted to do something I am doing but I did not know it would be in the realm of technology which happened because I got married and moved Silicon Valley,” Sonia said.