From Eureka to Reality series

Adventure 1 with Muniza Siddiqui

Q1: When did you experience your ‘eureka’ moment (moment you knew you wanted to go into the STEM field)?

Muniza: I am, who I am today because of my father, who is an engineer. I used to go to his office occasionally when I was a kid. I simply adored the fact that he was always capable of fixing machines at work. Since then, I knew that I wanted to be an engineer like him. Being a friend and mentor, he is a big supporter and a source of inspiration to me.

Q2: What did you study?

Muniza: After completing high school, pursuing a degree in engineering was the only thing in my mind. I choose to study information technology. After graduation I took a MSc, majoring in telecommunication.

Q3: What were some of the biggest challenges you have faced and how did you navigate through them?

Muniza: The biggest challenge was proving to others that women can have a career in technology. I preferred to go to engineering school knowing that getting a job afterwards wouldn’t be an easy task. At the time, employers were not confident in hiring female engineers, but eventually I managed to convince a Mobile Operator Hiring Manager that I can work in technology. The struggles didn’t stop over there. Although I was hired, the perception that females can’t do hardcore technical work prevailed in this company.

Luckily, this was around the time when the government of Pakistan introduced a Deregulation Policy for the Telecommunication Sector. This encouraged many foreign companies to invest in Pakistani telecommunication market and Telenor was among them. I decided to pursue my career with Telenor mainly due to the fact that the  company’s origins was from a country that is more accepting of woman in STEM. I was hired by them, however not knowing that I was the first & only female engineer in the technology division of Telenor Pakistan.

I changed the typical mindset of people in technology, by challenging their biases about female engineers. I didn’t give up -I drove tests on roads for hours, went on site surveys in dense, congested areas and engaged in technical analysis along with troubleshooting.

Soon Management started to trust my capabilities which helped me progress in the organization. I have not only worked in Telenor Pakistan but I have also in Telenor Norway for a couple of years.

In a nutshell, this journey has been tough with many ‘breaking points’, but support from my parents has helped me prevail.

Q4: What is your current role?

Muniza: Today I am managing the radio frequency optimization team in the North region. My team is responsible for maintaining and improving the service quality of the radio access network. This includes seamless mobile data and voice coverage to our customers and optimization of the radio network to improve the user experiences on various mobile services.

Q5: How do you help enable women to find their ‘eureka’ moment?

Muniza: As someone said and I quote “Amazing things happen when one woman help others“. For my part, I participate in seminars arranged by various Colleges and Universities. These are good platforms to interact with students and youth. I enjoy sharing with them my experiences and helping them on their career path. At work, many female co-workers come to me for advice or help to cope in any situation which they face in their professional life.

More about: Muniza Siddiqui



Adventure 2 with Astrid Undheim

Q1: When did you become aware (‘eureka’ moment) that you wanted to pursue a career in STEM?

Astrid: I have always loved maths for as long as I can remember. In primary school, I was competitive about completing voluntary assignments in our math classes. So for me, this was always the direction I wanted to follow, not to mention, such subject matters were most interesting.

Q2: Tell us more about your journey leading up to Telenor?

Astrid: After High School, I wanted to pursue a Master’s of Science at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) because of the math focus there. My thought was that if I chose an education with a lot of math, I will eventually end up with a fun job at the end. I chose communication technology because it was a new study program which was appealing, although I knew very little of what it consisted of. While doing my Master thesis I really became interested in research which led me to pursue a PhD.  Part of the reason for this pursuit was the establishment of a Centre of Excellence within my field of study, which meant we were a large group of students pursuing our doctorate. It was a big group of friends working together consisting of hard work and long nights, however it was still fun and exciting.

Q3: What is your role at Telenor?

Astrid: After finishing my PhD, I started working in Telenor as a research scientist. Today I´m managing a research group specifically on AI and Analytics in Telenor Research. Our task is to develop new insights and methods which will be deployed in Telenor. Admittedly, I´m not doing a lot of maths and coding at the moment. And it was a hard decision to move away from doing research work which I really enjoy and move towards management. Frankly speaking, I never really had any ambitions to become a manager. But in retrospect, I enjoy the role of facilitating a link between research and business – pushing for research insights which impact our societies.

Q4: Ways you try to help empower other women?

Astrid: I´m doing a few things to support female students at NTNU, mainly by being a mentor at a network for female tech students (ADA) at NTNU. As a student myself, I was a bit blind towards gender issues in tech. Being a manager, these issues have become much more visible to me, hence I try to speak up when I get the chance. In addition, I am continuously an advocate for mandatory programming in primary schools in Norway and the importance of attracting more girls to Computer Science studies. However, I could do much more in terms of enabling women, and would be happy to support and mentor girls and young women that are eager to have a career in computer science or similar!

More about: Astrid Undheim