Reflections of a Former Fellow: Sheba Najmi

Part-Pakistani, part-American, I was conceived half-way across the world in Malawi, and my roots spring from the villages of rural India. Until a college scholarship brought me to America, I was a complete product of the developing world. I grew up with a fierce desire to make things better, I often wished to be Prime Minister of Pakistan so I could make things right.

I first stepped into the User Experience (UX) Design field because I wanted people to use technology and information to work together to the advantage of human beings. After 6½ years as a UX Designer at Yahoo!, I set out in search of what was at the heart of my passion, enabling technology that would have a more meaningful impact on human lives.

When I chanced upon Code for America, all the pieces suddenly fell into place. I immediately loved the CfA mission, and recognized that the cross-functional culture allowed for high standards of transparency. I knew that by joining CfA I would have the opportunity to work with brilliant and diverse minds towards a common civic goal, creating solutions that make a real difference to citizens.

While working on Honolulu Answers at CfA, I realized that I had to take my newfound skills to Pakistan where governance is a mess and there is a tremendous need for civic hacking. Post fellowship, I founded Code for Pakistan, introducing civic hacking to the country.

In the last year, Code for Pakistan has:

The response has been incredible; people in Pakistan are so excited about having a platform to use their skills for civic betterment. At the moment, Code for Pakistan is a volunteer-run organization, but we hope to raise funds to staff and scale it further.

While working round the clock as the Project Lead at CfA, I found myself firing on all cylinders. Now, I’ve been doing a part-time UX Consulting job, teaching UX classes for Girl Develop It, UC Berkeley, and PariSoMa, consulting at the World Bank, and learning Growth at Tradecraft.

Being surrounded by brilliant, like-missioned thought leaders, with great support from the staff, made the Fellowship magical. I realized what it meant to have a job that didn’t feel like work, I discovered what really makes me tick, and I learned a lot from others. It led directly to my next step, founding Code for Pakistan.

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