June 25, 2021

143: Freedom | Achia Nila and Women in Digital

143: Freedom | Achia Nila and Women in Digital

Achia Nila, Founder & CEO of Women in Digital, joins the show to share her story on Women in Digital, an all-star team of female technologists dedicated to bringing more Bangladeshi women into the digital economy. In this chat, we get into Nila’s earliest inspirations, proving herself and becoming a CTO before becoming an entrepreneur, the founding principles of Women in Digital, and how she has been able to train 10,000 women in 8 years.


MoneyNeverSleeps is sponsored by PAT Fintech, the training partner that demystifies fintech and digital finance for financial services professionals.

HIGHLIGHTS:

On her earliest inspirations for Women in Digital in Bangladesh: “My father is a freedom fighter and he fought directly [versus] the Pakistani army. He had so many experiences during the liberation times, and he shared those stories with us and he was always inspiring me.  He always says, ‘I gave you a country, so you need to take care of this country.’”

On her first interview for a programming job:

“The interviewers were asking me so many irritating and irrelevant questions. Why are you coming into the tech industry? Why do you want to be a programmer? You can work in the design team or you can work in the testing team. You can work in the administration section. Why do you think you would be a good programmer? I was a student from an engineering university, why are they asking me these questions?”

“After an hour and 30 minutes, the Managing Director comes into the room and says ‘I will ask you one question. If you are able to give me the answer, then I will hire you. What is your aim?’”

“I don't know why I gave him this answer, but I told him ‘your chair’, and he was shocked and said ‘so you want to be a company owner?’, and I told him yes.  He stood up from his chair and went back to his office.  When he returned, he said ‘you are a very smart person as far as my observation goes. So, I would love to work with you and learn from you, so if you accept this appointment letter, that would be really good for us.’ That was my first start.”

On proving herself and becoming CTO:

“I was working in a multinational company on big projects and they are increasing my salary [regularly], but they never gave me a promotion, so I asked why.  The company’s managing director told me, ‘you are a woman, and this is a 24-7 company and you need to stay overnight at the office. But as a woman, you are not able to stay overnight at the office. So, if we promote you as CTO, and you can’t stay in the office overnight, how can I manage everything?”

“What I learned from nine years in different companies is that when I raise anything, I need to prove myself.  So, the MD gave me give me a big project for Microsoft, and for three nights I was continuously in the office, and my team completed the project. After that, we had a big celebration and the MD was shocked.”

“He said, ‘you are the woman who can prove yourself, so I don't have any excuse now, so I need to promote you as CTO,’ and I got the promotion.”

On her inspiration to start Women in Digital:

“The government had already declared the Digital Bangladesh Initiative, but there was nothing for just women. In Bangladesh, the traditional view was ‘women are not able to access devices, they can’t access the internet, everything is difficult for women.’”

“So, I designed the Women in Digital business around that, and I'm giving my first pitch in front of my father and he told me ‘That sounds very difficult, so think about other things.’”

“I said to him, ‘This is the only thing I want to do, so I’ll take one year, and if I fail, I’ll move on, but if I don’t fail, I’ll continue with the project. I went back to him after a year and told him what I wanted to do with my life. And then he said ‘Okay. Carry on.’”

On the business that is Women in Digital:

“We empower women in technology and make them financially empowered through technology. We arrange training, we have a technical school, and we also have a digital agency with all-women engineers.”  

“Our expertise is developing software and mobile applications and games for international clients. We are developing their professional skills in IT with training in Java, Android, artificial intelligence, blockchain, graphics and e-commerce in different courses.“

On empowering women:

“Without financial empowerment, women empowerment is not possible. I believe that if I can help one girl and she will help another girl and that girl will help another girl, in this way, we will be able to grow. So that is why I designed my business model.”

On the most important lesson learned:

“I need to raise my voice always as a woman. I need to convince people with my voice, but I need to be humble so that people will understand what I am trying to do. When I raise my voice and I prove myself, I achieve what I set out to do.”

LINKS:

Episode title inspired by ‘Freedom’ by Beyonce featuring Kendrick Lamar

Get in touch with Achia Nila and Women in Digital to learn about their programs

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Achia Nila

Founder and CEO, Women in Digital