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Meet Aisha Shafaqat of Team Mexico 2021-22: Digital Green in India

Meet Aisha Shafaqat (B.A Political Science Specialist) from Team Digital Green in Mexico

You recently graduated with an Honours BA, Political Science at the University of Toronto Mississauga and are a Young Director at Fora: Network for Change. Can you tell us know a little more about that and the work you do?

I recently started my first full-time job after graduation as an associate at RBC Ventures. I get to simultaneously learn about the finance sector at a major bank while working in an innovative environment focused on scaling technology startups. Through Fora, as a Young Director, I get to meet regularly with a group of like-minded young professionals for governance training in order to sit on a non-profit’s governance board as a voting director..

How did your experience in Reach inform your career path [e.g., your case study focused on smallholder farmers in India] – how (if at all) did this impact you seeking an opportunity after Reach?

My team examined a technology startup called Digital Green and evaluated their ability to reach women smallholder farmers. I found that my interest was in seeing how Digital Green refined their business model to serve women farmers, combining both my social science background and interest in entrepreneurship. It was one of the few instances where I was able to work on a project of this scale and one that was very multidisciplinary in nature. Through exposure to incredible people in the field, my mentors, and teammates, I knew that I wanted to continue to work in a similar environment.

What takeaways or skills [personal or professional] did you gain from your Reach experience that you are applying to your work or study? 

I learned many skills through Reach that I was able to put into practice immediately. From leading team meetings to interviewing stakeholders from organizations like US AID and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, there were many opportunities for me to build my confidence in speaking and sharing my opinions in a persuasive manner. It was especially easy because there is such an environment of support in Reach – from my teammates to our mentors and coach to the Reach staff, there’s always someone who is incredibly willing to help you out.

What is your fondest memory from your experience in Reach?

Getting to work with my team! My teammates and I built such a close friendship as we worked on our case study. Even our weekly meetings were something to look forward to because we enjoyed getting to see each other and to catch up on things.

What advice would you give to researchers and alumni looking for opportunities right after graduating and/or in the private sector?

One of the most important things is learning how to articulate your strengths and believing that your unique perspective is an asset. Many employers are open to hiring individuals from less-traditional backgrounds, but they may need some convincing. An experience like Reach on my resume was a very unique selling point but I knew I had to be able to articulate how these skills translate in a corporate environment.

What tips or words of encouragement would you give to someone who is interested in applying to the Reach initiative?

Just apply! Especially if you do not think you fit the mold or are hesitant to apply, I would say your unique perspective and background can serve as an asset to your case study team. If there’s an area where you feel less confident about, just know that there is a support system to help you.