Dr Arooj Malik is a Medical Specialist turned social and digital Entrepreneur. She is the Founder of Shetech Space which is an online learning platform educating and empowering women in the Middle East.
Dr Arooj is a powerhouse who exudes a lot of positivity. It is inspiring to see, how she balances her personal and professional roles.
In this day and age juggling multiple roles that of a daughter, wife, mother, and professional is no easy job, given we still live in a male-dominant society in Pakistan. Dr. Malik sets a great example of a woman living on her own terms.
Fempreneur is delighted to have her share her journey with us for the “Women Who Inspire” series. Let’s learn more about her career, entrepreneurial journey, struggles, and accomplishments.
Hi Dr Arooj!! Please tell us about yourself and how you get started with your career.
I am a family medicine specialist by profession and an entrepreneur by passion. For more background, I was born in Jeddah and did my high schooling there. During my academic life, I was a class and school topper and actively participated in various extracurricular activities. Later, I did MBBS from King Edward Medical University and moved back to KSA. Then, for 7 years, I worked there as an emergency and general physician.
During setting up my career, I faced a lot of hurdles, and this motivated me to start my formal community of Female Pakistani Doctors in KSA a decade ago. I was at the peak of my career when I had to relocate to Bahrain in 2017. There I had to start the whole process of exams and getting a license to practice. I began working as a Telehealth physician at that time.
I couldn’t get enough guidance, so again I started with the Pakistani Doctors’ community in Bahrain. I am the proud founder of the first Pakistani Doctors group in Bahrain. This community was extended to Pakistani paramedics, ladies’ support groups, free consultations, and many more during COVID-19. Then I had to move back to Pakistan during that time and got settled in Peshawar. At the time, I completed my specialization in family medicine and earned a gold medal.
As I had already been running support groups for Middle Eastern communities, I wanted to register an organization dedicated to empowering women, so I founded SheTechSpace. I am also registering a Telehealth platform, which I plan to launch in the near future, insha’Allah.
You’re the Founder of SheTechSpace which aims to empower women. Could you please tell us more about it?
I started SheTechSpace with the mission of solving the problems of overseas Pakistani women, especially in Gulf countries. Being born, schooled, graduated, and worked in the Middle East, I observed a lack of employment and educational opportunities for Pakistani women from all backgrounds. So, SheTechSpace is on a mission to make every woman socially, digitally, financially, and emotionally empowered.
We are an all-women team of 10 from different backgrounds working full-time from home, to create an impact. We are raising awareness about 21st-century skills in the community by providing online (and soon physical) training to women and kids.
Our online courses and training programs cover not only digital skills but cater needs of soft skills, linguistics, and mental and physical health. Alongside, we are going to launch our new project titled “SheLanceHer”, to gather our Alumni and other talented women to provide their services with guidance from our team. There are many other projects in the pipeline to be launched step by step.
What gap do you see SheTechSpace filling in?
It is training women from all backgrounds to contribute to the economy of Pakistan even working from home. This is to refine their skills, communication, and expertise.
As I have a special connection and love for Pakistani women in the Middle East. I want them to upgrade their education, skills, and experience and not waste themselves in the system. Insha’Allah by 2025, we are planning to bring at least 100,000 women back into the field by keeping a work-life balance.
What according to you is the best indicator of a truly empowered woman?
Any woman who uplifts supports and motivates other women is truly empowered. Empowered women believe in others; give them chances and is empathetic.
What challenges did you face in your entrepreneurial journey?
Lack of support, finances, and funding were the challenges I faced while setting up my Entrepreneurial career. It all started in the middle of 2020 when I moved to Pakistan. Being a doctor, I was expected to practice either at a hospital or run my own clinic. But destiny had some other plans for me and I decided to start an Enterprise of something different. In the beginning, there was no one in my family who supported me. For them, it didn’t make sense that when I could invest my time at better places and earn a decent amount, why become an Entrepreneur? Is that too online? I would love to actually name 3 persons who understood and gave me the push to start. My 15 years old niece DilAwaiz Khanum, my sister Sadaf Malik and my best friend and Co-founder Samia Anjum. On the other hand, finances and funding is still a challenge.
What achievements in your entrepreneurial career do you pride yourself on?
Well, I would not say achievements but rather milestones as we still are a baby startup scaling up. We’ve achieved different milestones. I got a scholarship for training from Atomcamp – Umeed e Sehar program for entrepreneurs. I got selected as 100 most influential Pakistani woman on LinkedIn. I got trained as an entrepreneur for the US embassy program under AWE (Academy of Women Entrepreneurs) and Lincolns Corner Peshawar. I was awarded Nishan e Parwaz from Highflyers Magnate for the contribution of SheTechSpace in education. And more than any award is my team that is my biggest achievement Alhamdulillah.
You are experienced, working in diverse fields, how did the knowledge you gained from those experiences help you in setting up SheTechSpace?
I started my professional career as a Physician and since I was dealing with diverse groups of people I got exposed to extremely vulnerable situations too. Due to this, I developed good communication skills, empathy, customer care, problem-solving, public speaking, and dealing. And I was always good at technology as compared to my other medical colleagues. I used to prepare PowerPoint lectures and presentations to train my fellow colleagues, so acquired good presentation and teaching skills. Over time, this is how I developed both hard and soft skills.
Furthermore, being a passionate learner, I keep on learning something new. When I took a career break from the hospital in 2017, I joined the Digiskills platform to learn to freelance. In 2 years, I did back-to-back courses from there, including Freelancing, Graphic Designing, Digital marketing, SEO, Creative Writing, and WordPress.
I kept learning and upgrading my medical and technical knowledge. I did multiple 6-month certifications in Family medicine, Ultrasound, Aging care, Health Professional Education, and Scientific Research and now doing a Digital Health course.
Then, I started Telehealth practice and built communities on different platforms. This helped me with leadership and management skills.
Meanwhile, I got Lisan- ul- Quran 1 year certificate and Uloom- al- Shariah 2 years certificate too. It gave me motivation towards positive thinking, patience, and understanding of human nature.
When I learned and earned remotely, I realized that others could do the same. There are times when someone is in need of a push, guidance, a helping hand, or a listening ear, so I became one.
A blend of the above-mentioned learning and skills helped me in starting “SheTech Space”. I started everything on my own by utilizing my skills in; logo design, graphic design, social media strategy, management, community management, providing training, hiring team, marketing, customer care, and copywriting.
And now I have a team to whom I assign some of the tasks as our commitments have increased.
What do you love the most about your work?
What I enjoy most about my work is that I can do it from anywhere, at any time. Since I am in KSA with my parents, my team manages very well remotely and I can communicate easily. I love how it’s creating an impact on a grass-root level. I love how women from different educational and professional backgrounds from all age groups are taking benefit from SheTechSpace.
Your greatest lesson learned in your entrepreneurial career that you’d like to share with aspiring women entrepreneurs.
My message to aspiring Entrepreneurs is: “Start small but start now! “
You don’t need to wait for the perfect time or perfect opportunity. Start now and keep learning on the way.
Hone and utilize your skills. Don’t hesitate to hire a team, delegate tasks, ask for help, share vulnerability, be empathetic, and most importantly believe in yourself and your team. But when you hire someone, guide them well and don’t micromanage, give them time to learn and correct their mistakes. Give them room to improve and grow.
Whatever happens, never give up. Entrepreneurship isn’t easy, at times it feels like it’s draining your time, energy, and money, be consistent at that time, and take a break to come back with more power. But please don’t quit. Remember why you started.