Farah
Sanwari

Partnership Catalyst, SpudnikLab

"Part of the reason I was hired in both Sustainable Living Lab and SpudnikLab was to signal to others that the companies want more women involved in the tech innovation space. That's great! And since my first encounter in the tech community space 8 years ago, I have seen improvements in the way women are involved in the space. The barrier for women leading tech organisations remains high, but slowly and surely, the biases are breaking down."

I don’t think I have a firm definition of it. I do make 5 to 10 year goals, though, and set out to achieve them, bearing in mind as well that life comes with surprises. So, to me, ‘success’ will look different along the journey and we just have to ride that wave.
I studied Industrial Design in my undergraduate studies and I found it so fascinating that technology was giving us humans new experiences and appreciation for life. I also studied it at a time when digital fabrication tools such as 3D printing were getting cheaper (due to the end of patents), and that hardware and software knowledge and materials were available on the internet (open source movement). It was such an amazing opportunity for innovation for anyone! I was inspired by the democratisation of technology and it drove me to embark on a sustainable tech innovation journey with Sustainable Living Lab upon graduation. Subsequently, I continued my journey by joining SpudnikLab to bridge the digital divide in marginalised communities through frugal innovation.
I think my biggest hurdle was my self-confidence. I was unsure about my ability to lead an organisation, and share my opinions and thoughts with people in the industry, perhaps because I had a preconceived notion that I was not knowledgeable enough in the innovation space (I had poor grades in university!). At the same time, as a minority woman, I might have internalised the narratives of what women could do, while also not having any role model to look up to. Thankfully, I had great friends and mentors who could help me through that, alhamdulillah.

Part of the reason I was hired in both Sustainable Living Lab and SpudnikLab was to signal to others that the companies want more women involved in the tech innovation space. That’s great! And since my first encounter in the tech community space 8 years ago, I have seen improvements in the way women are involved in the space. The barrier for women leading tech organisations remains high, but slowly and surely, the biases are breaking down.

As for my personal experience, I occasionally encounter mansplaining (Lord, spare me!) and microaggressions from men.

Fear will only hold you down. Clench your teeth and hold your head up high, and brave yourself through it.
The work that I do now with SpudnikLab involves applying frugal innovation technologies to bridge the digital divide. This could look like giving more access to the internet via low-cost smart feature phones (KaiOS phones) and designing digital literacy products and services catered to the communities we are working with. I see myself establishing systems and partnerships across the region to make this dream happen.