History has shown us that there is no shortage of inspirational and strong women. Women like Marie Curie, Jane Goodall and Malaysia’s own Datuk Mazlan binti Othman, whose work pioneered Malaysia’s participation in space exploration, are all great examples of women bringing real change to the world. These are strong and driven women who have left their mark on the world through their scientific pursuits, becoming an inspiration for men and women globally.
One thing people tend to overlook with all these amazing women, is the fact that they are all mothers. Despite all the challenges of motherhood, these women succeeded in advancing their career and achieving their dreams, proving just how amazing mothers are.
To better understand how women cope with balancing motherhood and their professional pursuits, we decided to talk to some of the women of Microsoft Malaysia, to understand their personal experience as mothers or what they learnt from their own mothers.
“Having a family who understands what you do is really important. I’m passionate about my job but when I’m with them, they can expect 100% attention from me.”
Shida Zainal, Education Lead, Microsoft Malaysia.
Shida has been working with Microsoft Malaysia for over 15 years and is currently responsible for the growth of the public and private education segment of the business. “Having worked here for over a decade now, I can honestly say that Microsoft provides the best working environment for women to balance work and motherhood. We are empowered to use technology to work from anywhere at any time and this flexibility will only enhance, not take away, productivity that the organization expects from an employee. That’s what I love about the company!”
Amanda Handriani, Integrated Marketing Manager, Cloud & Enterprise at Microsoft said that “I don’t think I can live without Microsoft technologies. It allows me to be a result-driven employee but also allows me fulfill my role as a mother at the same time.”
Amanda is the proud mother of three amazing children named Avyanna, Ayden and baby Areesha. In 2018, Ayden was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, which spurred Amanda to look for ways to help him recover and cope with the disorder.
“Last year when we found out that my son was diagnosed with Autism, technology played a huge part in helping me build the right recovery plan for him. I quite literally put together strategies as if I were to run a marketing campaign, leveraging Skype to hold video calls to explore Stem Cell therapy with laboratories in Indonesia and Singapore, using Excel to plot out and compare over two dozen Early Intervention schools for special needs child across Klang Valley as well as One Note to store all my online references to blogs and information on Autism,” said Amanda.
She also aspires to create a community for mothers with Autistic children, where she plans to use technology to help other mothers like herself cope with the challenges of raising children on the Autism Spectrum.
Amanda draws her strength from the advice of her late mother as well guidance from her mother in law, “You can be a career woman and be successful in what you do, but always know when and where to switch your hat between being a career woman, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a best friend and most importantly, when you need to be a Mother.”
Mothers are many things to their children. They are our protectors, our providers and most importantly, they are our mentors. They teach us how to love and how to be responsible, often through example.
“My mother has always thought me to be a responsible, independent and resourceful person from when I was a child,” said Sharifah Shereeta, Account Director at Microsoft Asia Pacific (APAC). “She taught me by not teaching me, literally!”
“My mother was not highly educated, but I had always admired her strength, tenacity, determination and how she would constantly support and give me motivation at the right time and place when I needed it. She’s the person I admire most in my life.”
As a regional Account Director and the mother of two young girls, Shereeta certainly has the lion’s share of responsibilities.
“I love my job and the feeling of achieving what I set out to do,” adds Shereeta.
“As a mother, I choose to achieve my goals in my career and watch my kids grow with me. Every step I take in my work and as a mom, is always a new learning step and experience for me and my daughters.”
Sharifah Shereeta, Account Director, Microsoft APAC
Another business leader in Microsoft is Annie Mathew. Annie is the APAC Developer Lead and is in charge of inspiring developers to innovate using Microsoft’s Azure technology. As an engineering graduate and a passionate academic, Annie has always had an interest in new technologies and its use to solve human problems.
As a woman in tech and mother of two, Annie draws parallels between motherhood and Quantum Computing. She describes the love mothers have for their children as “virtually unbreakable encryption”.
“A Mother holds forever in her heart the first call of ‘Amma’ (mother). My grandmother used to say, ‘once a Mother forever a Mother’, meaning there is no time that it’s not a part of you, like the air you breathe and the blood that flows in your veins.”
Annie Matthew, Microsoft APAC Developer Lead
Drawing strength from humour, Annie uses the following analogy to describe motherhood, “A Qubit (Quantum bit) is the fundamental building block of Quantum computing. Its more than an ordinary bit and can take not only the state of 1 or 0 but also the superposition, which is 1 and 0 at the same time. Well, I would suggest that motherhood is the ultimate Qubit state. We live and breathe in two states most of the time and are comfortable doing that. Like when we drop off our first child on her first day of school, we are in superposition – its joy and pain, all at the same time.”
As much as we admire the strength mothers have in raising and providing for their children, it must never be forgotten that at the end of the day, mothers are humans too. But what sets them apart is the knowledge they impart upon their children, to ensure they lead lives better than they have.
“As a child, I was taught by my parents what they did for a living. They explained their jobs to me and my sister to give us a head start in life,” said Eunice Tan, Corporate Sales Analyst at Microsoft APAC. “At just 15 years old, my mother boldly set up a licensed tuition centre. This provided an opportunity for me to greatly enrich my knowledge and develop a positive thinking attitude, which has helped me with my career today.”
Working with technology and tools that promote mobility and working remotely, Eunice has been able to find the balance between her time at work and with her family. “Like many others, I go to the office every day, meeting and working with my colleagues, partners and friends. But by using software such as Teams, I can work remotely when needed. I always feel assured that I will be able to reach home every evening to have my mom’s cooking together with my family, without the fear of having to stay back late in the office since I can just continue working from home.”
Microsoft is proud to play its part in helping mothers achieve their career goals while being there for their children. By providing all its employees with tools that allow them to work flexibly, mothers have the ability to care for their children without having to give up on their careers. Instead, these tools empower them to excel in all aspects of their life, making these women truly inspirational ‘sheroes’ that we can all learn from.