Scholar Spotlight - Midhat Fatima

Laidlaw Scholar, Midhat Fatima, on harnessing technology to close the digital divide in emerging markets.
Scholar Spotlight - Midhat Fatima
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Midhat Fatima, a Laidlaw Scholar at London Business School, on pioneering digital empowerment in Pakistan's rural communities and spearheading the drive for inclusive, tech-driven progress.

Growing up in Pakistan's vibrant yet challenging milieu, my journey has been one of ambition and a relentless pursuit of making a difference in the world through technology. As a female Pakistani tech founder, I've navigated the complex tapestry of societal norms and economic hurdles to digitally empower rural communities, striving to bridge the digital divide. This quest has been fuelled by a deep-seated passion for innovation and a steadfast belief in the transformative power of technology. My venture into technology began with the creation of a mobile messaging-driven CRM platform, aimed at solving real-world problems and uplifting living standards. Whether it was facilitating easier access to public utilities or enhancing educational environments in underserved areas, each project was a step towards digital inclusion. 

However, amidst these triumphs, a stark realization took root: my impact, though profound, was confined by geography, while the potential of technology knew no bounds. This awakening, especially in the wake of the global tech revolution post-COVID, kindled a burning desire within me for an MBA. The ambition to catapult my vision onto a global stage and navigate with enhanced strategic prowess nudged me towards the pursuit of a holistic business education.

Choosing London Business School (LBS) was a decision fuelled by passion and strategic alignment with my goals. The vibrant LBS community, celebrated for its diversity and collaborative ethos, mirrored my values and aspirations. London, a global nexus of cultures and ideas, presented itself as the ultimate springboard for my ambitions, promising a world of opportunities to effectuate meaningful change.

My application for the Laidlaw Scholarship is an extension of my dedication to leveraging technology for social good, with a focus on digital inclusion and gender equality in emerging markets. Drawing from my experiences, such as developing digital tools for Lady Health Workers in rural Sindh, my ultimate goal is to establish a venture builder. This entity will not only aim to solve critical issues through tech-centric businesses but will also prioritize investments in female-led ventures, particularly in frontier markets where gaining investor confidence poses additional challenges.

I am driven by my personal story of overcoming obstacles to make a positive impact. As a Laidlaw Scholar, I plan to use my network to amplify our collective efforts in bridging the global digital and gender divide. With the help of my MBA education, I aspire not only for personal growth but to create an ecosystem that uplifts others, fosters inclusivity, empowerment, and progress.

A few months later, I was thrilled to learn that I had been awarded the prestigious Laidlaw Scholarship. I distinctly remember feeling both honoured and overjoyed to be accepted into a world-renowned university and MBA program with a Laidlaw scholarship.

First week at London Business School, Sussex Place.

What is the biggest life challenge you have overcome and what did you learn from it?

Navigating the path as a first-generation student and entrepreneur without a blueprint or a support system within my family and friends circle was my life's most formidable challenge. Venturing into the realms of technology and entrepreneurship required not just technical acumen but an unparalleled level of courage and resilience. This journey was more than just stepping into the unknown; it was about pioneering a path amidst a landscape where mentorship and guidance were conspicuously absent. Each day was a lesson in self-reliance and innovation, with no incubators or accelerators to lean on, making the learning curve steep and each success hard-earned.

The task of sustaining my tech firm's financial health amidst this backdrop of solitude in my entrepreneurial journey underscored my commitment to resilience and strategic planning. The dedication to ensuring payroll was met without delays, even in the face of financial uncertainties and the global upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, was a testament to my ability to navigate adversity. This achievement was not just about financial management but also about creating a culture of trust and mutual respect within my team, prioritizing impactful work over superficial perks.

Reflecting on this journey, the most valuable lesson learned was the power of courage in choosing the road less travelled and the importance of not being deterred by the absence of mentorship or direct paths to success. It taught me that true innovation often comes from stepping into the void with determination and faith in one's vision. My experience highlights that amidst the solitude of pioneering ventures, there lies immense potential for growth and the opportunity to chart a course that others might follow.

What is the most useful/impactful piece of advice you have been given in your life?

The best advice I've received is: ”Always remember to be patient and never stop being persistent." These words guide my journey, fueling resilience and driving impactful change.

Conversely, what is the WORST piece of advice you have been given?

The least helpful advice suggested prioritizing firmness over kindness in leadership, undervaluing empathy's role in fostering motivated, cohesive teams.

What are your top 3 leadership tips?

  1. Actions speak louder than words: Lead by example to inspire trust and respect from your team. Show rather than tell.

  2. Always be ready to leap forward where others hesitate: Embrace courage and innovation to navigate uncharted territories confidently.

  3. Ensure you are truly empowering people: Foster an environment of trust and belief in each team member's capabilities, encouraging them to achieve their best outcomes.

What does it mean for you to be a Laidlaw Scholar?

To me, being a Laidlaw Scholar signifies a profound shift in the trajectory of my journey. Before December 2022, I navigated the challenges of being a first-generation student and entrepreneur with determination and resilience, charting my path in the tech industry against considerable odds. Receiving the Laidlaw Scholarship was a turning point for me. It was not just an honour, but a life-changing opportunity that positioned me for future success. The scholarship represents the support, mentorship, and community that I lacked before. It strengthens my resolve to bridge the digital divide and empower women in emerging markets. With this scholarship, I have the resources and network to achieve my goals and make a real impact on a global scale.

Which leaders inspire you the most and why?

The leaders who inspire me each bring unique qualities to the table, reflecting the diverse facets of effective leadership:

  1. Jacinda Ardern: Ardern's empathetic leadership style, especially in times of crisis, showcases the power of compassion in governance. Her ability to unite her nation with kindness while making tough decisions inspires a more humane approach to leadership.
  2. James Dyson: Dyson embodies innovation and perseverance. His journey from countless failed prototypes to groundbreaking inventions exemplifies the importance of resilience and a relentless pursuit of excellence in entrepreneurship.
  3. Warren Buffett: Buffett's investment acumen is unparalleled, but it's his commitment to ethical business practices and philanthropy that sets him apart. His wisdom in navigating the complexities of finance with integrity demonstrates the value of long-term thinking over short-term gains.
  4. Bill Gates: Beyond his technological innovations, Gates' dedication to global health and education through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation illustrates how leaders can leverage their success to address some of the world's most pressing issues. His focus on impactful philanthropy is a testament to the profound difference visionary leadership can make beyond the confines of business.
Attending an exhibition at Renwick Gallery, Washington DC.

Describe a scene from the future you are striving to create.

In the future I envision, a bustling innovation hub coming to life, centred around the venture builder I've dreamt into existence. This hub thrives as a beacon of progress in an emerging market, where female entrepreneurs gather, their ideas illuminating the space like stars in the night sky. Each start-up reflects a unique solution to pressing global challenges, from bridging the digital divide to advancing sustainable development. Here, mentorship and resources flow freely, levelling the playing field for women who've historically been side-lined in the tech industry. This scene is not just a place of business; it's a community where diversity is celebrated, innovation is nurtured, and dreams are propelled into reality. As the venture builder flourishes, it becomes a testament to the power of inclusive support and the tangible changes that can be achieved when we invest in empowering underrepresented voices in technology.


Quick-fire Questions

📺 Currently binging: I am more of a re-runs person. Always happy to watch an episode of Marvellous Mrs Maisel, This Is Us, Succession, New Amsterdam, and Lost In Space.

📚 My top book recommendation: "Steve Jobs" by Walter Isaacson

🎶 My anthem: It’s a shuffle between Coldplay, Adele and Coke Studio Pakistan originals.

🎵 Podcast obsession: Girls That Invest

🌈 Something that made me feel joy recently:

The small and big wins of friends and family bring me the greatest joy!


 

Midhat is a Laidlaw Scholar at London Business School. You can find Midhat on LinkedIn. The Laidlaw Women's Business Education Scholarship aims to help build a pipeline of future women leaders through access to best-in-class education, resources and global networks by providing full and half scholarships to women who would not otherwise be in a position to reap the benefits of attending an outstanding school. 

🔦 Discover more Scholar Spotlights: 

⚡️ Patrícia Gonçalves, a Laidlaw Scholar at Oxford University's Saïd Business School, on navigating the crossroads of public and private sectors and championing a sustainable, equitable future.

⚡️ Lucy Nyamaah, a Laidlaw Scholar at Oxford University's Saïd Business School, on pushing past gender norms and envisioning a female-led future in the Energy sector.

⚡️ Juliana Ruseva, a Laidlaw Scholar at London Business School, on volunteering, helping women break the glass ceiling and tackling issues step by step.

⚡️ Adebusola Adegbuyi, a Laidlaw Scholar at Saïd Business School, on facing challenges with optimism and empowering young women to begin careers in technology.

⚡️ Aya Hammad, a University of York Laidlaw Scholar, on understanding the origins of cancer, promoting equality in healthcare, and learning to be adaptable.

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