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The Power of Vulnerability #5

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March 31 · Issue #5 · View online
The Intersection of Tech, Community and Diversity.
Hey,
 It’s spring, British summertime and we’re somewhat out of lockdown. It’s been a fairly hard month for myself personally but there were a few wins, which I’ll mention first. 
Life Updates:
  • We finally got the keys to our first home! The whole journey to buying a house has been a massive lesson in financial literacy. We also got an Islamic mortgage and lots of learning through that which I’m happy to share with anyone exploring. The process took maybe 18 weeks? But Alhumdullilah we got there and now we’ll be starting building works, so a new renovations tiktok account awaits.
  • Spoke at three different events from Debut Sessions (video below), YearHere and Muslim Women Connect. 
  • Finished the 5 year Impact Report for Muslamic Makers. This was quite a challenge but so proud of what we’ve produced and the team that helped. I’ll be launching it at an event next week and talking about the future of Muslamic Makers so come along.
  • Ran a very successful campaign for the No.10 Innovation Fellowships scheme. Got so many good applications and many from a BAME background. The programme also got mentioned in various media and also had the Health Secretary and the Chief Scientist Officer tweet about it. It was a bit strange seeing how high profile the programme I’ve been leading has been. 
Anyway over to my monthly reflections….

The Power of Vulnerability
I first listened to Benni Browns’ famous Ted Talk on the power of vulnerability many years ago but this month I realised how being vulnerable really does help make things better.
Leading the first ever innovation programme with the Prime Minister’s office has been a real honour but also a massive challenge. Being in this role has meant that I got to bring in my ideas, innovate and make sure diversity is considered at all levels. I’ve managed multiple senior stakeholders, been thrown into the world of senior Civil Service recruitment, and been caught up in a whole bunch of things that I can’t talk about due to Civil Service code. I’m so proud of playing my part and the applications we’ve received are just incredible. I’m excited that the 10 people we’ll bring in will really go on to do amazing work but recently I realised that I was in the world of HR/Recruitment and the type of work I was doing, despite it being for a very great programme, wasn’t keeping me happy or fulfilled. I realised that I really wanted to return to a community focussed role and that’s the environment I thrive in. 
I’m coming up to 2 years in the Civil Service on 1st of April. I’ve worked through 2 Prime Ministers, an election, Brexit and a pandemic and the hardest thing ever has been not being able to tweet my opinions! (Civil Service code again!). I started off in a community role which I loved, however funding got pulled a year and a half later. I then ended up dome some community strategy work and then started interviewing for roles, which eventually led to a promotion.
The last month has probably been the most challenging of my career so far and a whole bunch of other things outside of work just made me retrieve. I started to suck at communicating with people, my inbox was a mess, I started taking forever to reply to people on whatsapp (I used to reply pretty much asap or same day at least) and there have just been many tears that my poor husband has had to deal with but then one day it just got too much that on a Saturday night after I prayed, I randomly broke down in tears. Being the heart on my sleeve type of person I am, I put a tweet out into the world, a bit of cry for attention but also a way to let go, however, that one tweet has bought me so much hope. 
Arfah
I really want to return to a full time community role but they are so hard to find in government esp at G7 level.
I know where I thrive and it's in that space. I've been so miserable recently. I hate feeling like this.
This one tweet led to my colleague reaching out and then an honest conversation with my line manager. When I put this out in the world I was in a very dark place and putting something like this out in the world is a bit risky and probably doesn’t reflect well on my “personal brand” but if anything, being vulnerable finally led to change. I woke up the next day to messages from very senior people in other government departments asking to have a chat about potential community roles! Alhumdullilah that was the biggest signal, people know me and respect me for my work in communities - that is the area I belong in full-time, not just part time with Muslamic Makers. I’m now having a handful of conversations with the support of my line manager to get me back into a community role. The community industry is currently taking off and there are some interesting roles in the private sector but due to life planning (planning for kids etc) as a woman I don’t actually have the freedom to just switch to another job because in the process I would lose any entitled maternity benefits I may have gained. This is why I’m only looking to move within Government and not outside, which means naturally I have less flexibility than a man would in my position who could consider private sector offers.
There is care and flexibility, however, working in Government I find. I don’t know any other place that would be so supportive in finding a way to get you onto another project that is more suited to you and your skills. I also absolutely love working compressed hours and having my Fridays to work on other side projects. I’ve definitely experienced many benefits working in Government and so I’ve often encouraged people to come work for the public sector, so do have a look on the Civil Service jobs site if you are looking for a new opportunity.
To conclude, be you, be open, and be vulnerable. Honestly, magic happens and I’m grateful to Allah SWT for once again having my back and opening many doors for me. I’m slowing down in the month of Ramadan and will be using it as a time to self-reflect and spiritually restart. 2020 and 2021 have been relentless and my way of coping with the pandemic so far has been to overwork from the day job to my other projects. However, it’s time to put Allah SWT first and centre him in my life going forward and not get distracted. When there is spiritual alignment, everything else aligns. 
Do let me know your thoughts and when being vulnerable has helped you? I hope you all have a great month.
Until next time,
Arfah
PS: Interesting videos and links as usual. 
Tech
Muslim Women In Tech (2021) by Muslamic Makers
Introduction to No-Code by Muslamic Makers
Amazon-backed Deliveroo seeks valuation of up to $12 billion in its London IPO
Community:
My journey to building the HackTrain community and how you can build your own community. | by River Tamoor Baig | Community Hacks | Feb, 2021 | Medium
How to Build Community Masterclass - #DSLive2
The Rise of the Community Department | by Lisa Xu | Feb, 2021 | Medium
Diversity
Unemployment Rates Are Affecting Pakistani & Black Women More Than White Women
Royal family to consider appointing diversity chief | Evening Standard
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