Aaliya Khan – It’s ok to be a generalist and not limit yourself to one path

podcast episode art featuring alliya khan

Is it better to be a generalist or a specialist? Should you stick to one path and become an expert in it or give yourself the flexibility to explore many different options? This is something that’s unique to everyone and the answer changes as we move through live.

Today’s guest, Aaliya Khan, thought she was a specialist. She went to school to specialise in global medicine and health advocacy. But, as she puts it, she fell into tech and into Product Management. In this episode, Aaliya tells us how she found her feed at an early stage start-up where her role was constantly pivoting and how she learned to embrace flexibility amid chaos.

Listen to Aaliya’s Story

Key lessons from this episode

  1. How Aaliya fell into Product Management from a background in global health (4:00)
  2. Aaliya’s experiences working at an early-stage startup and having to pivot her role many times (9:00)
  3. Push and advocate for yourself because you don’t know what change that can have for the next person after you (37:00)


This transcript was auto-generated by Descript and is not 100% accurate

Aaliya Khan

[00:00:00] Grace Witter: As Salaam-Alaikum, you’re listening to tech sisters stories. tech sisters is a community that connects you with other sisters who share your story experiences and goals. So you no longer have to feel like the only one like you on your team. My name is grace and I get to interview the amazing women in our community, share their stories and the lessons they learned.

[00:00:22] Grace: today on Tech Sisters stories, we are very happy to have Aaliya Khan. Aaliya is a product manager at Pair team, and she’s passionate about the opportunities that exist at the intersection of health and advocacy. She likes to apply the diversity of her educational experience, community organizing skills, and health-based practice to create transformative solutions, especially for communities who need it most.

mashAllah, so happy to have you here, Aaliya. Thank you for coming on.

[00:00:48] Aaliya: Thank you Grace, for having me. I’m really excited to talk.

[00:00:52] Grace: How did you first get into all of this?

[00:00:55] Aaliya: So um, I want to say I quite literally fell into it and it’s been so interesting to listen to your podcast episodes because I feel like, at least from the ones I’ve heard, there are a lot of folks mashAllah who are like, yeah, I, I knew I wanted to be involved in this in some way, and that was not the case for me.

Um, I feel like I spent, honestly, a majority of my life and even through my college career thinking that being in tech meant you had to be like an engineer or a software developer, or you were in finance or business in some way. But I was always interested in like healthcare and medicine and advocacy.

And so in my head I was like, okay, well there’s no place for me there. Even though I used tech on a daily basis, but you know, it didn’t click in that way. But I would say like my first big exposure of realizing that this is maybe something I wanted to do was actually when I did my master’s program.

So I did a master’s in global medicine and we had really cool opportunities to like go abroad or go in person to visit. Certain organizations or places to learn more in depth. So I had the opportunity to visit the un headquarters in New York. And one of the sessions we had was all about their Tech and innovations department, and it was incredible to see like what they were doing and using something as small as like data points to figure out how different diseases were spreading or trying to like monitor early on how they could help underserved communities with like certain infectious diseases, which I think became even more relevant during Covid.

So after I graduated, I was still really figuring out what I wanted to do with my degree and happened upon a rollout care team, which was actually not a PM role. I still had no idea what a PM was at that time, but it was being a care coordinator, which I was very familiar with and was essentially like the remote version of what I had been doing previously as the medical assistant.

So being at pair team was really my first exposure to tech and alhamdulillah is what eventually led me to my role.

[00:03:09] Grace: Okay, alhamdulillah. So there’s a bunch of interesting points. First of all, I think that it’s about 50 50 of people who actually knew that they wanted to be in Tech and people who

[00:03:19] Aaliya: I feel like maybe it was just the recent ones, but I was like, wow, they just all knew

[00:03:23] Grace: knew. No, I always find it kind of funny to my, like I inwardly laugh when people are like, this is a very unusual story. And I’m like, no, it’s not

[00:03:31] Aaliya: That’s so great. I love it.

[00:03:34] Grace: But this is kind of the thing is it feels very unique to, to us, and of course this is our own experiences, but this is kind of why we have Tech Sisters so that people will listen to this, be like, oh yeah, you know, a lot of other people just kind of fall into this as well. Also in regards to product management specifically, I think this is a very interesting thing because people are interested in what a PM does.

This is kind of mysterious from the outside and how to transition into pm. So you’re coming into this with a global health background, advocacy background, and you’re seeing this at work at Pair Team. What did you need to do, or I guess, how did you identify that you wanted to go into the PM track, and then what kind of skills did you need to help you transition into there?

[00:04:17] Aaliya: Yeah definitely. So I think one of the biggest things that helped was the fact that I came on very early on to a very early stage startup. So yeah, at that point there was only five of us, and so several of us were expected to wear a ton of different hats. I. Kind of naturally gravitated towards being the person that would communicate most with the engineering team.

So at the time, I was the user of our product as well as the person communicating the most with patients and physicians who may have been our end users with what we were trying to build. So I think that is what kind of helped me set up that track. And I was really thankful for the people on my team, like the CEO, who honestly planted that seed of you should consider, you know, this is what a PM does essentially. Like, you’re already taking on a lot of those responsibilities. And it definitely took a lot of advocacy from myself to be like, okay, let me look into this. This is definitely what I wanna do. I feel like I have the skillset for it because I’m already so familiar as a user and with our eventual end users that I would wanna play a more influential role in building this product. So I kind of had to have several like sit down conversations with being like, all right, what do I need to do and how can I demonstrate that? Before I could finally kind of take on the official role of pm.

[00:05:38] Grace: Yeah, so I think there again, this is a lot that’s like really good, so. The biggest advantage of working at a very early stage company is that there’s a lot of fluidity between the roles. So you can come in there and you’re not really sure what you wanna specialize in, and you can try out a lot of things because they need people who can do lots of different things.

They need generalists more than specialists at that stage, right.

[00:06:01] Aaliya: definitely. Yeah.

[00:06:03] Grace: And then you’re having the big advantage of your skillset, being recognized by your, by your boss, and then advocating for you and suggesting to you, putting this on, on your radar, and then being able to see that in yourself. And a, like you said, advocate for yourself and say, okay, this is what I want to do.

And asking for help and clarity on what are the next steps that you need to take to, to get where to where you want to.

[00:06:29] Aaliya: exactly. And one thing that definitely played a role in that was they were able to pay for me to take a course in how to be a product manager. And I think that was supplemental to what I was doing because it was like I was practicing the day-to-day responsibilities while maybe like learning more of like the background information.

Lingo or

[00:06:53] Grace: How to write a user story, how

[00:06:56] Aaliya: exactly the how-tos of the specifics. But being able to like actually demonstrate it on a day-to-day basis at work. So that was extremely helpful.

[00:07:07] Grace: Yes. Yes. So in, so in my role, so I’ve transitioned from being an engineer into being a, a product manager. And I think those core skills of being able to communicate really, really well, of being able to align the, what’s going on technically with the product, with what is the business case, and to be able to communicate that to the other teams, that’s like the core of it.

And that’s where you were already doing in your role before doing that anyway.

[00:07:32] Aaliya: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So that was extremely helpful and I think it felt like that was my strength. Like I really loved doing that. I loved being able to like, communicate with all the different teams. So that was probably like my first like jumping ground of being like, yeah, I want to do this.

[00:07:50] Grace: Amazing. And now that you’ve been doing this, do you see yourself continuing further down the product track being you know, like just going up and deeper into the pro. Product itself, or maybe going more into the management side of things, people management,

[00:08:06] Aaliya: Yeah, that’s hard to say it cuz I feel like I’m a little at a little bit of a crossroads with that right now.

Um, but I think at this point in time I do wanna go deeper into the product side just cuz. I’ve had now more experience doing this. I wanna learn more of the technical skills and kind of expand like my breadth of knowledge on that side.

[00:08:29] Grace: Yeah. Amazing. make that easy for you. It’s. Yeah, it, it’s a tough thing to kind of decide like where you’re gonna go next. And I think it’s also very interesting to compare at different companies that are at different stages, like a company that is like very early stage versus a company that’s like a scaling stage.

Because that’s where I’m at now is a company that’s scaling up and everything is like very topsy-turvy because you have to pivot and change very

[00:08:56] Aaliya: Yeah. Yes, absolutely. I definitely have experience with several pivots and changes on a daily, monthly, yearly basis.

[00:09:06] Grace: Would you say that to some degree you have to be very adaptive in what your role is going to be because that description, your roles and responsibilities will adapt as a business changes and evolves.

[00:09:19] Aaliya: Absolutely. A hundred percent. And I think it’s been interesting because. Like I would describe an early stage startup as like pure chaos and some people thrive in chaos. And I think I felt that way. Like I loved having the ability to like jump around, do several different things but also had to learn how to sustain myself through that because it can get very exhausting and also, When I should start saying no to certain things because I did need to refine my skills if I wanted to like stick to product management.

Like at one point I was doing both clinical care coordination and product management,

[00:10:01] Grace: Oh, that’s a lot.

[00:10:03] Aaliya: Yeah, but wasn’t able to like, put enough towards one and then also was like, felt very emotionally connected to patients that I was responsible for taking care of. Yeah, so it’s it’s definitely a benefit in some ways depending on a person’s like strength and what they enjoy.

But I think it has been a really great lesson in boundary setting as well.

[00:10:29] Grace: Which is like a really key lesson. I was just talking to somebody else who’s like a very senior person on her company, and she was saying that setting boundaries and being very comfortable and confident with the boundaries is like a. Really, really core skillset that we develop early on in our careers, like to earlier develop that and that you’re very conscious of like what is motivating you, what are you okay with, what are you not okay with?

And being very comfortable with communicating that to your colleagues that’s gonna do nothing but help you , like that’s such an important thing.

[00:11:02] Aaliya: definitely. I’m, I’m still learning and hopefully getting better at it, but I completely agree with that.

[00:11:08] Grace: Yeah. Alhamdulillah, what are some assumptions that you feel that people might have about you or about your role?

[00:11:17] Aaliya: Yeah, that’s a good question. I think when it comes to my role, a lot of people have no idea what that means. But yeah, so that’s always really fun. I love when people ask my loved ones what I do exactly. And they’re all like jumbled words, like, oh, like health and tech. And she like talks to people and there’s engineers there

[00:11:37] Grace: She has a lot of meetings. That’s all I know. She’s on meetings all the time.

[00:11:41] Aaliya: Exactly. So I would say that’s the first thing is there’s, you know, they, they don’t actually know what I do. And then I think for the folks that maybe have knowledge or experience working with PMs, it is a really different experience. Again, working at working as a PM at a very early stage startup where we’ve had to pivot so many times and where a lot of my responsibilities like I think now.

Much more PM oriented, but may still I may still have a longer list of things that I have to carry out than other PMs that more established companies might because we don’t have other roles that can take on some of that work yet.

[00:12:21] Grace: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. I think. That’s one of the things about being the PM is when you’re sitting in the middle of these different spheres if there isn’t the capacity to share that load, then you can end up with everything like doing the QA yourself. Like Yeah, and that takes a lot of time, right?

[00:12:41] Aaliya: Yeah. Yes, absolutely. Do, doing QA also being the copyright, also being the person that’s, you know,

[00:12:48] Grace: Tweaking the designs.

[00:12:49] Aaliya: Yeah, between all, it’s all the things and I think like holistically, again, it’s been alhamdulillah, like a really great experience learning about all of those things. And I think I have a much stronger knowledge and background of the product because of it.

But again, with the boundary setting, understanding like what is it that I genuinely have to do and do well in order to support the rest of my team? And sometimes spending hours and hours on QA may not be it.

[00:13:18] Grace: Fair. I think this also kind of goes back to what you’re saying and the reasons why you got into this in the first place was being very passionate about healthcare and. About the way that technology kind of goes into this, QA might not be scratching that itch for that motivation. Right.

[00:13:34] Aaliya: Yeah, definitely.

[00:13:36] Grace: do you see yourself staying in the health tech field?

[00:13:39] Aaliya: Yeah, I think in the near future, definitely a, like, I’m, I’m very happy with where I am right now because I think it. The intersection of like health advocacy and tech. So my company specifically, we help support patients that we’re trying to enroll in an enhanced care management program. And so that means we’re helping patients who are the most high needs out of the most underserved populations.

And I think those are often patients who are not targeted by like other health tech companies or you would not think of immediately of using. Tech or like an app or anything like that to get their basic needs met. So I, I enjoy that a lot and I think that’s what I’ve always wanted to do is again, like give healthcare and give proper healthcare and social support to the people who need it most.

And who can benefit from it the most. I would love to say. In this path or in this sphere for a while. But I am definitely like interested in other ways that we could, you know, continue to use like tech to again kind of support and like uplift other communities. My other passion is food, so I would love to see how I could do that with food.

But yeah, and she maybe in the future,

[00:14:55] Grace: Well, clearly this is a food delivery for at-risk patients. You can put together the two

[00:15:01] Aaliya: Exactly. Yeah. And you know, there’s a ton of the companies that are doing that actually. So it’s, it’s been really cool to learn about that and see kind of the intersection of those things.

[00:15:11] Grace: Absolutely. I think stuff like that really happened out the pandemic because we could see the effects of isolation, especially on the most vulnerable communities, and I think that audience, which before was to some degree invisible. We saw how important it was that they’re served. There was one project that I worked on it was called literaseed, and it was a visual translator for medical symptoms.

So the idea is for someone who can’t speak English or can’t say the same language as their doctor or is not literate, that they’re able to record their symptoms before their doctor appointment. And then that would be fed into the doctor and he could have a nice readout and then you could just go on from there.

[00:15:49] Aaliya: Incredible.

[00:15:51] Grace: What was incredible was talking to the users and them articulating that this is something they’ve wanted for so long, that this something that is relatively like, it’s not a huge leap, it’s just having pictures for these symptoms. Right. But that makes such a massive impact for a lot of people.

[00:16:13] Aaliya: Yeah. That’s incredible. Yeah. And it’s like tools like that, I think can be incredibly life-changing, even if it’s just in the smallest step of a much longer health journey for someone. But yeah, it’s like at the end of the day, it’s impacting people’s livelihood and giving them at least, you know, one basic thing that will allow them to live a better life.

[00:16:37] Grace: I can hear the way you’re talking about this. I can definitely see how you would have that very close relationship with the patients that you’ve been supporting.

[00:16:45] Aaliya: Yeah.

[00:16:46] Grace: yeah, I can hear

[00:16:47] Aaliya: alhamdulillah. I I miss that a lot. I will say, like I, it’s, I think it’s been a bit of a tougher transition being a PM where my primary users are in a role that I used to be in now. So I don’t get as much of the patient facing work. . And I think it’s like I have to go a step further sometimes to remind myself what is it that we’re doing?

And taking a step back to think about that bigger picture. Because again, it’s like, it’s going back to this idea of like, who is my primary user and who is our ultimate end user? And I think kind of ultimate end user or people who are feeling the most impact of what we do are going to be the patients.

And when you’re going through like a frustrating period, I think it can be really difficult or easy to like lose sight of that because especially if your users are not who you know, you will ultimately be impacting.

[00:17:39] Grace: Of course, of course. And I think that’s why it’s really important to have that connection with the user interviews by going out where they are and talking to ’em so that you can always like bring that back. Especially when like you’re growing your company and then you have an engineering team who feels like they’re disconnected from the users.

Having recordings or having like those actual bits that really humanizes who we’re actually impacting makes a huge difference in how you approach your work.

[00:18:06] Aaliya: Definitely. Yeah. It, it really does. And one thing that’s been interesting to me, I don’t know if you’ve had the same experience, but my a majority of my en engineering team is not in the United States, but the healthcare system obviously, that we serve is in the United States. So it’s like taking the extra step to also make sure that they are being filled in on this entire like, holistic idea of what healthcare is in the United States at least.

Has been a really enriching process cuz that’s also something I love doing is talking about healthcare and so they listen

[00:18:39] Grace: so fun,

[00:18:40] Aaliya: I know it was so great. But, and also having to like to teach folks in a way who have no idea why the heck our system is set up the way it is and are so confused by it.

So doing it in a way that is like very digestible for people where the health, the US healthcare system is extremely foreign, but they’re building a solution for it.

[00:19:02] Grace: To be fair, it is a very confusing system.

[00:19:05] Aaliya: It is. It is incredibly, I mean, I’m still confused by it on so many levels. So to expect someone from Argentina to understand it when they don’t have

to experience it. Yeah, it’s the constant question. I’m like, I don’t, I dunno. Yeah.

[00:19:22] Grace: yeah alhamdulillah and I can definitely imagine that . So is pair team a fully remote company or is it a hybrid?

[00:19:28] Aaliya: Yes, fully remote. We like now have kind of offices set up in San Francisco, New York, where people will go in and out as they need, but otherwise completely remote.

[00:19:41] Grace: That’s music. That, that’s exactly what I like. That’s where I’m most happiest. And how are you feeling with coordinating your team when they are completely remote, when they’re in different countries, different time zones.

[00:19:53] Aaliya: Yeah, I think at first I was extremely intimidated by it. I feel like I do best interacting with people in person because. I think you learn so much about a person just through their body language and learning like small things on an everyday basis that I initially thought you couldn’t get from working at a remote company.

I’ve quickly learned that’s not the case. And , I think I’ve been able to like gain really strong friendships and co-working relationships. By still working remote, but it has definitely required me to be very flexible and to be very considerate, I think, of other people’s time as well as, again, boundary setting for my time.

So I recently moved to the east coast. Some of my team is still on the west coast, but like moving to the east coast has made it much easier for me to communicate with my Argentina team who is only now. Yeah, or like similar, they’re like maybe one hour ahead. So I have a lot more overlap, but previous to that, it was me doing a lot more like early morning meetings to make sure that they weren’t working late into the night.

Or even just being like cognizant of things that are important to them, like Argentinian holidays that they should celebrate instead of having to get a random American holiday off where none of their loved ones are also off with them. Yeah. Or you know, things like the World Cup, which is huge in Argentina and

I think having that close working relationship with them has also like you know, motivated me to be invested in the things that they love so we can bond over that. So I have my Argentina jersey ready to go for the game on Sunday and all of us will be rooting together. So they’re probably have a better time doing it in Argentina, but you know, I get to vicariously look through them.

[00:21:40] Grace: What, what a way to appreciate the World Cup with, I mean, the only thing better would be to be doing it with like a Moroccan, you know, family, but

[00:21:48] Aaliya: Exactly.

[00:21:50] Grace: ala that must be, this must be such an intense ride for them, so it’s really great that the work is supporting them and letting them be happy. It’ll be funny that this episode is gonna be published after the game, so hopefully they’re gonna be happy

[00:22:03] Aaliya: fingers crossed. Let’s see, I was like my only regret or like the only good thing about Morocco not advancing to the finals was I did not have to be Argentina versus Morocco. Cuz now I’m like, okay, cool. Like I can dress support Argentina and we

[00:22:19] Grace: Yeah. I have no loyalty to France. It’s fine.

[00:22:22] Aaliya: Exactly. That was not even a consideration, but we were good Yeah.

[00:22:28] Grace: Oh, . That’s so funny.

So Aaliya, what is something that you feel most proud of? And it can be something that you’ve achieved at work or maybe a specific project that you worked on, but something that’s like really close to your heart.

[00:22:42] Aaliya: Hmm. That is really tough. I have been thinking about this since you sent me the questions and I was like, oh God, I dunno what I’m gonna say.

[00:22:50] Grace: Well, you know, it’s a good end of year review. This is, we’re recording this right before Christmas, so it’s, it’s the time for reviews.

[00:22:58] Aaliya: definitely. I would say I am I’m alhamdulillah, really proud to, to be where I am. I’m gonna keep that like really broad. Just cause I think it has been a really steep learning curve for me getting into the PM role. And also balancing several pivots and changes that our company has gone through, especially over the last two years, especially with the pandemic, especially post pandemic.

And it felt like every few months I had to change my role and what I was doing. And I think I finally feel settled in a place where I feel confident in myself. And I think if I asked myself this last year, I would not have expected that. So . alhamdulillah alhamdulillah I’m like Very, very happy to say that and more so that I can hope to.

use You know, where I am right now to like guide others and like be a mentor to others and help other folks and especially Muslim women who do wanna get into the, you know, tech space or into product management in the same way that I did. And I think the other thing I would say I’m alhamdulillah proud of is being involved in other spaces outside of work

I think that for me, my like first two years working here was really difficult. Especially because, again, start up life can be really demanding. And I think I reached a point where I was like, oh, wow, like work is my life and this is all I’m doing. And that was really easy to do during the pandemic when I was just home and couldn’t really do anything else.

So like, making the intentional or being more intentional about like, Going out and actually being involved in communities outside of just work, I think has been really personally fulfilling. So one of those is being a part of Muslim Women in Tech, which is an organization that I’m helping out with and it’s been beautiful again to meet more Muslim sisters who are in tech and who really like, identify with some of the experiences I’ve had.

Another has been like trying to create more community building spaces again with like more of a Muslim community. So and involving food with that . So I helped put together an event last year that unfortunately because of my move I couldn’t be involved with anymore, but it was called chai vibes and I made.

Ton of chai and it was really like my time to be like, let’s see how much chai I can make and

[00:25:21] Grace: A personal challenge to

[00:25:22] Aaliya: Yeah, a personal challenge and seeing if I could eventually turn my dream of like having a chai shop into reality. But it was really beautiful and it was amazing cause I made such incredible friends through it and was able to like break this barrier of feeling like you can’t make friends in adulthood.

Or like outside of work or whatever. So yeah, I think that was really fun and I’m really, really glad that I was able to invest like energy and time somewhere that was not work or professional related.

[00:25:53] Grace: That’s amazing. I love the name. How many times do you have to correct somebody in saying it’s not chai tea, it’s chai

[00:26:02] Aaliya: Thankfully not that many because the majority of the people that came were Muslim,

so They were all on the same page. Yeah. but it was, that was really good.

[00:26:13] Grace: Oh, that’s amazing. I hope you’re able to set something up like that where you live now. That’d be really cool. inshAllah. I think that’s such an important thing and it’s, it can be. It can be kind of difficult to get something like that started and to be the person who like is gonna set that up. But there is a huge reward for when it happens and when you are able to bring a community together and make a lot of friends.

I remember when I was a first like my very first Eid as a new Muslim the way how I, my, this is like, this feels so extra to me now. But look, this is, I really did this. I made origami boxes and then put an assortment of different cookies into each of these

[00:26:55] Aaliya: I love it.


[00:26:58] Grace: And then I went around and just gave them to strangers who looked kind of my age.

[00:27:04] Aaliya: I love that also, grace, you have no idea how close I ha I was to doing the same thing after moving to Boston. So

[00:27:16] Grace: love it and they’ll always remember you.

[00:27:19] Aaliya: Exactly. Like all you’re really missing, like a little card of being like,

[00:27:23] Grace: this is my number.

[00:27:24] Aaliya: later. . Yeah. So we had, I mean, I don’t think we had a difficult time finding friends in Boston, but it was definitely a different experience being adults and being like, where’s the place that other young adults hang out here?

So by week two again, had not been that long. My husband was like, I think I’m gonna start printing out business cards that have our names on it. And our availability of when we can hang out and just go to like, you know, halal restaurants and we’ll just start passing them out and be like, for friendship, like, please call Mo.

Here’s when we’re available to hang out. We did not have to get to that point, but we were getting very, very close to it. So I think the cookie boxes are better.

[00:28:09] Grace: Yeah, clearly we would be friends in real life since we’re approaching us in a very similar way.

[00:28:15] Aaliya: I, I think so. Yeah.

[00:28:17] Grace: you’re just like one step away from on a bulletin board looking for a friend. Call Aaliya.

[00:28:23] Aaliya: Yeah. There was,

there was no shame. Yes.

[00:28:30] Grace: Going back to the question, what is, what is something that you regret or you wish that you had done differently?

[00:28:39] Aaliya: Yeah. I think like going back to your first question where I thought like, oh, tech is only a space for folks who are developers. I wish I hadn’t, I, I guess I closed myself off to that earlier and given myself the opportunity to explore roles or explore tech in general earlier on especially when I was in undergrad.

I think at that time I was so dead set and being. I have to go into medicine, which means I have to be a doctor that I didn’t consider all of the other options. And I think , when I finally gave myself the space to think about, like, is this the right career move for me, is when I finally opened myself up to it and I was like, okay, maybe not, and maybe we should consider other fields.

I think like even right now I am learning so much about like all these other roles and opportunities and all of the incredible and cool things you can do, and it helps me, I think it helps my younger self feel better knowing that it’s okay to be a generalist and be interested in everything or like several things, like you don’t have to close yourself off and give yourself tunnel vision just to achieve that one thing.

And I think what I used to think was my weakness is strength now, and I wish I knew that earlier.

[00:29:57] Grace: There was an interesting article that I read a long time ago and is usually my brain is just kind of going over the headline, so paraphrasing a lot, but there’s the idea that we are. For the most part in our lives, we are generalists. We’ll go into a, a specialist. Every so often, every couple of years we’ll go really deep dive into something, but for the most part, we have a very general way of, we learn things, how we approach things.

And that goes back to how we pivot throughout our life. So we might. Find that we do a deep dive, we specialize into one area, and then, you know, a couple years later we do a pivot and then we have a more general mindset and we dive into something else. So there’s always this cycle of rotation of our learning and how we’re evolving as people and how we’re evolving and what we learn and what we know.

And it, it’s just part of the journey. Right. So we don’t wanna limit ourselves to, or close ourselves off to anything. It’s just, and a, as Muslims, our framework is that whatever we’re learning, whatever opportunities Allah is putting us in, putting in our way, that’s something that’s always gonna bring us closer to him.

That’s always something that’s going to evolve us into our best forms, into our best, you know, way of being ourself, A way of thinking.

[00:31:15] Aaliya: Yeah, no subhanAllah That was, I think, an incredible way to say it. Cause I think I’ve. Like, I’ve opened myself up to my faith even more by opening myself up to I think, other interests and opportunities in that way. And even now, like. You know, slowly getting used to the idea of that like one career is not going to be your entire life.

And it’s okay to also even just completely pivot careers, whether it be away from tech or away from pm, you know, Ench eventually that I think helps me feel more excited about, you know, more life that is to come and whatever Allah has in store for.

[00:31:53] Grace: That’s it. My husband and I were just having this conversation today, just like going over normal work annoyances, and we were like, how did the last generation stay in the same company working with the same people their whole careers? How did you just put up with this day in and day out?

[00:32:10] Aaliya: I know and subhanAllah that they did. I think it’s, it’s incredible. But I think I had the same realization when I was like, I can’t take career advice for my parents anymore, , because their, their ideal is definitely just like, you gotta just

stay with it. Just stay here forever. It’s a job and you’re blessed to have it.

Stay humble and like, don’t look

[00:32:30] Grace: Just put it up. Yeah, that’s

[00:32:31] Aaliya: yeah.

[00:32:34] Grace: What is something or someone that you’re most grateful of your career so far?

[00:32:38] Aaliya: I would definitely say all of the women in my life. I think it has always been an empowering experience to hear about. Careers and career growth or academic growth? From my really close friends and like alhamdulillah having a community of women that constantly like build each other up and give each other that advice or are able to just vent about their frustrations in the workplace or help you feel less alone.

and I think especially Muslim women, because I do think that our experiences are very unique. Sometimes not in the best way when it comes to the workplace, even when it’s remote, surprisingly. So it’s, it’s been really great in that way. And you know, being involved especially in like more like.

Muslim women in tech spaces, I think has given me that support and that solidarity. So even if I didn’t receive like direct mentorship from someone, just like hearing them talk or having a conversation with them or listening to a podcast or any of those things has like given me a lot of the comfort and the inspiration that I think I needed to move forward.

And this is gonna be really cheesy, but another person I’m very grateful for is my husband. Yeah, So, Cause he is just like the funniest character to me still in that he is, I thought I was an extrovert until I met him. And then I was like, oh my God, am I an introvert? Because he is very extroverted.


[00:34:12] Grace: sounds really extreme.

[00:34:14] Aaliya: I know. He’s great. He’s, he’s great though, but he, I think he is, he’s also been someone that alhamdulillah, like does not have this like shame when it comes to approaching people and wanting to build friendships and networks and communicate with others on a professional or non-professional level.

And so he’s always been the one that’s like, kind of pushed me, where I’d be like, wow, I think this person is so cool for what they’re doing in this professional space. And he. , you should email ’em, you should talk to them, you should call them, you should text them, you should approach them. And I, what I previously had a ton of anxiety over, which I think prevented me from building those really incredible networks is what I think he’s encouraged me to get over.

So, you know, I’m really thankful for that. Cause it even is what, you know, allowed me to meet you and send you that LinkedIn and be like, I think you’re really cool. I would love to. So I, I owe that to him for sure.

[00:35:11] Grace: Well, I am very grateful to him now as

[00:35:13] Aaliya: Yeah.

[00:35:14] Grace: but. I think that is such an important lesson to learn. I would describe myself as an ambivert, so I’m very comfortable like messaging people online, but going up with somebody in person, like, go, ugh. But when you message somebody, like when you sent me that message, it just made me feel really happy and I wanted to know you more.

People I know in tech sisters put up a lot of like inner resistance about reaching out for help, putting messages out there, especially for strangers. Everyone is here to help you. Uh, Especially when we’re talking about when we’re from the same communities. We have this natural vested interest in wanting you to succeed.

We want to help you. We want you to do your best. By all means, reach out because it just makes us feel really happy. Ham. alhamdulillah.

[00:36:03] Aaliya: I completely agree with that. And to your point I have felt the same way when people have reached out to me and you know, for whatever reason, I think when you’re doing the reverse, like all of. The, the anxiety and like the worst case scenarios pop up of, you know, even feeling rejected if that person doesn’t reply to you or whatever that may be.

But I think especially when it’s been like reaching out to other women. I think I’ve only been met with like, so much warmth and support and kindness and like mentorship that has like turned into friendship and I’m incredibly thankful for that.

[00:36:37] Grace: And even when we’re talking about worst case scenarios, usually the worst case is that they don’t say anything, that it’s just a ghost. No one is ever, or they just say a polite no. No one’s ever gonna say like, Ew, this is stupid. why did you message me?

[00:36:51] Aaliya: Mm-hmm. . Yep, definitely. So even

[00:36:54] Grace: isn’t gonna swallow you up. You know? It’s, yeah.

[00:36:57] Aaliya: Yes.

[00:36:59] Grace: uh, Is there anything else that you would like to add? Any last bits of.

[00:37:04] Aaliya: Hmm. I, I would say like maybe just lack the advice and like, I think something that I have really been. Wrestling with is even being in a remote space. Well, I think I’m protected in a lot of ways from maybe potential obstacles like social obstacles I could have faced in the workplace. I’m extremely thankful cause I just have to like block off my calendar and I can pray in my room where I work from.

I don’t have to like go out of my way to do those things. But you know, I think especially like as a Muslim woman in the tech space and in any workplace, like still advocate for yourself, like no matter what it may be, it may be the smallest thing, but still like push and advocate for yourself because you don’t know what change that could be making for the next person that comes along.

And how that could impact you advocating for another person in your space. Yeah, I think that has been something. Had to constantly remind myself of, especially as now, like alhamdulillah, my company is also like growing and there’s more people than I can count when previous, I could count them all on one hand.

Is remembering that I, I, you know, some of us really do set the tone of what could, you know, take up a person’s majority of their day and their life, so might as well do it in the best way that we can and follow like our Islamic guidelines and trying to create the healthiest space for.

[00:38:28] Grace: Mm. That’s perfect alhamdulillah. Thank you so much for coming on. It has been so much fun talking to you and I’ve really, really enjoyed this.

[00:38:37] Aaliya: Thank you so much, grace. It’s been great talking to you too, and thank you for creating this space. I really appreciate it.

[00:38:42] Grace Witter: And as always, thank you so much for taking the time to listen today. If you liked it and you like what we’re doing at Tech Sisters consider following us, leaving a review, sharing this episode with any friends or even supporting us on Patrion. All of those really help us a lot. This is a completely non-profit organization. We’re just doing this for.

Sadaqua , so anything that helps more Muslim women find us and discover us and hear the stories is immensely helpful. And if you are a Muslim woman in tech, please go ahead and check out our community. It is completely free and fun and very supportive. You can join by going to our website tech-sisters.com and filling out the membership form, and you will get a link right away into our slack. So it’s really, really easy.

And that is all for me. And I’ll see you next week. As Salaam alaikum.

Thank you for sharing your story with us, Aaliya. Jazakallahu Khair! You can connect with Aaliya Khan on LinkedIn.
If you liked this story, be sure to check our other Tech Sisters Stories and get to know the amazing talent we have in our community.

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