Arfa Karim’s story is inspirational to a whole lot of people in Pakistan and around the world. At just 10 years old, Arfa Karim Randhawa, of Faisalabad, is one of the youngest Microsoft Certified Professionals (MCPs) in the world.
When S. Somasegar, corporate vice president, Developer Division, Microsoft Corp learned about Arfa’s accomplishments, he arranged a trip for her and her father to travel to Redmond to see Microsoft and its technologies up close.
“Arfa is such an inspiration to women and kids in technology, and really to everyone who learns of her story,” Somasegar said. “Kids are gaining early access to technology, and she gives us insight into how people in emerging markets are using our technology. I thought it was important for her to come to Redmond to give her exposure to Microsoft and let her interact with people here. I hope to see her working here someday.”
Her week on the Microsoft corporate campus has been a whirlwind of tours and meetings. The highlight, she says, was meeting Bill Gates. In the 10 minutes they spent together, she peppered him with questions about why there aren’t many women working at Microsoft and why there are no kids working at Microsoft.
“Meeting Mr. Bill Gates is my dream come true,” she says. “My friends back home didn’t believe that I was going to the United States, and that I was going to visit Microsoft. When I show them the picture of me with Mr. Bill Gates, I will be able to prove that I did.”
Just like she proved to them that she could retain her status as first in her school class while attending just over one-third of the school days. Since Arfa earned her MCP and was recognized by Microsoft, she has been traveling throughout Pakistan speaking at developer conferences, but clearly it hasn’t hurt her school performance.
Arfa is well-spoken and poised beyond her years – but still in some ways a typical 10-year-old year girl. Even though she writes poetry (she presented Bill Gates with a poem), sings (she recorded a song at Microsoft Studios), she still tells silly jokes and likes trendy clothes.
Her visit to Microsoft was part of her first trip outside Pakistan. She says most of it looks like what she has seen in American movies, but notes the wide, smooth roads, the green trees and the ‘Walk’ and ‘Don’t Walk’ signal lights at intersections. She’s partial to Pakistani food but developed a deep fondness for the Microsoft cafeterias’ curly fries. “They’re spicy,” she says.
She was pleasantly surprised by the casual atmosphere at Microsoft, and she thought Bill Gates’ office would be “extraordinary,” but noted that it’s in a building just like everyone else’s.
Does she want to move to the United States?
“Probably not. Pakistan is my home, and I love it. I would like to live there, and control something here in the United States. I would also visit the U.S. often.”
What future product would she develop? “Doors” – to follow Windows, of course. She explains what the product would look like: “You would open one large door and inside would be a variety of rooms, which would house different applications. It would be more like a game. Kids will love it.”
Another idea of hers: computer-run cars that would allow drivers to sleep on their way to work – thus increasing their productivity. The cars, she says, will be full of Microsoft technology, including .NET chips and video cameras that will figure out the best route to take avoiding traffic. The cars would also allow users to take their tea and eat meals in these cars. She thinks every Microsoft employee should get one free.
Umaimah Mendhro, product manager, Platform Strategy Group, and native of Pakistan, served as a mentor to Arfa during her campus visit oft and spent much of the week with her. Arfa plans to stay in touch with her, and Mendhro says she’d love to watch Arfa grow.
“I hope she continues to grow her strengths, not be afraid to make mistakes and learn from failure as much as success,” Mendhro said. “Given where she is today, she has the opportunity to serve as a role model for kids around the world who get to know her story. I can’t wait to see what kinds of amazing things she’s going to do in the future.”