A FIRST CLASS TICKET TO Z'S BRAIN.

In a world full of "What-if's?", "What the hell is going on?!", and "Wow that's awesome!!" I decided to create this platform to word vomit my ideas and question things that make me tick. I've discovered a keen liking for random things and there's no better way to express my liking than screaming into the echo chamber of the interwebs. 

So, what you'll find here is what I find interesting, what I think is relevant and what I'm coming to terms with. It's my world up in here and y'all are just livin in it. 

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Welcome to NY

On May 28th, I landed at JFK and started my big NY adventure. As a born and raised Oregonian who continued to stay in Oregon for college, NYC was a big change. That being said, it’s been a little over a month and I’ve learned quite a bit.

Here are my biggest takeaways and tips for the NY traveler":

1) In NYC, your highs will be highs and your lows will be low.

2) Always carry hand sanitizer. No, really, you don’t know who’s touched what.

3) If there’s a line out the restaurant it’s probably good food.

4) Don’t overplan the perfect day in NY. Focus on areas and walk around. Stumble into things - that’s where the gems are.

5) If someone asks you to hang out or go experience things - do it! The city is a special place with things going on all the time that you won’t be able to go to in other places.

6) Whenever you see a bathroom that’s clean and nice - USE IT. Restrooms come rare out here, it’s better safe than sorry.

7) Go on a random subway and get off on a random stop! You’ll see new neighborhoods and experience authentic NYC living.

8) Watch any game at Yankee Stadium. It’s huge and a surreal moment to be sitting there.

9) Don’t be afraid to mess up! I got my MetroCard stolen on the first week I was in NYC, taken the wrong subways and got lost with directions. Sometimes getting lost is all in the fun of it!

10) Listen to “Empire State of Mind” while you walk down the Brooklyn Bridge.

11) Go to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade with a scoop of ice cream from Emack and Boilios at sunset and watch the sun go down over the city.

12) Walk the High Line in the evening and try guessing how expensive the apartments around it are - it’ll blow your mind.

13) Take the ferry from the Promenade to Wall Street. It’s only $2.75 and you get stunning water views of the skyscrapers.

Makin' it with MAIP 2019

It’s been exactly 1 month (!!!!) since I’ve landed in the Big Apple and started interning at Havas. I got thrown straight into the pharma world and let me tell ya, healthcare is another beast. Placed through the Multicultural Advertising Internship Program, I get to experience New York City in all its glory this summer (hello rats and humidty).

I’ll never forget the night before offers went out. I didn’t know where I wanted to end up this summer and I for sure didn’t know if an agency would even pick me. As the annoying Gen-Zer I am, I documented the roller coaster of emotions for all my #loyal fans on IG.

The funny thing is, from putting the actual application together, to the stress eating the night before, all the way to the nervous FaceTime call before 10 AM on February 6th, I began to experience the community MAIP inherently brings.

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When I first got the offer, I was sitting in my Spanish 111 class and my first instinct was to puke. Then, I called my mom.

Here’s how it looked!! It was pretty exciting.

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The second I accepted my offer, the love came flooding in. And, yes, it came from MAIP alumni at my school and other #MAIP2019 fellows, but it also came from friends who were constant allies in this process.

MAIP helped me build community, break down barriers and meet people from all around the U.S. But, beyond that, MAIP allowed us to start conversations about minorities in the industry and garner support from non- ethnic minority students.

The MAIP process is hard. It’s nerve-wracking. It can be scary and riddled with self-doubt. But seeing that offer and knowing a company chose you after so many options is one of the most empowering feelings I’ve ever experienced.

At times, work can get hard. But, at the end of the day, I know where I’m supposed to be because of MAIP.

My Personal Hero

“You know Z, it’s always easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission.” My 6 year-old nephew, Nyle, has constantly given me profound truths in his actions, words and love. In this particular incident, his wisdom came after I caught him pushing the boundaries with how much dessert he had. But, the funny thing is, Nyle’s mentality is what creates change in our world. His grit to keep moving forward and testing the limits with whatever the situation may be is something I continually learn from. Plain and simple, Nyle has established his voice in a way that doesn’t match anyone else I know. He knows what he wants, he knows what it takes to get there, and he chases it. And if he fails? That’s more than enough reason to keep pushing. He’s taught me that it doesn’t matter how big or small the situation is, you have the power to change it. What matters most is what you choose to do about it. Sometimes it means giving a voice to someone who doesn’t have one. Other times, it means believing in yourself. And sometimes, it just means eating more chocolate than you were told you could have.  

 
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When a Strategist decides to be a Creative...

This term, I decided to be a creative. For one, I wanted to see what the creative process was all about. I also wanted to see if there was any spark there before I graduated with my Advertising degree. In order to test my creative ability, I decided to engage in something creative for 40 days in a row. For 40 days, I wasn’t going to use my phone on my commute to class. Instead, I was going to observe the world around me by looking up. I took a photo of something I found interesting while looking up and tried to paint it. To keep my creative juices flowing, I wanted to hand-letter the coordinates of the photo and write my highs and lows of the day.

So, here it is!

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Why I love Strategy

Remember back in grade school when you finally solved that hard long-division math problem you were working on for hours?

That exhilaration of solving a complex problem and feeling an “aha!” moment is my favorite feeling in the world. (And yes, it even tops eating the best pizza a city has to offer).

Maybe solving math problems wasn’t necessarily for me, but strategy gives 20-year old me that same satisfaction I felt at 10 years old.

Strategy has always been about finding beauty in the process. The long-grueling-holy-shit-am-I-going-crazy process. Just like every strategist, I’m a curious person who only seems satisfied after all options have been exhausted (and even that’s questionable). Our minds don’t turn off, they’re constantly thinking about alternate ways to seeing the world we live in.  

When I was working on a project for Allen Edmonds, an upscale male shoe vendor, I felt like I was slowly turning into their target audience – the discerning man. First off, as a teenage girl who is arguably the exact stereotype of a millennial, that’s a bold statement. But I would find myself thinking “Hmmm what would the discerning man think of this atrocity?” as I window shopped in the stores on my way to my train stop.

That’s only one case of the many personas I’ve encapsulated in my time as a strategist.

Personally, I have the biggest love-hate relationship of weeding through a dense forest of information just trying to find the core solution to a problem. A constant decision-making process, strategy requires me to be constantly exercising my brain and be on my toes. And it’s exhilarating. Granted, sometimes it’s hard deciding what speaks to an audience versus another idea. I’m sure it’s a process of making mistakes and fine-tuning my strategy radar, but being in the center of the storm is where I feel ready to take on the biggest tasks.  

I love strategy because it’s taught me to look at the world beyond myself, it’s taught me how to act under pressure, and strategy has made my life more fun.

My work as a strategist allows me to feel I’m fulfilling my role as an informed citizen who can craft educated opinions about the world around me. I get to deep-dive head first into a complex issues every day that remind me of solving math problems in elementary school, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

So as I navigate the world of strategy, the words of Agathe Guerrier – Head of Strategy at BBH LA - have always stuck with me. “When it comes to strategy, remember: The People, The Product, and The Profit – and in that order.”

 

Replace -isms with -ships

For most of us – myself included – high school is a period in our life that we decidedly choose to ignore. No one wants to remember the era of awkward school dances, bright colored American Eagle jeans, and constantly hoping you aren’t humiliating yourself.

Up until college, I’ve only attended catholic schools…as a Muslim kid. Now, the common response to that I receive is “Why the hell….?” Well, simply put my parents valued discipline and professionalism and thought private school was the way to go.  

My experiences growing up were unique to say the least. While I was discovering my identity and dealing with the same high school drama we all faced, I had many conflicting parts of me. Trying to form my identity as a Muslim, as an American teenager, and a Pakistani resulted in many frustrating moments. To make things more difficult, there always seemed to be this pressure to completely give in to each part of me, leaving the rest behind.

 At the end of the day, I was never satisfied with who I was. I constantly felt fragmented and incapable of fully being one type of person. Which was frustrating as hell as a teenager, when all I wanted was to fly under the radar and be like everyone else.

Now, I don’t meant to make it sound like my entire life was consumed by conflicting identities and I couldn’t function as a student. Most days would go by quickly filled with daily life activities.

Because I grew up in Oregon, I was lucky to be in an environment where I never experienced blatant discrimination. However, my world would shake when I did encounter subtle acts of racism and sexism. These moments came from all parts of my identity and always at times that never ever felt right.

One of the greatest struggles I had was being told quite bluntly, “you’re too white to be Pakistani and you’re too brown to be American.” Talk about being stranded on a deserted island.

Or being told because I’m a Pakistani girl, there’s just some things that my older brother could do that I couldn’t.

Obviously, these comments led to frustration and many times of sheer anger. However, reflecting back at these times, the most productive change in my life occurred when I replaced the  –isms with –ships.

I exchanged the racism and sexism I faced with relationships, partnerships, and friendships. It took a lot of swallowing my pride and it took a certain level of maturity I developed because of the identity challenges I faced.

It meant listening and becoming friends with people who had such strong opposing views. It meant practicing empathy and trying to understand the origin of their deep-rooted feelings. It meant being strong and relentless.

Getting to this point was never easy as a teenager, but in those moments I felt self-growth. And those moments have shaped me into the young woman I am today.

Today, I am the girl who is no longer embarrassed of having 3 different identities, but is proud of each one of them. I’m still learning how they all exactly fit together,, but I’ve found beauty in the process. And while I still face –ism moments, I know that replacing them with –ships will change the world one person at a time. So, all in all maybe high school taught me a thing or two that I don’t want to ignore.

 

Freedom of Expression and its place on College Campuses

This past Friday, I had the opportunity to eat some delicious burritos while discussing the importance of free expression.  

Two Journalism professors, Lisa Heyamoto and Todd Milbourn (who also happen to be #couplegoals) asked a mixed group of 30 people three questions: 

1) Think about a time when you stood up and what happened?

2) Discuss a time that you didn't speak up.  

3) What does an open, respectful campus look like? 

Although these questions appear rather simple, the responses I heard and shared myself became part of the most interesting conversation I've felt I had as a college student so far. 

In our small group, we had a reporting journalism major, a law student, an international student, a transfer student from Ohio, and two advertising majors (including me). We were a jumble of personalities from different walks of life all brought together to spark discussion about free expression. 

When I was tasked to think of a time I stood up and spoke out, I felt this sense of pride that I had been an up-stander. I discussed a time in one of my Islamic history classes when we were talking about gender segregated places and a male student proclaimed that the woman only hour at the university gym seemed pointless. As an avid user of the woman's only hour, with a trembling voice I remember telling him when I work out I have to worry about men checking me out and having that woman only time feels like I can work out in peace and I am in a safe zone. 

As I heard other stories of people speaking out and compared them to mine, I found common themes:

- We spoke out because we were uncomfortable.

- If not me, then who? If not now, then when?  

However, the pride of speaking out quickly vanished as we all started to discuss a time we didn't speak out. This one brought out the tears. 

I spoke out about the threats my American Muslim family has received since 9/11 and how my immigrant parents would tell us to "just take it" because this country has given us so many opportunities. We owed the country silence. 

But once again, as I sat and heard other stories from my peers, similar themes seemed to appear:

- We didn't speak up because we were uncomfortable.

- Why me? Someone else can come along. 

So what is going on? It seemed with this political climate, opinions are becoming so polarized that people fear expressing any opposing opinion from the majority. 

And that leads us to the final question, "What does an open, respectful campus look like?". The universal agreement was we need professors to spark discussion, relate information to current events, and recreate a sense of empathy. 

It was an invigorating discussion and something I would encourage everyone to think about and participate in. 

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Scott Bedbury + The Florida School Shooting: Be Fearless, Be Proactive, Be Present

Coming into my class the other day, I heard legendary claims of our guest speaker, Scott Bedbury. He was the mastermind behind Nike and he was the hero who made Starbucks what is today. 

Although I felt fortunate to get the chance to listen to an alum prodigy, I was struggling to distract myself from the recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

I was angry, frustrated and deeply saddened by the lives lost and our country's inability to understand the horrors guns can do to kids who were my age.

As I listened to Scott with all of these feelings flowing through me about the 17 lives lost, I decided to write down words + phrases that stood out to me while he was speaking in an attempt to stay attentive.  

 

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As I was looking over my notes later in the night, the bottom corner of my notes caught my eye. Be fearless, be proactive, be present. I had spent the entire rest of the day on Twitter and reading the news about details of the shooting. While I was on Twitter I saw tweets that were insightful and raw. Quite frankly, they were the epitome of "Be fearless, be proactive and be present."

Scrolling through the tweets, especially those coming from the students who were present at the shooting reflected a sense of bravery that I have never seen from victims of a shooting. They weren't playing the weak victim, they were strong and courageous - and only teenagers. They were what Scott Bedbury was talking about. These kids who survived made people think and told their very human and very real stories. I started to connect the dots from what I heard in class and people who were walking the walk. 

So, perhaps I wasn't able to be as attentive as I wanted to be for the legendary Scott Bedbury. But, I did learn from him and the victims of these shootings. Their words, their impact and their ability to question the adults in power is empowering. These kids are the ones doing something about it and the ones who are "weaponizing the truth" as Bedbury would say. Not through violence, but through conversation and intellect. 

Family Ties

I had a serious case of Winter Break Boredom Syndrome. I know, if I told anyone else I had 5 weeks off and I wanted less, they'd think I was crazy.

Anyways, on a random Tuesday (or was it Thursday? Friday? who even knows when you're on vacation) I found a box of slides stored away in a cabinet where I was originally looking for middle school memorabilia (that's a wholeee other story). I couldn't figure out what was infront of me. Nothing was labeled and all I could make out of the slides were bright colors and some sort of celebration seemed to be occurring. 

As I used the magnificent power of the sun and portrait mode on the newest iPhone, I came to find photos of my parents in their youth and their engagement party. Now, for most people and kids my age these pictures wouldn't be anything out of the ordinary. But, for me, it was different.

Growing up in a Pakistani-immigrant household, captured memories and memorabilia are rarely taken. And if they are taken, most get pushed away into a cabinet like these slides. Hanging family portraits, embarrassing naked videos of when I was a baby or even my seeing my parent's wedding photos - they just weren't a thing for us. I don't think it was because they didn't want visual memories, but rather it was simply a cultural difference. 

Finding these gems was unique. It made me wonder about how bad-ass my family actually was back in Pakistan and where all the people are now. Maybe I fantasize and go overboard about how cool these individuals actually are, but to me it was the first time I witnessed the vibrant journey of the past lives my parents used to live before Oregon. 

 

 

TOP LEFT: My beautiful and smart mama laughing (probably at my dad). Her nickname has been Rani ever since she was younger, which means queen in Urdu. This photo was taken after she finished medical school and was moving to America to finish her medical career. She is now a Pathologist in Portland, OR. 

TOP RIGHT: My father in Kuwait in the late 70's, posing like a g. A great LinkedIn shot. 

BOTTOM LEFT: My father's uncle smoking a cigarette on a hot summer night in Karachi, Pakistan. His daughter (my father's cousin) went on to be one of Pakistan's most recognizable news anchors. 

BOTTOM RIGHT: My mother's friends, siblings and cousins do her makeup for her engagement party. A true trend-setter, my mother loved everything about fashion and beauty. Interestingly enough, our extended family soon after this photo was taken became very religious Muslims. 

MOST BOTTOM: In the early 80's my mom fixes my dad's sister's earrings in Karachi, Pakistan.