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Shamila Sarwar | A Chapter in Her Story | by Melissa Cardoso

Every great journey begins with a single step. Here's the journey of Shamila Sarwar. Stepping off a plane as a young girl from Bangladesh, then into the chaos of Massachusetts. Shamila's sense of uncertainty was overwhelming as she left behind everything she'd ever known for the unfamiliar.

Throughout a lifetime, we cross paths with many people from different backgrounds. Some have interesting roots - meet Shamila Sarwar. Melissa got a chance to speak with Shamila about her story of resilience. Learn how she confronts overwhelming uncertainty, navigates unfamiliar surroundings, and turns the great unknown into her newfound strength.


Let's begin. 


Melissa's chat with Shamila...


How does venturing outside one's comfort zone redefine the conventional understanding of career progression, and what role does embracing discomfort play in shaping one's professional journey?


Imagine a young girl, feeling a mix of excitement and nervousness as she leaves behind her home and entire family in Bangladesh, setting foot on the unfamiliar streets of Massachusetts. From that moment on, each step I took felt like turning a page in a thrilling adventure novel. From those early days of uncertainty to my leap into starting a fresh life and career from scratch in Canada and seizing an opportunity at Vendasta - made me think - this journey has been filled with twists and turns.


Leaving my UNICEF career, a dream role I had secured after a lifetime of waiting, was like leaping from a solid bridge to walk a tightrope with no safety harness. Amidst the challenges and unknowns, I  discovered a resilience I never knew I had - a strength that grows with each obstacle I overcome.


As I embrace change and explore new career paths, I’m learning that real growth happens when we step out of our comfort zones. Each experience becomes a chapter in the story of personal and professional growth, reminding me that the best adventures are often found outside of our comfort zones.


In what ways does exploring uncharted career paths challenge individuals to confront their fears and limitations, ultimately leading to greater self-discovery and fulfillment?


Diving into uncharted career paths has been like embarking on the ultimate scavenger hunt of self-discovery. When I told my UNICEF Chief, Jenny Gamming, that I would have to forgo my dream job at UNICEF to move to Canada and figure out a new career trajectory, she told me “Well, sometimes in life, you have to let go of certain things you love to open up new windows of opportunities”. 


Even after a dose of hope from Jenny, I could sense the fears of uncertainty. Conquering those initial fears was like skydiving without a parachute—heart-stopping, but exhilarating.  And let me tell you, adapting to the tech scene was like trying to learn the latest TikTok dance - awkward at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s addictive. 


"Through this crazy journey, I've stumbled upon hidden talents and passions I never even knew existed." - Shamila 


How does a career path outside the comfort zone advocate for the integration of philanthropic endeavors into one's professional trajectory, and what strategies does it offer for individuals seeking to make a meaningful impact on vulnerable communities, particularly children?


Venturing into new career paths has been like going on a thrilling adventure for me. While I’ve switched from working at UNICEF to joining the tech industry at Vendasta, my bigger goal of making a positive impact has remained consistent.


I soon realized that making a difference wasn't just about traditional roles. It could be part of any job. That realization pushed me to explore how I could help those in most need.


Both my roles at UNICEF and SNODA allowed me to work with the most vulnerable children. I was able to be the voice of children and bring forth the stories of the most marginalized children affected by severe floods and drowning to the world, through my work as a Communications Officer. The desire to help lived on and I took it forward with my role at SNODA, an NGO working relentlessly to help slum children in Bangladesh from the dangers of being derailed. Seeing their struggles made me want to do something to help with their basic education, nutrition, and skill development and there’s so much more to do. 


When I talk to these children and hand them something as small as a notebook or a meal,  I realize that every little act of kindness towards them makes them feel welcome - a feeling they are mostly deprived of. In a harsh world where they are secluded from society primarily because of their socioeconomic status, even the smallest act of kindness makes them feel like they are worthy of being seen, valued, accepted, and respected. 


In their eyes, I see a glint of hope sparked by our small acts - a reminder of the value in things we might take for granted. It shows me that when you're passionate about something, you'll always find a way to make a difference, no matter how small.


Can you elaborate on the symbiotic relationship between personal growth and career advancement, and how embracing discomfort can catalyze both professional success and altruistic endeavors?


Through my experiences at Falmouth Academy, Wesleyan College, and the bustling streets of New York City, I’ve intertwined personal growth with career advancement.


Back at Falmouth Academy, I was thrown into a world of rigorous academic challenges. It was tough, but so rewarding. Those challenges taught me the importance of embracing the discomfort of facing the unknown head-on. Little did I know, those lessons would lay the foundation for my future adventures.


Enter Wesleyan College - a place bursting with opportunities for exploration and growth. Here, I delved into various disciplines, stepping out of my comfort zone at every turn. From engaging in experiential learning to taking on new challenges, Wesleyan pushed me to grow in ways I never imagined.


But it was the bustling streets of New York City that truly put my newfound resilience and adaptability to the test. Every day felt like a whirlwind of new experiences and obstacles, each one teaching me valuable lessons that transcended the boundaries of my personal and professional life.


Through it all, I've come to realize that embracing discomfort isn't just about stepping outside your comfort zone - it's about seizing every opportunity for growth and using it to propel yourself forward in both your career and your personal journey. It's about embracing the unknown with open arms, knowing that every challenge is just another chance to rediscover yourself and even become the best version of yourself.


For individuals with a deep-seated concern for the well-being of vulnerable children, how do you provide actionable insights and pathways to leverage their careers for philanthropic purposes, even in non-traditional sectors?


During my time at UNICEF and working with SNODA, an NGO in Bangladesh, I decided to improve the lives of slum children and it has made me even more committed to making a difference. Seeing the tough lives these kids face up close showed me how urgent it is to help.  It made me want to use my career to help them, even if it's not in a traditional way. 


Combining what I learned at UNICEF and SNODA with my education and job, I've found ways to share meals with them, hand out COVID kits to them, and help them make masks as income-generating activities. Nothing complicated. The impact of this little bit of help is enormous for them. Their smiles keep me going, reminding me that I can make a real difference in these kids' lives.


Lastly, stepping outside one's comfort zone can lead to unexpected opportunities for philanthropic involvement and the profound influence such endeavors can have on both individual fulfillment and societal change.


Imagine stepping into the unknown like uncovering hidden treasures, each step revealing unexpected opportunities to make a profound difference.


My journey echoes this sentiment. Working with UNICEF and SNODA ignited a passion within me for aiding vulnerable children - a passion I hadn't foreseen, but one that felt undeniably right.


As I ventured beyond my comfort zone, I unearthed unconventional avenues to contribute to a positive societal change. 


By embracing discomfort, I didn't just grow personally; I became a catalyst for meaningful transformation. My actions had a tangible impact on the lives of marginalized communities. 


"Stepping outside your comfort zone isn't just about self-discovery; it's about unleashing the potential to effect real change that can have a bigger positive impact not only on you but on those around you." - Shamila

To hear more of Shamila's story, connect with her on LinkedIn and Instagram:


LinkedIn | Shamila Sarwar

Instagram | @shamilansarwar


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Dennis | @diaanimedia

Dia'ani Media | Advertising

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