Masooma Bhaiwala: From Idea to Execution—Computer Chips to Charities

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Masooma Bhaiwala studied Computer/Electrical Engineering at NED University of Engineering and Technology in Pakistan where she was the top-ranked student and was awarded the Gold Medal and the Quaid-e-Azam Scholarship for graduate studies in the USA.

She completed her Masters degree in Computer Engineering at the University of Massachusetts after which she worked for Digital Equipment Corp. and Sun Microsystems as a computer architect and Senior Project Manager. In 2004, she joined. AMD where she is responsible for the design and development of both “off-the shelf” computer chips as well as custom chips. She oversees development teams located in Boston, Canada, India and China. She is the site lead of AMD’s Women’s Forum which helps mentor women employees in their career and work/life balance.

Bhaiwala is a founding member of The Citizens Foundation — Boston Chapter, whose mission is to provide quality education to the disadvantaged children in Pakistan. She is a Charter Member of Organization of Pakistani Entrepreneurs New England. She is also involved with efforts to raise awareness of domestic violence. She had been the Principal and teacher of the Islamic Sunday School in her community for seven years. In addition, she has also helped organize several musical and interfaith cultural events.

INDIA New England News: Please tell our readers about your work and what you enjoy most about it?
Masooma Bhaiwala: I am a Computer Design engineer by profession and enjoy building chip products with very large teams — starting with a concept and giving it shape to create something meaningful for customers. Create a product from an idea and build teams to execute.

INE: To which charitable, community and professional group do you belong and why?
MB: (a) Founding member of TCF Boston — The Citizen’s Foundation — non-profit dedicated to building schools in Pakistan. We started a chapter in Boston a year and half ago to help build more schools in Pakistan. I come from a family for whom education was fundamental — both my parents were dedicated and understood the value of good education and I consider education to be the bane of all evils and in my view there is no better way for me to give back to my country than try to help educate its poor and needy children through an organization whose integrity I trust and whose execution I believe.

(b) Charter member of OPEN — non-profit dedicated to the promotion of entrepreneurship and leadership — I have joined this organization because I want to be part of the technical community and give back by guiding and involving the young leads of tomorrow both from Pakistan and youth here.

(c) Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) Women’s Forum — I was part of the founding steering committee of the AMD Women’s Forum and also the chapter lead for AMD Boston — I also mentor several junior female engineers — women generally do very well academically but then in today’s “always on and always connected” world it sometimes becomes very difficult to maintain work/life balance and be equally proficient and effective at work. Sometimes, it is also a matter of choice for many women — at what time what needs to be one’s priority and how to make it work.

(d) For the past some years I have also been very involved in raising community awareness of sexual and domestic violence issues; encouraging the victims to speak up; providing forums to talk and discuss about this very silent issue that affects many of us. For some years I was involved with SAHELI as a volunteer and helped put together events to bring truly diverse south Asian community together to discuss these taboo topics.
(e) Member of Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

INE: What are you hobbies and interest?
MB: Reading (member of book club for 13 years), yoga, music.

INE: In what way you feel you have most positively influenced or served the local community and your company/organization and professional field.
MB: (a) I have taken a lot of risks and tried to start or innovate where I saw a vacuum or a need both in personal and professional life that have generally paid off and when/where I failed I tried to learn and restart.

(b) In my personal life I have interacted with a very diverse group of people and communities and have attempted to bring them together — I truly believe in no boundaries, be it religious, cultural, race or color or gender.

(C) In my university days I fought for and succeeded in getting time for girls in computer labs together with boys and Electrical and Computer Engineering girls to go on class tours with the boys which was not done before. Revamped the religious Sunday school in Boston for my religious community and developed my own curriculum to teach Quranic reading and writing to both children and community adults. I helped organize the Zila Khan sufi concert at Chinmaya Mission to try to bring South Asian communities together. Through TCF, we are not only trying to improve the educational system but are also creating a platform for like-minded people in boston coming from different mosques and backgrounds. Through OPEN, I am trying to get younger generation especially girls more connected with technology — we organized a women’s leadership conference last year followed by a youth college event and hopefully some more technology sessions this year and next. Through SAHELI, I tried to create awareness for domestic violence by putting several events to bring various South Asian communities together.

(d) I bring similar values and strengths in my professional and work life. I was on the steering board for AMD’s women Forum and also established the AMD Women’s Forum chapter in Boston and have spoken on women’s recruitment and issues in the technology world.

(e) I was part of a very small team that chartered some new territory for the company I work for out of which a whole new business unit was formed.

INE: Your rare talent?
MB: Relationship builder; Finding the best in others and using their talent and skills and personal traits to create diverse and productive teams. Not afraid to charter new and seemingly difficult paths.

INE: Your favorite books?
MB: Roots — Alex Hailey, and 40 Rules of Love by Elif Shafak.

INE: Favorite quotes?
MB: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” — Nelson Mandela.

“Aging gracefully is important and relevant. As we grow older, we accumulate our own load of successes & disappointments in life. The memory of some successes gives us wings & certain failures might weigh us down. But the secret to aging gracefully isn’t in our looks, instead it is in our good humor, wisdom & magnanimity. It is in our ability to give wings to those around us while lightening the load of others and our own failures through love, compassion and mercy. No one wants to be around crotchety old people and it is only good humor and grace that we need to develop to be loved & remembered beyond our mortal years. So think hard about how and what you want to be remembered by & behave accordingly!” — Unknown.

“I have come to accept the feeling of not knowing where I am going. And I have trained myself to love it. Because it is only when we are suspended in mid-air with no landing in sight, that we force our wings to unravel and alas begin our flight. And as we fly, we still may not know where we are going to. But the miracle is in the unfolding of the wings. You may not know where you’re going, but you know that so long as you spread your wings, the winds will carry you.” –C. JoyBell C .

INE: Who inspires you the most?
MB: My mother — because of her strength of character, focus, tenacity, perseverance to make something of life no matter what life dishes out and positive attitude under whichever situation!

INE: Your core value you try to live by?
MB: Be honest and sincere and give it your best in all your relationships be it with people, institutions you serve and goals you set for yourself or others that you influence.

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