Nafisa (Natural Sciences, 2014) is the co-founder of Amaliah, an online media platform that amplifies the voices of Muslim women. Here she tells her career story and gives her wellbeing tips.
My name is Nafisa Bakkar and I studied Natural Sciences at UCL. After graduating I did a coding course with Founders and Coders, which is a full-stack developer programme. I joined the course because I had the early idea of Amaliah in my head and wanted to build it out.
By my third year at UCL, I knew that I wanted to work on this idea, but I wasn't sure how to make it work. I didn't feel working on Amaliah would be compatible with a job at the ‘Big Four’ - however, I needed an income! I also needed to understand business, develop a network and find support.
I went on to work for UCL's Centre for Entrepreneurship as an Entrepreneurship Coordinator. It was a new role which required presenting a business idea, which you would work on alongside the job and use the UCL network to develop. I was helping to create and run programmes to engage the student body with business.
For example, I ran a six-week programme where students were given a budget and resources to come up with a product idea and develop it over the six weeks, ending with them selling it at a pitch at Truman Brewery. The aim was to help students start businesses or gain skills through our entrepreneurial programmes.
In my second year of university I was a part of Enactus, where we solved real-world challenges with social enterprise solutions. I was the Vice President and grew and led a team of 70. So, I was taking a lot of my learnings from Enactus into this new role at UCL.
A year into the job, I had made little progress, mostly down to my own confidence issues and lack of self-belief at that time. I then had a switch in mentality, which I talk about on the Amaliah Podcast.
I decided to quit my job and take three months to give Amaliah my all. In these three months, I got onto a scholarship with the British Council for their digital programme and also got onto one of Europe's best startup accelerators, Ignite, which came with funding.
Today Amaliah is a media platform that seeks to create meaningful moments for our audience to feel seen. We do this through articles, our award-winning podcasts, videos, events and partnerships.
Since our inception five years ago, we've worked with leading brands like Lush, Waterstones, eBay and Pinterest. Our Pinterest partnership reaches over 2.7 million people and we have worked with Lush and Waterstones to put on sell-out events that help companies engage with our audience. At the end of 2019, we also worked on the James Bond communications strategy for 2020. In 2019 we acquired our sister brand Halal Gems, where we run one of London's biggest food festivals - last year saw 90,000 people attending over 3 days!
What steps have you taken in looking after your wellbeing during lockdown?
1. I have had to spend some time unlearning what working looks like! We are all very institutionalised in thinking that working literally 9-5 is the best model for us. But lockdown has allowed me to experiment and think about how to use the flexibility of working from home to enhance my working, give me more creativity and compliment my productivity. I used to be really hard on myself for not being 'a morning person' but lockdown and being out of the rushing to work bubble has helped me realise I don't have to wake up at 5am to be successful (whatever that means)!
2. Before lockdown I was doing taekwondo twice a week and it was a point of release and care for myself. In lockdown I have been doing yoga for the first time, after trying it as part of an Amaliah online event series we did.
3. I also started drawing and painting, again after an Amaliah online event, with the brilliant artist Lakshmi Hussain. I found it was great to take my mind of everything else and have a moment of decompressing!