Rameesha Qazi graduated from FIRST Team 1241: THEORY6 in 2012, where she was team captain and recognized as a FIRST Dean’s List Finalist. She now works as a resource development advisor for Crossroads International, a company working to advance the rights of women and girls in West Africa, Southern Africa, and Bolivia. Rameesha is currently based in Tanzania and we caught up with her to find out what exactly she’s doing now!
Thank you to talented writer Emily Haws who writes and compiles this interview series.
Q1: How did you get into FIRST?
RQ: When I was in high school, one of my teachers recommended me to be a Chairman’s Award speaker and through that, I started various outreach programs. I eventually worked my way up to team captain. I started with FIRST Team 1241 in high school but have been involved with many teams across Southern Ontario, and am currently a mentor for 1325.
Q2: What do you do now?
RQ: I work in International Development and my specialization is gender equality and access to education for women and girls. So far, I have worked in Jordan and The Gambia, and am heading to Tanzania next.
Every day is very different, which is why I love it. Sometimes my day includes having meetings with other organizations, government representatives, or United Nations agencies doing the same kind of work as I am. I also write grant applications, attend networking events, create curriculum, and develop projects to solve long-standing problems.
Q3: What’s the most exciting part of your job?
RQ: I love meeting the women and girls we’re helping, but I also like developing programs that address problems in new ways—it’s kind of like build season! And I love traveling!
Q4: What’s the most challenging part?
RQ: There’s a lot we take for granted in Canada, and I witness some of the hardest realities for women and girls first hand. It adds fire in me to do my work, but there are days where I want to give up. I just remember that the work is very important and needs to get done — I’ve got some big goals for my career!
Q5: In few words, how did you get to where you are now?
RQ: I did my undergrad in English Literature, with a specialization in Digital Media and a minor in International Studies from the University of Waterloo and my Post Graduate in International Development at Humber College.
Q6: How has your experience on a FIRST team helped you?
RQ: Creative thinking, time management, networking, presentations, business writing, and teamwork have been key. I use those skills every day. I love working with the kids on my team as a mentor. But, sometimes the time difference between Ontario and where I’m working is hard and I have to stay up super late.
Q7: What inspired you to go into this field?
RQ: I’ve always been passionate about human rights and gender equality – even while I was doing outreach through FIRST, so it seemed like a logical decision for me to enter the development field.
I’m not opposed to working for a STEM company doing outreach or corporate social responsibility work, but my goal is to work at the UN one day and I don’t believe that working with a tech company will take me there. But, who knows what the future holds!
Q8: What’s the best career advice you’ve ever gotten?
RQ: It sounds cliché but the phrase “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life,” really resonates with me. My job has some incredibly hard and challenging moments/days but I love what I do so much that it’s all worth it.
Q9: Other than that advice, what’s your career or school-related advice you would give to a new high school or post-secondary grad going into your field?
-Keep your head up! Some days are tough, but things have a funny way of working out.
-No one likes you when you’re 23, and that’s okay. You deserve all the time and space to figure out who you want to be. Don’t apologize for anything you feel you need to do for yourself.
-Explore, try, and embrace new opportunities, people, places, languages, foods, and careers.
-Get as much education as you can – you can never know too much!
-People change and you will too, and that is normal. Don’t feel like you’re trapped by the decisions you’re making at any point in your life because growth can and will always happen.
-It always feels like you’re running out of time or you’re behind, but you are right where you’re supposed to be.
-I didn’t know how much I needed to hear this, until I did, but I am proud of you for getting this far and everything that is yet to come.
Thank you, Rameesha!
Do you know of a FIRST ambassador we should interview to find out where they are now? Don’t be shy, write us and we’ll try and track them down.