Refugee to Winner to COO: Inspiring Young Female Tech Entrepreneurs

In News by MIIC

Sophia Mahfooz, COO of Girls In Tech, says using her disadvantages is key to success.

“I was born in the middle of nowhere.”

That is how Sophia Mahfooz, the 25-year-old chief operating officer of Girls In Tech, describes the start of her life. Since 1992, she has masterfully moved from her beginnings in Afghanistan near Peshawar, Pakistan to a global position for a non-profit based in Silicon Valley where she can change the lives of young women around the world.

Mahfooz describes how her parents and brother escaped from the Taliban when their home in Afghanistan was bombed and her mother was pregnant with her. Born on the outskirts of Afghanistan near Pakistan, Mahfooz says her family stayed in Peshwar for seven years “to gain some form of stability” before moving to London.

As refugees, she says, her and her now two brothers, Rahfi and Omar, were not allowed to attend school. “My parents taught us to read and write and fellow refugees who were academics also taught us,” she says. “It was a difficult, chaotic time.”

Those intense challenges, Mahfooz says, offered her insight. “I realize someone whose family is displaced can take two decades to reach stability, the trauma is there. You have the feeling you don’t have skills, the right accent or the language to survive.” She adds, “I felt like I never had a childhood.”

After her first year at University College London, Mahfooz says she entered a global pitch competition. “I had no clue what an entrepreneur was and I pitched an idea for a wearable medical device to track cardiovascular health,” she explains.

Because England has a public health system, everyone is scheduled for appointments, but there is a wait for an appointment, she says. With her idea, OneCare, the wearable device would send data to a hospital so you would get your appointment shifted.”

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