Ladies, Leaders, Lives Lived, Lives Led – IMRAN™

Ladies, Leaders, Lives Lived, Lives Led – IMRAN™
By Imran Anwar
The last day of March closes out Women’s History Month. It is a perfect time to honor and salute at least some of the incredible women who have had an impact on my life since I was born. I know you will love the stories, and will join me in honoring these ladies.

>>Family & Early Life<<

March 31 is also the birthday of my precious and incredible younger sister, Dr. Ambereen. A gold-medalist student since childhood, accomplished doctor, great professor, head of department at the top medical school in Pakistan, devoted wife, incredible mother to a daughter (who just became a doctor) and a son getting a business and tech degree…. On top of that she is the author of a brand new medical textbook. Not to mention that she manages to beat the combined 10,000 and 10,000 walking steps goals of our brother and me every day, often exceeding 20,000 steps daily! Yet, in all that she does, she insists, that she has not been able to do as much as our late mother was able to accomplish, whom we lost aged 50, thirty years ago.
Our mother, Nargis Anwar, whom people who even only knew her briefly still talk to us about decades after she was gone, gave up her master’s in economics in the final year when she got married and devoted her life to our amazing father, and our upbringing. My father outlived her by nearly two decades, but he never remarried, never even dated. He spent his remaining life talking about her and bringing fresh rose petals to her grave every weekend for the next 17 years.
He did that even during the last 7 years of his life when he was totally paralyzed by a massive stroke and had to be physically carried to her grave! That is how much we all considered her the soul of our family.
I was also triply blessed that I grew up with my late maternal grandmother, Shakila Khatoon. I moved to Karachi just past age 6. I was given the choice to leave home and stay with her for a better education than I would get in the remote locations my father was posted every three years early in his civil engineering career. People still can’t believe my parents let me make that life choice that early.
It was hardest for my mother to accept that decision, as I was her first born. But that choice forged my life and gave me the confidence to embark on any journey or take on life’s toughest challenges on my own.
My grandmother was a young orphan, and later a young widow. She could only read Urdu newspapers and the Holy Quran in Arabic. Despite that, she insisted on, and managed to have, all five of her daughters get master’s degrees — from Economics to Chemistry to Education — which was not very common in the 1950s in many parts of the world, and impossible even today in some countries.
She gave them the support to build careers in Pakistan in the 1960s on. One of my aunts, Parveen Akhtar, still flies around the world as a consultant and speaker to NGOs and governmental organizations on promoting entrepreneurship and women’s businesses. Another of my aunts, now-deceased, Ishrat Shirwany, launched a private school system in Pakistan, and then a line of fashion clothing…. for kids… in Pakistan… in the 1960s! Talk about multi-industry entrepreneurship. I was fortunate enough to see them all achieve these things even in a conservative Muslim country while I grew up with my grandmother.
If we Muslims had an equivalent system of sainthood, as was often mentioned in the catholic schools that I was lucky to be educated at in Karachi, my grandmother would have been declared a saint. She was one because of all the ways she continued to serve others, through her life, by example, and by guidance, attention, love, and even prayer, never asking anything in return, or once complaining for having lost her parents, her young husband, then losing a young son, a relatively young daughter, and many more losses.
These are people whom one will never read about in traditional history books, but to me they are the history of anything I ever achieve in life, or any good that I am able to do in my time on earth.
There are obviously many times in my personal life that I have been blessed to be loved with and have had the female partners on the journey of life. These incredible, beautiful, smart, talented, and loving souls are part of my personal history as well, so this is a nod to them, but those are stories for another day, another book.

>>Education & Lifelong Learning<<

Going back to subject of Education. That was something that my grandmother and my parents insisted were essential for me, and all of us, to excel in. It was another area where I shall always honor and cherish several lady-teachers who had the most incredible impact on my life.
The late Sister Mary Frances, who taught Cambridge University School Certificate English Grammar to dozens of us students at St. Paul’s English High School, in Karachi, had a lot to do with the fact that I love to write so much.
I was eleven, growing up in a developing nation, with English (still) my third language. She could have ignored "’Chinku & Minku Get The Bananas’ by Imran Anwar" — a short one-act play of imaginary dialog between two kid-monkeys at a zoo. The monkeys discussed how to fool a visitor boy to give them his bananas.
Sister Mary quietly took the paper I handed to her in addition to my actual homework. But more importantly, a few days later she brought it back. She called me over after class. Then she went over it with me…. line by line…. on how to make the dialog tighter, the story more engaging.
She told me, before I was even a teen, that I had a gift for writing. What more could a kid ask for! She did see me get published in the Pakistan Times at age 17, but later she passed away, and was buried in her native Ireland, but draped in a Pakistani flag! She did not get to read things like my Op-Ed pieces published by the Wall Street Journal and other global publications. But I salute her, and other great teachers like her, with every word I write even today.
Columbia And America
There is obviously not enough time to mention all the great lady-teachers, much less all the teachers, whom I am grateful to. But my lifelong journey of constant learning, even after starting a career, and becoming established in Pakistan, continued.
With the four-concentrations full-scholarship MBA from Columbia Business School, Journalism School, as well as Engineering School, to some I may have proven that academic standards have fallen worldwide. But, kidding aside, even at that stage in life, in 1989-1990, when I began the American part of my life’s journey, having great ladies as among the greatest teachers remained a great factor.
One of the toughest and most popular professors at Columbia Business School, Professor Dr. Kathryn Harrigan, taught two courses when I was there. Her courses were always oversubscribed. The final rosters of students were picked by lottery. Wanting to be in at least one of her two courses, regardless of how difficult the workload she was famous for, and how tough she was in intellectually challenging her students, I applied for both.
Being a Gemini, I often joke about wanting two of everything. Well, wouldn’t you believe it, my name was picked in both lotteries. I would say that I was in two-minds, but for a Gemini that is a base-state of mind!
Living up to one of my two lifelong mottos, "If Anyone Can, ‘I’ Can!" yours truly decided to attend both courses… in the same semester. To this day I recall attending the first class of her first subject. You know me, I always have something to say, and something to ask. So, I did. And what an intellectually gratifying discussion it led to from the very first session. When she assigned work and an immense reading workload, I knew I was in for a tough but awesome course.
Later that same afternoon, in another filled classroom, I sat in the first session of Professor Harrigan’s second subject. Not missing a beat, she noticed me in that room, and was surprised that I had gotten into both classes by lottery.
Then she literally asked if I was a glutton for punishment. Was I sure I wanted to put myself through the grinding workload of two of her courses in the same semester, because this course was even tougher than the one earlier that day?
I believe achieving Anything is possible. The Impossible just takes a little more effort. So, I said, "Yes, Professor. I can’t wait!" She grinned and went on to teach a class full of successful professionals continuing our learning in awe of her sharp mind. She lived up to her expectation as one of the most incredible professors of anything anywhere, in both the courses we learned from her in.
Literally two decades later, as I was walking to my parked car outside a grocery store on the South shore of eastern Long Island, I saw Professor Harrigan walking out of the store next door. She said, “Aren’t you Imran? You were one of the most interesting students I had in my courses twenty years ago!” Talk about an incredible teacher and an incredibly sharp mind!

>>Today, Tomorrow, And Beyond<<

To this day the learnings from Professor Harrigan’s two courses at Columbia University, covering Corporate Strategy (strategic management, alliances, M&A, diversification) and Competitive Strategy (applicable to every aspect of life and business), and our classroom discussions, inspire me in my work. Those are surely at play in my never-ending proposals to leaders at client global giants, as well as to the topmost leaders at Microsoft.
As I write these lines, as midnight approaches the international dateline at the end of Women’s History Month, I must also acknowledge the incredible ladies and leaders within Microsoft. has their names, but the clock is about to strike so I am posting this shorter item. proposals.
They have helped me continue to learn and grow, to aspire to lead higher, and to contribute at the highest levels of my experience and capabilities. They lead and inspire my colleagues and me to serve our clients, and people around the world, to drive Customer Success, for our greatest impact in helping every person and every organization on the planet achieve all they are capable of.
Thank you, ladies!

© 2021 IMRAN™

Posted by ImranAnwar on 2021-04-03 18:18:26

Tagged: , Education , IMRAN , Imran Anwar , Karachi , Lahore , Microsoft , Pakistan , Women , family , honor , ladies , leadership , memories , respect , sacrifice , service , women’s history month