Episode 16: Sheba Najmi

When I made a choice to leave Pakistan and come to the US, I left a prestigious career path, my parents and my home. I came all by myself and landed in upstate NY in the dead of winter. I didn’t know anyone there…I didn’t even have a real jacket, it was snowing and I arrived in the middle of the night.

"Fear holds you back and it makes you a cocooned version of yourself."

Sheba Najmi, Founder & Executive Director, Code for Pakistan, on creating social impact through
civic technology

Many of us default to what’s comfortable.  We learn to live with inefficiency, whether it’s faulty roads with potholes or crippling bureaucracy at governmental agencies like the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).  While there will be a lot of complaining and commiserating, not many take it upon them to challenge the status quo and engage with policy makers to initiate change. 

Sheba Najmi is the opposite of the disengaged citizen.  Sheba’s mission in life is to create social impact through technology and design in order to change the way people interact with their governments.    Sheba is the Founder and Executive Director of Code for Pakistan, a non-profit that is improving the lives of citizens through creating innovation in public services in Pakistan.  Her mission is to give a voice to citizens. 

Sheba’s journey to improve the lives of others began when she was a high school student.  She carried that passion with her when she immigrated to the US and pivoted from her successful career at Yahoo and joined a fellowship program with Code for America.
The immigrant’s life and their sense of home are always wrought with uncertainty.  There is a lot redefining, recreating and reinventing of relationships; Sheba did a lot of that.

Podcast Details

Find out from the podcast how Sheba:

  • Transitioned into the social impact space and made it her mission in life
  • Discovered her new relationship with her old home after she immigrated to the US
  • Defines success on a personal and professional level
  • Crossed paths with Pakistan’s most revered social activist and change maker, the late Sabeen Mahmud and the deep influence she had on Sheba’s work
  • Deals with fear in light of Sabeen’s untimely death
  • Likes to “detox” herself to create more happiness in her life

"I beg you to take courage; the brave soul can mend even disaster". - Catherine The Great

In order to make an impact, one needs to be courageous and brave.  Sabeen Mahmud was that person.  Sheeba Najmi is that person.

About Sheba

Sheba Najmi is a user experience designer and product strategist.   Sheba is the Founder & Executive Director of Code for Pakistan, a technology driven non-profit building a civic innovation ecosystem to improve quality of life across Pakistan.  After nearly 7 years as a User Experience Lead at Yahoo!, Najmi joined the “peace corps of geeks” as a Code for America 2012 Fellow.  Sheba drove the launch of Pakistan’s first Civic Hackathon and followed that with many others.  Code for Pakistan now runs a Peshawar Fellowship Program in partnership with the government; three community groups called Civic Innovation Labs, a women and technology initiative, and are starting work on data journalism.  Sheba holds MS and BS degrees in Symbolic Systems from Stanford University.