'Pakistan's Girl Wonder' Is Likely the Youngest Certified Microsoft Expert
By Todd Bishop

Ten- year-old Arfa Karim Randhawa of Pakistan believed to be the youngest person in the world to have earned Microsoft Certified Professional status

Sitting down for a personal meeting with Bill Gates this week, 10-year-old Arfa Karim Randhawa asked the Microsoft founder why the company doesn't hire people her age.
Under the circumstances, the question wasn't so unreasonable. Arfa, a promising software programmer from Faisalabad, Pakistan, is believed to be the youngest Microsoft Certified Professional in the world. The designation, given to outside experts who prove their ability to work with Microsoft technologies, has also been achieved by some teenagers. But it's far more common among adults seeking to advance their computer careers.
Arfa received the certification when she was still 9, an impressive accomplishment in its own right, according to older programmers who have gone through the process. And others called it an encouraging sign of the continued emergence of women in a country where they have historically struggled to advance.
The situation illustrates "another side" of Pakistan, said Anand Yang, director of the University of Washington's Jackson School of International Studies. "That's another reason to celebrate someone like her."
Arfa's one-on-one meeting with Gates was part of a visit to the company's Redmond campus, arranged and sponsored by Microsoft to better introduce Arfa to the company, and to give people at headquarters a chance to meet her. The week included lab tours and a series of informal sessions with Microsoft executives and employees, including a Pakistani employee group.
She made an impression through a combination of charm, flattery and boldness uncommon for someone her age. For example, during Arfa's meeting with Gates, she presented him with a poem she wrote that celebrated his life story. But she also questioned him about what she perceived to be the relatively small proportion of women on the campus.
"It should be balanced -- an equal amount of men and an equal amount of women," she explained afterward. About 75 percent of Microsoft employees are men, according to company data.
Recounting their conversation, Arfa said Gates acknowledged her concerns and talked about the broader industry's struggles to increase the proportion of women in technology-related fields.
Other topics they discussed included her Muslim faith and her hometown, an industrial city known for its textile businesses.
Afterward, Arfa described Gates as an "ideal personality," explaining that he had been second only to Disneyland on her list of things she wanted to see in the United States. Previously unaware of the casual dress code at Microsoft, she said she had expected Gates to be wearing a suit but was surprised to find him in a casual shirt with the top button open.
"I expected that all the people would be here in suits," she said with a giggle, wearing a hat acquired during her earlier visit to the company's Xbox game studios….
The visit to Microsoft headquarters was the culmination of a meteoric rise that has turned Arfa into something of a celebrity in her country. It began at age 5, when she walked by a computer lab at her school and started wondering about those strange "boxes," the computers and monitors. Later, when she found out what they did, she was amazed.
"When you push a button, something magically appears on the box," she said, recalling the experience. She eventually persuaded her father to buy a computer, and she demonstrated unexpected aptitude, using Microsoft PowerPoint and other programs. Encouraged by what she was doing, her father took her to Applied Technologies, or APTECH, an advanced computer institute nearby.
"I saw her doing something extraordinary, making presentations," said her father, Amjad Karim, who serves with a U.N. peacekeeping force in Africa and came with his daughter to Microsoft this week. "That made me think that she could use some professional coaching, and she could do better in her future life."
Karim said he is careful not to push his daughter, but wanted to make sure that the opportunities existed for her to pursue her interest. He said he first noticed something unusual when she started displaying a remarkable memory, perhaps photographic, at a young age. The people at the computer institute required some persuading, because of her age, but they accepted her as a student, taught her about programming and ultimately told her father that she appeared to be in a position to seek Microsoft certification…..(Courtesy Seattle Post-Intelligencer Reporter)



Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 pakistanlink.com . All Rights Reserved.