'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
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
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