Being an entrepreneur by itself is a hard task. It involves taking risks, decisions and keeping a level-head at all times. Yuzra Aziz-Eliyas, affectionately referred to as ‘momtraprenuer’ by her admirers, is one businesswoman who wears many hats and wears them all well; proving that a woman is capable of being many things at the same time if required to.
The CEO and Founder of Podi Jobs, Yuzra sat down for a chat with the Nation last week on her 29th birthday and shared her story so far, her experience with Podi Jobs, her insights, advice for aspiring entrepreneurs and future plans as thus:
Q: Most women retire when they give birth to their children. You could’ve conveniently done the same?
When you become a mum, life does get busy. For new mums, a newborn can be a lot to handle and almost every mum is encouraged to take a bit of time off from parenting a.k.a “me time”.
I challenged myself to freelance as a remote business analyst (the role I worked for before the kids) during my free time when the kids were just three months. I was doing requirement documentation, and that little exposure was like fuel to fire which pushed me to keep going.
Now the motivation would probably be trying to shift work culture and how Sri Lanka works so that many remote/gig opportunities are made available to our freelancers/Podi (small) taskers. I take each hurdle as a challenge and cannot rest till it’s done.
Q: What inspired you to start Podi Jobs?
Being in IT and being unable to work entirely from home. The fact that there were no legitimate part time jobs other than a random data entry Job when the rest of the world was moving towards a gig economy was what really pushed me to create something to fill the void for a platform where people with ‘podi’ jobs (small gigs) can meet people who can use such opportunities.
Many mums I came across who had quit work to look after children, watching their work experience not be useful at all. It started out with wanting to help mothers but as our tag line says we’re now helping Sri Lankans and foreigners the world over.
Q: In what other ways is Podi Jobs different to other ‘jobs’ sites?
We aren’t really a job site or a site at all. Just like other job sites we advertise for full time vacancies as well but our highlight is the remote working opportunities. Podi Jobs also manages freelancers as Podi Services on projects so clients do not face the hassle of replacing resources but can focus on the quality of the work done. We use Google products and social media to get all of this done, sticking to our initial no investment start up model.
Q: What is your team like?
Our team is virtual and work remotely. Two mums, work on flexible time, handling everything back end manually. They are dedicated and are definitely the essential cogs for smooth running. Luckily they share the same passion to revolutionize work culture in Sri Lanka.
Q: When did you start and how have you progressed so far?
It has been exactly a year since we went public with the whole local freelancer concept and Podi Jobs. We now have over 2000 freelancers, have completed over a 100 jobs and have at least had 50 unique clients both foreign and local. We still have a long way to go with regard to winning more jobs locally for the Podi taskers and convincing them to hire local talent.
Q: How supportive is your husband? Do you think husbands being supportive is important? Had you married someone else, do you think things would’ve been different or would you have become who you are regardless?
I would go with the latter. Although it helps to have supportive husbands and families especially to baby-sit etc.., a woman is also perfectly capable of managing on her own be it the household, kids or work.
Women are born multitaskers and can accomplish many tasks if they put their mind to it. Some women struggle with families who are uncomfortable with women working and face pressure in that sense, but as long as a woman can stand her ground and manage, she’ll be just fine. My husband has been supportive so far and has understood that on some days it’s just hard to achieve the perfect work-life balance.
Q: Who are the females you admire and look up to, if there are any?
I admire women. Through this journey I’ve met women from all walks of life and in different stages of their lives. They’ve all been unanimously strong, determined and motivated to keep going no matter. All women are positive, proactive and charge through life with passion no matter what their circumstances are and that is something to really admire and look up to as motivation.
Q: Yuzra, what message do you have for women?
Speak up. Sri Lankan women are brought up not to be risk-takers or to fear change and this holds many women from achieving their full potential or their goals in life. Speaking out can turn that fear into motivation to take the risk to achieve something.
Shatter stereotypes. Society has certain rules for us women. I always ask why women have to choose between working and taking care of kids and why doing both is not an option? Disrupting these ideals put forward by society helps to succeed with anything, be it confidence, your career or even your life.
Go for it! It might be a man’s field or a man’s world but that doesn’t mean you cannot do it. Women have achieved a considerable amount in such fields, so if you think it’s a man’s job it should mean you can do it too.