Zaynah found her apprenticeship with Facebook through our partner, WhiteHat. She started out as a designer and was promoted after six months to the digital sub-team at The Guild, Facebook’s creative agency. Her main roles include planning and running campaigns and liaising with stakeholders. She also stood for election on a key policy of working to encourage women and people of colour into tech careers. A long-term goal of hers is to create an initiative that streamlines disadvantaged young girls of colour into tech and apprenticeship routes. Here she speaks about her background, what makes her tick, and her plans for the future.
Q: You mentioned your Pakistani heritage and how that influenced your family’s perception of education and success. How did this background impact your career decisions?
A: There are misconceptions and a multitude of negative stereotypes surrounding apprenticeships. For myself, there were hurdles I had to overcome from societal to family pressure. My older sister, Sara, is completing her Masters in Neuropsychology and my brother, Zayyan, in Engineering. As you can imagine, immense pressure had been put on me (by school & family) to follow in their footsteps. There was also a judgement from aunties and uncles in my wider community, “Why don’t you become a doctor like your sister?” and “How will people take you seriously without a degree?”
Q: What is your advice to other young people facing similar situations?
A: Research and think carefully through your options, be confident in your ability and don’t aim to please others. Sometimes you need to be selfish. But be aware that every action has a reaction, and this could mean a difficult relationship with a parent. That’s a huge sacrifice, but it’s temporary. Once they see you successful and thriving the ‘disappointment’ will transform into pride.
Q: What was the rhetoric surrounding apprenticeships at your Grammar School, and how did this influence your decisions?
A: I was studying at a Grammar School, and it was not the right environment for me, as a creative, to thrive. I was often made to believe that I would not be successful without a degree and that apprenticeships are for students not ‘smart enough’ for a university. This isn’t the case. I successfully graduated with 12 GCSEs, but I just did not see myself enjoying A Levels and University. From a young age, I promised myself I would never pursue anything I am not passionate about. I set out to find a different route. At the time this seemed ludicrous and frightening – my parents had spent thousands on tuition to attend this Grammar School in the first place! I took a significant risk. I left that school and attended a UTC (The Global Academy) where my passion for Tech & Media grew.
Q: Would you encourage others to take risks with their careers and futures instead of settling for what they think the ‘right’ pathway is?
A: From a young age, I submerged myself into the world of entrepreneurship and self-learning. For example, when I was 10, I wanted to learn the piano, so I bought a cheap keyboard on eBay and taught myself using YouTube tutorials. I’m the kind of person where if I want something, I will do everything in my power to get it. Failure is not an option in my book. But, I know taking big risks is not right for everyone. I think you need to hold a specific mindset. You must come to terms with failure, rejection and discomfort. Saying this, I’d still recommend it to everyone. You never know where your feet will land! Never settle, that is also not an option. Trust your feet sometimes.
Q: How did you start your cupcake business?
A: Funny story, Zaynah’s Bakes was actually kind of an accident. It started as a school project, but in the first two weeks, it quickly grew to reach 16,000 people on Instagram. A huge passion of mine is cooking & baking. I used this for my final major project in year 12 to set up a business project. I uploaded a video of myself piping buttercream onto a cupcake – overnight; this gained 3,000 views. When I woke up the next morning my phone was buzzing like crazy with hundreds of notifications by the minute. This was not my intention; it was almost a ‘fake business’ for a school project turned to a real business. I posted good quality content consistently and built my fan base to 300 within a month. I am still running it to this day, with 500 followers I have regular customers and receive thousands of engagements per post.
Q: Where do you see it going in the future?
A: In the future, I aim to keep expanding my customer base, my Facebook colleague, Jam, is a fantastic designer who has recently created design material for @ZaynahsBakes which I will print to stickers and packaging for my products. And in 10 years’ time, I will have opened my first restaurant.
Lifting the lid on Apprenticeships
Finding the right career path is tough. But one thing that makes it easier is knowing what all the different paths have to offer. And we think that not enough people are confident about what modern apprenticeships have to offer. Especially when you have companies like Google, Facebook and Universal all heavily investing in apprenticeship opportunities.
Apprentice Nation invites you to take a fresh look at Apprenticeships. Check out the Go Far section of our website and discover some helpful links to resources and companies that are there to support your apprenticeships journey.
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