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Muslims and Tech with Nitasha Syed, Senior Product Manager at NewFront

Nitasha Syed is the Senior Product Manager at NewFront. Newfront is a modern insurance brokerage that leverages technology to simplify the buying process for clients and the selling process for brokers.

1) Could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I have a background in Computer Science and went to school for software engineering and machine learning. My first job was in the gaming industry, where I worked on the FIFA14 team on the PS3 platform.

I then moved into the smart cities space for a few years and ended up landing a job in the Bay Area at a healthcare tech startup. I moved out to the Bay and switched gears from engineering to product management and absolutely loved it! I have been in product ever since. I now work at an insurtech company called Newfront where I focus on the client experience we're creating for our users.

2) What does a typical workday in your life look like?

A ton of meetings!! As a product manager, half the time you live in the present, and the other half is in the future. That means that you work really closely on a day to day with your team to make sure you unblock them.

The other part of your day is doing discovery to get a clear idea on what your team can work on next. That means a ton of meetings with users, sales, marketing, customer support staff (the list goes on) to figure out what the best opportunities are for your business and how to build them. Here is a small subset of meetings that product managers participate in regularly:

Daily standups: Quick check-ins with your engineering team to make sure any blockers are addressed and everyone is aware of what is being worked on

Design reviews: weekly reviews with your design team to go through the new designs they are working on for your future projects and provide your feedback

Grooming meetings: A time for you to work with your engineering team to go through the work that is in your backlog and either prioritize / schedule it or cancel it

Planning meetings: weekly / biweekly meetings with your engineering team to make sure the next two weeks of work are assigned

Project kick- offs: A time for you to walk through the requirements and designs of a new feature you want to build. The goal here is to get feedback from different stakeholders and make sure everyone is aware of what you're team will be building

3) What does work-life balance mean to you?

I think work/life balance is sometimes a misnomer. I think it implies that you've somehow managed to strike a balance between the time/effort you dedicate to your job vs other aspects of your life, and that's not always realistic.

The way I think about it is that you have. a choice to make on where to dedicate your time. When you've made that choice, you've also made a choice to sacrifice something else you could have spent your time on. The trick here is not to sacrifice the same thing too many times, or else you risk losing it in some way. When I frame my life in that way I don't feel like I am failing at "finding a balance", which is what so many people try to do. I feel like I am being upfront about my choices and sacrifices in any given moment and giving myself the space to fail and course correct if needed.

4) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

Not worrying about things I can't control. For someone who loves to plan and finds peace in knowing what the future holds, the thought of not knowing can cause a lot of anxiety (especially when it feels like your social media feed is filled with everything from a recession to a crashing housing market to natural disasters).

5) What brings you peace during stressful times?

Being kind towards myself. I am definitely my harshest critic, and over time I've learned that the more I give myself grace during a stressful time, the easier it is for me to overcome whatever it is I am going through.

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you are consuming and like to recommend?

I was given 'Search Inside Yourself' recently and have started applying a lot of those meditation practices within my daily life already!

7) What’s the one piece of advice you would give our readers for managing stress and creating a healthy mental state?

You're not perfect! Go easy on yourself and be accepting of your mistakes. The most important part is that you learn from them. Perfection is not expected (in the deen or Dunya), so don't beat yourself up over mistakes!

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