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Young World

January 7, 2006

The wonder girl from Pakistan

By Kazim Raza Rajani

Kids can work wonders. This is a phrase often heard and said by people. But it is very rare that we come across a kid who has actually received recognition the world over. One such young girl hailing from Faisalabad, Arfa Karim, beat all the odds and became the youngest Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) of the world. MCP, integrated with Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (MCSD) certification, is a set of exams, offered by Microsoft, that tests and analyzes software developers’ capabilities of designing and creating customized enterprise computer applications in turn confirming an individual’s capabilities and expertise in the field.

Arfa Karim, born on February 2, 1995, belongs to a farming family of interior Punjab. Daughter of Lt. Colonel Amjad Karim, she is currently studying in class seven, as a result of earning a double promotion in the City School Multan Campus. Young Arfa has always been attracted towards computers. Since her kindergarten days, where she first spotted a box (CPU) connected to a relatively small television like screen (monitor) and a small piano like rectangular piece of plastic (keyboard) being operated by one of her teachers, created waves of curiosity in her mind. As she grew and was first introduced to the equipment, she was curiously obsessed towards the inside working and handling of computers.

Viewing her intense interest and creativity, Mr Karim enrolled her in Aptech Institute, the only available reputed institute in the town. There, under the supervision of Mr Sohail, she prepared for MCP. The instructor first tested her everyday computer skills and was highly impressed by the child’s abilities. When Arfa told him that she wanted to do something regarding development of software, he designed an initial course that consisted of primary computer science topics such as binary numbers, variables, and towards the end of the course, made Arfa present whatever she had learnt till then in the form of a formal presentation in front of the members of Institute. This was basically an indirect examination conducted to analyze Arfa’s confidence as well as her learning skills. Arfa carried out the presentation very well; in turn, winning applauds for not just what she had learnt, also for the manner she presented it.

Most importantly, she earned the trust of her teacher who decided to prepare Arfa for the tough MCSD’s MCP track. MCP then was a completely new term for the young kid, and she did not have any idea about what it is and what good would it do to her. However, she first understood the purpose behind this exam, knowing its benefits and the programming languages she would need to learn in order to appear in the exam.

From this point of time, there was no looking back for Arfa as far as learning computer programming was concerned. She went on to learn C# (pronounced C Sharp), developed tiny programs, and learnt the concepts of a native computer program as well as the features offered by the mentioned computer programming language. After hours of hard work, learning and practice, one fine morning she appeared in the exam that was conducted online, on the internet. When the results were announced, the kid was not Arfa Karim anymore. She was Arfa Karim, the youngest Microsoft Certified Professional of the world!

Entering the MCP world, Arfa learnt about Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, and during the course of time, she actually did a lot of research on the Internet about him. The history behind Microsoft and Bill Gates made Arfa a supreme fan of his, leaving her with the desire to meet him some day. Her wish was granted when she received a formal letter from Microsoft, stating that she was officially invited by Mr Gates to the Microsoft headquarters in the United States, leaving the young kid astonished and overjoyed. An official trip was arranged by Microsoft officials for Arfa and her father to travel to Redmond, to have a closer look at Microsoft and its technologies. At Microsoft, she met Bill Gates, and in a 10-minute meeting, she peppered him with questions about why there aren’t many women working at Microsoft, and why there aren’t any kids working at Microsoft!

According to Arfa, meeting Bill Gates was a dream come true. Prior to her trip to Microsoft, none of her friends believed that she was actually going to the US and meet Bill Gates, and it was just after she showed them her pictures with him, they believed that she did.

Besides Gates, Arfa also met S. Somasegar, corporate vice President, Development Division, Microsoft Corp. He expressed his views about Arfa as follows: “Arfa is such an inspiration to women and kids in technology, and really to everyone who learns of her story. Kids are gaining early access to technology, and she gives us insight into how people in emerging markets are using our technology. I thought it was important for her to come to Redmond to give her exposure to Microsoft and let her interact with people here. I hope to see her working here someday.”

Her visit to Microsoft was her first trip outside Pakistan. She says most of it looks like what she has seen in American movies, but notes the wide, smooth roads, the green trees and the ‘Walk’ and ‘Don’t Walk’ signal lights at intersections. She’s partial to Pakistani food but has developed a deep fondness for the Microsoft cafeterias’ curly fries.

Upon her return to Pakistan, she was awarded with “Salaam Pakistan Award 2005” for the “Best Youth” in the country. Upon receiving the award from the President of Pakistan, General Pervaiz Musharraf, she expressed her wish to meet him again. The president fulfilled the wish by inviting her to breakfast with him the very next day. Over there, Arfa discussed a lot of things; however, the focus of the discussion remained computer and technology education of women and kids and their projected role towards the elevation of Pakistan.

Arfa is well-versed and poised beyond her years –- but still in some ways a typical 10-year-old girl. Even though she writes poetry, sings, she still tells silly jokes and likes trendy clothes. The fame and recognition she earned at both national and international surface, hasn’t changed her as in person. She still possess the same down to earth attitude, and treats her friends and classmates humbly, eager to help them with computers. i

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