At Women’s Own, we love engaging with and interviewing women who break traditional barriers. With Mahjabeen Obaid, there is always a new professional and personal adventure to discuss. If she’s not whizzing around attending conferences around the world, she’s dreaming of new designs for her stationery and home décor companies – all this while raising two daughters aged 3.5 and 4.5.
A regular day for Mahjabeen Obaid means waking up and getting the girls ready for school, reaching her textile and design studio on time while simultaneously managing her home décor range (she also succeeds in squeezing in a morning workout sometimes). Oh and her hair is always swishy and her eyes sparkling! Talk about smashing role and time barriers! Her world is made of colour, print and textures so we asked her about her inspirations and goals. This quick glimpse left us wide-eyed in excitement and feeling just a little bit lazy!
Mahjabeen let’s start with all the different roles you fulfill, because they are quite a few! Please tell us about your various projects and businesses?
I am a designer and that encompasses pretty much the entire gamut of human existence! With a degree in graphic/ textile design and a minor in art and art history, I design lifestyles! I am the Creative Director for our Textile business and I also design and print wedding invitations, personalised stationery, curated gifts, favours and have recently also ventured into home décor.
If textiles are your family business, then Mahj Designs can be described as your passion project. What led you to start this company?
I started Mahj Design Studio in 2008 after I designed my own wedding invitations and received great feedback. A number of guests requested that I design something for them too so I decided this was my calling and jumped into it!
You’ve worked in home interiors as well, what made you decide to try your hand at that?
I’ve always loved walking into people’s homes around the world and seeing how they live. To me someone’s home is an extension of themselves hence it was a natural progression that I was drawn to designing outdoor and indoor lifestyle pieces.
A cliché, but how do you balance your home and work life?
I wake up early and have weekly schedules on my phone; a to do list on my bedside that I write before I go to bed and honestly I try to do as much as possible and whatever I miss I add that to my Saturday schedule. My husband helps a lot with the kids as well especially when I travel.
Any tips for working mums or new moms looking to re-enter the work force?
Working moms make GREAT moms as they are focused in spending quality time with their kids. The one thing that helps to make it all work is to know how to prioritise by the hour.
What’s been the most difficult part of working in Pakistan as a woman?
When your children’s schools or moms at school judge you for being a working mother! Other than that the working part has been quite easy.
How does it differ from being abroad? You have to travel for your businesses so any interesting parallels?
I’ve worked in New York before working in Pakistan and have to say it’s easier here as more people/ companies understand and give additional benefits to working mothers.
Assuming something has to give, what is it?
For 11 months of the year I barely switch on the TV, it’s just in Ramzan when work is slower or rather productivity is slower that I catch up on all the shows and movies that everyone talks about for the rest of the year.
Where do you get your energy? What do you do to treat yourself?
Hard work is ingrained in all of us (family). We grew up seeing our father work exhaustingly hard and being on-the-go always!
I set six-monthly and yearly goals for myself and reward myself when I achieve them.
What are your sanity-preservation tips?
Vacation! I live by the work hard equals vacation philosophy so it feels well deserved. It’s a reward at the end of an accomplishment. Even if I’m travelling for work sometimes at the end of the work trip I’ll take a couple of days off to explore the country or meet up with friends.
What message do you want to give to your daughters?
I tell them every day that they can do anything they want; that they have no barriers and nothing is stopping them to achieve what they set their mind to. I tell them they must eat properly so that they become strong like superheroes! I may have overdone it as now they want to be superheroes for their birthdays!