Gates addressing a seminar. Below 10-year old Arfa
Gates to Stay at World's Youngest MCP's Home in Pakistan
Washington, July 17: Sitting down for a personal meeting with
Bill Gates this week, 10-year-old Arfa Karim Randhawa asked the
Microsoft founder why the company doesn't hire people her age.
Under the circumstances, the question wasn't so unreasonable.
a promising software programmer from Faisalabad, Pakistan, is
believed to be the youngest Microsoft Certified Professional in
the world. The designation, given to outside experts who prove
their ability to work with Microsoft technologies, has also been
achieved by some teenagers. But it's far more common among adults
seeking to advance their computer careers.
Arfa received the certification
when she was still 9, an impressive accomplishment in its own
right, according to older programmers who have gone through the
process. And others called it an encouraging sign of the continued
emergence of women in a country where they have historically struggled
situation illustrates "another side" of Pakistan, said
Anand Yang, Director of the University of Washington's Jackson
School of International Studies. "That's another reason to
celebrate someone like her."
Arfa's one-on-one meeting with Gates was part of a visit this
week to the company's Redmond campus, arranged and sponsored by
Microsoft to better introduce Arfa to the company, and to give
people at headquarters a chance to meet her. The week included
lab tours and a series of informal sessions with Microsoft executives
and employees, including a Pakistani employee group.
She made an impression through
a combination of charm, flattery and boldness uncommon for someone
her age. For example, during Arfa's meeting with Gates, she presented
him with a poem she wrote that celebrated his life story. But
she also questioned him about what she perceived to be the relatively
small proportion of women on the campus.
"It should be balanced --
an equal amount of men and an equal amount of women," she
About 75 percent of Microsoft
employees are men, according to company data. Recounting their
conversation, Arfa said Gates acknowledged her concerns and talked
about the broader industry's struggles to increase the proportion
of women in technology-related fields.
Other topics they discussed included
her Muslim faith and her hometown, an industrial city known for
its textile businesses.
Afterward, Arfa described Gates
as an "ideal personality," explaining that he had been
second only to Disneyland on her list of things she wanted to
see in the United States. Previously unaware of the casual dress
code at Microsoft, she said she had expected Gates to be wearing
a suit but was surprised to find him in a casual shirt with the
top button open.
"I expected that all the
people would be here in suits," she said with a giggle, wearing
a hat acquired during her earlier visit to the company's Xbox
in the afternoon, she sat outside with S. "Soma" Somasegar,
a Microsoft corporate vice president, and described her vision
for a self-navigating car. He listened to her ideas and told her
about some of Microsoft's existing software for cars.
This is what Mr Somasegar wrote
later about Arfa in his Weblog: "With every new generation,
you see people achieving great successes and accomplishments at
an earlier age than the previous generations. This is a natural
part of evolution and also partly due to technological advances
that enable people to access information and get exposed to different
kinds of opportunities earlier in their lives. You might have
read about the 9-year old wonder kid from Pakistan, who recently
became the world’s youngest MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional).
got a chance to meet with this wonder kid – Arfa Karim Randhawa
earlier this week. She is a 5th grader who visited us at Microsoft
for a few days along with her father. I had a lot of fun in meeting
Arfa and getting a chance to understand what motivated her to
strive for such an accomplishment at such a young age. She definitely
has some clear ideas about the kinds of scenarios she envisions
technology can enable in the future.
hats off to Arfa’s parents for nurturing her passion and
talent and providing her with opportunities to learn and excel.
I wish Arfa all the very best in her life and hope that her passion
for learning and more importantly “dreaming big” enables
her to do great things in her life."
be sure, despite her question to Gates about employing people
her age, Microsoft wasn't about to offer a job to someone so young.
But Somasegar talked about the possibility of an internship in
a few years.
"The thing that's exciting
to me is her passion for technology at this age," said Somasegar,
who decided to invite Arfa to Redmond after reading a story about
her in MicroNews, an internal company newsletter.
The visit to Microsoft headquarters
was the culmination of a meteoric rise that has turned Arfa into
something of a celebrity in her country. It began at age 5, when
she walked by a computer lab at her school and started wondering
about those strange "boxes," the computers and monitors.
Later, when she found out what they did, she was amazed.
"When you push a button,
something magically appears on the box," she said, recalling
She eventually persuaded her father
to buy a computer, and she demonstrated unexpected aptitude, using
Microsoft PowerPoint and other programs. Encouraged by what she
was doing, her father took her to Applied Technologies, or APTECH,
an advanced computer institute nearby.
saw her doing something extraordinary, making presentations,"
said her father, Amjad Karim, who serves with a UN peacekeeping
force in Africa and came with his daughter to Microsoft this week.
"That made me think that she could use some professional
coaching, and she could do better in her future life."
Karim said he is careful not to
push his daughter, but wanted to make sure that the opportunities
existed for her to pursue her interest. He said he first noticed
something unusual when she started displaying a remarkable memory,
perhaps photographic, at a young age.
The people at the computer institute
required some persuading, because of her age, but they accepted
her as a student, taught her about programming and ultimately
told her father that she appeared to be in a position to seek
The institute instructors assumed
it would take Arfa about a year to go through the process of certification
for developing Windows applications. But after four months of
study and work, over summer vacation, she passed the required
Her programming experience so
far has been as part of her studies. She has created basic Windows
applications, such as a calculator and a sorting program, primarily
in the C# programming language. The certification she received
was as a Microsoft Certified Application Developer. She says she
plans to pursue a more advanced certification, as a Microsoft
Certified Solution Developer, which involves building programs
into a broader system for a business.
Arfa's accomplishment is "very
impressive," said Michael Earls, 33, a software consultant
and Microsoft Certified Solution Developer in Atlanta. "The
type of thinking that goes into correctly answering those questions
is pretty mature. ... Microsoft certifications are not a joke
-- they're highly respected in the industry."
Ultimately, Arfa says, she would
like to go to Harvard University or MIT, and then either go to
work for Microsoft, in its developer division, or become a satellite
Since learning about Arfa from
her father -- and validating her programming abilities through
an additional exam of their own -- Microsoft representatives in
Pakistan have held her up as an example in the country.
"We discovered her, we ran
into her, we feel very lucky," said Jawwad Rehman, Microsoft's
country manager in Pakistan, who also accompanied her to Redmond
this week. "But I'm sure there are many others out there,
as well, who don't have access to the computers or the proper
education system" as Arfa did.
As word of her accomplishment
has spread in her country, Arfa has appeared on TV, in newspapers
and spoken at Microsoft events. One youth magazine called her
"Pakistan's girl wonder." A U.S.-based reporter for
GEO TV, a 24-hour news and entertainment channel in Pakistan,
came to Redmond this week to document her visit to the campus.
Although she has had a birthday
since passing the certification test last year, Arfa is careful
to point out that she was 9 when she took the exam. More precisely,
she says, she was nine years, nine months, 11 days, and six hours.
Fully aware of the fact that she's the youngest Microsoft Certified
Professional, she wants to be specific about her age at the time,
in case another young programmer emerges someday to challenge
what she calls her "world record."
Her mother and two brothers, ages
3 and 7, stayed home while she and her father came to the United
States. It was the first trip to the country for both. After some
sightseeing in Seattle, they're scheduled to return home tomorrow
from their Microsoft adventure.
time, Arfa says, she hopes to visit Disneyland, as well.
adds: Little Arfa, who is the youngest MCP girl of the
world, has invited Bill Gates to visit Pakistan and stay at her
home. The invitation was accepted by Mr. Gates who had invited
her to his home. She asked him to visit Pakistan and insisted
that Gates stay at her home which he accepted and remarked that
it would be fun.