Arfa Karim Randhawa first discovered computers at the age 5 and was introduced to computers at the age of 6 after insisting to her father she wanted a PC. A computer prodigy was born.
3 years later in 2004 Arfa, a Pakistani student became the worlds youngest Microsoft Certified Professional at the age of 9. Arfa prepared for her certification exams during her four month summer break from school.
What makes this more amazing is that this feat would be challenging for an adult with a well established career in software development let alone someone who not long ago touched a keyboard for the first time.
August 2nd 2005 Arfa was presented the Fatimah Jinnah Gold Medal in the field of Science and Technology by the then Prime Minister of Pakistan Shaukat Aziz. The Prime Minister also presented her with the Salaam Pakistan Youth Award.
The computer prodigy was honoured by the MKR Foundation with the Shabaash award.
With what most of us would consider a career full of achievements already accomplished at 10 years old Arfa was far from done. Arfa represented Pakistan on many international forums and was invited to join the Pakistan Information Technology Professionals Forum for two weeks in Dubai. Not only did she attend, a dinner reception in her name was hosted with dignitaries of Dubai including the Ambassador of Pakistan.
During the trip to Dubai Arfa added more awards to her collection including a laptop. The Dubai trip would be considered a dream for most of us but Arfa had more in mind to accomplish during the tour. Arfa was not just a computer prodigy but pursued to be pilot. She flew a plane in a flying club and at the age of 10 received her first flying certificate. Not bad for a 2 week trip.
November 2006 Arfa attended on invitation from Microsoft the Tech-Ed Developers conference themed Get ahead of the game held in Barcelona which she was part of the keynote. She was the only Pakistani among over 5000 developers. A fitting conference title for someone that seemed to be 2 or 3 generations ahead of everyone else in attendance.
In 2010 Arfa was made brand ambassador for the 3G wireless broadband service named EVO from Pakistan Telecommunication Company.
The brilliant Arfa became a national talent and with the pride of a nation behind her.
Her brilliance and wise beyond her years
When reading a quote or listening to one of her audio or TV interviews you start to realize in a few seconds that Arfa is an exceptional human being. In her TV interviews she looks relaxed but confident without a hint of uncertainty almost like she has everything all figured out.
“I asked him why there are no kids and why kids can’t join your company and why they have to wait so much.”
“Next I asked him why there aren’t any women around here. There should be an equal amount of men and women.”
She goes on to discuss her programming with loops and implementing sorting algorithms. Her main language being C# but she was already learning VB.NET and commented on how they are almost the same. At 10 it seems you can’t fool her and she’s already aware of the value to diversify her skills. A budding polyglot programmer in the making.
When asked what she might want to do after college she answers that she wants to engineer satellites and explains that since the world is going wireless there is a need for engineering in that sector.
The most profound quote from the interview highlights for me was at the very end
“If you want to do something big in your life, you must remember that shyness is only the mind. If you think shy, you act shy. If you think confident you act confident. Therefore never let shyness conquer your mind.”
Just as she insisted her desire for a PC at 5 years old Arfa always insisted the areas IT lab be upgraded so it can provide maximum educational facilities to the young people, especially females. Arfa believed that other girls of her village should get opportunities of good education as there was so much talent in them.
At the age of 16 in her 2nd year studying her A Levels at the Lahore Grammar School Paragon Campus Arfa suffered from a cardiac arrest after an epileptic seizure and was admitted to Lahore’s Combined Military Hospital in critical condition on December 22nd 2011.
On January 13th 2012 parts of Arfa’s brain started to show signs of improvement but on January 14th 2012 the 16 year old Arfa Karim died at 9:50PM Pakistan Standard Time at the Combined Military Hospital Lahore. She was buried at her ancestral village Chak No. 4JB Ram Dewali, Faisalabad.
Usually I blog because people express interest in a topic but this time I felt compelled to write this post for myself so that I could persist this story and never forget.
I did not know Arfa but I know people who did and they all speak extremely highly of her. I learned about her amazing story when the story broke of her critical condition in December. Due to a medical illness when I was 8 I was minutes from my own life so her story affected me immediately and I prayed for her recovery.
I’m convinced if I had the chance to meet her with my love for learning she would have taught me a thing or two. Or ten. Maybe she could have helped me get over the hump on some things in C# I struggle with. I can’t even imagine what she would have accomplished if she lived to my age. I wish she was given the chance.
I wish the celebration and pride for her brilliance extended further around the world in the same way it did in Pakistan. Pakistani’s realized they had a national treasure in their hands.
There are a couple things I take from her attitude and insights. Never let things like shyness get in your way from your potential and that you can attack and achieve anything you put your mind to, no matter what your age.
On January 12th 2012 the world lost some of it’s potential.
I’ll finish with a tweet that sums up my thoughts exactly from Richard Campbell
Lost one of the good ones.
R.I.P. Arfa Karim Randhawa. Our thoughts are with Arfa’s family and friends.
Arfa Karim Randhawa and Clemens Vasters at the Pakistan Developer Conference in 2005
Arfa Karim Randhawa and Scott Hanselman in 2006
Arfa Karim Randhawa and Kate Gregory from 2006 in Barcelona