A less traditional path
Zakeryfar’s passion for technology began when she was growing up in Yazd, Iran. Taking math in high school felt right for her, and she wasn’t clamouring for the typical Barbie toys other girls enjoyed, she says. She preferred to create cities out of Legos.
Another natural step in her evolution as a technologist was earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science from a local Iranian university. During her time there, she helped pay her tuition with a tour guide job where she learned various languages, including French. She then moved to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to pursue her master’s in software engineering at University Malaya, graduating in 2009.
When she began tinkering with the idea of obtaining a PhD, she looked across thousands of miles to Canada.
“Montreal is a French city, I know some French from being a tour guide — it felt like a good fit,” she recalls.
Learning on the job. That was another lesson she picked up, when she acclimatized herself to the demands of writing her thesis and enjoying Montreal as a city. It all felt so new, but she soon found her groove in Concordia’s Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering and reveled in learning new programming languages, such as Erasmus.
A bold decision to start fresh
Zakeryfar secured a job after graduation as a technology analyst at Morgan Stanley, rising through the ranks to become a senior software engineer. It was intense but fulfilling and educating work. Yet, when it came time for a promotion after eight years that would have seen her reach the next tier within Morgan Stanley, she had a change of heart.
“I don’t like being too comfortable, for my head to get too big,” she says. “It was a tough decision to leave but I felt I was ready.”
It didn’t take long for her to be promoted to staff engineer at Collibra, a New York-based firm focused on data governance and data intelligence that offers remote work for employees.
What Zakeryfar appreciates most about coding is a love of “deep work and staying focused on a project to build what I have to build. Trying to solve complex problems requires extra focus.”
She also says she doesn’t want to stay frozen in place as an engineer. “I always want to learn more, to stay alert to a new database or a new language to understand. That excites me.”