Rehman Siddiq has been involved in various facets of work and established himself, as an expert in technology, politics, and social welfare.
1. Apart from public good, what has been your key reason to be so deeply engaged in social work?
I would like to answer this question by quoting Alice Walker which says “Activism is the rent you pay for your room here on earth”. I consider social work as my rent/tax for living in the world. Millions of people around the world are not as fortunate as I am. I feel it’s my duty to help all those in need.
2. You have always been socially inclined; due to which you said you would once like to be a politician in Pakistan. What hurdles do you think an aspiring leader of Pakistan such as you faces?
Unfortunately in Pakistan, few families are running the country since its independence (1947). In order to enter politics in Pakistan you have to be part of those few rich/influential families or must have lots of money to feed the greed of corrupt party leaders. For middle class people like me, entering politics is a distant dream unless a miracle happens. Since I am an optimist, I believe that miracle will happen.
3. You have been a Youth Ambassador at the UN Education Envoy’s Office. How did you get involved in working with the United Nations, and how was your experience speaking at the General Assembly?
I heard about the United Nations in my high school for the first time. My school organised a Model United Nations (MUN) and I decided to participate in it. I started researching and reading about the UN. I applied and got an internship at United Nations in 2013. I got selected for internship at the UN Volunteers Program’s head office in Bonn, Germany. This was my first involvement with the United Nations. Speaking at the General Assembly session was one of the best moments of my life. I felt very proud representing my home country Pakistan.
4. As an entrepreneur and social activist, how do you balance the idea of altruism as opposed to profit?
Let’s face it, we live in a world where even for doing good, you need money. During my college days I started a student’s organisation. I had so many amazing ideas in my mind for welfare activities but being a student, I didn’t have the funds required to implement those ideas. I started contacting potential sponsors, and this is when I realised how hard it is to get money out of someone’s pocket.
I’ll give you another example. It’s sad that even an organisation like the United Nations doesn’t pay its interns. I had to pay for my airfare, accommodation and food from my own pocket. All those who don’t belong from privileged backgrounds can’t even think of interning for the UN. Also I attended many conferences around the world. Only few of them were fully sponsored while for the rest I had to pay from my own pocket.
Thus, I realised that in order to help people on a large scale, you need money. My business is there to ensure that my bank balance is increasing and I am able to fulfill the needs of me and my family. Meanwhile I do social activism to ensure my inner satisfaction is increasing. Social activism alone doesn’t feed me and my family.
5. At the age of 14 you started freelancing. What did you learn about freelancing that you can share with people who wish to/are freelancers?
Observe the masses and do the opposite. This is my advice to all the freelancers out there. Nowadays, every other guy is calling himself social media guru/expert and designing websites. When I started freelancing, there were very few people designing websites. Each project would land anywhere from $2,500-25,000. Nowadays even a novice can build a website without any technical knowledge due to availability of CMS softwares like WordPress and Joomla. Now I see people charging as low as $10 for a website. This signal is enough for you to move on. Don’t fool yourself. You are not going to create a multimillion dollar empire designing websites and managing Facebook page for someone.
Learn new technical skills and fulfill the demands of modern technologies. There are tons of free courses on YouTube, and Udemy. Learn new programming languages and softwares. Offer services which very few freelancers are offering.
6. What according to you is the greatest resource?
Time. I would like to share with you this quote –
“Time is free, but priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but can spend it. Once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back”
– Harvey MacKay
7. What do you believe is the purpose of life?
Live and let live. Do good and take care of others while you are here. Also remember that you will be judged for everything you did in this world and you will be rewarded for all the good deeds and punished for all the bad deeds in the life hereafter.