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politicsUSA

Meet Bushra Amiwala, one of the first Gen Z women to hold public office in the U.S.

Bushra Amiwala lost her first race for political office when she was 20 years old. Six months later, she ran again and won, becoming one of the first elected representatives of Generation Z in the United States, while still being a full-time student.

When Amiwala, then 21, was elected to the school board of the Skokie, Illinois, school district in 2019, she also became one of the youngest Muslim elected officials in the United States.

Her first race, which she lost in 2018, was for Cook County commissioner, a member of the local county legislature that includes Chicago. Amiwala, who grew up and attended school in Skokie, thought a local school board might be better suited to his interests and experience after losing his first race.

But she didn’t view working in local politics as a calling, nor as the start of a long career in government that could take her to the White House — two reasons, Amiwala says, why people often think that she got involved in politics at such a time. young age.

Amiwala studied business at DePaul University and planned to work for a large technology or financial company as soon as she graduated.

Instead, Amiwala viewed serving in public office as a meaningful way to spend his free time and an opportunity to peek behind the curtain of American politics.

As a first-generation child of Pakistani immigrants, Amiwala says she has always had a vested interest in supporting underrepresented communities. This passion intensified during the 2016 presidential election, when hate crimes against Muslims increased.

“It made me more determined to get involved in politics as a form of activism,” Amiwala told CNBC Make It. “Protests and calls on social media are all great, but I also think one of the best ways to create tangible change is through public policy.”

One of her proudest accomplishments on the school board was a statewide law she helped pass requiring every public school in Illinois to teach the positive contributions of Muslim Americans and other minority faith groups as part of their program. Amiwala testified before the Illinois General Assembly in support of the bill, which was signed into law in 2021.

Now 26, Amiwala has built a career that harmonizes her love of business and politics. She won her second term on the school board in April 2023, a position she will hold until 2027. Beyond that, Amiwala says she has no definitive plans to continue her political career — but she does doesn’t rule out running for Congress one day. .

Amiwala balances her school board responsibilities with a full-time job as a solutions consultant at Google and her MBA studies at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.

CNBC Make It: How do you balance your work on the school board with your job at Google and your studies at business school?

Amiwala: It was difficult to understand at first. I’ve been exhausted before and had to think a lot and adjust my schedule and what I can and can’t compromise on.

But one approach that has helped me is to remind myself that I don’t need to put 100% into everything I do – for example, exerting 70% of my energy can still get me a good grade , and I gave myself the grace to be okay with that, as a professional perfectionist.

Luckily, my job at Google is mostly 9-5, and my elected position is a part-time volunteer role, where I have to attend a few board meetings per month.

After living a chaotic lifestyle (working multiple jobs while studying) for so long, I finally started relying on my calendar app, not only for my work responsibilities, but also to prioritize self-care in my schedule.

I’ve been working with a personal trainer for a few months, so I’ll schedule things like my workouts and meals into my day to hold myself accountable for spending my free time on activities that will nourish me, because if not not the case blocked on my calendar, it won’t happen.

I’ve also recently started centering my day around prayer, trying to set aside time to pray at least five times a day. This allows me to take 2-5 minutes to reconnect, reflect, and calm my mind.

All of these little lifestyle changes make a really big difference in terms of saving time and managing my schedule.

CNBC Make It: Have you had any unique experiences as one of the first elected officials of Generation Z in the United States?

Amiwala: Sometimes I forget how casual my Gen Z vernacular is and how it shows up in my everyday language, even in the workplace. I said things like, “Wow, you all were thrilled with this presentation” or “That was so great. kill’, at board meetings, but I love how it’s welcomed with open arms. This usually keeps everyone laughing during a long six-hour board meeting. This brief moment of levity can ground us and remind us that we are all humans doing our best.

I think Gen Z embraces authenticity more than other generations in the workforce, which is a powerful skill I’ve learned from my peers: if you present yourself as your authentic self and you are comfortable in your skin, more people will gravitate towards you. and I want to work with you.

CNBC Make It: What’s your best advice for building a fulfilling career if you have many interests?

Amiwala: I would encourage people to map their careers on what I call the “fulfillment to income” matrix. In other words, if a job is low-fulfilling, it better be high-income, and if something is high-fulfilling, it’s okay if it’s low-income.

Ideally, you want to have facets of your career that fall into both categories, because it’s rare to find a very fulfilling, high-income position.

I get financial fulfillment and security from my job at Google, and I enjoy what I do there, but I get the most fulfillment from what I do outside of my day job, volunteering and by serving my community on the ed board of directors.

It’s important to figure out what the right mix or balance looks like for you, whether that’s adding a side hustle or doing more volunteering. Having multiple facets of your career that provide you with emotional or financial fulfillment can help you feel more complete instead of relying on one job to meet all your needs.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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