People Doing Cool Shit - Zara Darzi
We’re back with another installment in our series about SophieGrace customers and the cool shit they’re up to.
Meet Zara Darzi, an inspiring and passionate woman.
Zara is a Persian Canadian citizen, senior engineer, single mom of two daughters and grandmama to two sweet babies. Since coming to Saskatchewan as a refugee 30 years ago, she has been passionate about helping and supporting others in her community, such as women engineers and immigrant families.
Our conversation with Zara spanned numerous topics, including her career in the male-dominated field of engineering, building connections in Regina’s Persian community and supporting women-led startups. This interview had been edited for length and clarity.
What led you to come to Canada?
I'm a single mom who came 30 years ago to Canada to give a better quality of life to my two young girls. My highly educated, beloved husband was arrested for his beliefs and political activism. He was arrested when I was two months pregnant with my second child and had a three-year-old daughter. He was executed at age 36, without proper court process, or without having the right to have a lawyer. I came to Canada in September 1991 with the help of my brother-in-law who lived with his wonderful family in Regina. We were accepted as a refugee by Canadian Immigration immediately. This gave us an opportunity to start a new chapter. At that time my daughters were four-and-a-half and eight-years-old. At the time, I could read and write English but I couldn’t speak it at all.
Why did you decide to become an engineer?
If English was my first language and I didn't have two young kids, my choice of career would be political science; that was my interest. The main reason I decided to go into the engineering field was because I did market research and found that the soonest time I could find a decent job was if I go into engineering. My focus was my kids and giving them the best quality of life.
To be honest, it was the most challenging time of my life to study in the faculty of Engineering, especially to be in the electronic field. It was a very non-traditional field for females and at that time, U of R was not that diverse. I was 35 and sitting beside new high school graduates who didn't welcome single moms with accents. I smiled to all of those challenges, and gradually my classmates recognized that single moms with accents can be smart too. The first few years were very tough, but at the end of my program, I was class representative.
Where has your engineering career taken you?
I’m now a senior engineer in operational support systems and implementation at SaskTel. I’ve enjoyed my 20 years of work at SaskTel and loved all of the challenges. I’m so proud to work for SaskTel; they support females to reach their dreams in non-traditional fields. They offered me a scholarship for my good marks during university and gave me an opportunity to work in co-op jobs, then offered me a permanent job. I am returning all the kindness back to my community, and helping all to have a safe, successful, and healthy society. I have been a mentor and coach for more than 45 engineers at SaskTel, and outside of SaskTel for new immigrant engineers.
I love engineering. Now my kids are saying ‘Mom, now is the time to retire.’ But I love my job. SaskTel is a wonderful place to work. I have lots of energy to provide and want to utilize my knowledge. So that is why I am saying no to retirement.
Can you tell us about your radio show and other community involvement?
When I arrived in Regina in 1991, I found there was no Persian community in Regina at that time. I started to host a Persian celebration for New Year and Yalda. This brought together the Iranian community, which is still so strong today.
Then in March 2003, I decided to start a radio show on the Regina community radio station; I started co-hosting with the best Persian DJ in Regina. I found that Canadian people had not heard Persian music. So I thought it would be good to promote Persian music, and it’s also a talk show where I interview people. It’s this huge multitasking job, but I love to be challenged. Now we have a team providing a fabulous show every Sunday evening. The show is called Navaye Ashena, which means “familiar voice” in Farsi.
To help myself and my community to have a balanced life, I got my yoga certification and now I teach private sessions to immigrants or refugee families free who cannot afford to pay. Yoga and mindfulness meditation are two methods and techniques that will allow us to have a healthier and happier life.
What drew you to SophieGrace?
The first key reason is I love to support new startup projects, especially when women are leading. Emma has a great talented female team and also her models are from diverse backgrounds. The other most important factor is the products are made in Canada and people are paid at very standard wages. That is a huge reason that made me love SophieGrace: they respect the value of the labour.
The style is very classically elegant, and it is so versatile. I love the Rosa short sleeve blouse. I can wear it for work for my Teams/Zoom meetings, as well as my personal life. It fits well and is so comfortable. Their pre-measurement questionnaires before ordering were very accurate for me and their customer service and tracking system were impressive.