Women in Tech: Bella Khaja

Bella Khaja is the founder of Nimble, a Singapore-grown, female-powered marketing agency. She leads her girls with zeal, and sat down with us (virtually!) for a chat with regards to how she carves out a space for herself in male-dominated digital sphere, as a woman.

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“You know, when I first started out in my business all I wanted to do was to ‘do a good job’.  I wanted to explore my options in the digital space and to fluidly combine what my experience in advertising was like.” It is hard to imagine Bella doing anything less than a good job, because of her passion that shines through the relentless enthusiasm she has for small things in life, even conversations.

“Social Media was still very new, let alone social media marketing. So with my very first client, I invested my ALL.” However, as a social media marketer working alone, there were periods of loneliness that Bella, a naturally people-oriented person, felt bitterly. 

“I thought to myself, hmm…surely there are other “techies” like me who felt the same [about social media]. For the longest time, I was on a lookout and a search for women in tech who redefined the essence of what it means to be truly “present” on social; branding, content, analytics. And months into the business, I found a “tribe” of women in tech who are incredibly talented in their unique way. And with them, I started sharing my experience of what it means to be a “techie”. It’s not ALL hard tech.”

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Graphic by Alicia, teamCARPE

She has devoted a large part of her entrepreneur journey to helping women realise their worth, working on shining a light on how much impact they can make with their businesses – even with their smartphones. Our social media staff, Angel – eighteen years old – shares this sentiment, having joined teamCARPE to work on writing skills specifically to reach out to others, by practising on various Instagram captions and social media copy.

Bella continues,  “So to me, it’s not just the women in the tech community who have great stewardship in terms of the roles they play in the corporate space. But it’s also the 50 year old aspiring entrepreneur who makes cakes for her grandchildren and dreams of having a small business, sharing her stories on Instagram. That to me is empowerment.”

Her redefinition of empowerment prompts us to question: Why exactly does she go to the extent to marry soft skills and technology, finding ways to recognise others’ stories through platforms that may often be abused for the wrong reasons, for the wrong influence? 

We can imagine her squaring her shoulders, a bright smile on her lips.“Because we need more female role models who redefine advocate “real influence” on social media. The kind of women who plough through communities to help other women succeed.” We can see her eyes light up as she adds this, and honestly – we feel that she is one of those women as well.

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Speaking of Instagram, we ask Bella about her take on the real value that one gets from understanding and building on that platform. 

“I love that space”, she starts cheerily. “I have a few favourites [platforms] to be honest – liked LinkedIn – but I think that Instagram is indeed a platform for expression, and with the rise of influencer marketing, I can totally see why.”

“It’s such a visually appetizing space and a lot of us living vicariously through others which can honesty be quite harmful and detrimental to someone’s confidence and mental health. I am sometimes guilty of this too. But I have since taken a stance on my own personal Instagram to  help more young people to consume content that inspires and remodels the way “success” is defined. It has a lot to do with content that “teaches” us the implicit value of what it means to be aspirational and inspirational.”

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The team behind CARPE BLOOM has always seeked to highlight perspectives creatively and worked to bring positivity into the busy and worn-out days of many people we know, who know us, and who we care about. Alicia, who is both the youngest of our team and who has started to design the bulk of our Instagram posts, often uses Canva to tell bite-sized versions of original stories and inspirational lines that help our followers throughout their day. Bella continues with a knowing glint in her eye, “Canva is a software I know of; Canva and Easil have completely shattered the way you design for social media.”

“Use them! They are FREE softwares that democratises design and in a way helps you become a better designer. But hang on, so what if you can design better? What was the content that got you the shares and the comments where people are genuinely letting you know; THANK YOU. This was helpful.” 

_It [Instagram] has a lot to do with content that “teaches” us the implicit value of what it means to be aspirational and inspirational._
Graphic by Alicia, teamCARPE
“Think about what kind of content creates that EMPOWERMENT, and aim to create that.”

Bella herself has worked beyond Nimble’s marketing services, to create relevant programmes for youth by marrying her passions in technology and entrepreneurship. She has worked with Reyna Movement to host the ‘Empowering Girl Bosses in Tech Bootcamp’, an innovative four-day programme that enables young girls to be immersed in experiential learning of digital skills and entrepreneurial knowledge. 

“I thought about the many times I felt the need to mention publicly “Hey everyone! We are female entrepreneurs! And there’s a way you have to treat us.” And this was very early in my business and I thought empowerment meant going loud, going strong, going bold with our message of sisterhood.” She pauses for a moment to reflect. “It doesn’t always have to be the case. What to me that is so crucial is to make sure that you are not a walking empty vessel. That you are not just saying you are there for other women because the #womensupportingwomen is suddenly trendy, and you figured hey, no harm jumping on it. It has a lot to do with your values and how you do it with grace. To walk the talk.”

As someone who believed in taking matters into her own hands to redefine boundaries that may have previously kept women out, Bella has not only been walking, but running the race — with grace – for a while.

“I celebrate the women and the young girls who have been tirelessly managing and juggling their side hustles, puts dinner on the table and then goes back to her invoices in the middle of the night. You are champions in my eyes. I think it’s not about being a ‘FEMALE” entrepreneur nowadays. It’s just about being an Entrepreneur.”

“And to be an entrepreneur is to learn first your weaknesses and how you play up your strengths. Because believe me, you can’t do everything. I tried that and FAILED miserably. But I will tell you this though, that in a room full of men in the tech space and you are the only representation for the women in your space, don’t cower, don’t feel small, don’t doubt yourself.”

Having heard from Bella on how she uses technology to empower girls and appreciates the entrepreneurial spirit in her team, we asked her for her thoughts on the STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering and Mathematics) in particular. “While I understand that STEM is important and has, for the longest time, been the go-to reference of what it means to dive deep into tech — I am an advocate of entrepreneurship and therefore will add another E to STEM.” She lets out a laugh and proposes, “STE2M, perhaps?” 

“At this stage in our lives and century, for that matter – we are able to make very distinct choices with what we deem as success. So it’s no longer so much about getting into STEM, but more of what you DO with that space, that makes an indelible mark to your life, and the lives of others. Be it male or female – we are only bound by one community; the human race.”

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Graphic by Alicia, teamCARPE

“We have seen so many young people both female and male redefining their roles in the work that they do.” Beaming on the other side of the computer, Bella says:  “Let’s celebrate that. There are more incredible stories that need to be unearthed.” From our conversation with her, we’ve learnt a lot about the story she has unearthed – that nuance is present in everyone’s journey, that climbing up to reach one’s goals often involves drawing from not one but two or three different areas of interest or skills. 

“Today is my interview and  you are ready and probably going through social media to learn more about me. Tomorrow you have the power to define what you share on social in the name of empowerment. There is a burgeoning rise of representation in ANY space. It’s always about what YOU do.” Not one to leave any individual standing alone without her warm words, she adds: “You can be the only male or female in STEM, but you are defined by the worth and impact you bring to the community you lead.” 

Before we end our conversation, we want to thank the reach of technology for one more thing: Allowing us to transcend spatial and temporal barriers to connect with Bella Khaja, who is a superwoman of social media, and a shining star in any community. 

Catch up with Bella and team Nimble at their online home here, and Athena (writer) and Alicia (graphic design) on INSTAGRAM.

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