Déjà vu: Farzana Akter Tisha: From being an interviewer to being interviewed by MUSE

By Sumaiya Swati Udita

Meet Farzana Akter Tisha, a distinguished graduate of the Department of Humanities, ULAB. She is currently working as an Executive Officer and Associate Customer Service Manager at Citygem (a priority banking department of The City Bank LTD). Roles are reversed as from being the enthusiastic ULABian who would have a camera hanging from her neck ready to interview people, she now occupies the role of the interviewee as she sits with us to share her tale. Read her story to uncover insights, challenges, and victories that laid the foundation for a successful career.

I was born and brought up in Dhaka, and we resided in Lalmatia, while my hometown is in Lakhipur, Noakhali district. As a child, I was very headstrong and as I studied in a government school, and then in a private college of that area, I got access to the big field of those institutions. Back then, Lalmatia was almost like a sub-urban area, and having spent a lifetime there, I got to see Lalmatia’s developments first-hand.The spacious fields allowed me to engage myself with sports like Badminton and Handball. Although I used to play Handball for my school’s teams, I wished to see myself in the national team as well. I used to be a prolific debater as a child, and I am a three-time national champion of the Bangladesh Shishu Academy Debate Competitions. I also took part in “Kochikachar Ashor”, where I would deliver impromptu speeches. Apart from these facts, I was an obstinate child by nature, which made my childhood all the way more adventurous. Let me share a story with you. I once went somewhere near the Shishu Mela at the end of a competition, without informing my father. He searched for me all over Dhaka, but could not find me anywhere. When I returned home after this thrilling journey, with all the awards of that competition in my hands, I was greeted by my father’s spankings, instead of receiving any compliment from him! You see, I was not only obstinate, but also very restless, and I would participate in these extra-curricular activities regularly.

After a hiatus of two years, in 2013, I joined ULAB. My joining in ULAB is a story itself. I Completed my HSC in 2011. Afterwards, I got into Chittagong University’s English Department, but my father did not want me to stay outside dhaka. We shared an extremely close bond, and my father did not want me to stay away from him for a long time. The fact that I have witnessed the political instability at my campus culminated into his ultimate decision of bringing me back to Dhaka after eight months. Although I had other options in hand, like BRAC, or East West, the traffic became an issue for me, since I live in Lalmatia. Besides, I am a very lazy person! For these reasons, I was searching for an institution nearby, where I can go and start studying English Literature. My precise decision of studying this subject was influenced by the fact that both of my paternal and maternal grandfathers were teachers. My paternal grandfather was a Madrasa teacher in Bogra, while my maternal grandfather was an English teacher of Lalmatia Girls’ School. They have two more brothers, who are all teachers. Therefore, a keen interest in English developed inside me during my early childhood. However, beware, this has not been my first decision. I wanted to study in the Media Studies and Journalism Department, but it did not seem like a very good choice to my family. For, the idea that a girl moving from place to place with various types of gadgets and documents not only seemed dangerous to my father, but it also did not align with my family’s views, as I belonged to a middle-class family. This was further fuelled by the murder of the famous journalist couple, Shagar-Runi, which affected my father-I remember the fights I used to have with him. All of these factors led me to ULAB’s Department of English and Humanities.
Since my childhood, I have been a very extroverted person. As I had a two-year gap in my studies, it bothered me intensely. I also noticed that I did not have the same kind of mindset as my classmates. This was probably due to my background of previously being in a public university, along with the wider horizons I was exposed to. This is nothing negative, as I never aspired to be a student with a CGPA 3.8. Rather, a CGPA of 3.4 or 3.5 largely satisfied me, as I was never as studious as my classmates of the Department, unlike them; we just had a different focus, and I had a hard time adjusting to such an environment. I spent my first three semesters at ULAB by attending the classes there, along with my photography courses, and then returning home straight. The real magic happened in Fall 2023, when I first got to showcase my photography skills for MUSE. Since then, the demand for my photography started to grow, as it was the first time my photographic skills were recognised, along with my identity as an individual. DEH would tame me in as a photographer volunteer for its events, and eventually I got the opportunity to capture photographs in almost all the occasions of ULAB. This skill of mine helped me to connect to Faculty Members of various departments, including the one where I belonged, to such an extent that I developed a sort of friendship with them first, rather than being friends with my classmates, particularly with Prof. Imran Rahman, who was the Pro Vice-Chencellor at that time. I also developed a bond with our staff, who knew that they would discover me at various points of Campuses A and B at any moment. Also, since I was a passionate photographer, I had the eagerness to participate in all the programmes, instead of waiting for the organizers’ calls. Soon after, I joined ULAB Adventure Club and participated in their tours. From there, people slowly got to know me, and I built friendships with the students of departments like BBA, CSE, etc. After quite some time, my batchmates slowly started becoming my friends, and the connection has been there ever since. I was also a sub-editor for MUSE, and my days were very interesting, also sometimes very hectic, because the Faculty Advisor of the magazine was very strict. We could not leave the office, until each and every element had been perfected from the press. Back in those days, MUSE was published as a print-medium, and sometimes we would work till 11:30pm late at night. We would only leave for home, after we have received the first printed copy in our hands. We worked on different topics each semester, and it was MUSE that not only allowed me to nurture my photographic skill, but also granted me the access to meet media personalities like Sara Zaker, Rubana Huq, and Mehreen, all of whom are students of the subject I was studying then-something I did not know, until these tasks were assigned to me from MUSE. I could gain my access because MUSE entitled me to it, otherwise, my only being a student could not really suffice for such a chance. I remember, one of my close senior associates, Yasmin Eti, interviewed Sara Zaker, while I took photographs of the session. The physical presence enabled me to utilize my listening skills, too, as I could contribute, when the interview was being edited. The more experience I gained from such tasks, the more I learned to observe and evaluate others’ works, who joined MUSE afterwards. MUSE challenged my comfort zones and helped me to get out of there and freely express my emotions at this platform, and to create further connection with people, particularly for the various purposes of this magazine. As I am being interviewed at this moment, I remember taking interviews of other people, as I worked in the position of the sub-editor at MUSE. Hence, working in MUSE and working for MUSE, would equate to the fact that I was actually working for myself and serving DEH at the end of the day, which gave me immense satisfaction and a tremendous amount of confidence. Ergo, I had a thrilling experience at ULAB,overall.

My first job was at the Don Sumdany Foundation as an executive of their Digital Marketing’s Account Department. I used to look after six accounts at a time. Then I shifted to XCMG Bangladesh, a multinational company based in Shanghai. I used to work there as a Relationship Officer. As part of my job, I would visit the sites where their machines were sold, and I would have to write reports on those machine’s performance and took photographs of them, which was almost like a Marketing-type work. However, it came to my boss’s notice one day, that I took more photos of the equipment, rather than writing about them, and he inquired about it. Then I confessed to him that I liked taking the snaps, instead of writing so much! Then I got an opportunity to join in Bengal Foundation, and this time, I got to do what I liked very much- to work to my heart’s content as a Media Relationship Manager at their Communications Department. I saw myself flourishing there. I could closely work with the people associated with the Media, and it had a very different environment. Back then, in 2017, one day I got to know a senior associate over there as I worked, named Shahriar Amin, who was working in Philip Morris. He was the one who actually forwarded my CV to the Manager of City Bank’s Priority Banking. This is how I became a banker from being a writer, with backgrounds from English Literature and Media Studies, and it always made me wonder about my transitions. This banking sector is different from conventional banking, I would say, because our appearance, conversations, and values are prioritised here. This sector demands smart people like us, who can go beyond boundaries and take upon any challenges and tasks that come along their way, and luckily I am one of them. The idea of Relationship banking is completely new and unique in Bangladesh.

I initially admitted myself to M.A. in English, while working for the XCMG. However, the concepts of my job and my studies were totally different. I could feel it as I was already in an occupation. My working area required me to earn a full fledged degree from the Media Studies and Journalism Department. Therefore, after completing one semester, I shifted my track M.A. in English to Masters in Communications Department, which was earlier known as Masters in Social Science, MSS. Also, because I was applying for Erasmus Mundus Scholarship Programmes in Germany, which demanded a total of 16 IMCR credits, and this was only available from the Media Studies Department. trust me, I received more reliable reviews and feedback from people about ULAB’s MSJ than any other university in Bangladesh. Again, I discovered that the contents of this Masters’ courses were much different from English, and though they were more research-based, as well as career-oriented. While the aspect of being research-focused frustrated some students, as they were already employed and found it difficult to spend their time behind the course loads, a lot of people I know also excelled here and even went for pursuing higher education abroad. My degree in Communications, under the Liberal Arts system, helped me to know about Bangladesh Studies, Gender Equalities, Geography, Politics – name anything you can. As I now look at our English department’s current syllabi and the curriculum design, I notice that the programmes were not as career-focused, as they are now. We did better in certain areas of our field in our undergraduation, which now means that we slacked in the other areas! I see so many changes, and all of them are for good.

My major has taught me something very important- to be open and to see the same regular things from different perspectives, to analyse them differently, and to take decisions accordingly. It is fro this reason I can see the different shades gray in the winter, and whether they each stand for love, sadness, and various other emotions that change with the colour. I got to know why each season is so interesting and colourful, and the connection between the colours and the emotions, from Literature. Practically speaking, even if I write a three-line email, it os going to be different from the other people in my organization. See, by studying Literature one can either be a Journalist or aTeacher, or nothing. It actually depends on how people ar perceiving the things and how well they are writing about it. I grew up reading Satkahon and the writings of Sunil Gangopadhyay pore boro hoyechi, and I always wanted to see the other side of each of the stories, an ability English Literature has boosted inside me. However, for anyone wishing wishing to pursue their career in my track and with a similar background like mine, I suggest they do their internship in any financial organization initially, as they can gain a general knowledge in Mathematics. Not to mention, the extra-curricular activities are given a high priority, when it comes to Freshers, as Club activities can give a student the experience needed to start their journey. Besides, building connection is one of the most important aspects a recruiter attentively looks at. For instance, I was directly asked if I knew Kazi Shahed Ahmed and how well I am connected with them. They ask such questions so that they can judge how worthy you are for being invested behind. Most importantly, they want to see whether you areopen to learning new things, and if you are applying your newly gained knowledge in your tasks well, if you can accept the challenges en route. The reason behind such an attitude because theseorganizations handle people’s money, and they look for loyalty, honesty, and trustworthiness inside you. Although such fields see higher number of candidates with BBA, MBA, MSJ backgrounds, we want more students from English Literature background in these fields and in the corporate sector as a whole, particularly when the curriculums are being designed in a work-centric manner. I look for the same eligibility in the candidates as recruiter myself. However, the situation may not be the same for everyone.

A fresher will neither have much a work experience, nor they all will have a good CGPA. I had a CGPA of 3.4. In such cases, your ability to convince the interview board, your presentation skills, your smartness, your humbleness, and your wit can play a crucial role, and of course, your capability of networking. Your ability to tackle situations will also be judged, along with these factors. Besides, look for part-time jobs, while you are still studyling. They can give you invaluable experiences. Involve yourself with a lot of extracurricular activities, as the various executive roles can give you the idea of real-life situations, and these opportunities are readily available at ULAB.

That was all I had to say about myself. To all the ULABians and my juniors from DEH, always remember to invest your time behind yourself, in whichever way you like and is possible for you. Extracurricular activities, and part-time jobs are some of the famous ways of doing so nowadays. Besides, go on trips within and beyond the national boundaries, make friends, chat and spend time with them; get to know them. Pursue you hobbies. Look After your parents. These investments will never go in vain. I remember detesting my own assignments, but I enjoyed doing the same task for Australian students. They used to pay me around $60, and I loved it. As you do all of these things, keep in your mind that you are representing yourself and your associations in each institution you had been to. I studied in Dhanmondi Kamrunnessa and later in Preparatory, I did classes in Counter Foto, and I am from DEH, ULAB. All of these institutions and my background are reflected in my attitude and actions. For this reason,be humble and modest always. Just so you know, we seniors and the Alumni Association is there for our juniors, no matter what; for any suggestion, for any reference, for any communication, for any link-up, for any lineup, for any guidance, we are just a call away.