Updated: Feb 17, 2021
As a kid, I have always been fascinated by books. Often the C within a circle intrigued me as to what it could be. Never, in my dreams, I surmised that my career would take an unexpected turn that would involve the encircled C.
Growing up in a family that valued education and being surrounded by people from the legal field, I always fancied becoming a judge like my father. I also had an innate interest in science and mathematics. I did well in my 10th Board exams and ended up taking science. That led me to take up Electronics and Telecommunications Engineering. I knew I wanted to go for higher education. But, somehow doing a Masters in Engineering or Business Administration, as was the trend, did not appeal. I often toyed with the idea of changing track.
In such a state of mind, I visited my uncle in the USA. Higher education was at the back of my mind all along. While in the US, I explored and researched various career options. A potential career in law intrigued me and the childhood notion began to resurface. I contemplated if there could be a meeting ground for my training in engineering and reignited interest in law. Intellectual Property posed itself as a viable option. Pondering on the idea, I went back to India to complete my degree in engineering. Marriage happened soon after. Meanwhile, the thought of making a career in Intellectual Property took a firmer shape. Later that year I came to the US to pursue law, while my husband continued to work in the Middle East.
Then began a defining phase of my life. I started preparing for the LSAT, maneuvering through the new system, balancing my personal life, and getting acquainted with the new environment, all at the same time. It took a lot of inner resolve and dogged determination to prove myself in an alien land. Not everything however was rosy and velvety. Self-doubt occasionally bogged me and threatened to sabotage my resolve. In the run-up to the exam, a good year ahead, I often wondered if it was sensible to have shunned my comfort zone to pursue an uncertain career on a foreign soil. Fortunately, I had the support of my uncle for my abode, a big challenge anywhere, more so overseas. He was a huge encouragement and morale booster. Otherwise, I was alone, wading through alien environs and aspiring for a new career move. The constant support of my family and the unflinching patronage of my husband helped me to spur on. My husband’s constant reminder of my goal and my faith in the Almighty stood me in good stead to tide over lonely nights and the associated slog.
With the passage of time, my confidence grew and my choice of career no longer alarmed me. My patience and perseverance paid off. I cleared the LSAT in my first attempt and got into one of the best law schools for Intellectual Property in the US. My engineering background prompted me to pursue patent law. Besides, it afforded an opportunity to retain my interest in science and the blend would help me get the best of both worlds.
Law school had its own ups and downs. Coming from a different background, I found it demanding to think of the way the curriculum wanted me to. In law, nothing was clear cut as in science. Everything appeared to be in the abstract. My first year went into reading, absorbing, and trying to think from a different perspective and to train my mind to follow suit. Sleepless nights and anxious moments went into channeling my thought process. Along the way, I took up independent lodgings and immersed myself in my mission. My first summer internship with the New York Civil Court was a unique experience, in the real world, that gave me first-hand insight into the workings of the US judicial system. The second-year saw a more confident me while I slowly blended into the milieu. I had acquired new friends and had come to know the NYC ways. My husband’s relocation to the US brought added joy.
Pursuing a career in patent law required clearing two bar exams, the NY State Bar exam and the Patent Bar exam notorious for their dismal pass rate. I took up the cudgels to quell the dread and trepidation. The challenge worked as a motivation and I did not let apprehension get the better of me.
Oblivious of the changing seasons, my desire to succeed impelled me to toil, which I little realized I was capable of. When life throws challenges at you, hitherto unknown inner forces surface to sail you through, no matter the odds. My diligence during the preceding months of my final year and the bar exams saw me clearing the exams on the first attempt. People in the field tell me that was no mean feat. This obviously fills me with pride and satisfaction. The sweat and tears were worth it.
Having entered the profession, I have been able to dabble in other areas of Intellectual Property. While enjoying the present phase of my career and newfound motherhood, I look forward to making a mark in my chosen calling and someday realizing my dream. In addition, I need to ensure my child grows up to be a sensible human being.
My travails are testimony to the fact that humble beginnings need not deter your progress, when you wish to look beyond the obvious.
The views expressed by the author are personal
Shazia Ajmal is currently working as an Intellectual Property Attorney for a well-known tech company based in New York City.