By Bakhtawar Khalid

Fail faire events are designed to celebrate the lessons we learn from the failures we face in different walks of life. For this edition of the series, Accountability Lab Pakistan (ALP) brought together a cross-section of professionals to reflect on the failures they have experienced at the workplace. We share the lessons we derive from these experiences in the hope that it will encourage others to reflect on their own failures and extract meaningful insight on how to grow and improve.

All our speakers were mid-career level professionals who are themselves figuring out their journey to success. Sherjeel Khan, a freelancer and videographer, was able to share his experience of starting a career in freelancing. Ahmed Raza, Communications Officer at ALP, reflected on what he learned from working with local communities. Amna Rajput, Communications Associate at ALP, shared the strategy she has developed for dealing with the aftermath of failure.

Sherjeel’s story shared how University involved a lot of exploration for him as he enrolled for five different courses before deciding to pursue Computer Sciences. This exploration cost him a lot of time and money and was perceived by many of his peers as a personal failure on his part. Out of this experience, Sherjeel gained confidence and clarity about his interests. The experience also enabled him to start freelancing as he had enough belief in his capabilities to take the risk of forgoing full-time employment. In his speech he focused on the value of exploration and experimentation, listening to all but relying on your own assessment and working hard to develop skills that interest you as this gives you the confidence to take risks.

Ahmed Raza shared how he quickly adapted to his workplace when he began his career. He shared a quote from one of his mentors that has become a mantra for him: “Be like a bouncing ball always coming back with equal force”. Raza explained that one needs to be mindful of your external environment and try to control the situation around you. To gain control over a seemingly impossible situation requires us to vigilantly use our five senses and harness our ability to point out the real problem so we can identify the appropriate solution. He relayed a story of a webinar where, due to technical difficulties, he realised he was unable to record it using the Zoom app. Resolute in not accepting failure, he used his camera and tripod stand to record the event and then edited the footage to fit the frame of a zoom recording.

Amna Rajput shared the story of her first internship and its aftermath. The work environment in which Amna performed her internship was highly competitive, forcing her to take on more work than she was required to do, which in turn meant she couldn’t complete all the tasks on time. Through this experience she learned that in order to deal with failure you need to calmly go over the situation and analyse how it happened. After objectively going over the situation, take responsibility for it and refrain from blaming external factors. Then, brainstorm on what actions you could take in future that will lead to a better outcome. Finally, move forward. 

At work we use logic and processes to navigate our responsibilities so learning from failure at work is vital. Furthermore, learning from your colleagues and their stories is a great way to bond and find out how to support each other. Sharing fail stories at the workplace can create strong relationships among colleagues and provide a collective learning experience.

Bakhtawar Khalid is the Accountability Incubator Lead for Accountability Lab Pakistan