Maha Aziz works for Cistor, a team of technology innovators championing sustainable IT solutions. As part of the Circularity First Group, Cistor offer alternative IT models to businesses wanting to beat lead times, save money, and hit sustainability targets. After 15 years of building valued relationships with partners and vendors, Cistor is putting its industry expertise into a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) programme with the University of East London and Innovate UK.
Heading the project is Maha, who comes with a strong software development background and stacks of energy. Maha moved from Pakistan to the UK in 2022 to join the KTP and build a tool which she believes will change the way businesses use IT. The project will consolidate data over two years to evidence what those who work with certified remanufactured IT have known anecdotally for a while – that authorised remanufactured networking equipment performs at least as well as new, comes with the same guarantees and support, and has transformative outcomes for people, profit, and the planet.
A PROGRAMMER’S DREAM
Moving halfway around the world was a big shift for Maha but she now feels at home in the UK (preferring the relative calm of Manchester to the hubbub of London). ‘Downtime’ is an ominous word for a coder, but Maha likes to travel and go shopping when she’s not at work. She admits being a task orientated person can be both a quality and a drawback; her commitment to meeting deadlines often leads to forgotten mealtimes and breaking down an algorithm in her head whilst traveling.
It’s fair to say Maha eats and sleeps programming. She once dreamt the correct answer to a complex problem she’d fallen asleep trying to solve, and woke up to grab her laptop and code. While she doesn’t necessarily advocate working late into the night, she urges girls aspiring to a career in IT to follow their dreams:
“Yes, computer science is still male dominated, but women have logical minds too! Your background doesn’t matter. The world is open and there are multiple entries into programming. The industry is constantly evolving with new algorithms, languages, and features. Find out what crash courses are available, keep yourself updated, stay curious.”
Maha Aziz, KTP Software Developer, Circularity First
She may have come a long way since her first programming assignment of printing simple shapes, but Maha hasn’t forgotten that early satisfaction of telling a computer to do something and making it happen. Today, she is building a career in STEM and is the architect of the innovative REMA tool, which will measure and share data on circularity – specifically, the benefits of keeping IT in use for longer, based on the principles of the circular economy.
Leading the KTP is a meaningful breakthrough for Maha. From completing two degrees where fewer than 20% of the students on the course were female, to being a woman at the forefront of a pivotal research assignment in a male dominated industry, this is a major milestone in Maha’s career and a great opportunity to celebrate women in tech.
Maha grew up with a large book collection and a love of numbers. She remembers wanting to discover the smallest details in everything:
“Whenever I was told something interesting, I’d keep it in the back of my head, process the information, and then come back with questions.”
Even so, it took several semesters of Maha's bachelor’s degree in Computer Science before she knew she’d chosen the right field of study. She eventually hit her stride in the ‘cooler courses’ that gave opportunities to ‘deep dive into algorithms’, immersing herself in her assignments and working hard to earn a prestigious silver medal at graduation. She then repeated this success as a postgraduate where she won the silver award for her Master’s in Data Science.
Pushing herself to meet goals is something Maha does consciously in her studies and work. She was quickly promoted to senior software engineer from her graduate role at 10 Pearls in Pakistan. Being able to apply her knowledge and gain exposure in the industry gave her a sense of achievement that would drive her to pursue bigger challenges. Cistor’s KTP opportunity came at the right moment, and Maha’s characteristic bookishness meant researching the role to the nth degree before she considered applying:
“Sustainable IT was an entirely new concept to me. I began to read about it, and it made perfect sense to promote an alternative model to what we have. One that will protect critical raw materials and reduce carbon emissions instead of putting more pressure on the earth.”
BLAZING A TRAIL IN STEM
As someone with an award-winning scientific background, and who admits she doesn’t rest until a problem is solved, Maha is undoubtedly the right person to drive this project forward. She welcomes each new challenge it brings, including one that’s rarely asked of a software engineer – public speaking. Maha will be giving her first official address at Data Centre World on 9th March, something she’s both nervous and excited about. Luckily for her audience, Maha lights up when she talks about her work:
“Re-using existing technology will significantly reduce the burden on finite raw materials. We have to promote the usage of non-new IT and dispel the myth that new is best. It’s about gaining trust among end users that remanufactured is as good as new.”
This is the message that Cistor have long promoted. As a business built on the principles of sustainability, they are ambitious that the REMA tool at the heart of the KTP will provide incentive to speed up this change by inspiring other organisations to take action.
AN ALGORITHM FOR POSITIVE CHANGE
By aligning their IT strategy with their overall sustainability strategy, businesses can make a tangible impact. Ironically, while smaller businesses are often nervous of using remanufactured technology, Cistor’s authorised remanufactured solutions are already successfully deployed in mission critical environments, such as the Ministry of Defence, the London Stock Exchange, and the NHS.
Those working in the industry have seen first-hand the exceptional performance of networking hardware that goes through rigorous testing and exacting processes before being redeployed. With this in mind, Cistor is reaching out to partners who are already enjoying the benefits of OEM certified remanufactured technology for collaboration on the project. With support from Cistor and academic supervisors, Maha will precisely measure, consolidate, and present the performance outcomes of remanufactured IT compared with new.
The KTP will offer a peer-reviewed, detailed breakdown of the environmental and economic benefits of extending the life of IT. Sharing this data is key to showing companies there is no risk to adopting authorised remanufactured hardware into their networking infrastructure. It will persuade them to boldly adopt a more sustainable approach to IT rather than default to linear models.
As a double academic silver-medallist and accomplished coder, with a commitment to sustainability and a fun sense of humour to boot, Maha is an asset to Circularity First. She is passionate about finding creative ways to share knowledge, something she believes is a crucial part of being a computer scientist.
Maha is confident the results of the KTP will persuade business leaders to change their mindsets towards authorised remanufactured technology. When more leaders become ambassadors of the circular economy, more businesses experience resilient supply chains, reduced technology lead times, and significant cost savings. Hitting these goals this will pave the way to a truly sustainable IT movement.