Roya Mahboob: Trail Blazer

Roya Mahboob: Trail Blazer

Chris Mohney

One of the first female tech CEOs in Afghanistan.

Serial entrepreneur Roya Mahboob was among Time magazine's 100 most influential people in the world for 2013. Among her many current projects is the Digital Citizen Fund, a nonprofit aiming to improve the lives of girls and women in developing countries though access to technology education.

What originally interested you about your field?

Everything started for me at the age of 16, when I saw I could connect with the world through technology, through these little boxes. It would allow me to do anything that I wanted—I could be an entrepreneur, I could work for the government. Technology and engineering made me excited. They were different and unique … they helped me solve problems. 

What brings you the greatest satisfaction in your work?

Any project that I’m working on has to solve an issue— you need to solve something to be happy. If I could change someone’s life—could change the world—that would make me satisfied. 

How has the nature of your work evolved over the course of your career?

Technology gave me the self-confidence to be a better businessperson, and plus it’s helped so many other people in Afghanistan. There have been times when I have had challenges, people who sent me threats—but with technology, I can work from anywhere, I can protect myself and my business. 

What do you view as your most personally meaningful accomplishment so far?

Mentoring the Afghan Dreamers—the all-girl Afghan robotics team. They won the 2018 Rookie Inspiration Award at the First Robotics World Championship in Detroit. All Afghans anywhere in the world are feeling proud to see this new generation compete in the 21st century. That’s what’s going to change Afghanistan, and the views of people about Afghanistan, and the views of our leaders. It’s a beautiful thing, showing kids they can be the next inventor, designer, or curator. 

What opportunity do you most regret not taking full advantage of?

I try to say yes to any opportunity—but now I sometimes regret I don’t have the time to look into everything I might want to do. 

What’s the most significant milestone you’d like to achieve in the next five years?

At the Digital Citizen Fund, we want to build the next high school in Afghanistan. We want to do more with blockchain, robotics, artificial intelligence—we want to build the next generation of science.