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Bushra Amiwala First U30 Muslim Student to Hold US Public Office

High achiever Bushra Amiwala says that if people want to do it all, they need to figure out their fulfillment to income matrix.

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High achiever Bushra Amiwala says that if people want to do it all, they need to figure out their fulfillment to income matrix.

As a first-generation child of Pakistani immigrants, Bushra Amiwala says she’s always wanted to support underrepresented communities.

Her first race, which she lost in 2018, was to become a Cook County commissioner, a part of the local legislative body for the county that includes Chicago.Amiwala, who grew up and attended school in Skokie, thought a local school board might be a better fit for her interests and experience after losing her first race.

Amiwala was 21 years old when she was elected to the Skokie School District Board of Education in Skokie, Illinois in 2019. She made history as one of the youngest Muslim elected officials in the U.S. while studying for an MBA at Northwestern Kellogg School of Management. 

According to Amiwala, she didn’t see working in local politics as a calling, or the start of a long career in government that could lead her to the White House. She had studied business at DePaul University and planned to work for a large tech or financial firm as soon as she graduated.

Instead, Allah had other plans, and Amiwala decided to become involved in politics. She says that serving in public office was as a meaningful way to spend her free time and an opportunity to peek behind the curtain of American politics. 

“It made me more determined to get involved in politics as a form of activism. Protests and callouts on social media are all great, but I also think one of the best ways to drive tangible change is through public policy,” says Amiwala.

One of her proudest accomplishments on the school board is a statewide law she helped pass requiring every public school in Illinois to teach the positive contributions of Muslim Americans and other minority faith groups as a part of their curriculum. Amiwala testified in front of the Illinois General Assembly in support of the bill, which was signed into law in 2021.

Now 26, Amiwala has crafted a career that harmonizes her love for business and politics. She won her second term on the school board in April 2023, a position she will hold until 2027.

Working as Solutions Consultant for Google, Amiwala says she has no definitive plans to continue her career in politics – but she hasn’t ruled out running for Congress one day. For now, she says she’s just trying to find a balance to do it all.

“It was hard to figure out at first. I’ve been burned out before and have had to do a lot of reflecting and adjusting on my schedule and what I can and can’t compromise on.  One approach that’s helped me is reminding myself that I don’t need to put 100% into everything I do – for example, exerting 70% of my energy can still get me a good grade, and I’ve extended myself grace to be okay with that,” says Amiwala.

Amiwala says that she has also been working with a personal trainer for the past couple of months to help keep energy levels high.

“I will schedule things like my workouts and meals into my day to hold myself accountable for spending my free time on activities that will nourish me because if it isn’t blocked off on my calendar, it won’t happen. I’ve also recently started centering my day around prayer, trying to set aside time to pray at least five times throughout the day. That allows me to take two to five minutes to check in with myself, reflect and calm my mind,” says Amiwala.

In terms of offering career advice to her peers who want to ‘do it all’, Amiwala says that she encourages people to map out their careers onto what she calls the ‘fulfillment to income’ matrix.

“If a job is low on fulfillment, it better be high on income, and if something is high on fulfillment, it’s alright if it’s low on income. I get financial fulfillment and security from my job at Google, and I enjoy what I do there, but I get the most fulfillment from what I do outside of my day job, volunteering and serving my community on the board of ed.  It’s important to decipher what the right mixture looks like for you, whether it’s adding a side hustle or volunteering more. Having multiple facets of your career that gives you emotional or financial fulfillment can help make you feel more whole instead of counting on one job to meet all your needs,” says Amiwala.

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