The Startup Adventurist: Ruzwana Bashir

Don’t be fooled by Ruzwana Bashir’s impeccable business pedigree or her penchant for wearing sky-high heels: This San Francisco-based power player has a seriously insatiable appetite for wild adventures. And, when she realized that the digitalscape was missing a one-stop service for travelers and locals to book amazing activities in cities around the world, Bashir decided to start her own site, Peek, to fill the void.
Taking a more traditional route into the world of startups, this Harvard Business School graduate (and self-proclaimed travel junkie) launched Peek in 2012 after stints at Gilt Groupe, Artsy, the Blackstone Group, and Goldman Sachs, alongside her partner and CTO, Oskar Bruening. After two short years — and the development of a software that revolutionized the way tour operators work — Bashir has become one of tech’s most influential forces, as recognized by the San Francisco Business Times.
But, at the end of this entrepreneur’s 15-hour day, she's still an advocate for human experiences outside of the office and proudly uses Peek all the time. What can she say? Ruzwana Bashir is her own best customer.

Take risks and take them often
“Persistence is really important. You will get knocked down and have to take feedback harshly, but it is important to stick with things. You will get so many nos before you get that yes. It’s important to take risks because risks and rewards are connected. Young women, especially earlier in their careers, need to take risks. It’s scary to push out of your boundaries, but that’s when you learn the most. It’s when you challenge yourself that you learn the skills to accelerate your career. We’re not living in an era of hierarchy anymore.”

On finding the elusive work-life balance
“I’ve always worked in high-stress environments, so I’m sure there is a part of me that relishes it. I’m certainly gaining tools to manage stress. I work about 15 hours a day, six days a week — it doesn't leave a ton of personal time. But, on that Saturday off, I try to be active. I’ll hike with friends or go to dinner. I try to make time for experiences, which is a powerful way for me to de-stress. And, the occasional deep tissue massage helps.”

On being the boss lady “One of the exciting things about being a boss is being able to empower others around you. It’s intimidating to have a lot of influence, but it’s also exciting because you are able to provide an environment and culture in which all of your colleagues can excel. We have a lot of very smart young women coming to Peek because they want to be entrepreneurs themselves. We try to provide a culture that allows intellectual curiosity and the ability to learn the skills they might need to be future entrepreneurs.”

How style can be empowering

“What makes me feel confident is being authentic to myself and wearing clothes that are comfortable. The authenticity in what you wear reflects who you are. For some people that might be jeans and a T-shirt, and for me it’s wearing a dress and four-inch heels. They’re not physically comfortable, but they are [comfortable] for me in terms of my personality and style. It’s important to be in a situation where the way that we present ourselves doesn’t mean that we’re judged as being less capable.”

Go for the bold
“Women have to be bold because we’re living in an era where we finally have an opportunity for gender equality. It’s something that hasn’t been possible for most of the women that came before us. Sadly, I grew up in a deeply patriarchal community, and most of the women didn’t have the opportunity to go and get educated to take jobs they wanted to take. But, we’re in this beautiful stage in society where we have an opportunity to ensure any of those glass ceilings that might have existed in the past can be broken through.”

TopShop top, TopShop skirt, Ruthie Davis shoes, Jennifer Fisher bracelet, Jennifer Fisher rings, models own ring.
Photographed by Geordy Pearson; Makeup by Sophie Haig; Hair by Michiko; Styled by Laura Pritchard.

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