Category Archives: TechTalk

My Nine Years Old Dream

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National University of Ireland, Galway

For 9 years, I had a dream.

I wanted to travel to Europe and continue my academic studies. Some people think it is a straightforward dream but it wasn’t for me. At first, I wasn’t allowed to travel as a single female, a young naive one that might get lost, corrupted, badly influenced or seduced by the western societies. Silly as it sounds, I couldn’t change a whole society’s mentality. I couldn’t convince my mum who was the first female in her family to attend college after fighting traditions that says girls shouldn’t be further educated and instead should be “married”. I couldn’t convince my dad who supported my decision in studying Engineering, a not-female-friendly domain that according to society will stand in my way of .. again, getting married. They were both under the society spell and it was a nonnegotiable matter for them. But I never stopped dreaming. I never stopped searching for a way to accomplish this. If anything, this made me want to do it even more.

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Networks, Airbnb, and the United Nations

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It’s been over a month now.


The butterflies in my stomach are making less hustle. My mind is gradually accepting the fact that I am in New York. I read all about it. I naively thought I prepared myself for everything I would face. The fast noisy life pace, the dirty streets, the crazy subways and not the most friendly people. I brought few of my books and some pieces of my past just to make sure I don’t lose my identity in the cultural melting pot. I hugged my husband as much as I could before leaving to be ready for the loneliness that will haunt me there. But no “Lonely Planet” guide can ever give you a perspective of a city more than actually being there.

I miss him already. I looked at him through the glass window of the bus that is taking me to the airport. I don’t want to leave this. We did this before, we lived in different places, different countries, different time zones and I hated it every day of it. Why am I doing this? Why am I leaving everything behind and going to the lonely unfriendly city? I tried to remember all the reasons that pushed me to take this decision. Read the rest of this entry

Syria & Google, The Forbidden Relationship

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Being a Syrian with dreams and passions can be dangerous.

It causes depression when you realize all the added obstacles to your already challenging life. It can also put you in complicated situations that you can’t simply explain, but one thing for sure is that when you get to fulfill a dream, it is definitely worth it.

I had a “crush” on Google (who hadn’t?) when they started shining. As a Software Engineer that understands what it is like to provide a clean and to the point service and as a consumer who benefits from it, I always admired their way of thinking. I feel proud that I am from the generation who got to witness Google’s evolvement in the Tech industry. From a brilliant search box to an email server that amazingly filters spam that Microsoft couldn’t back then (I am not sure if they still couldn’t as I switched since then to Gmail and never looked back!) to more and more products till recently a smart home device; Google Home. I even owe it to Google Talk (before it was called hangouts) for the thousands of messages between me and my -now- husband when everyone else was using Hotmail Messenger and Yahoo Chat. I remember their withdrawn products as well. Google buzz? Google Wave? These were products that didn’t make it but Google always managed to gracefully announce their failure, learn from it and think of something else to improve. They will not try to cover it and build on top of a failed product, and I appreciated that.

I always dreamed of working with Google in any way, get to interact with their experts or even try their products. There was always one thing that made my relation with Google difficult; The United States Sanctions Laws. Read the rest of this entry

I am a woman, I am brave

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I got the chance recently to watch this inspiring TED talk by Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, where she talked about how the society raises girls to be perfect and boys to be brave. How boys are allowed to try, fail, break stuff and build it again, while girls were expected to be perfect, and that ends up affecting their skills and behaviours in their future life.

Coding, it’s an endless process of trial and error, of trying to get the right command in the right place, with sometimes just a semicolon making the difference between success and failure. Code breaks and then it falls apart, and it often takes many, many tries until that magical moment when what you’re trying to build comes to life. It requires perseverance. It requires imperfection.

That made me think of my childhood. I remember how my dad gave me full authority to be brave and adventurous. I have three brothers but I was the loudest, the strongest, the most curious, and the one who would push the swing the highest to the sky when we went to the playground.

I would fight with them and they knew they weren’t allowed to hurt me in any way and I kind of abused this power to my favor. Whenever anyone of them would go crying and complaining to my dad, he would just smile and try to make it up for them. He wanted me to be able to defend myself and not allow anyone to hurt me. He raised me brave.

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Me with one of my three brothers

Whenever anyone asked my dad how many kids do you have, he would sarcastically answer: “ I have 3 girls and a boy” referring to me as the boy. And this answer always cheered me up. I even used to tease my brothers by saying “HAHA he called you girls!” as if being a girl is an insult. Now when I grew up, I realized how ridiculous this “complement” was.

I realized this the most when I wasn’t a child anymore, when I became a woman. When I was not allowed to be the loudest anymore. When my endless questions were prohibited and considered a sin. I couldn’t argue anymore. No more running and discovering. No more fighting with my brothers, they are stronger now and they are the ones who could protect me. I am a woman. I am supposed to be weak, and a reason for my dad to always be worried.

I had to adjust to a new style of life where I wasn’t allowed to be brave anymore. I should be a quiet normal stay-at-home girl and focus on studying. This was a huge turn in my life but I never gave up. The little brave girl inside me was still loud and curious. I couldn’t simply make her “un”brave. I was still determined to be the best but I had to think of another way to do so. It was almost during the same time when my family bought a computer at home. That was my new friend. I spent hours trying to discover it. I clicked on each and every single icon on that system. (You can guess it was not connected to the internet by then!). I felt satisfied feeding my curiosity, but it kept asking for more. After several attempts to convince my parents to get an internet connection, I successfully opened a whole new world to discover. I developed a new interest for websites, and of course, I needed so badly to understand how they actually worked. I still remember my first modest programming project using Microsoft FrontPage (it no longer exists now). I decided to build an HTML website for my high school. I started learning by dragging & dropping, taking a sneak peek at what was going on in the back end and what is being generated by every action I did.

My curiosity led me to study Engineering. I ended up graduating as a Software Engineer, going into many adventures and now living in Galway where I never thought I will be. This degree at some point saved my life during the Syrian war and I will always be grateful for having it.

Even though my over protective dad was strict at some points, but I owe it to him that I am who I am today.

I am brave.

* I gave this talk on celebrating international women’s day in Galway 10-03-2016

And the Oscar goes to..

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awardI recently got the great chance to attend the Extended Semantic Web Conference held in Slovenia. I presented our contribution to the Linked Data Mining Challenge that I talked about in an earlier post, and yes we won!

It was a positive experience and my first step into the research world which I kind of liked it. I got the chance to meet a lot of cool researches done all around the world. In addition, I joined the N2 Women Lunch where I met great ladies working in IT & research domain and discussed different obstacles we face as females in this field.

I came back to Galway full of excitement and energy to do more in my life, specially after knowing I will be part of launching Galway branch for… or you know what? let’s keep it a secret until then. Stay Tuned!

How my degree in Engineering saved my life

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“I am Free” written in Arabic letters on a necklace

Update: This was published in GDG Dublin newsletter May 13-2015

Do you believe in the butterfly effect? I think that effect started the day I chose to apply for the Information Technology Engineering School, maybe before. I was just done with high school and still disoriented where to head after.  Back in 2003 in Syria, we didn’t have the luxury of college tours or someone explaining what every college teaches. We didn’t even have a website for the university back then. The only way for applying to college was to write a list ordered by the applicants most desired major choices , and depending on their marks and seats availability, they get accepted based on what they registered for in order. Usually, applicants order their lists by the major of higher score. For example, Medicine, Engineering schools, Science and so on.

Everyone wants to be a doctor

The highest income job and the most prestigious degree. Every family wants their daughters and sons to apply for Medicine School, even if they hate it, even if they faint for the scene of blood  and even if they threatened to commit suicide. As long as they have the highest marks, they will apply. Many families were torn apart by this decision. Many students try to rebel against their parents and end up studying drama or arts. The father can literally abandon them for a decision like that. Things might have loosen up recently but Medicine will always be the parents favourite field of study. Read the rest of this entry

What are you watching for your next movie night?

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Imagine a movie with a female vampire, with a lot of chasing and stabbing, some axes and swords, maybe someone wearing leather pants who died at the end from leukaemia, and above all that it’s a sequel, based on a video game and you can’t recognize any of the actors. This is called a recipe for a disaster movie.

No one wants to spend a movie night with popcorn and drinks ready, to watch a bad movie. But how can you tell if it’s bad or good in advance? Well, thanks to Data Mining, now you can!

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