Welcome to Our Software Engineer From Egypt!
We talk about Node.js, the job application process and of course, Estonian weather.
Last week I had a chance to catch up with our newest team member Ahmed, who just moved to Estonia from Egypt. Before joining us, he was a software developer for the New Library of Alexandria, working mainly on the internal database.
We chatted briefly about the interview process, why he decided to work for Jobbatical, and how he’s adjusting to the new team and culture.
Here’s the whole conversation…
So, first things first. How did you get into engineering?
It started with my computer class at school. We were just doing some basic stuff on Windows 98. Our task was to create something that plays music like Windows Media Player and customize it. So I liked the idea of creating software as a tool. Then when it came time to choose what to study in college, I chose engineering because I like math and physics. Then I chose computer engineering and software development.
What is the process like to get an engineering education in Egypt?
In Egypt you have a score in high school. 100% is the top, and engineering is one of the subjects that require the highest grades — you have to get above 90% to be able to study engineering. The education is free but you have to be really good. To study to be a doctor you need to be above 95%.
You worked as an engineer in Egypt for 2 years after graduating. When did you first start to consider working in another country?
This was very recent. I was very bored in Egypt, going to work everyday doing the same stuff. You’re not very challenged when you’re going through the same way to go to work. I wanted to do something with my life other than studying, working and getting married. I wanted to experience something new, so I thought maybe I should work in a different country and see different things.
How did you hear about Jobbatical?
I was searching for jobs abroad and saw the ad, but didn’t know anything about Estonia so I looked it up. I found out Tallinn was a startup city, and this was something very important to me. If it were a country without so much technology I would not have thought about coming here. Having a lot of startups and potential for growth was very important.
What was the interview process like?
First of all, it was not like a regular interview. Most people start with a more technical interview and programming tests. I’ve done a lot of interviews based on programming so that’s what I thought it would be.
When you’re applying for a job, you want to know if the company is good or not.
Jobbatical wanted somebody in the field of Node.js, which is not very popular. It’s new. And I had studied that so that gave me an edge. They gave me a task to do with Node.js, and then I discussed the technology with the tech team. That was much more fun, because I had to know how these people think. When you’re applying for a job, you want to know if the company is good or not. It was fun that me and Rauno (our data scientist) discussed a lot of technical issues regarding software as a whole. I enjoyed that, and I had a feeling that these people understood what they were doing. I asked a lot of questions, too.
And what made you say yes to the offer?
First, I liked the idea of Node.js because this technology itself is something new which is growing, and it’s much easier than traditional things like Java and C++ which is really old.
Second, one of the main reasons I wanted to work somewhere else was to see another country. I always wanted to try something new and deal with different people.
Third and one of the most important things was the product itself and the platform. I thought this idea of Jobbatical was something new and creative.
Are there any specific skills you want to improve while you’re in Estonia?
As an engineer I want to improve my social skills. I’ll be honest with you. Software engineers are not very social, no matter what country they come from. All software engineers are very dull and very boring people. This is a fact.
You’re the most social software engineer on our team!
Yeah, I wish it were the opposite.
But you know we have more engineers from warmer countries who will join our team soon. Maybe they’ll be more social?
Yeah, people from warmer countries are more social because they go out and have a more social life.
On that note, how are you adjusting to Estonia so far?
Considering the weather, I think for now I’m good. I don’t know what the weather is going to be. Did you experience the winter here?
Not here, but I lived in Sweden and went through the whole Scandinavian winter. And I’m also from the East Coast where we get crazy snowstorms.
So you experienced snow before.
Yeah, I think the difference is that the winters are really long here. It’s like half the year.
Oh, thank you for telling me that.
It’s going to get darker.
Yeah, this is one of the things that is the most striking. At 12, I look at the sky and I can see no sun. This is very strange. So I think the weather will be a challenge for me because I come from a desert climate. The second thing would be friends. I don’t know if people will be accepting of my culture.
What would make it easier for you to adjust here as an expat?
Friends. To be able to go somewhere with friends. I don’t like to be alone.
Is this your first time living abroad?
I lived in Saudi Arabia, where my dad worked. So from Saudi Arabia to Estonia is very different!