Raise your hand if you are a woman who’s been asked in tech events who’s she with.
Raise your hand if you are a woman who’s got a tap on the shoulder for being a woman in tech and doing your job.
Raise your hand if you belong to an underrepresented group in tech (basically if you’re not a white man. Mean, I know but I never said I’m nice) who felt uncomfortable because all eyes were on you.
Raise your hand if like me you hate the “good on you” accompanied by an approval smile.
Unless you are my boss or on a conference committe, I doubt I need your approval (if you are neither my boss or on a conference committe to which I submitted a talk but you think I may need your approval in the near future, please let me know and I’ll apologise for my arrogant tone. The rest of you, stopping rolling your eyes at me as if you never practiced the art of arse kissing).
I usually get the “Oh!! good on you” <Eyes glaring with surprise/> on two occasions:
When I’m having a casual chat with a stranger in a coffee shop or airport and they ask “so what do you do for a living?”
Me: I’m a software engineer
Them: “Oh!! good on you” <Eyes glaring with surprise/>
When I’m in a conference and someone asks about my partner/husband/boyfriend/any male I belong to
Me: actually I’m here by myself like a big girl. I’m one of the speakers.
Them: “Oh!! good on you” <Eyes glaring with surprise/>
Then I get the smile, that smile that says “I approve of this, you little Muslim brown immigrant woman” (technically I’m white skinned but politically I’m brown from a shithole country).
Now most of the time these smiles mean well, they don’t really say all that stuff mentioned above but I’m not perfect, I’m a human with my own biases. If anything it makes me uncomfortable. I’m not seeking anyone’s approval.
It’s really tiring to be the one to answer all the damn questions all the damn time. Why do cover your hair? So you don’t drink alcohol? At all? All the time? Are you vegetarian? How are things back in your country? Is it safe now? Do you have cars there or do you still use camels?
As much as I’m happy and proud to talk about my country and my religion, it’s simply tiring at times.
By acting overly nice in an attempt to make me feel welcome, you’re actually confirming that I don’t naturally belong there, I’m not normal enough and you have to do the extra effort. This doesn’t just apply to people from minority ethnicities, Non-binary/bisexual/homosexual people also get the special treatment.
Would you ever tell a man “oh!! Good on you”. No, you won’t.
If a man tells you they are a speaker or coder, you’d simply ask them about the details of their talk or job and you guys start nerding out together.
No one ever asks men how they balance between their work and life. No one ever asks men how they can excel in their careers yet be good fathers.
Here’s a simple thing to consider; that applies to all of us, even you minority in tech: before spelling the words, ask yourself how you’d feel if someone asks you the same question and would you still ask the question if the person in front of you is a white man (white men, I really have nothing against you. You just happen to be the majority and let’s face it you are the trouble makers).
Now because I only aim to please, here are the answers you’ve all been waiting for:
Why do I cover my hair? So I’m never having a bad hair day.
Am I vegetarian? No. I actually love meat but only eat halal meat which makes me pescatarian/vegetarian most of the time. I’m happy with that as I’m trying to have a balanced diet.
Do I NOT drink alcohol at all?<scream face emoji/> Do you really want to see me drunk? Do you think that’s a good idea? Exactly.
Do we really use camels in Africa? Absolutely. Also as an Arab African, you should know that my dad is the king of Africa and an oil baron.
I know what you’re thinking. You think I should focus on the real issues of women in tech and highlight them. You think I should take this more seriously.
Well first of all, this is my blog, I write about whatever I want.
Second of all, I bet you there’s not one single woman in tech who, at any point of her career, did not ask herself the following question: is that the right outfit? Would I fit in my workplace wearing this?
So if my question of heels or no heels sounds a bit simple or shallow for you, that’s probably because you’ve never been a woman in tech.
Now let’s go back to my struggle here : heels or no heels? That’s the question.
I remember in a previous job, a job that i enjoyed btw, on my first day, I put my favourite heels on, a fine pair of jeans and was ready to rock the world except no body else was wearing heels. That day I wondered if I needed trainers to rock the world.
but what would I do with my huge shoe collection? So, purely for financial reasons and practicalities, I decided to be me and keep the heels on.
It took a while and lots of motivational/inspirational talks and book to finally come to the conclusion that I don’t need to change my style to blend in with the brogrammers gang. It’s been scientifically proven that I can code wearing whatever I want even ugly shoes which I don’t recommend btw as the world is miserable as it’s, let’s not make it any worst.
There were moments when I felt uncomfortable because I was overdressed. By overdressed, I simply mean I made the effort to not just put a t-shirt that I got as swag from a conference. I can tell some of you are now rolling their eyes. I’m not judging you, maybe a little. It’s ok to wear that t-shirt but also it’s ok for me not to.
If you are a man reading this, I want you to ask yourself: have you ever felt uncomfortable and thought about your outfit for work?
Because for us women, the struggle is real and it’s in those little things. Why would I waste energy on these unwanted thoughts instead of focusing on my job? Maybe if we all minded our business, I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable, just saying.
Anyway, that was a long time ago. As I’m getting old, yep that’s a fact, I have less and less of those things ,which I totally forget the name, to give, if you know what I mean. I don’t seek validation or try to blend in because if I’m somewhere, that’s because I deserve to be there and I do belong there.
Did you hear me sister? If you are somewhere, it’s because you deserve to be there and you do belong there. So please keep being you, keep doing you and let the magic happen.
To be honest, I don’t wear heels as I used to. Apparently as we get older, we start opting for comfy shoes. None sense.
But I keep buying them. You know how those nerds, can’t stop buying gadgets? That’s me except I buy heels. I’m a shoe nerd. If that’s not a thing, it’s now.
But here’s another secret thought: I still ask myself the heels question.
Surprise! The woman who’s preaching other women to own their space is still having her own doubts and insecurities. Of course I do.
Now that my job involves more public speaking, I find myself going back to that old thought: would I fit in this conference that’s probably 70% nerdy white males who wear swag t-shirts and spend their time in the conference competing on who’s the nerdiest? Who’s got more GitHub repos? Who wrote more code? Would I fit in with these guys if I show up wearing a 10cm heels? Knowing that probably I’m the only one or one of 2 wearing heels and a dress.
And then I remind myself why I am in the conference in the first place. Because I deserve to be there. Because I’m there to share my knowledge just as I’m: a strong independent Muslim woman from a shithole country who writes code, speak about it, wear high heels and a headscarf.
This is how the worry and the question fade away until the next conference, until I need to remind myself again of who I’m and what I deserve.
If you ever find yourself doubting yourself and wondering how you can fit in whether you like heels, trainers or cowgirl boots, just remember you do not need to change your outfit to fit in, you are where you are because you deserve to be .
Now if you excuse me, I have some shopping to do before my next conference.
As we waved goodbye to 2017 and somehow are still welcoming 2018, this is the time of the year for me to look back on my year and have few retrospectives on a professional and individual levels but also what happens in the world in general.
It’s been an interesting year and what I want to talk about here is what’s been happening in Tech.
We’ve heard about some shocking stories unfortunately about sexism, homophobia etc. Most of these stories had impact on women but luckily not all stories were dark and sad.
There were also some amazing initiatives to support women and keep them in tech.
One of the initiatives that I really like is EDF Energy’s Pretty Curiouscampaign.
The reason why I like Pretty Curious is that the initiative is for teenage girls to inspire them imagine a future where they make an impact through STEM.
It’s widely known that there are fewer women than men in STEM fields. A good way to tackle the problem is to start early and try to engage girls in STEM from an early age and that’s exactly what Pretty Curious tries to achieve.
Pretty Curious aims to get girls interested in STEM and reach out to undiscovered STEM talent.
It provides hands-on experiences and digital content that can be found on the website.
The activities provided by the programme aim to change the perception of STEM subjects and give young girls a taste of what it might be like to work in STEM careers in a fun and smart way.
Future Me allow the girls to create a personalised Avatar to see themselves in their future dream career whether this dream career is to be a robotic engineer, software engineer or architect.
They also can take a quiz to help them decide what STEM career suits them best. How cool is this!
There is also a virtual reality 360 video where you can see inspiring women in their everyday job. You can also read about those role models under the “Be Inspired” section which is another point that the campaign nailed. Young girls need role models, they need to see that what they dream about is possible and there are already women who have achieved it.
Pretty Curious doesn’t just offer activities for young girls but also for parents too. The parents quiz provides guidance for parents to help them identify their children strength and potential.
The Pretty Curious Studio is one of my favourite things about the campaign simply because it allows the girls to have hands on and build a droid. Not any droid but a Star Wars Droid.
On top of all of that,The campaign also has some exciting partnerships like partnering with Edinburgh International Science Festival and Disney. All I’m saying about that is “Last Jedi”, I’m not going to say anymore, go check it out !
As you can tell, I’m really excited about Pretty Curious , I believe it could have an enormous impact encouraging more girls into STEM. I hope we see more of these awesome initiatives.
Well done EDF Energy. I can’t wait to start building Droids with the girls here in Bristol.
Since it’s new year, new me, new resolutions BS, I thought why not starting a new series on the blog. You know, something to give meaning to my existence. Not that watching Netflix isn’t enough.
This is going to stop by the end of January probably because resolutions (wink! Wink!) .
Anyway, here is the idea: in these series entitled “the secret thoughts of a woman in tech”, I’ll be sharing some of my everyday challenges, insecurities and thoughts!! I can already bet that my fellow women in tech have the same thoughts.
Now, to be clear, this is not going to change the world or be revolutionary. Sorry if I’m already disappointing you but if you know me, you know that I can’t really do serious. This is going to be silly, light, sassy, sarcastic and basically me.
If you do not know me, the photo below pretty much sums me up:
Who knows, maybe in 10 years time when a famous presenter invites me to their show and asks me how my career as a comedian started, I’ll say ” I had this thing on my blog” .
-You should wait for Mr.Right to go to the Maldives.
-But what if the zombie apocalypse happens first?
-You went to the Maldives!! Does that mean there’s someone in your life now? 😉
I bet that if you went to the Maldives on your own and if you’re a female, you must’ve heard these lines just like I did.
First of all, there’s no law stating that you can’t enter the Maldives on your own or with family or with friends.
Second of all, you seriously don’t need anyone to enjoy the beach, the sun, snorkling , a good book and an amazing view. Because that’s about it really.
If anything, being on my own in the Maldives in December was perfect. I got time to relax after a year of hustle, to reflect on 2017 and simply to have the very famous “Me Time”.
I can’t tell for other resorts, but the resort where I stayed was fairly small. You can tour it all in probably 15 minutes which means that by the time you spend half a day on the beach, you have lunch in the restaurant and afternoon drink in the bar, you’ve met all the other guests.
It’s super friendly, I met another female solo traveller, we were actually on the same flight then same resort. I met some lovely families from Norway and France. Yes there were couples too but it wasn’t overaly romantic in the way the Maldives are sold on the touristic websites. I did not feel uncomfortable surrounded by these couples.
But honestly there were more families than couples.
I could’ve written on how beautiful it is and throw few pictures here or simply write about the top 5 <insert something here> in the Maldives but what I really want you to take away from this post is that If you are comfortable travelling on your own, the Maldives are no different to any other destination where you can solo travel.
If you are thinking about it and you can afford it but simply intimidated by the idea of being on your own in the Maldives, trust me, GO FOR IT.
Let’s first agree on one thing: we all have our own biases and prejudices. The only difference between one human to another is some acknowledge those biases and try to get past them while others take biases for facts.
The truth is, it’s hard to get rid of biases especially when travelling. You can’t simply leave them outside the airport door.
So like most humans, when travelling to Colombia I took with me a suitcase and a bag full of biases. Watching the last season of Narcos in the airport doesn’t particularly help.
Two Decades ago, Colombia badly suffered from all sorts of things but that was two decades ago. People tend to remember the bad news, it doesn’t matter when the bad news happened, people seem to freeze in time, in those bad moments.
My parents, my friends, my boss, they all were not very enthusiastic about me travelling to Colombia because, you know, “It’s dangerous”. The Internet didn’t help either, the horror stories no matter how infrequent or minor they are, they showed up first.
It felt almost like Colombia is a battlefield between gangs and police, cocaine is floating in the air (you wish right 😉 ) and all taxi drivers are kidnappers.
I do my research before any trip to see what’s the best way to explore a city and what to see. It’s when I was doing this research that I started worrying. Hailing a taxi from the street as you’d do in most cities could end up badly in Colombia.
Even though this is not common , it’s common enough to have a name “The millionaire ride”.
That was about the only thing I needed to be extra careful about in Colombia other than the usual stuff I do in any country like being careful of my surroundings, not waving my fancy camera in the air, not looking lost or ending up in dodgy areas. To be clear, every city had dodgy areas.
Now, let me tell you what happened to me in Colombia. I HAD AN AMAZING TIME.
My trip to Colombia was one of my best trips ever, the people there were so friendly and helpful and the country was simply beautiful. I can’t highlight enough how much I loved my time there.
I’ve never been to South America before and Colombia is definitely a good introduction.
I guess the reason why I fell in Love with Colombia is because it has some of my favourite things :
I’m not sure I ever mentioned that on the blog, but everywhere else on the interweb, I made sure everyone knows I’m a coffee snob. I love a good cup of coffee or two, maybe three…
Colombia is one of the biggest coffee producers in the world, I believe the third biggest . But just because they produce coffee, doesn’t mean they know how to roast it. Luckily for me, they do.
That’s why Colombia was heaven for me.
Visiting a coffee farm in Colombia is one of the experiences I will never forget in my life.
If you are visiting Colombia and would like to go on a coffee farm tour, pretty much all tour companies have one. I went with Toucan Cafe in Medellin and we visited Luna farm in Fredonia where the lovely family who owns the farm spoilt us to some yummy organic food and coffee and showed us the full process of making coffee from picking the cherries to roasting them.
It was such a fun day!
They say South America is home for the best Graffiti in the world. They are probably right.
In Colombia, you don’t even have to look for it, it’s everywhere.
Another awesome experience I had when in Medellin is the Graffiti walking tour in Comuna 13.
Comuna 13 used to be the most notorious dangerous neighberhood in Colombia but now it’s seeing amazing transformations through art. Being able to stroll its streets, enjoying the art with my camera hanging in my neck without being worried about my safety was proof how far this area has come along.
I truly feel blessed to be able to travel , to walk for miles and to hike. I do love my vitamin green and I got plenty of it in Colombia. Whether you are in the city or completely in the countryside, the scenery is simply breathtaking.
Bogota city center is dominated by the beautiful Monserrate mountain which adds to the charm of the city.
Medellin is in a valley surrounded by mountains, the drive from the airport to the city is an adventure in itself.
Antioquia , especially Guatape was a real treat for an outdoorsy person like myself.
I feel like I keep telling you facts about myself through out this post. Brace yourselves for the next fact.
I love bright colours. And when Colombia offered me a whole colourful little town, it had to go on the list of my favourite things about my trip to Colombia.
Ladies & Gents, without further due, I present you colourful Guatape.
Another amazing thing about Guatape and just before reaching the town is the Guatape Rock aka El Peñón de Guatapé aka La Piedra or El Peñol.
The rock looks like something thrown from the space , standing tall in the middle of the countryside.
There are about 700 steps on the rock to climb. I’m really scared of heights but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to climb the rock so I did. I climbed 400 steps and it was one of the proudest moments of my life. Also the view is totally worth it.
I felt so silly when I was finally in Colombia interacting with its people using either my almost non-existent Spanish or their non-existent English. After all the horror stories I read online, all I saw in Colombia was kindness. People were so friendly and willing to help in any way.
I even like the taxi driver who made fun of me and how I said “Englaterrrrra”.
This is only a taster of what to expect in Colombia. I will definitely go back to explore the rest of the country, drink more coffee, eat more yummy food and dance more salsa. Of course I salsa-danced when in Colombia 😉
The old town of Tallinn is the best preserved medieval city in northern europe. With its cobbled streets and charming architecture, it’s heaven for photographers and anyone who enjoys a stroll in a mystical mesmerizing historical area.