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How I did it: a tech career in Europe

Meet Salma: Senior software engineer in Berlin, Imagine Fellow & Tech Coach, and founder of ‘Women Who Code’ Egypt.

“When you do something that you’re really passionate about, whether you’re a man or a woman comes a lot less into play. Passion is a gender-neutralizing force.”

Marissa Mayer, first female engineer at Google & former CEO of Yahoo.

Salma in Berlin

Today, I spoke to Salma Ghareeb. Salma’s doing a lot. She‘s a senior software engineer at the Berlin-based medical knowledge platform Amboss, she’s an Imagine Fellow & Tech Coach, and also the founder of ‘Women Who Code’ Egypt.

We discussed Women in Tech as well as advice for any aspiring software engineer — no matter what gender, nationality, ethnic origin, or orientation.

First, some quick background: The underrepresentation of women is a consistent challenge for the predominantly male tech industry. Although numerous research has shown that diverse teams are more likely to report growth and create competitive advantage by cultivating innovation and creativity; women, ethnic minorities, and the LGBTIQ community remain underrepresented.

Of course, changing this is not easy. Merely increasing the number of employees with diverse backgrounds does not necessarily translate into a diversity of perspectives and ideas. One needs culture change too, one that accepts new & ‘crazy’ ideas, in an environment of curiosity and respect.

Thereby, I was incredibly excited to speak with Salma. Salma is a multi-talented and passionate Senior software engineer, currently working at AMBOSS in Berlin, an Imagine Fellow, tech advisor at Imagine and founder of Women Who Code Egypt.

Salma is one of the few but growing number of women in tech who prove that initiatives towards a more inclusive industry can work. Doing so requires leading by example. During our discussion, Salma shared with me her unique story and plenty of great tips and advice for navigating a career in tech.

Eleni: How did you get passionate about Tech?

Salma: I wasn’t a geek student who started her career during the college days! Even after graduation, I got many rejections while applying to every vacancy I could jump to.

This helped me acquire a profound understanding of how far I was from the requirements of the job market and what I should work on.

During the first year, tech wasn’t just a career for me to keep up with. I fell in love with it every minute while writing, reading, and learning about it.

During my interviews, I tried to ask the right question. The question was “What’s the next step if I pass this interview?” That question landed me the offer!

Eleni: What was hardest when you applied for jobs in Germany?

Salma: First of all, you need to understand that it’s not a one month process. Going through hiring processes is something you can learn from and improve until you find the matching opportunity. Also, keep in mind that companies in Germany do care about your deep understanding of how things work and not just stacking technologies.

I’d recommend getting the best of every rejection and kindly asking for feedback on things you did well and things that need improvement. Many companies actually reply if you ask in a thoughtful manner.

Eleni: What changed since you joined us at Imagine?

Salma: I joined Imagine at a point of uncertainty, feeling so outdated, behind everybody else, and experiencing imposter syndrome at its worst…

Imagine, besides helping me figure out my strengths and weaknesses, gave me really constructive feedback on my technical experience and what is required in order to succeed in the German tech market.

After multiple mentoring meetings, I got a thorough analysis on the points I need to work on. That helped me to upgrade my CV and LinkedIn and gave me a great confidence boost.

Eleni: How do you stay ahead of the latest trends in tech?

Salma: Oh, I actually have 4 tactics:

  1. I have created a routine of checking tech forums and updates even if it is for 10 mins every day.
  2. I have also subscribed to tech-related newsletters. I read Jetbrains for PHP, Frontendweekly, Freek, and Devopsweekly
  3. I also follow technology-focused Twitter accounts, where I can find some great content that keeps me up to date with the latest developments of technology. Check out this, this, and this one.
  4. Finally, I have surrounded myself with great people in the Tech field; building your network is extremely important!

Eleni: What advice do you have for women who seek a tech career?

Salma: I would advise you to ask a lot of questions and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You won’t grow if you don’t push yourself out of your comfort zone! Don’t follow the bad vibes and stereotypes, surround yourself with success stories of other women doing great things and pushing beyond their limits!

You should educate yourself by getting informed about your rights (salary gap, maternity leaves, etc…). Don’t feel embarrassed to ask about what you deserve. Last but not least, carry it forward and empower Women in Tech.

And finally: I did it. So can you :)

— Your friends at Imagine. Apply now.

— This post is part of a longer series. Read more.

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Talent without Borders. Work and live in Europe. Apply -> joinimagine.com

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Eleni Oikonomidou

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