The blog for Digital Revolutionaries in Egypt and around the World

Posts tagged ‘application development’

Work Hard… Play Hard

All about balancing your work-life balance

Life BalanceThere are four different, or should we say main, factors in life that you have to learn to master in order to maintain a healthy life style. Those factors are:

  • Your career
  • Family
  • Friends
  • And your Health

And the main idea is to balance. You are not required to give one of those factors more effort or time than the other to live a successfully healthy life.

But is it even possible? Especially in our chaotic and demanding industry!Mina Shawky

Interact’s own Mina Shawky, Head of Service Delivery, is happy to point out some tips on how to balance those four important factors

Career

In all the different IT companies you get around 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, to work, but is it always enough?

Being a Software Developer for 3 years and managing software projects for more than 5 I can tell you that the answer is, simply, No!

In project-ised environments, like ours, working 40 hours per week is usually not enough to get things done. People are always on their toes with deadlines, customer demands, demos, quality enhancements, features, phases, new technologies, research, investigation, POCs, topping competition, etc… and the list goes on. If you work in this industry, and you want to succeed, you have to give it all out.

You all agree, right? So how is it even possible to give enough time for growing and excelling in your career while maintaining a healthy life?

The answer is actually simpler than you can imagine. Just give those tips some thought and you might find them of value for you

  • Deliver the requirements: As easy as it sounds this is the key for getting things done. Software developers, especially tech-savvy ones, tend to add more. In the world of project management this is called “Gold Plating” and it is something that we would want to avoid. When the software requirements are to do X, Y and Z then focus on delivering X, Y and Z… No need to put any extra effort in adding more.
    Work smart
  • Work smart: The keyword here is “quickness”… Why reinvent the wheel? Being in this industry you get to expose yourself to a huge number of communities and developers who have previously ran into your problems and have made/built a solution for it. Spending hours and hours of restless, sleepless, time working hard trying to solve a lousy bug, or build a component from scratch, is not smart. Searching Google or asking someone more senior for a solution is being smart. And believe me, management loves and appreciates team members who are smart and quick in finding quality solutions than those who spend too much time in doing so.
  • Eliminate Waste: Have you heard of a topic called “Lean Manufacturing” or the “Toyota way”? If not I highly recommend you look it up. You are given 8 hours per day for work. Use them! The very common and sad fact is that most software developers tend to waste valuable working hours doing something else. This results in spending more late hours at work at a later stage because at the end you have to get things done
  • Limit and if possible eliminate interruptions: Going out for a smoke, side discussions, noise, and other factors tend to interrupt your work resulting in the need to spend extra hours doing your work. Try to eliminate all interruptions for better use of your time
  • Learn to communicate: Most fresh and young team members always have the tendency to accept any work or customer requirements no matter how hard, irrational, or un-logical they may be. Learn to communicate, negotiate, and discuss proper ways to do things right.
  • Give proper estimates: Believe me, it’s not a challenge or a race. When you are asked to estimate an assignment think of everything that goes around this assignment (from coding, unit testing, integration testing, but fixing, etc…) and give yourself enough time to do all those with proper quality. Also you must learn to be able to back it up and negotiate your estimates with your manager.

Family

Now for the second important factor you need to control, to balance your healthy life, and that’s family.

  • Time: Try to always give and spend quality time with family on regular basis. Weekends are usually good time to spend a few hours with family
  • Quality: No smart phones… No Facebook… No social media during discussions. Your virtual social life can wait during real life social activities. Not to mention it is very offensive when someone is talking to you with your face always looking at the phone screen

Health

Ever gave this quote – that we used to learn for years and years since we were kids – a serious thought?

Stronger Body, Stronger Mind

العقل السليم في الجسم السليم

  • Be fit: Speaking of my self. I have always had the issue of finding time to do proper workout (especially that I grew up never being a sports guy)
    Cairo Runners
  • Find time: Learn to workout daily. Find time for it… Even if it means you have to wake up an hour earlier! Believe it or not, but once you are in proper form and shape you tend to give your day more hours and energy than you used to. Not to mention working out is also a very good solution for taking out your anger or frustrations.
  • Run: Regularly… It helps maintain a strong heart… Have you heard of those people who run Cairo every Friday morning?
  • Cycle: Interact’s own veteran Ahmed Atef comes to work every day riding his bike. If you work close to home why not try it out? It also helps save a lot of time being stuck in Cairo’s lovely traffic.

Ahmed Atef

Friends:

If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else

  • Get Real: Spending hours and hours in front of the computer and virtual social networks can be tiresome. Having real friends and spending time with them on a regular basis is always a relief.
  • Smart phones are a no no: And remember we talked about No smart phones, Facebook, or other social networking activities during your quality time with family… Same applies for time with friends. Always try to value the fact that human interaction and communication is a lot better than that of the virtual world
  • Explore: Life becomes more interesting when you change sceneries, meet different people, try new stuff.
  • Business opportunities: Having good friends, especially in our industry, can always help in growing your business and career.
  • Inspire: When you are able to balance all those factors and live healthy you become a source of motivation and inspiration to your friends.

The verdict

Now for the hard question, how to do all this? Too many tips and not enough time!

Decide how you want to proceed with your life. You have to make your own choice on how to use your time. It’s all about changing your mindset and maintaining your goals. Can you wake up an hour earlier and hit the gym or go for a run? Can you focus on working smart during your 8 hours of work? Will you value the time you spend with friends and family?

Failing to make such decisions will result in being buried with tons of work, with no time to refresh, regroup, or have fun! And when its not fun, it’s not worth it.

Here at Interact we definitely value all those points and always seek to live healthy and have fun while doing our jobs.

Proudly crafting – and we enjoy doing so – in Egypt.

The new uprising Silicon Valley!

Slideshare2Once again, politics and technology happening come across on our Interact Egypt timeline. The date is Jan 28th 2014, which is a very important  and stressful date  in Egypt for two reason: The trail of former president Mohamed Morsi facing jailbreak charges and the second reason was the 3rd anniversary of revolution, namely that date on 2011 was called the “Friday of rage”.

Lets talk technology!

But, the same date was stressful on another more interesting track than politics, technology! It was the announcement date for Google Cloud Developer Challenge 2013, an annual software applications contest based on Google app engine. The contest, that started on September 4th had many applications submitted from different parts around the world including India, Latin America, Middle East and North Africa, South East Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and finally. United States, Europe and the Rest of the World. The contest had 5 milestone dates starting from competition start till winners announcement and was really a very useful experience for everyone who joined regardless where he/she reached. Behind the scenes, everybody also witnessed and was amazed by the energy of the enthusiastic young lady orchestrating the whole contest, Elizabeth Clark.

The tech startup scene?!

Middle East participation was, as usual, quit interesting to me. In the last 4 or 5 years, the tech startup ecosystem started to flourish and get unleashed in the Middle East in general, and Egypt in specific. For this reason also in the recent years Egypt saw lots of events, contests, hackathons for tech startups, from international entities including Google’s own “start with Google” (where our country manager Fady Ramzy presented an interesting session about E-Marketing Strategies for entrepreneurs) and the more interesting events like Startupweekend, that was courageous enough to move away from Cairo to other places all over Egypt including upper Egypt cities witnessing such events for their first time like Assuit and Aswan! This also ignited local scene here in Cairo to start running our own “local” entrepreneurship events like RiseUp summit last November.

Our geek is here!

Back to our  #gcdc story, which is even more interesting, since Interact Egypt’s own geek Mohamed Abdel elRahman was one of the finalists with his cool midoapplication Courseit, which enables you to learn anything you want, you can find numerous of useful written courses and streaming videos that can optimize your knowledge and skills in many different life categories.  Mohamed is a real example of Egypt’s new generation technology geeks, his personal hobbies is to play around with new Content Management Systems and programming languages, reading techies blogs, trying out new frameworks. On that day he was really nervous and curious to see his app as the winner for the Middle East region, and we all supported him and had the same passion 🙂 But then, the announcement was on that night, due to difference in timezones, which added more stress here!

Gplusstress

Finally the announcement came out late night from the Middle East were Geo Sketch from Saudi Arabia and Travellog from UAE, but our Mohamed was even filled with further energy to proceed on the geeks track and jump into future contests again!

Interact would like to congratulate all the #GDCD winners worldwide and especially the uprising Middle East! 

Proudly Crafted in Egypt

A short story of mobile application development, the dramatic crackdown of a counter revolution and a long-lasting friendship.

First post of the new year and a great moment to fly back in time and go through a personal story I felt the need to share since this summer. A story about my life as web entrepreneur and start-upper in Egypt during one of Egypt’s most dramatic period of its millennial history.

cyberandy-on-ms794As I write I’m on flight MS794 heading back to Cairo from Rome – Italy, my home town.

Today, Tuesday January the 14th, millions of Egyptians are voting their new constitution after kick-starting a revolution that changed the Arab World and was the beginning of a series of tragic events that deeply effected the Egyptian people as well as my confidence in running a successful business in the Middle East.

It is now almost 20 years I make a living developing web applications, I’m one of these guys that still remember Mosaic and gets excited when people and machines exchange information at the speed of light. I’ve been lately reading Evgeny Morozov (@evgenymorozov) so don’t worry I know “The Internet” – meaning this utopian dream of a connected and more civilised society – doesn’t really exists and most of the time nowadays this overall idea of a better World is misused for protecting unscrupulous online money making machines like Google, Amazon and the others.

Anyway, back to our story. Regardless of the time I spent debugging HTML, CSS, JavaScript and trying to push forward all sort of online business (from national governments to street performers, from multinational corporations to tattoo artists, gangsters and movie stars) I still take quite a lot of pride in doing my job and a great pleasure in helping people communicate online.

It was July 2013 when with our partner from UK (Axxe Solutions) and a brilliant advertising agency in Johannesburg we started to help South Africa’s biggest Radio Channel (5FM) launching an interactive radio show called “Beats by Demand”.

The user dynamics was quite simple and the goal even simpler: democratising” the radio program by letting listeners fire votes using a social-driven HTML5 mobile app (a 2nd screen app for Radio programs).

After gathering the requirements and writing the user-stories we began sketching concept and user experience for our first iteration.

Sketch Beats by Demand

Time was running fast, temperatures in Italy as well as in Egypt were going up and…a  major crisis for Egypt was on its way – ready to severely hit the streets of Cairo in just few weeks. Protests immediately following the removal of the President Mohamed Morsi by the Egyptian Armed Forces erupted near the Rabia Al-Adawiya Mosque and people amassed there to condemn the military and to bring President Morsi back to power. For the first  time since my first visit to Egypt I felt something was wrong, deeply wrong even though I knew my perception of the events was heavily distorted by the media I had a weird feeling and as usual…

tweetsI was relying on the great hope, enthusiasm and courage of people like my partner Fady Ramzy (@cyberzizo) who is literally Reloading Egypt on daily basis by devoting himself to the Egyptian Entrepreneurial Revolution described in Christopher Schroeder’s book “Startup Rising”.

As usual, for our activities developed in Cairo like the 5FM App, my long time friend and colleague Remon Magdy was leading the project delivery. I began working with Remon in 2006 while launching the first mobile portal for Algeria’s largest mobile operator Djezzy. Since then we’ve been successfully rolling out services used every day by millions of users from Egypt to Tunisia, from Pakistan to Algeria, from Italy to South Africa.

Remon’s competences, clever attitude and experience represent at best Egypt’s “amazing talent pool of young people ready to create and innovate” as Marc Andreessen wrote on his introduction for the Christopher Schroeder’s book.

August 2013. It was time to begin developing the story board for our application and most importantly we had to prototype, prototype and prototypeyou don’t really know if an idea will work or not until you try to make something real. Building a version to evaluate the interaction is a must for helping you and your client find out what’s missing before moving your code to production. As usual we split our team into smaller groups (involving the agency as well as the client) and began executing our plan.

As we moved along our project Remon kept coordinating our team sometime from his house in Mohandessin (a neighbourhood close to downtown Cairo – in these days of August one of the epicentre of the clashes) and sometimes from our office in Nasr City (nearby the Airport and not too far from the other epicentre of the protests the Rabia Al-Adawiya Mosque) following the advice from the local news and from his friends on the streets.

Skype-conversationWhile Morsi’s backers set dozens of police stations ablaze across Egypt and put on fire 36 Christian churches General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi unleashed a bloody crackdown of unprecedented violence.

All I could do, as the confrontation continued during 14-18 of August, was to keep a close contact with the team in Cairo and working with Remon over Skype as he was literally trapped in his apartment and couldn’t  go out (see Skype conversation).

People from the office had continuous power outages and connection problems but we decided to keep working as normal as possible and not to disclose too many details with the South African partners to avoid any unneeded spread of panic. When everything outside gets messy it comes natural to protect ourselves and keep leaving our normal life as if nothing had happened.

Hundreds of people died in the clashes between security forces and supporters of President Morsi after his removal. These have been by far the darkest days of my entire experience in Egypt and I do need to thank Fady, Remon, Ahmed, Mohammed, Mina S., Mina M., Nevine and all the other Egyptian friends for giving me unprecedented hope and courage in continuing my journey here in Cairo.

Beats by Demand

After fine tuning our Drupal back-end, training DJ Fresh and revising the interaction with the social logins we finally went live as planned in September with our first release of Beats by Demand. The application had a great impact and few weeks after the launch Heineken decided to sponsor it.

I am very lucky to have the opportunity to work with such an amazing team as the one we have in Cairo and I really hope for 2014 we will continue delivering great experiences crafted with pride in Egypt!

If you’re planning to build your new digital user experience…do it in Egypt and drop us an email.

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