The blog for Digital Revolutionaries in Egypt and around the World

Posts tagged ‘Mina Shawky’

Starting today … Always Startup!

This is the story of our new brand, InsideOut Today!

It has been a very interesting journey since our company was born in 2009, launched by Andrea Volpini who initiated the setup for the company beginning of the year then myself, Fady Ramzy, joined as the country manager in June to start the journey of Interact Egypt bringing online innovations from the European market to Egypt and the Middle East. Interact Egypt, started as the regional office for Interact SpA to strengthen the footprint in Middle East and North Africa, especially in the Telecommunications market. We started building the team and we were (and we still are) very focused to get the best calibers in town in terms of technical skills as well as personal entrepreneurship & enthusiastic spirit! The very first team members were Remon Magdy, the brilliant Service Delivery Manager, Ahmed Atef as support engineer & Jasmine Alladin our energetic online marketer.

Andrea's birthday in Cairo 2009

Celebrating Andrea’s birthday in Cairo 2009, with an exciting gift from the team: A Shisha 🙂

And we moved forward …..

Now we were closer and more local to our Egyptian as well as regional customers in Egypt, Tunis, Algeria and others, even including Pakistan. We started our journey by having all the R&D operations done in Cairo as well as the regional support operations. Lastly was the business development to grow our own regional footprint and it was interesting to expand our customer base to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Ghana and others in the MENA region. We were also proud to have a network of worldclass technology partners, like RealNetworks where we launched their Helix 13 platform in 2009 in Cairo in an interesting event inviting partners, customers and telco/media key players. Since then, we have been their regional partner for next generation streaming technologies. We were always committed share our experience to the local community through lots of public events we did as online marketing consultants, also with giant partners like Al-Ahram (in media & publishing sector, check the photo set) and Ministry of Communications & Information Technology (in Government sector, check the photo set), Google (in ICT sector, check the photo sets & session video) and IOETI (In travel & tourism sector, check the photo set) and also Markedu and Afritech (in the sector of online marketing, check the BBC interview and photo-sets: Markedu & Afritech). Based also on our commitment to local startup eco-system, we believe that we did the very first web-seminar about E-marketing for Entrepreneurs in Arabic! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMG9hR_hG20

The Egyptian Revolution

A major milestone for Interact Egypt, as well as the whole Egypt, was the Jan 25th revolution in 2011 where young Egyptian generation wanted to create a new Egypt that’s more dynamic and enthusitic going away from 30 years old stagnant political regiem & scene. This revolution was ignited over social media, and we had to summarize the whole story for those days before, during and after the revolution in a summary slide-deck that went viral and a public photo set. Egypt, written using logos

Andrea makes another entrepreneurial move!

Few months later, as a serial entrepreneur, Andrea decided to make a major entrepreneurial move by moving out of Interact SpA and creating his own startup with David Riccitelli Insideout10 SRL to bring a step forward their own restless dedication towards online innovations, and with special focus on another major passion the semantic web – where the web is about things not strings! It is the next generation web where computers understand the needs of human beings and makes the online journey looking for content and services easier and richer discovering more facts and exposing more values. At this moment, the very first version of our first semantic web product, Wordlift, took place. Wordlift started basically as WordPress Plugin that provides an easy-to-use method to enrich user-created text (a blog post, article or web page) with HTML Microdata, and evolved across different versions to be the tool to help bloggers, publishers & content creators to organize their posts and pages using “concepts” like we do in the real world. Accordingly, Interact Egypt was reborn again, instead of being the regional office for Interact SpA, it was the sister company for the new startup, Insideout10 S.R.L having an amazing team back in Rome including Maurizio Sarlo, Francesco Scavelli and Kim Renberg as first believers of this new path. This move was a major change to our team, where for the first time we had to become a startup ourselves since we were not relying anymore about the Italian mother company. We grew our own footprint unleashing the potential in Africa where we started building online music and online advertising platforms. Moving the the Gulf (GCC) region, where internet speeds were even booming, our streaming platform was the exact solution for Telco operators who wanted to provide streaming services to their customers, starting by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Meeting @RealNetworks office in London

Tough times, that generated more success

Moving forward to the next years after the revolution, namely 2012 & 2013, it was challenging & tough time for us due to the overall situation in Egypt. The elections for a new president, was a unique experience that many Egyptians had not witnessed for the previous 30 years, or (if age is less than 30) then it was a first-time experience. We had our contribution here too: Our social media monitoring report about presidential candidates went viral & trending over slideshare and also received the attention of international media like BBC, CNN and Wamda https://twitter.com/slideshare/status/214366046247845890 https://twitter.com/samuelcnn/status/214326101504311296 Back to our core business, Enterprise Content Management Systems (ECMS) and media delivery, the year 2012 was major year for technology advancements on both fronts. In digital media, the new MPEG-DASH (Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP) technology started to evolve, we witness that clearly during our visit to IBC in Amsterdam, where we celebrated the launch of our second major product (after wordlift) which is then code named HelixCloud. HelixCloud is basically a middleware that provides a management framework and an intuitive Web UI on top of Helix Universal Server to help ISPs, Telco Operators or large enterprises to take control of their streaming platform. This product has changed the way our customers do streaming business. For example in A1, Austria’s leading telco operator providing them with a scalable and robust future TV platform that boosted their revenues through ingesting advertising in video playlists as well as lowering operational costs. It was a busy year though in 2012, between launching new versions of the mobile portal for Tunisiana (our telco customer in Tunisia), Augmented Reality for Enel (energy customer in Italy), upgrading the streaming platform of FastTelco (Telco customer in Kuwait), boosting back travel industry in Egypt through events & trainings and also launching social media contest for Savoy Group (travel customer in Egypt, a leading hotel complex in Sharm el Sheikh). Good news also was that, again our products like wordlift were getting media attention. This is also beside lots of work also on the Italian side, summarized in the next leaderboard video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOyW8LrK_Dc

The Group

Moving forward in 2013, the new spin-off called Redlink became finally a reality, providing semantic technologies to news & media, and changing the way computers work for people! This was the year of linked open data for us, where we started heavily focusing on these technologies and providing it to our customers like the linked open data for Enel project, and other projects across Europe as well. The InsideOut Group now started to taking shape between the three companies, with a startup spirit! Having said so, back to Cairo, the major trend was the uprising tech startup eco-system that was really booming, with lots momentum going on, and we were actively there on several fronts like providing guidance to Entrepreneurs, speaking at and supporting events like Riseup Summit , launching Egypt’s first Augmented Reality meetup, and lots more. Although political scene was quite tough in Egypt those days, we managed to deliver our best quality of services and also expanded our services and footprint to South Africa, crafting a solution for democratizing the radio programing there! Rise Up Egypt Summit Another major milestone for 2013, towards end of year, was the start of MICO (Media in Context) project, a European Union part-funded research project to provide cross-media analysis solutions for online multimedia producers. The 3 companies of the group are working harmonically on that project while our role, here in Cairo, is providing interesting use cases for this research project.

InsideOut Today!

Finally today, in July 2014, we are proud to make this long awaited announcement of our rebranding where our new brand is InsideOut Today. It is a new concept more than a brand, it is dynamic, open and community driven! Even our new logo is an open source algorithm that you can play with it yourself! Our team is growing, not only more geeks, but in several fronts also boosting every day our energy and focus. We work hard and play also hard 🙂 !

Iftar party 2014

InsideOut Today team at the Iftar party, Ramadan (July) 2014.

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.

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