Inspiring Figures is a monthly column where I share with you people who are catalysts in inspiring and motivating me. They are people that you should really know about.
You can find the whole list of my inspiring figures over on the shiny new website, InspiringFigures.co. Each feature first took place live on YouTube Live, this is a write-up of our conversation. Thank you once again to everyone that joined in live!
November 2020 features Esraa Dandash
Esraa Dandash is another multi-hyphenate, she is a UI/UX Developer, web development freelancer and creator in the tech space, based in Eygpt. Known online as “Cleopatra in Tech”, Esraa loves to build and share her stories to share with everyone.
A keen community builder at heart, Esraa and I met a few years ago at a community event related to hackathons.
I hope that you find her story as inspiring as I did!
Listen to our conversation
Getting into Technology
Growing up, Esraa always wanted to be a mechanical engineer. During her journey and track to become a mechanical engineer, she discovered a whole new passion for software. When doing some workshops looking at the production technology costs in mechanical engineering, Esraa found more interest in the software behind it rather than the hardware and machine itself.
In 2016, she shifted her career interests and starred all over again. Travelling to London, she started her degree in Computer Science. She ended up working at American Express as a Data Analyst whilst at university. She chose to be on a professional pathway scheme the City University of London, whereby you just work four days a week, and go to uni, be a student for one day a week.
“So it was really, really tough. I’ve continued doing this, just until this July, when I graduated. So yeah, I’ve been working and studying at the same time. And it’s been really, really, really hectic, but very interesting. And now I’m gonna like now reaping all the good things, finally! It’s been quite a journey!”
Esraa reminds us that you don’t need to have started when you were young to get into technology. “To be honest. I never saw myself as someone who codes or builds programs or talks technology. And that was only like, you know, when people say I started coding at three, I started…well, I started coding at 19 years old.”
Are degrees worth it?
Referencing mine and Matt’s conversation on the podcast, I proposed this question to Esraa as a former Computer Science student.
“To be honest, I think there’s, there’s no one size fits all for this, because it really depends on the role. There are, there are so many roles that still fall under technology.” Esraa shares that she has dipped her feet into web development which she does now, data analysis and involved in calls relating to infrastructure. All completely different! Her degree served each one in it’s own individual way. For example, she had more relatable content on infrastructure from lectures covered as part of her degree.
“So I think really, it depends. It massively depends on your role. But I also, to be honest, I really believe the degree has given me everything so far, because even the jobs that have not really been have not really massively related to lecture content or what’s being covered in lecture, it still had some parts of knowledge that you needed to tell that you have learned in the lecture ways of how software work, how differently is the architectural bits of the software?”
The Power of Communities
We both met at a hackathon-related event in Birmingham a couple of years ago actually! From these events, I’ve always found that I meet some incredible folks and connections that I cherish to this day — Esraa being one of them. When describing her involved in the wider tech community, Esraa shares, “I started meeting people in hackathons. I think I’ve done about 18 hackathons where I used to travel and meet new people. Travelling is one of my biggest passions as well, so I’m the happiest when I get to code and travel.”
As a curious person, Esraa enjoyed learning from other people at these community events. She has also given tech talks for the University, Major League Hacking (MLH) events and Women in Tech meet-ups.
“The best thing about getting involved in communities is connections.” Esraa shared that all of the connections that she has met through community events have all made a massive impact in her career opportunities but also as that emotional support that is needed sometimes being in the industry.
Getting the balance right in tech
“I always say you have to block some time every day for one simple small thing that you do for yourself. For me, this is running, you will definitely see my daily Instagram – I’m going to run to help keep me accountable.”
Esraa believes in the importance of making sure that you take time for yourself and get away from tech for a bit, even if it is just an hour or two. It is vital that you keep both your physical and mental health taken care of before delving into new tech projects or coding away for hours on end. She is pretty active on Instagram to share her love for running on there – if you need the motivation, just check out her stories 😉
Tech Talks project
This was my favourite part of our conversation.
Esraa recently launched her own “Tech Talks” mini-project where she shares on Instagram some of the most important things you need to know when navigating the online space. As techies, sometimes it can be easy for us to forget the basics and make assumptions based on our growing knowledge in tech. Esraa aims to break down that wall in the digital skills space by making sure that anyone and everyone understands the basics in tech and is mindful of how they use the tech that techies like us build.
“I’ve recently moved back to Cairo, Egypt. And it’s been incredibly disappointing seeing how people treat social media. People don’t realize how much time they actually spend on social media.
For example, I felt that TikTok in particular, is coming incredibly popular. And people are spending so much time doing stuff that they might, in the short term, think is very amusing but after that — what is the real point of it? We’re spending too much time on these platforms.”
Esraa also points out topics like being mindful of who you give information to online. For example, not giving away personal information to those on Instagram when “purchasing” from someone. With everything being online nowadays, it is obviously great and makes people’s lives easier but it can also be detrimental if people aren’t aware of how to use these platforms properly.
“I really want to challenge the content that our generation is spending so much time just consuming.”
What is coming up for Esraa?
Closing the end of our conversation, Esraa excitedly shared her upcoming digital portfolio where she will be highlighting some of her services as a freelance web developer. Stay tuned for that over at (link) — it’s looking amazing so far!
When I asked about what she has plans for 2021, “I’m trying to make no plans for 2021. This year, every single plan that I’ve made has completely been thrown out the window. Nothing has happened whatsoever. So I’m trying to take it easy on myself and be like, ‘you know what, you’re a very hardworking individual who very creative in what you do. How about you just let it flow?’”
As someone who is a serial-planner, these were words that I needed to hear. We often need reminding that it’s OK not to have a plan and just to take it day-by-day. 😁