This is the next blog in the continuing series of interviews with top-echelon and renowned professionals. In this blog, I interview Rabeb Othmani, Microsoft Career Factor Idol Winner in the category of “Windows Phone 7 Developer”. Rabeb is also an Imagine Cup Winner.
Rabeb is a senior computer engineering student at The Faculty of Sciences of Tunis (FST). She specializes in User Experience Technologies including Silverlight, Windows Presentation Foundation, and Windows Phone 7, in addition to C# and .NET Technologies.
Recently, she has been working at the Microsoft Innovation Center Tunisia where she coordinates programs such as DreamSpark and WebsiteSpark. She has been employed as an intern for Cyberesa.Net focusing on Windows Phone 7 applications development.
She has been recognized as a Microsoft Student Partner (MSP) for the last two years (2009/2010 and 2010/2011). Additionally, she is a Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) in .Net Framework 2.0, .Net Framework 3.5 and Windows Presentation Foundation.
Rabeb excelled at the Microsoft-sponsored Imagine Cup 2010, where she won the local finals in Tunisia and participated in the international finals in Warsaw, Poland.
She is passionate about new technologies and aims to improve her professional knowledge and communication skills throughout her professional career. She is ambitious and loves new challenges. She is an avid proponent of social media and shares her stories and experiences with others. You can read more about her experiences with Silverlight and WPF on her blog: http://rabeb.wordpress.com/.
Rabeb, thank you for coming in today to share your insights and experiences with the audience.
A: "Hello Stephen, it's a pleasure. Thank you for interviewing me, I'm flattered."
In the West, there is a shortage of women entering computing. What attracted you to study computing engineering?
A: "Well same thing here, boys feel it's their field, and this is something challenging. I got my baccalaureate with high scores so I was able to choose one of the best universities in Tunis: it was either medicine or engineering studies. I discussed this with my family, my uncle is a doctor and we came out with a decision that computer engineering is a very bright field, it's the future. It was also my mum's wish to see me become an engineer. And that was the start of a great journey so far."
What work are you doing at the Microsoft Innovation Center and how does this work deliver value?
A: "My internship in MIC is about doing 2 kinds of work:
- I'm working on my WP7 application: coding, developing, learning about technology.
- I'm also working on coordinating some programs like DreamSpark, Imagine Cup....We organize events, do marketing, help students....and that's very important for me because I want to learn something new. I'm an engineer but I want more than coding, I love working for the community, so that helps me do it and also master communication skills."
Can you describe how you won the Imagine Cup local finals and the value of your work?
A: "Imagine Cup was a great experience! We worked hard for it with lots of passion and determination, there were great ideas but the reason that we won it is that we combined all the ingredients: we used the latest technologies for a good cause which is environment sustainability and we presented in a good way. "
What triggered your interest in applying for Career Factor?
A: "I have been always interested in working with .Net technologies, and when I saw the Career Factor casting call I had an internship and was working on a WP7 app. I am senior student looking for great opportunities with .Net Technologies and with Microsoft, Career Factor seems to be a good one. So I decided to give it a try and it works!"
What are your best practices and tips on: Silverlight, Windows Presentation Foundation, and Windows Phone 7, in addition to C# and .NET Technologies?
- If you want to learn about Silverlight, WPF, WP7....use the online resources: Great stuff on MSDN, Channel 9 and developers blogs.
- Try to keep your work simple, clean.
- If you are working on WP7 keep the same design, which is the Metro design; so your application looks natural with the phone.
- Also you should focus on a specific functionality on the app, don't try to mix different things together so your app ends up doing nothing.
- My valuable tip and I do this often: Use your search engine!
Can you describe your personal experiences for the challenges and process leading up, winning, and after winning Career Factor?
A: "Let me tell you that this Career Factor journey is just amazing, things are crazy for me. First time I was told that I'm going to be part of the Career Factor cast, I cried. It was an emotional moment. Being one of THE 9, being the only finalist from Middle East Africa makes me feel proud, but at the same time I should do my best because I know that people count on me and they have many expectations from me. That's from where I get the strength to continue and work more."
How does social media accentuate what you are doing in Career Factor?
A: "Social media is playing an important role in this. It helps spread the word about the program, our videos and blog posts and make people follow us and interact with us. Recently we had a Career Factor tweet chat and we talked about important topics like how to prepare for certification exams, what's better, written or video blogs. It's helping us get more visibility and that's something we need; most of us are seeking jobs and getting help with our projects. Social media is a powerful tool to help us achieve this."
What is more exciting about your current university work?
A: "I'm experiencing something new, I did some internship before but just like for 1 or 2 months. This time I'm working, it's a whole new world, a new way to deal with people. I'm learning how to be professional, how to cooperate with a team. It's so exciting to feel that you are working, being independent and contributing to something."
What are your future career aspirations? Why are you passionate about Windows Phone 7?
A: "I like this question; I'm seeking for a job. I get some offers lately but still waiting for the golden opportunity. I really hope to work for a big company, developing some Silverlight and WP7 apps. I'm working hard and hoping to be able to work in the USA, everybody knows that the biggest companies are there. My biggest dream is to work for Microsoft; I will do what it takes to achieve my goal even if it will need some time. And if I fail in this (hopefully not) I will start my own company and do what I love to do. This company will end up by being a Microsoft Partner. The reason why I'm passionate about WP7 is that I'm passionate about Silverlight, so moving from Silverlight to WP was very easy for me. After beginning working and looking around it, I discovered multiple possibilities for developers and how easy to use it, which makes me love it even more."
What drives your passion for Microsoft and other specific Microsoft technology solutions?
A: "In university, I was there when they launched a .Net Club. It all starts from there. I heard people talking about things I don't know. Then I start to look by myself, to compare and try technologies like Silverlight. And that's how I knew that this is what I want."
What are your tips, lessons, and best resources for those wanting a career in computing?
A: "If you want a career in computing, make sure this is what you want because it needs lots of passion and love. Be patient and try, learn from our failure and don't give up. It can be painful sometimes but think about the joy and satisfaction you get when you solve a problem. You will never be bored in the computing field; every day you have a new problem to face and a new challenge. Please don't stick with what you get in school, search and dig in blogs, forums, EBooks, websites....You will find all you need."
Why does certification fit into your career plan?
A: "Certification is very important, it differentiates you from any other engineer or developer. For me, with certifications, I have stronger chances to get the job I want; because it doesn't only mean that you master the technology but also that you are willing to learn and to take challenges."
In all that you do, what are the biggest challenges, and their solutions?
A: "One of the biggest challenges for me is being in a third world country. Sometimes, maybe often, passion and intelligence are not enough if you don't have the tools to do the work. Here I don't have access to Marketplace, I can't have an Azure account even with my MSDN, my WP7 phone is not unlocked for developer so I can't test my apps on a real device. If it wasn't because of Imagine Cup, I would probably not have a WP7 phone at all. But instead of stepping back, I decided to work harder, because if people saw something on me, if they believe in my potential, they will end up by providing me with what I need, not just me. And that's what we did in Tunisia; we made videos and started learning WP7 in order to make our voice heard. Our message is simple:...."Microsoft we have the potential, we want to innovate, you have lots of people who love your products and ready to work with so please provide us with what we need"...."
Provide your predictions of future IT trends and their implications/opportunities?
A: "I think that IT future will be in the Cloud and in Mobile. It's starting now and probably will take over the IT industry in the coming years. That offers new possibilities and new perspectives for IT PROs."
Please share 3 stories (something surprising, unexpected, amazing, or humorous) from your studies, work, or time with Career Factor?
- 3 years ago before doing computer engineering, I hated it very much and I always said I would never do computer engineering studies.
- Since I'm in Career Factor, people think I'm working for Microsoft and some students add me on Facebook and ask for advice and help. Of course I'm so glad to help or to inspire them even a little bit.
- Being in Career Factor allowed me to meet secretary of state Hillary Clinton, that's amazing for me.
If you were doing this interview, what 3 questions would you ask and then what would be your answers?
A: "That's a hard question! I would ask:
- If you have to choose someone from the IT field to meet, who would that person be? Why?
I will say John Papa; I hope he will be in TechED-NA. He is good on what he's doing, a great IT Pro, I attended some of his online sessions, also the Silverlight Fire Starter live streaming, I just like the way he talks about Silverlight. He keeps talking about family and the importance of having a life-work balance. Definitely, a small chat with him will help me a lot.
- What is your favorite quote?
"You see things; and you say, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say, 'Why not?'" George Bernard Shaw
- Besides being a Tech Girl, what are your hobbies and what do you like to do in your free time?
Family is very important to me, I love spending time with my family as much as I can. I'm part of a humanitarian organization to help children and whenever there is an event around social Media, citizenship, innovation like TEDx and Twestival; I try to be there."
Rabeb, we will continue to follow your contributions with career factor and more broadly. We thank you for sharing your time, wisdom, and accumulated deep insights with our audience.
A: "Thank you Stephen, I enjoyed talking to you."