The Interview Series: 005 - Shaimaa Lazem, Egypt

Bio

Shaimaa Lazem earned a PhD in Computer Science from Virginia Tech, USA in 2012. She holds an academic research position at the City of Scientific Research and Technology Applications, Egypt. Specialized in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), she started a program to advocate involving human users in technology design processes to achieve social impact. Her projects included designing educational games that helped children in rural Egypt. She is the Egyptian lead of a Newton funded project to engage Egyptian Bedouins in self-documenting their intangible heritage using mobile phones (https://www.hilali-network.com/). She is the co-founder of ArabHCI (https://arabhci.org/) initiative which aims at asserting Arab cultural identity when designing for Arab users. 

 

Q&A

What does your Company do? /What is your Project about?
The project is about designing mobile applications for self-documenting the intangible heritage of the Egyptian Bedouins. For instance, their old stories, poems, and traditional medicine approaches.

Why are you doing this, what is driving you?
Professionally, I believe self-documentation using technology provides a novel lens for exploring the economy and the intellectual property rights of indigenous knowledge. Hence, there is a huge room for research and innovation in this project. Personally, I find the Egyptian folk culture generally fascinating and this project gives me the opportunity to learn more about it and myself as an Egyptian. 

What is your background? How did you end up doing this?
I am a computer engineer by training. I have a PhD in computer science and my expertise is in human-computer interaction. I always look for projects that have three attributes; Addressing user groups that are under-served with digital technologies, integrating knowledge from different disciplines, and creating social impact.

What does success look like?
Making meaningful contributions to peoples’ lives

What is your biggest challenge that you have to overcome to make your company/project a success?
Secure grant funding during the early years of the project and create partnerships with Telecom companies. 

Do you have time to do anything else? What do you do outside work to keep sane?
I read, walk, and play Nintendo Wii sports games with my family

What would be your biggest tip to aspiring entrepreneurs?
I am still at the beginning myself...I could say that the two things that served me well in my career are trusting my instinct and my ability to focus on my goals.   

And finally… what keeps you awake at night?
That would be finances as I am not a big fan of balancing the books.