WP: Tell us a little about yourself and your background.AN: I am originally from Egypt, but spent my childhood between Atlanta, Chicago and Cairo. The diversity these three big cities exhibit made a lifetime fingerprint on my vision to make the world different. In the 1980s while in high school I envisioned the need for simple ways to transform the unsafe neighborhoods of Chicago or then sweeping sewage of Cairo. Something was and is still needed to allow our societies to become empowered through technology and human capital development.
WP: What were some of the formative experiences that shaped your unique vision?AN: I started my career as an IT help desk support assistant at the age of 18 at the University of Maryland during my summer break from college, and this was during the early days of personal computing and networking. At that time, I was one of those lucky to have a job. In the evening I used to clean the floors and organize the banquet halls of the University's on-campus hotel. I learned from these two jobs that making money on the job is secondary, and it's really the value of gaining real-world experience that counts. I learned integrity and responsibility and discovered that being the youngest kid on the team does not mean that I am the least effective. Although humble beginnings, these two roles paved the way for my life-long career in IT, engineering and technology.
WP: And this set you on the pathway toward a dynamic career in technology and innovation?AN: Yes, it did. I received my B.Sc and M.Sc in electronics and communications from two of Egypt's toughest Universities, Ain Shams and Cairo respectively in the early Nineties. Seeking to apply this body of knowledge into an engineering position where I can be part of changing the way the world connects was not easy feat in a country that produced very little in the way of electronics innovation.
I was able to work for Acer and Fujitsu troubleshooting computers, building local area networks and connecting businesses. I then moved to Saudi Arabia where I learned how to connect the nation's largest insurance company to the world of the internet, from email to web to internal corporate business workflows. In then decided to move back to America where I had spent my entire childhood and worked during the college years. I landed in BWI with the vision to work on the most advanced and complex technologies in communications and networking to bring communities closer across the globe.
WP: Yet, in the midst of this exciting career, you identified the need for something more, is that correct?AN: Working at Ericsson, Northrop Grumman, RPM Consulting, HP, IBM and several dynamic tech startups, I was part of teams that were changing the world. And yet, I realized that although we were delivering phenomenal technology, we were not contributing enough to human development, and whatever we were contributing, it was at a late stage in the game.
With a continuing desire to empower youth, I started volunteering at over a dozen non-profits from Catholic Relief Services to Big Brother Big Sister and from the Council on American Islamic Relations to Dar us Salaam and several other local schools and community centers, from Howard Community College to Howard County Detention Center. Eventually the light bulb went on after 20 years of getting exposed to different shades of the society across four continents and over a dozen countries. It became apparent to me that the oasis I had once envisioned in the middle of the desert when I used to live in Egypt at the age of 10 was really an institute that can bring hope, enlightenment and empowerment to the younger generation to transform their lives to what they can dream.