Mira Ebrahim, a full-stack engineer at Taggstar, has loved computers and computing since she was a child. She recalls how her dad bought her a Windows 98 computer as a youngster to keep her busy in Saudi Arabia where she grew up. Having played with the operating system and reformatted it, she then literally took it to pieces. “It was instant regret. I was like, ‘How do I put it back’” she laughs. “But it was easy, it was fun, and Dad didn’t mind,” she says.
“I’ve always been into computers since I was about 12. I was obsessed with American movies and the language, and I’d see them with computers and thought that’s something that I need to do. I was lucky that my dad bought me the things that I needed to learn and study. He knew I was fascinated.”
As she was growing up, however, education opportunities in computing for women were lacking in Saudi Arabia. “When I was in Saudi, the only universities advertising for women were non-science ones, and it was just studying accounting or dentistry or something like that. Instead, I looked at Yemen and found another university that accepted women for computer engineering,” she says.
She moved to Yemen in 2000 with her sister, who was already studying computer science. She graduated four years later and then worked in IT roles at various oil companies. Her first role was supervising ten male IT technicians. “They needed a female to control them,” she laughs.
Her last role in Yemen was as an IT manager. While in Greece, she decided to return to university to study for a European qualification, enrolling at Greenwich University, which operated a campus in Athens.
“I took another degree because I wanted to work in Europe, but after doing a degree in networking, I realised there were no jobs for me in Greece because I didn’t speak the language. So I decided to build web applications because you can do it remotely anywhere, and that’s how I got into coding.”
At the age of 36, she began studying web development, enrolling on a Udacity scholarship Front End Web Developer Nano degree course paid for by Google.
In 2019 she moved to London with her now 13-year-old son, having holidayed in the UK for the last 10 years or so. She applied for a role at Taggstar, attracted by the company as well as the CTO, Andy Lucas’ similar background to herself – he also started in network computing. After the interview, she realised she would also be working for a female CEO, Marjorie Leonidas – something that made Taggstar an even more appealing place to work.
“I never thought I’d be working with another female because always in my jobs and my studies, I was working with guys, but after I came here, I saw there was a female CEO and a strong one at that. Marjorie has been a role model for me and proves I can get to such a position too. I can be strong. She’s my role model on the feminine side, and on the tech side, it’s Andy,” she says.
Today in her engineering role at Taggstar, Mira is responsible for building customer dashboards that allow customers to set their messages and view analytics. She’s also part of the new product build team and will be the project lead for a new development coming up.
She says she loves the opportunities open to her. “I love that I’m able to see my ideas come to life and that we’re not restricted in what we do – as long as it’s logical.”
So what has Mira learnt over the years, both in life and at work? “I’ve learnt that hard work pays off. When I set my mind to something, I get it. I’m determined, and I’m really proud of moving to London and building a life from zero by myself. But I’m always wanting something new – even my hair changes every time people see me,” she laughs. “I have to keep going. I just can’t sit still.”
But she urges others to have the same determination. “I started coding at the age of 36, so anyone can do it. There’s no age limit,” she says.
So is her son following in her footsteps? Mira laughs. “He says, “Mum, you’re a nerd. I’m not.” Although he has an interest in computer engineering, she says his biggest interests are currently rugby and other sports. But she has a plan to get him into a summer camp that teaches children coding and problem-solving. “I gave him a carrot. I said if you join it, I’ll buy you the latest iPad. So he’s going to do it.”
And her advice to others. She laughs again: “It’s to never listen to people.” “If you feel like doing something, just do it. And if you want to get into coding, just do it. You just have to remember to code every day because it’s like a language, and otherwise, you lose it.”
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