Shahed AlMashni – To improve yourself, be self-aware and accept feedback with an open heart

tech sisters podcast art featuring shahed mashni

Today on Tech Sisters Stories we’re excited to have Shahed AlMashni

Shahed is currently a software engineer at Google working on Sovereign Cloud. Previously, Shahed has held internships at Amazon, Meta, and Google.

Listen to Shahed’s Story

Key Lessons from this Episode

  • How competitive programming helped Shahed pass her technical interviews (3:53)
  • What kept Shahed applying for internships even though she didn’t get any responses for two years (6:00)
  • Shahed’s growth mindset and how it helps her become a better version of herself every year (12:00)

Transcript

As Salaam alaikum, you’re listening to Tech Sisters stories. Tech Sisters is a community that connects you with other sisters who share your story experiences and goals. So you no longer have to feel like the only one like you on your team. My name is grace and I get to interview the amazing women in our community, share their stories and the lessons they learned.

So we’re back with the second half of season two, after taking a longer than expected break. Uh, there have been a couple of changes behind the scenes. Which is why it’s a little bit delayed but alhamdulillah. We’re back. We’re here. We’re happy. , first I just want to acknowledge all the kind words and comments and everyone who’s been listening and sharing the episodes while we are on that break. It’s been really lovely seeing everyone’s reactions to the stories and seeing, , the listing go up even while we weren’t recording anything.

So alhamdulillah that’s been wonderful. We do have, some episodes already recorded, edited, and ready to go. So inshallah. The next few weeks should be nice and smooth. And we’ll be kicking it off with Shahed’s story. And I’m so excited. To release that today. Enjoy the show.

as salaamu alikum today on Tech Sisters stories, we are super excited to have Shahed al-Mashni Shahed is currently a software engineer at Google working on sovereign cloud. , previously Shahed has held internships at Amazon meta and Google.

MashAllah very accomplished. We’re so happy to have you. Thank you for coming on and talking to us Shahed.

Thank you for having me. I’m happy to be.

So let’s start at the very beginning. How did you first get into tech?

Okay. So when I first graduated from high school just like a lot of people, I didn’t really know what to pursue next. I knew I liked math. I like physics, but nothing beyond that. So without much thought I signed up for an electrical engineering major and so I did my high school in, in Qatar.

I was living in Qatar and then moved to Jordan for my university. And I really didn’t know anyone. It was a totally new environment. So in my first semester at university, I signed up to every student club that was available. So like yeah, like culture clubs astronomy debates club. And like in the end of the first semester.

There was this ACM club who announced that they’re having a beginners training for problem solving and competitive programming. So I started attending that training and this is where I first learned how to code and like slowly, we were learning different data structures, different algorithms than I enjoyed that.

And fast forward few years I switched my major to computer engineering and. I started pursuing this path as a, as a career.

mashAllah. So what jumped out to me was you join a club for competitive programming without knowing how to program

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

that’s brave.

I signed up for everything.

You sound like a lot of fun, mashAllah. That’s really cool. So, so what about it really captured your interest? Especially maybe compared to electrical engineering.

So it felt like it was a fun thing to do. It just challenged your mathematical intuition. And the competitive spirit of it, like training with a team of achieving things and then failing at others. It was, it was fun. I didn’t really know that this, , it was just a fun side thing to do.

I didn’t really know that this would directly affect my career, but slowly I realized, you know, when you enjoy something outside the academic frame, then that’s when it’s spark that, okay, this might be leading to somewhere.

Yeah, definitely mashAllah. And it seems like the kind of internships that you went for in your career probably went well with that competitive side to it. Is that right?

No, no.

Okay.

now I’m just thinking in terms of having it at the Google and meta and, and all of that,

Competitive programming

the competitive programming, I think really helped passing the interviews. The, the interviews for these companies. Is more or less, very, very similar to what the questions we get during the competition. So, yeah. Preparing for interviews was easier when I had this background.

Yeah, alhamdulillah. And also because you’re, you’re doing this and you’re applying your knowledge, you’re not just learning it in class. I think maybe that helped as.

Yes, definitely.

That’s fantastic. alhamdulillah.

Okay. So you switched your major and now you’re starting to go into. This is your career. You’re focused on it. And how was that for you?

So I started by learning different software engineering, areas, the different technologies I started doing personal projects. And this is where I thought like, okay, maybe it’s time to start applying for internships.

Mm.

And yeah, I think the hardest part was getting your foot through the door.

Absolutely

But once, once I got my first internship, then the next one came and, and so on. So.

Wondering now, how did you feel with building up your network? Because I think for some of the internships that you were going for network also plays a big part of it. Is that right?

Building her network

Yes. I think to be honest, if I want to look back, I think this is where I would do differently. Like, I wish I put more effort into expanding my network and meeting different people from outside my university, people with more experience with my professors at university, I think I didn’t really do a good job at that.

So I did face a lot of Challenges getting to the interview stage. So with a good network with referrals and, and all that this can be easier to other people. So if you have a strong network,

I mean, you, you did join every club though. So in terms of meeting people, you tried mashAllah okay. So you’re mentioning that it was a little bit hard to get those internships, to get your foot through the door at first. Are you saying that step between sending off an application and then getting the interview was where it was the hardest bit.

Applying for internships

Yeah. So like for two consecutive years, I would set up this spreadsheet of different companies that are offering internships and I would send 50 plus applications. But not get any response back , I would get these automated rejection emails and, you know, like if you reach the interview and then you don’t pass the interview, then you have, you have some feedback, you know, what’s what to do, like what to improve.

But with these automated rejection emails, it was a bit frustrating. And yeah, I mean, it took me two years to reconsider my tactics. I would say. And yeah, and even in my third year. Like this was, this was like the fourth year of my university. I, I changed the way I apply and did a couple of different things.

And I finally got lucky and reached the interview stage. I was applying for the 2020 internship season.

And so I passed the interviews, got the offer, but then a month, this, this was like 2020, the, the COVID

The COVID yes,

COVID year. So one month before my planned travel date the airport shut down and my offer got revoked, the internship

So I got back to block one and like I had to interview the next year, for example, for Google to , get this offer back. So yeah. moral of the story, there’s a lot of patience and, and resilience that need to happen. You really cannot control the events that happened to you, but you can control your reaction to them.

So, yeah.

That’s really frustrating. And I know a lot of people are going through that right now, cuz a lot of tech companies are having layoffs. They’re pulling back on offers I think in tech, we’ve been a little bit spoiled for a couple years by basically having whatever we want, but it it’s getting tight.

That’s true. That’s true.

so and I think it’s also really good to highlight the struggles that we go through because somebody might, might look at your LinkedIn and say, oh, you work at Google right now. And they don’t really think about how hard it was to get in there at first. So now that you’ve had your internships and you’ve gotten your career at Google, how are you feeling right now at your current state?

Current state

So this is my first month, like, or so

like month and a half. Yeah. So. It’s been really new. I moved to new city and yeah, I’m settling down. I’m taking my time to enjoy the perks at Google lab.

yeah.

yeah. But yeah, so far so good. I would say,

alhamdulillah and what do you hope to do next? So , you’re still quite new into this role, but in terms of like your career, what, what would you like to, what’s next up for you?

Next up

That’s a good question. I don’t have short term plans, but in the long term, I think what’s nice about tech in general. It’s very diverse. You can do a lot of things. There’s so many areas, so many domains that you can work on. And different rules and experiences that you, you can have.

I know someone who switched from a software engineering job to become a UIUX designer. I know someone who resigned from their corporate job to start their own startup. There’s so many options. And I think for the long term, for me,, I plan to approach these years with an open.

Mind, I would say an open eye to, to what I personally like and what the opportunities that could come through in.

So you’re not necessarily gonna be rigidly staying to software engineering. Just see where it takes you

Yes.

mashAllah. That’s a very pragmatic thing. What would be sort of like a, a dream, like a wish goal for you in maybe 15 years from now?

Yeah, this is, this is a dream goal to have a successful startup.

yeah.

Yes.

inshAllah That’s wonderful Shahed. I’m trying to go back and, and dig a little bit deeper into some of these points. When you changed your major from electrical engineering to computer science, what was the reaction from people around you?

My parents and in extended family, , I mean, they’re more used to traditional jobs, like going to engineering versus medical, you know, these traditional jobs that they knew about for a long time. So when I said that I want to become a software engineer, they had to take time to , accept it and like ask about it and like, you know, are you sure?

Are there jobs in the market for this? But yeah. After the first internships, they really understood that there’s. Opportunity out there. And , the market is changing so fast and one proof of that is that my two younger siblings are now studying computer

science.

wow. Look at that. are you the oldest?

Oh, okay. So you have to set the example for everybody. Anyway. mashAllah. That’s really cool. I’m really happy for you.

You mentioned that at Google, of course, it’s very diverse. There’s people from many different backgrounds. So as someone who is fresh through that setting is fresh, the new city and everything, and your experience is being a Muslim woman in tech as well.

How are you finding all of.

I think I’m lucky in that area because like Google specifically and, and like the rest of the companies I interned in, like they all. Encourage you to be who you are, they encourage diversity and like, they’re very inclusive. So for example like every month or so some someone , a new Muslim

woman joins Google. So at some point we don’t feel like we are a minority anymore. So it’s really, it’s really nice. Like we have this, this group and we do activities. So yeah, it’s, it’s been like really.

Oh, that’s wonderful. I’m wondering, have you heard of a group called Mannara?

Yes.

We’ve talked to them before and I know that they have a lot of women who are going into Google. I in Munich, I

think, especially.

I, I know someone who came through Manara so yeah, I know her personally, so it’s very great. What they’re doing.

yeah, Marshala , they’re really amazing. And the results, I think, really speak for themselves. They have really great placements for all their people, mashAllah.

Proud

So what is something that you’re most proud of? It can be in your career, in your personal life, something that’s really , meaningful to you and why is it so special?

Hmm. So honestly, like I find it hard to take pride in, in what I do, but. If I may say one thing that I’m proud of is that I always try to push myself forward. I always try to , get out of my comfort zone. I had this, this, you would say like growth mindset where. I try to be , as self-aware as possible and take feedback with an open heart and become a better version of myself every year.

So I started with no knowledge and then slowly improved year by year. So yeah, I’m proud that , I think this, this is what kept me moving forward,

you sound like you have like a very systematic kind of personality. You’re going through the spreadsheets when you’re doing your applications, you’re tracking , your growth in your learning development. Is that fair to say?

Yes. I, I try to be at least.

I mean, that seems to suit the job as well. Yeah, mashAllah.

And what’s something Shahed that you regret or you wish you’ve done differently. You mentioned a little bit before about the networking, but maybe there’s something else.

I think like networking is, is what comes to the top of my, of my, just because like, at some point, I mean, I, I was, I knew people, but they were all in, in my university. But nothing, nothing outside of it. And your network really shapes your career. You don’t know how and when, but you look back and say, okay this was really because of my network and, and what I am now here is because of a lot of people I knew.

I believe this is one of the most important thing to do.

Yeah, mashAllah, maybe we can dig a little bit deeper into that. What do you think a healthy network looks like? So what kind of people should you have in your network? And if you’re somebody who’s just starting out and maybe is feeling shy to approach people, , how can they get used to it?

So attending event. Clubs is one example. If you’re in a new, new area, it’s a new, setting, push yourself , to introduce yourself to people and hear their story, they don’t necessarily be like really aligned with what you’re doing now, but it’s good to have a broader overview of what other people are doing.

And what other options you have.

mashAllah I’m gonna plug tech sisters. Just because as this community networking is one of the things that, , we do and we try to frame it as a very genuine you’re making friendships. And I think that’s really what people get scared about with networking is it feels like you have to have like a very transactional relationship with people, but I think a real genuine networking is it’s a friend and you’re trying to really uh, see.

What you can give to the relationship, . And it’s a very genuine. And I noticed like people who are coming into tech sisters we can connect you with people who are across, you know, a very wide range of tech. We were talking before about how you can meet different UI UX developers, or product or different levels of software engineer, different types of languages.

And I think if you come together for this kind of common purpose where you share this identity, we, we understand each other that really helps.

I I totally agree. Yes. This is really amazing. I mean, everyone has a special story and special background, so just knowing a lot, it really opened your eyes to a lot of things.

Grateful

Yeah, alhamdulillah and Shahed the last question I have for you tonight? What is something or someone that you’re most grateful for?

I would say my husband,

um, yeah,

I didn’t think you were married. You look so young.

I, I met like a few months ago, so

like

Fresh still

question. Yeah. And my husband is, is in the same career as well in the same

that’s great.

And yeah he was really supportive. We were in the same university and he’s the type of person that just shares. Everything he learns and shares his experiences. So I mean, just by sitting with him, you learn a lot and, and he inspires you to become better and try out different things.

I’m really grateful. I mean, he shaped a lot of, of my career, so

mashAllah that’s wonderful. I’m sure he’ll be very happy to hear all those nice compliments.

Oh, he’s not here.

On the recording. course,

mashAllah. That’s really nice. It’s actually really funny. A lot of women in Tech Sisters who, who are married, their husbands are also in tech and I think we just kind of attract these same partners, which is so funny. It’s

final remarks

shahed is there anything else that you’d like to add or any last pieces advice

I would advise people who are just starting the university, like really make the most out of it. This is, this is the time, like period in life where you have the luxury of time to learn and try new things. So enjoy it also, , don’t say I’ll do it when I graduate and apply when I graduate, because like a lot of things, a lot of opportunities come just because you’re enrolled in university, like all the internships I got, had this requirement that I was enrolled.

So yeah, enjoy your university years and make the most out of them. So that’s, that’s what I would.

I just wanna thank you again so much. Shahed for coming on and talking to us. I really loved your insights and thank you so much.

Thank you so much. I really enjoyed.

All right. And thank you so much for taking the time to listen, to Shahed’s story today. If you like this, if you like what we’re doing here on Tech Sisters, consider following us or sharing the interviews. Everything really helps to get the word out and bring more attention to all of the women, our community, and what they’re going through.

If you are a Muslim woman in tech, and you’re interested in joining Tech Sisters, go ahead and check out our community. It is completely free. It’s fun. Supportive. You can join by going to our website tech-sisters.com and there’s a membership form on there. And you’ll be all set up. Wonderful. And I will see you next week inshAllah, as salaamu Alikum!.

Thank you for sharing your story with us, Shahed. Jazakallahu Khair! You can connect with Hawa and follow her on LinkedIn
If you liked this story, be sure to check our other Tech Sisters Stories and get to know the amazing talent we have in our community.

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