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EPISODE #10 Welcoming Newcomer Women to the NB Tech Community with Shaimaa Abbas and Deepika Thapar






with Shaimaa Abbas

Shaimaa Abbas remembers how, as a girl growing up in Egypt, she’d hear people say that technical fields like engineering or IT were only for men, and how these comments made her feel disappointed and “less clever.”  


“I found this in my childhood, not from my parents but from other people,” says Shaimaa, a senior programmer analyst with the Government of New Brunswick,  where she’s part of the Digital Transformation Team that is exploring how new technology can improve government service delivery.

“We don't need to discourage people who may already love this field to step back and say, ‘I'm not enough for that.’” 

A mother to two young girls, she lets her daughters know the range of opportunities open to them. 

“I am just highlighting, I'm not forcing them to choose,” she says.  

Shaimaa shares with me the story of her winding path from Egypt to Fredericton, with detours to the Middle East and Toronto, on this week’s episode of the Tech Talks Podcast, which was on the theme of newcomer women in tech. 

Shaimaa found her career path through her university’s management information system program, which blends business and technology. 

“I didn't know anything before about computer science, or software engineering, but when I entered this department I really liked it,” she says. “It introduced a lot of interesting things for me.” 

In the class of 50 or so, she was one of only 4 or 5 women, but she wasn't deterred, going on to take  graduate studies in computer science and software engineering. 

After graduation, she was offered a role at a startup that needed an iOS developer. 

“I didn't know anything about iOS, but he told me, ‘if you'd like to learn, you will be good at this job.’ So I accepted.” 

Learning is a constant theme in Shaimaa’s life, both in terms of skill-building, and in her openness to new places and possibilities. 

When she married, she and her husband moved across the Middle East for his work, while she struggled to land full-time work. 

“There was a mentality like, OK, you are a new bride. You will take a lot of vacations; you will not be concentrating too much on working. Maybe you will have leaves; you will have kids,” she says. 

Well, they were right and wrong, she says. 

She did become a mother a year into her marriage. But her career ambitions didn’t disappear. Frustrated, she left her husband and daughter temporarily to return to Egypt for work.  

“So I started a successful professional life, but I lost my personal life,'' she says. “It was a crazy two years for us.”

Her next move was to Toronto, to  study health informatics at George Brown College. 

Again, it meant leaving part of the family–this time their two young daughters–back in Egypt with their grandparents for a year. The girls joined them when they moved to New Brunswick. 

They came through the Atlantic immigration Pilot Program and Shaimaa supports initiatives that make it easier for companies to hire newcomers. 

“I got my permanent residency with my job because I got hired by the government,” she says, but startups and  other companies may not be able to sponsor someone, a lost opportunity to attract more newcomers. 

“If they find their dream here, they will not leave,” she says. “I found it here. I won't leave, I’ve got my permanent house here.”

Since arriving in 2018, Shaimaa has been busy making things happen, and creating opportunities, including founding the Fredericton chapter of the Google Developers Group, which she had been part of  in  the UAE, Dubai, Egypt and Toronto. She is also an ambassador for Women Techmakers and a mentor for a new initiative called  Technovation Girls

“If I see someone succeed because of me, this is the most happiness in my life,” Shaimaa says. “If someone ...finds her passion because of my help, this will be the most for me. This is one of my hopes for 2021.”

Shaimaa and I were featured in this Atlantic Business Magazine back in March Meet 15 Atlantic Canadian women in tech | Atlantic Business Magazine.  Check this out and the amazing women featured throughout all of Atlantic Canada. 


Finding opportunity and peace in N.B. with Deepika Thapar

 When Deepika Thapar left her home country of India to move to the U.S., it was for her education. Her more recent relocation was for love, to be with her now-husband who had come to New Brunswick for UNB’s MBA program. 

“From there on, I got to know more about Atlantic Canada,” Deepika tells me during this week’s TechTalks Podcast, which was on the theme of newcomer women in tech. 


Deepika arrived in Saint John in March. While landing in a new country during a global pandemic wasn’t ideal timing, it didn’t take her long to get oriented. In July, she landed a role at Second Spring Digital as a certified business analyst and she is a certified scrum master and product owner.  

She loves how her work bridges what are often very separate sides of an operation. She recounts her first  job experience, back in India, when she was fresh out of a bachelor’s program in engineering and IT. 

“I realized something was missing,” she says. “I really needed to pursue my higher studies because I always wanted a blend of technology and management together.” In 2015, she enrolled in the University of Florida’s master’s in management program. After graduation, she went to work in San Francisco.

Deepika says it was challenging, when she decided to make the move to Canada, to get a feel for the New Brunswick job market from the west coast. 

“But when you are here, you connect to people, you understand how the community works,” she says. 

“It was really friendly; it was easy to get a job.” 

Upon arrival, Opportunities New Brunswick connected her with an advisor to help her navigate. And she found virtual job fairs very helpful in connecting to companies and recruiters. 

“I think there needs to be a platform for newcomers, maybe a webpage or even a LinkedIn campaign,” she says, as a way to consolidate scattered job information.

“I feel like it's there, but in bits and pieces,” she says. 

Deepika  sees great potential  to recruit from outside the province or country  to work in the local tech sector. 

“Because I think people will be surprised when they start applying for a job in New Brunswick, that there is tons of opportunity out there,” she says. “There are so many startups opening up. There are so many big companies which people are not aware of.”

And part of that expanded potential is letting girls and young women know there’s a place in tech for them. 

“I didn’t know I was going to do engineering and information technology or computer science until  the age of 18,” she says. “So maybe [we need to build] an awareness at an early age that there's this thing called engineering that you can go into.” 

While she’s found a great job and life here, being so far from home is hard in ways. 

“You’re career-oriented, and you also want to be family-oriented, so it's a balance that you always try to achieve.” 

Despite the challenges of separation, she’s feeling settled and “very peaceful” here, she says. And she’s got a clear vision for 2021.

“For me, it's going to be more streamlining my current job role and also enhancing my skill set in different domains,” Deepika says. “It's all going to be about learning because I'm just starting my career in Canada.”

Hashtags: #innovation #techimpact #techtalks #newcomers #womenintech 

Episode 10 - Shaimaa and Deepika.png


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