iSTEP Tanzania

Hatem’s iSTEP Experience

Posted on: August 7, 2009

This was Hatem’s big moment – holding a python!

iSTEP 2009 has been a remarkable experience technically and personally. On the technical side, the field experience was certainly different than any of my prior experiences. Working in the field requires being dynamic and ready to re-plan and adjust quickly. This internship offered me the opportunity to solidify my project management, planning skills and put to test my Computer Science skills in a real world setting.

On the personal side, this experience has been truly influential. Living in a different country, meeting new people, getting accustomed to a new culture, and managing a project all in 10 weeks had a significant impact on my personality. This internship helped me improve my communication skills significantly. Communicating with our team, which is a very diverse and globally distributed team, has been a great exercise. Being able to communicate ideas to people from different backgrounds and collaborate in a project with them made our work experience significantly smoother and more enjoyable. Beyond day-to-day personal and work communication skills, this internship was a great teamwork experience for me.

The iSTEP 2009 internship has shown me the importance of people and communities. Regardless of how wonderful and powerful a technological solution is, community involvement is the most important. Technology cannot overcome challenges on its own; rather, the community and its people are the ones who can transform the technology into a solution. Furthermore, having local partners is absolutely essential. Most of the work could not have been achieved without the support from our local partners. Local partners are part of the community and culture. Their support and knowledge are essential to achieve sustainable solutions, especially within a limited timeframe.

Having firsthand experience of being on the ground cannot be replaced by any readings and online research. Living in a country and experiencing the daily interactions with people is the best way to truly understand the challenges a community faces and gain the necessary insight to contribute and help. We could have done all the programming back home, but our presence on the ground increased our solutions’ relevance significantly. All in all, this internship has been significantly influential, technically and personally. If I go back on time, I would certainly choose the iSTEP internship again.

Hatem Alismail was the iSTEP 2009 team’s Technical Lead for the Literacy Games project and was based in Dar es Salaam. Hatem graduated from Carnegie Mellon University’s Doha, Qatar campus with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and a minor in Mathematics in May of 2009. Over the last four years, Hatem has gained significant programming and project leading experience. His areas of interest include sustainable technology development. In particular, Hatem is interested in the creative use of widely available computing platforms, such as consumer grade cameras and cell phones. Hatem looks forward to pursuing a Masters at Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute next autumn.

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The opinions expressed by the bloggers are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Carnegie Mellon University, TechBridgeWorld or the iSTEP program, or any employee thereof. Carnegie Mellon University is not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied by the bloggers.
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