Profile: Hamida Rebaï Trabelsi, Senior Cloud Application Architect at Revenu Quebec

Women in Tech: “Learning is my way of having fun”

JAXenter Editorial Team

Four years ago, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Hamida Rebaï Trabelsi, Senior Cloud Application Architect at Revenu Quebec.

research study by The National Center for Women & Information Technology showed that “gender diversity has specific benefits in technology settings,” which could explain why tech companies have started to invest in initiatives that aim to boost the number of female applicants, recruit them in a more effective way, retain them for longer, and give them the opportunity to advance. But is it enough?

Four years ago, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Hamida Rebaï Trabelsi, Senior Cloud Application Architect at Revenu Quebec.

Today’s Woman in Tech: Hamida Rebaï Trabelsi, Senior Cloud Application Architect at Revenu Quebec

Hamida Rebaï Trabelsi is Senior Cloud Application Architect at Revenu Quebec—a Canadian government agency. Since 2017, she has been awarded by Microsoft as a Most Valuable Professional in Developer Training. She is Azure Certified, is also a Microsoft Certified Trainer, author, international speaker, a member of the .NET Foundation and is recognized as a Microsoft DevHero.

When did you become interested in technology? What first got you interested in tech?

At the young age of 13 when I learned Pascal programming and algorithmic, I was a girl with a natural curiosity and a taste for learning that led me to IT, a field in which very few women worked in my native country, Tunisia at the time.

I remember my first computer. My father bought it for me when I showed an interest in technology, it ran on Windows 2000. That’s where I started discovering the charm of Technology. I tried to balance my studies in high school and programming. I found myself attached to this domain as a technical woman. Starting your career as a freshly graduated junior with no experience was not as easy, despite study internships, interviews, and technical tests, you had to prove your skills and above all, work hard and learn at the same time. The problem in companies in Tunisia is the lack of technical support and integration of new employees. I spent more than 8 years in Tunisia in several companies trying to learn and evolve before leaving for Canada.

Let’s talk about your background. How did you end up in your career path? What obstacles did you have to overcome?

From primary school, college to high school, I finished secondary school in the mathematics section. I studied science computing as an option in the last two years in high school. I decided after graduation to study science computing in university, so I got my Bachelor’s Degree in Information and communication system technology from the University of Tunis El Manar. After, I got a Master’s degree in Information Technology applied to management from the Higher Institute of Management of Tunis. Then I got a Master’s Degree in Information Systems and Software engineering from the National School of Engineers of Carthage ENICarthage. I wanted to achieve more in university to be integrated as a woman in tech in any company in Tunisia, so I passed a lot of training during my studies.

Did you receive support from your family and friends? Do you have a role model?

My father. As one of the only two girls in a classroom with many boys back in Tunisia, I was determined to pursue my passion for software programming, and having my father’s support was immensely valuable. He always encouraged me to keep learning and growing; at a time when progressive parents expect their kids to become doctors, he acknowledged my aptitude and supported me in pursuing software as a career. I learned the importance of being responsible for my choices and not to take the opportunities I have been presented with for granted.

He bought me my first computer when I showed an interest in technology, I wouldn’t be who I’m today without him.

I love working on problems and designing because you always learn from the issues.

Did someone ever try to stop you from learning and advancing in your professional life?

No, well, for me, learning is my way of having fun. Whether we are on vacation or it’s a regular workday, I create time within my day to learn something new. Learning has become my hobby, my favorite pastime. And when you’re having fun and it adds value to your entire life, it becomes something you believe in strongly and that has translated into a passion for me.

But for my professional life, yes, I decided to leave my beautiful country for Canada, following an opportunity where I can build faster my career. I heard about the diversity too. In my last company in Tunisia, I reached a stage of which I no longer see any new perspective or evolution in my career. There were only men who advanced in their positions, while women have to work a lot more.

A day in Hamida’s life

I’m a Tunisian Software Engineer, living, actually, in Quebec, Canada.

I’m a Senior Cloud Application Architect at Revenu Québec. It is one of Canada’s government agencies and encourages social and economic development in Québec. It helps individuals and businesses understand and fulfill their tax obligations. Specifically, it administers tax legislation and the social programs entrusted to us by the government; it collects debts and runs checks to ensure that tax laws are applied fairly. It collects support and pays it to the rightful recipients.

As you can imagine, their work generates huge volumes of unstructured data. The ability to mine data in a manner that scales and is accurate is super critical to help us do our job thoroughly and serve the taxpayers and our various constituents. I am currently architecting and implementing our cloud migration strategy, which is a multi-year project to digitize our data across multiple clouds. Doing so will help us have a common structure for data, which in turn, will yield greater accuracy and help the agency work with greater speed. We will also have the capability to apply Artificial Intelligence models in the future. For applications that we are not able to migrate, we are working on plans to rearchitect them using containers and microservices.

So, what does my workday look like?

I’m a member of a team working on the cloud migration strategy. Because we have to start step by step with a minimum of changes, we work every day to select the application and data with a lift and shift strategy. After, we will plan to prioritize applications to modernize in pieces to keep our services running without any interruption. So, I spend most of my day with teams understanding their issues and helping them understand how to make scalable resilient systems. Then, I plan for data usage and replication across multiple servers. We work in the agile methodology; I meet with my colleague to solve problems and get feedback on solutions. I love working on problems and designing because you always learn from the issues.

What are you most proud of in your career?

Being a part of the Microsoft community and awarded as Microsoft Most Valuable Professional since December 2017, where I was able to participate as a speaker in many important conferences like Microsoft Ignite and Microsoft Build. I never thought I would become one of the speakers in such a big event.

I feel proud of every achievement in my career. I am proud to be part of a qualified team working on the cloud migration project at Revenu Quebec.

Why aren’t there more women in tech? What’s your take on that?

It starts from university. Young women start thinking about their careers and they think it’s not interesting like other domains like marketing or finance. They don’t want to waste time studying technical stuff where they wouldn’t be good at it, or they wouldn’t be accepted after graduation in any company because they are women. Even if they will be accepted, they will work with many people that they wouldn’t feel comfortable or happy working together.

And the most important thing is the lack of encouragement from the women’s environment. I can’t forget media influences, for example. I watched some films where a geek girl is weird with special clothes and strange looks.
I think that women are able to take any position now in any company. They can be a good leader, they like learning and working hard to achieve their goals. The future is for women because they are able to create an opportunity from nothing.

Could you name a few challenges (or obstacles) women in tech face?

Women face a lot of challenges. I will start with the most important, which is being able to balance your personal and professional life. It is not easy if you are married with children, most of your energy is spent totally on validating their balance and for someone like me, I’m looking to be perfect in both of them. Work is my passion, and my family is the most important in my life.

Another challenge is when you leave your work for family issues or maternity leave. Women need to keep an eye on technology because it is evolving every day. When we come back after a year, for example, during this break, they may lose touch with new technologies and industry trends and may end up lacking the skills required to successfully return to work.

Another obstacle that women may face is gender discrimination. Especially in the IT field, the rate is remarkably higher compared to all other industries. Many women in tech feel that their work and contributions to technology are unappreciated in the workplace; a woman still has to prove her skills.

Having more women into tech roles can help break the cycle of male-dominated industry and fill the STEM talent demand.

Would our world be different if more women worked in STEM? What would be the (social, economic and cultural) impact?

Women in STEM fields are essential to innovation, because women can not only improve the global economy, but also give science a perspective that men do not have. Thus, more women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields can improve the quality of life and safety of both genders.

The discussion about diversity is gaining momentum. How long will it take to see results from the current debate?

I don’t know when exactly! But you can see the evolution of women in recent years, there are more and more women in decision-making and leadership positions, even in the IT field. We are progressing then to create a good balance in society. The woman is not only a wife or a mother as before, taking care of household chores. Knowing that my mother is a housewife, but she has helped us with our homework and with preparing for our school and high school exams.

What advice (and tips) would you give to women who want a tech career? What should they know about this industry?

Having more women into tech roles can help break the cycle of male-dominated industry and fill the STEM talent demand. Women make up half the world, so it’s only logical they make up half the workforce. Women can help in the economic evolution because they are of a multitasking nature. It’s time we focus on the next generation of tech talent and make sure gender equality exists for the good of everyone. This means more flexible working arrangements, improving education to encourage women being in tech university, and strengthening networking and mentoring opportunities.

We need to empower and guide every young woman to believe in her capacities and do what she loves to do. We need more and more women in leadership roles and a lot of encouragement at an early age for girls and boys to pursue whatever they are naturally interested in.

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