Today, we’re heading to Sydney, Australia to spotlight Tharaa Emorssi, a Front-end Software Engineer. Joined by Software Engineering Manager, Nataliya Solyanik, the two ladies discussed Tharaa’s career and her passions.
Getting to Know Tharaa
Tell us a little bit about yourself, Tharaa.
I live in Sydney, Australia, and I'm originally from Egypt.
I like snorkeling, hiking, and playing squash. I'm a big fan of squash. I also like carpentry and wire jewelry making. They are my stress-relieving activities.
Here are a couple of fun facts about me. When I read books, I always alternate between Arabic and English books. When I finish an English book, the next one has to be Arabic and so on. Also, I’m very particular when it comes to colors. I can't step out of the house with unmatching colors. Even if I'm just getting my mail, they have to match.
What did you want to be when you were 10 years old?
When I was 10 [years old], I wanted to be an interior designer. I'm actually a little bit into it now.
When I was 12 [years old], I knew I wanted to be an engineer, but first, I thought I'd be an architect.
Amazing. I wanted to be an architect too. Why did the desire to become an interior designer change?
I knew then that I was going to be a software engineer because I liked math and programming more than art and other subjects.
I hear you. What were you doing before you became an engineer?
Which time? I became an engineer twice.
The first time was right after I got a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science from Alexandria University. I became a software engineer for six or seven years. Then, I became a project manager for around seven years, six of which I was also the project team manager.
I've been back to software engineering for more than five years now.
Why did you choose to become an engineer?
It has always been my passion. As I told you [earlier], math and programming have been my things since I was a kid–anything that involves solving problems. I didn't see myself as anything else but an engineer, even when I was a project manager.
Although I was still in the software industry, I didn't do much of the technical work. All I did was mainly management back then, and I always had that feeling that I wanted to switch places with one of the developers.
I’m happier when I'm a software engineer.
What challenges did you face on your road to becoming an engineer?
The real challenge was switching back from project management to software engineering after seven years. That was even harder than starting as a software engineer.
During those seven years, I became a highly qualified project manager. I was PMP [Project Management Professional] certified, a PRINCE2 Practitioner, and certified PRINCE2 Agile. My resume was all about project management, and my experience for the seven years had been all about project management as well.
It was not an easy decision to drop it all and actually start over as a software developer.
Seven years away from technology work is a very long time in the software industry, but once I took the decision and started taking action, I found it much easier than expected because that [technology] was my real passion. Plus, I already had the basics.
I'm really happy with my decision.
What’s the best professional advice you’ve ever received?
I don't have to always be right.
It's okay to try new things then find out that you were wrong. We learn a lot from being wrong, and actually, being comfortable with being wrong is liberating. It gives us more courage to explore, think, revisit our beliefs, and change our minds if needed.
Honoring Women’s History Month
This year’s theme is Women Providing Healing, Promoting Hope. What excites you most about this theme?
We actually lived this during the pandemic. We saw frontline workers here and there, saving lives every day. They did an amazing job all over the world.
Here in New South Wales in the daily state updates on the news, we saw two women in charge, on the spot every day: the Former Premier of New South Wales (Gladys Berejiklian) and the Chief Health Officer (Kerry Chant). I still think they did a good job, a very good job, keeping the state in good shape during this hard time.
Which woman inspired you most when you were growing up? How did she inspire you?
Generally, people who follow their passions inspire me, but one of the most inspiring people to me is Zaha Hadid. She's an Iraqi world-class architect.
Her designs are masterpieces all over the world, especially in Europe and Asia. She designed buildings for museums, opera houses, art centers, universities, and she also designed iconic bridges and factories.
She was an amazingly talented woman who simply followed her passion till the end. When she passed away in 2016, some of her projects were still in progress. She never stopped doing what she loved to do.
That was really inspiring to me.
Life at BigCommerce
How long have you worked at BigCommerce?
It will be three years this June.
What convinced you to join the BigCommerce Engineering team?
I've been working in the eCommerce domain for over eight years.
Three years ago, a recruiter contacted me and asked, “Do you know BigCommerce?”
I was like, “Of course, I do.”
I remember my first interview with Pascal [the hiring manager] over the phone. I asked him, “Will I be working on the BigCommerce platform itself?”
He [Pascal] said, “Yes.”
I was actually amazed by the idea of working on a platform that is being used by thousands of merchants and millions of shoppers. Somehow, I'll have some tiny impacts on that many people.
I was easily convinced by this.
What gets you excited for each work day?
What gets me excited is that each task is different every day. I solve a different problem or implement a different feature and learn a new thing.
Everything I do can make someone's life a little bit easier, and I love this. Even indirectly, I’m helping someone or making it easier for them.
What do you consider your biggest win at BigCommerce so far?
The biggest win at BigCommerce is the team. I'm a part of an amazing team.
There is a genuine team spirit among us, and we all have the same goals and objectives that we try to achieve every day, together.
I think that this is common at BigCommerce. This is how the teams [across departments] are built here. This is how the policies and the processes are structured.
The team's success is my success.
What advice would you give to young women who are about to enter the workforce?
I would advise any person entering the workforce to simply try to find a job that makes you happy to go to work every day.
Of course, it's easier said than done, but it's really worth it.
What advice would you give to an aspiring engineer?
Find your passion. Keep learning, and be flexible to change.
If any aspiring engineers would like to contact you, how should they reach out to you?
I'm reachable on LinkedIn.
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