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Women in Tech of the month

Nothing a girl can't do

Women in Tech of August

1) What was your motivation on deciding to go to Polytechnic after graduating High School? 

"Medical University in Yangon or Polytechnic in Singapore"? It was a big decision for me as I wanted to fulfill my parents' wish and become a medical doctor. However, as a teenager, I was very passionate about innovations. I saw that IT was an enabler to make many great ideas become reality.  So, I chose Polytechnic to study towards the Diploma in Information Technology to fulfill my dream of joining the IT and taking part in how it is transforming our society.

2) And why did you choose to study IT? Who or what were your influences?

My interest to study IT was cultivated when I learnt from my first programming class in Myanmar that I could write a computer program and I could see the result of my creation right away. Then, I realized that studying IT had endless possibilities in making positive impact in various industries. 

I also noticed that I enjoyed problem solving and logical thinking approach ever since playing puzzle games and solving mazes when I was a kid. So, I really enjoyed coding as if it was solving a puzzle. That was probably one of the factors why I chose to study IT.  Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were influential role models motivating my career choices as well. 

3) Is there anything you would like to suggest High school graduates about choosing a major/career?

One cannot succeed unless they put their heart into it.

So, my suggestion to High School graduates in choosing a major/career is first to evaluate alternatives by factors such as your interest, your passion, your aspiration, your dislikes, education budget, etc. But, I encourage you to prioritize your interests and passion. 

Second, research the potential areas of study in order to understand their relative pros and cons. Talk to people who are working in these fields. Read the curricula of the degree programs and universities as well as their published rankings if available. Nowadays, with the availability of social media and the Internet, it is not a difficult task. So, basically, do your homework and do not just follow what others do. It will help you understand the good and the bad of the potential routes that you consider taking. It will greatly help with making an informed decision. 

Finally, do not worry too much that your choice is imperfect. Remember that you will always be in charge and would be able to adjust your career path if you wished so.

4) Is there any significant events during Poly years that you'd like to talk about?( the adjustments to a new environment, winning a Sun Microsystem Scholarship)

Yes, I had a memorable event when I won the Sun Microsystem Scholarship. 

My software program of a car parking system was chosen as a demo in order to give a presentation in the scholarship award ceremony. Having English as a second language without any experience in public speaking prior to that event, you could imagine how I could feel about giving a 15 minute presentation all by myself in front of all the school directors, teachers, corporate guests from various companies, other students and parents. Yes, before the presentation, my hands were shivering with anxiety and lost my voice out of nervousness during the rehearsal. But, luckily I managed to gather my courage to speak up and made it through the presentation.

Now looking back after I have done many presentations in front of hundreds of people at SMU, Microsoft, and other audiences, that distant memory serves me as an example how I can overcome barriers whenever I face any of them.

Then after a few work and freelance experience, you went on to study the fast track programme with the National Info-comm Scholarship.

Yes, you can also check out the interview article regarding that scholarship here.

IDA- A hardworking all-rounder

5) You were 20/21 years old when starting to work. Could you share us what it was like, your first job? What were the valuable skills you learned? Were there any particular challenges you remember? Did you have a mentor?

My first job was as an IT analyst in KPMG Singapore. I was offered this position after my final year project with that company during Poly. My responsibility on the job was to improve existing and develop new computer software systems written in ASP.NET , Java and Cold fusion. The valuable skills learnt from my first job included the understanding of the impact the IT could make in actual business applications. Particular challenge I remember was the time between projects when new tasks were not available yet and my previous project was completed earlier. I have learned then to be patient even though I was not always able to make an immediate and useful impact every single day at the office.

Yes, having knowledgeable mentors is very important throughout your study and future career. I had a mentor in Poly who always advised me to continue further studies, to apply for scholarships even after my graduation from Poly. That was very helpful indeed.

6) Any suggestions you would like to give to the Computer Science students specifically?

Computer science is a very fascinating and continuously evolving discipline with multiple branches. My suggestion is not to get worried too much about whether your knowledge learned at school would quickly become obsolete, or to get overwhelmed with choosing which major to target, because the most important aspects of being a computer scientist are the ability to learn continuously to stay abreast with the technology evolution and its impact, as well as the understanding of the fundamentals of Computer Science. Those are the skills and foundations you could learn during your studies that will help you achieve success in every potential career path in every potential industry.

7) Do you have an idol in tech, if so, who and why?

Yes, Bill Gates. I admire his vision to empower others in reaching their potential and that is one of the reasons I love working in Microsoft.

8) Any insights or thoughts you would like to share about Tech industry in Myanmar?

Tech industry in Myanmar is blooming with great potential as many industries and sectors are demanding and can benefit from IT solutions in improving productivity, efficiency, and innovation. 

9) What are your plans for the future?

My plan for future is to keep applying the knowledge and experience I gathered throughout my education and career in making a positive difference in every possible way, as well as to keep learning new ideas and embracing new challenges in order to continuously grow.

Women in Tech of July

I passed my matriculation exam in 2011 with four distinctions. There were two options chosen for me at that time for university; the Teacher’s Training College because my mom was a teacher and the Technology University simply because it was popular then. Nevertheless, I made my own decision and chose UCSY(University of Computer Studies Yangon). UCSY then was unpopular among high school graduates and their parents and also the job prospects after uni was quite low but i believed computer science will become essential in the future in Myanmar. I was interested in computer studies. And also I was inspired by the successful tech women I had read about in international articles and news. I wanted to be like them.

So I was at the university I have chosen for myself. I felt discouraged at first. The teaching was good. I was learning but I didn't exactly excelled at the practicals. Moreover, when I see the programmers in the workplace, I realised most of them were men and that there were only a few opportunities for female programmers. It made me have doubts about my choice.

My choice also made it difficult for me to ask financial support from home so I organised school buses and made some income from there to pay my way through college. That experience motivated me to learn how to make my own living and to start a business after university.

In my sophomore year, a friend of mine informed me about IT Business Plan 2013 by MCF(Myanmar Computer Federation). I competed with an application called Body Trainer. The mentorship sessions and meeting with successful teachers in the IT field during the competition was very motivating. I only got Third prize but it was a start for me. I kept competing. I got first prize in WITTS competition organised by a Japan company, and i also won first prize in IT business plan 2014 with an app called Travel Free Travel. By then, i’d realised that i could not excel in programming so i shifted my focus to IT business instead.

At the university, I was involved in a lot of activities. I was given the opportunity to intern at JFDI(an incubator in Singapore) when i was an organiser for UCSY IT club. The one-month internship broaden my horizons. My dream of starting a business after graduation was realised with the connections i had from Singapore. With them, Peddle was developed.

There were a lot of challenges for girl techies in IT Field but I always wanted to prove to my parents that i had chosen the right career. My mother understands it now even though she didn't approve at first.

My current idols are Meg Whitman (President and Chief Executive Officer of eBay) and Jack Ma (founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group). I’m very happy that i’m featured in the series which have featured the seniors whom i’m inspired by. This is certainly a motivation for me.

I’d like to encourage to the students of UCSY by saying that you don't necessarily have to be a programmer just because you go to UCSY. You can be good at many other things in IT field even if you didn't become a programmer.

Women in Tech of June 2016

Honey Mya Win

I first came into contact with IT by going to Summer Computer Classes during my secondary school and by the time i’m in 8th/9th grade, i’d started learning Hardware Course A+. My main motivation then was the encouragement from my dad but i was also interested in learning all things computer and how they work.

I studied for Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) and Advanced Diploma in Network Engineering from NMC collage. I have been working since 2013 as RAN (Radio Area Network) Engineer at Huawei Technologies till now. I chose Computer Networking as my career despite the fact that there were only a few girls in that field at that time. My first job, being Mobile Network, was different from what i had learned at school so i had to fill the gaps with the help of my mentors and seniors from work. I took it as a challenge to be an example of a women Network Engineer.

Shwe Yee Mya Win

I’ve always been interested in IT since i was a school girl. I went to computer classes such as Graphic Design and HTML outside of school and participated in other school’s IT competitions. My father bought a computer for us since we were little so we had the advantage of being familiar with technology to an extent. I was intrigued to find out that i can draw and create things in a computer since drawing was one of my hobbies. I was crazy about Graphic Design then, crazy enough to not continue my IGCSEs and focus all of my attention to being involved in IT field as much as i can. Then after school, I started Software Engineering course, Web Essential course and learned Programming to be more efficient in Web Development as I became interested in Web Design. My ultimate goal was to start my own IT business. So, I decided to work as a Junior Web Developer at a tech company because I believed that working experiences and not just lectures from school, are essential if I were to start my own business.

Their experiences

Until The Business Solution Hackathon 2014, we were working separately as an engineer and developer. We decided to enter the competition because we loved the idea of solving a problem together with a team in 48 hours straight. “Team Ace” had us and other 5 members who were all from tech background. That made the competition challenging when it comes to business aspects and we also had a lot of trials and errors in the process. First, we discussed the problem of 6 SMEs and decided on the one problem we think we can solve best. We had to work till last minute before the 3-minute final pitch so, getting 1st prize was unexpected.

After the Hackathon, we were left with so many connections that lead us to participating in events such as Connected Women Conference and share our experiences in other Tech events. The other team members went back to their school and work respectively but we were determined to start a business. We competed in Phandeeyar Business Challenge 2015 with two other members. Our team name was Technoholic which is also the name of our business. The idea(Ladycraft) is about building an online marketplace where handmade items from stay-at-home Myanmar women are sold to generate income for them in a way. In the competition, we were introduced to Business Model Canvas and with the help of mentors, we were able to get Honourable Mention Award.

Working with your sister, sometimes, have advantages but it also has its pitfalls. We can argue without having to pretend until we reach an agreement. It’s kind of our collaboration style. There are times when we found new solutions and ideas that came out of having a row with each other. :)

We’ve been developing the Ordering System Solution from the Hackathon before we founded Technoholic Tech Solutions in 2015 December. Technoholic intend to develop customised websites and applications.We are also trying out a product called Platform which is a freelance project agency. Our mission is to present simple and efficient solutions based on the challenges and problems we have experienced in our lives.

It is an exciting adventure to be a women in tech in Myanmar. It is not so easy to take the leadership role despite the social norms and somehow old-fashioned cultures. However, it is not impossible.

Thank you for reading!

Translated by 

Khin Htet Htet Lwin

Women in Tech of May 2016

Her life before university

    I grew up mostly in Yangon China Town and went to TTC from Kindergarten till the end of high school. I applied to colleges in the US and got into MIT with a financial aid award aimed to help international students from Asia. The flight I took to get to Cambridge (where MIT’s campus is) was the first time I’d ever been on a plane and my first trip outside of Myanmar. 

Choosing CS major

I believe I was in the 7th or 8th grade when my high school started a programming class as an after school experimental activity. The class used old Intel 386 computers and we learned fundamentals of programming in BASIC. I can’t tell you how grateful I’m for the math teacher who initiated and taught that class. She’s the first influencer who inspired me to understand the delight and joy of programming. 

Being a Women In Tech in Silicon Valley

I’m lucky that I haven’t experienced unequal treatment or sexism as a female technical co-founder in Silicon Valley. It could be because I have only worked for my own startup for the six years that I’ve been here. I have two wonderful male co-founders who are staunch feminists, and we have assembled a team that respects our diversity. 

Growing up in Burma with my grandmother, my aunts, and my mother running their own businesses, I never thought being a woman entrepreneur was anything strange. Likewise, all the programming classes I took when I was in Yangon had the same number of men and women. When I got to MIT, I noticed the ratio was different than in Burma. But my background of growing up in Burma, where being a technical woman is totally normal, set my expectations that I will be treated exactly the same as a male engineer. I am grateful for that.

Finding the right co-founders for a Startup

Finding the right co-founders to start your startup is the most important decision you’ll make when starting a company. Among the co-founding team, you want to have someone who likes to start things and full of crazy new ideas (crazy visionary), someone who is good at finishing (steady finisher) and someone who’s good at executing all the middle parts between start to finish (practical executor). One person can be one or more of those, but need all three covered. You have to respect each other and see the value of what each of you brings to the table. If a co-founding partnership isn’t based on respect and trust, it’s impossible to go through years of startup up and downs together. In a way, it’s like a marriage. :)

Her idol in Tech

I admire Jeff Bezos. His focus on long-term thinking rather than making quarterly earnings reports look good allows Amazon to take on projects that most big companies consider crazy. Not everything Amazon does is a success, but the combination of all of those experiments make them one of the most innovative companies in the world.  I also think it’s impressive that he requires meetings to start with detailed written plans rather than Powerpoint slides - we’re trying to incorporate a preference for thinking deeply into our company culture as well. 

Balancing the family and career

My husband and I are both committed to spending as much time with our new baby as we can. We have been pretty successful so far at integrating work and family rather than treating them as a zero-sum game. Baby Martin has a crib in the office, and he’s stopped by about once a week so far. 

An engineering mindset can help a lot with family life as well. One example from our lives involves using Boomerang, our product, to manage recurring household tasks. We set up a set of recurring messages to ourselves to make sure we remember to do important, but easily-neglected tasks like changing the air filters or cleaning out the refrigerator. Now, we’re always on top of them, and nobody has to nag anyone.

Her thoughts about Tech industry in Myanmar

I think it’s an exciting time to be in the tech industry in Myanmar right now. Boomerang is one of the major sponsors for Phan Dee Yar, a tech innovation hub in Yangon. From the updates I get from the folks at Phan Dee Yar , I see there is a vibrant tech scene with a lot of young talented folks hungry for more opportunities for learning and building.  I’m looking forward to what future Burmese startups will build. 

Suggestions to the Computer Science students(especially female students)

I don’t think I have any specific suggestions for female students. My advice for anyone who wants to get into Computer Science is to tinker around until you find programming enjoyable. Keep trying out and building things. Don’t worry so much about picking a perfect language or platform. If you find it enjoyable, you will do much better when you encounter difficult parts.

In the Future

I’ll continue to work on growing the team at Boomerang to keep building tools that help people more productive. Figuring out how to make the email experience more powerful on mobile devices is a big priority for us this year. 

More generally, for me, the best part about working on Boomerang is the ability to help millions of people spend more time on the most impactful parts of their work rather than on managing their emails. We may not be doing the research to find the cure for cancer or building the spacecraft to bring people to Mars, but every extra hour that Boomerang allows a researcher or an aerospace engineer to spend on meaningful work gets us closer to the cure for cancer or to finishing the next spacecraft.

Women in Tech of April 2016

My real name is Pwint Phyu Kyaw but i think most of my online friends know me as Li Jia Li.

I first came into contact with computers when i was in 6th/7th grade by playing the windows 96 games such as Pinball on my father’s computer. Then my cousin studied programming and from him, i got to see what codes are. Then, my father bought a computer so I got to learn more.

I went to attend Software Engineering Course in KMD after Matriculation exam. I was interested in coding but wasn't as passionate about it as i am now because back then i was exploring my options. The indecisiveness became a problem when the exam results came out. I wanted to go to the University of Computer Studies Yangon but my mom wanted me to study something medicine-related. My scores were not eligible for Medicine school but it was enough for the Pharmaceutical University. So i fulfilled my parents’ wish, thinking i can study programming later in private school's courses. However, there wasn't enough time to study what i want during college because here in Myanmar, students need to take tuitions along with regular classes. I kept in touch with programming by reading books loaned from British Council, studying online at the Internet Cafe’s and reading blogs such as Mystery Zillion and MyanmarITPro.

Gradually, I became more and more passionate about becoming a web developer. For me, it was so fascinating to see that i can run something on the browser as soon as i finished coding. So in my final year, i attended a web development course so that i can study more systematically. The school has also has WiFi. My network was also expanded by going to tech events such as Ubuntu, Barcamp and MZ Meet Up which was my first meet up with people from IT industry.

Then i finally graduated, so i decided to follow my passion. Even so, my family wanted me to apply for a job at the hospitals and i did. On my own though, i applied to two Web Developer jobs but it didn't work out because they wanted a one-year contract. I was lucky it didn’t, otherwise i’d have been stuck in a 9-5 job.

There was a Web Design Contest from Myanmar tutorial so i competed and got second prize. After that, a friend recommended me to study at Myanmar Links. The students there were smart, a lot of them are from UCSY. After an outstanding designer dropped out of the school, our teacher had an idea to form a team and work while a lot of us are still together. So we find projects, do our own projects and study new technologies at the same time. CMS was pretty popular at that time but it wasn't flexible enough for some customer projects so we decided to do a customised CMS(Opensource), naming it Reborn CMS. The first version had copyright problems and people were blaming us on Twitter. It was our first experience and we didn't know what to do, so we took down the repo which just made it worse. After all that, we did version 2 and wrote projects with Reborn CMS. I can say that omimyanmar.org is the best one among the sites done with Reborn.

After Myanmar Links, Hexcores was started with a group of friends. We were supposed to do product-based projects but to survive we needed to do customer projects so we had to focus on services. We were able to launch geeksjargon.com in the mean time though. The most memorable work with Hexcores is the Maepaysoh Project. We wrote Maepaysoh API and also participated in the competition. In the competition, because every participants get the data from the same source, the apps were similar. So we decided to do a data visualisation site although it was against the rules. For that, we got Honourable Mention Award. I’m proud that i could help with what i can during the change process of Myanmar.

For the future, i’d like to focus on Civic Tech rather than consumer products because i believe technology will play an important part during this change period. I think i’ll also be doing free apps. The other thing i’d like to do is to form a team that focuses on UI/UX because i’m also very interested in design. There aren't many people that specialises in design nowadays even though there are many Graphic Designers. A lot of companies also think they don't need design specifically, may be that’s why some people change from studying design to programming. I think the trend will change in the future when there’s a certain role for designers.

Thank you for reading about my experiences. 

Women in Tech of March 2016

     I was born in the Rakkine state. Because our mother wanted the best education available for her children, the whole family moved to Yangon when i was about 2 years old. Not long after we live in the city, i wanted to go to school so badly that my mom had to put me in a kindergarten school. I was also a gamer since then, an affect of growing up among uncles who practically raised me.

     Throughout school years, i was lucky enough to learn Burmese art, dance and music which are all mandatory to take the exam to become an honours student . All of the learning made me appreciate Burmese art and traditions. I also learned about teamwork and senior-junior relationship experience during my 8th and 9th grade being a part of school Marching Band.

     When i graduated from high school with 4 distinctions, i had to work as a study guide to support my family as the eldest sibling because the factory, which is our family’s business, was destroyed in the cyclone Nargis. When applying for university, I wanted to choose University of Computer Studies Yangon, but it is located almost out of the city. I couldn’t afford all the time for commuting back and forth while having a job, and also my family didn’t allow me to go there so i went to study Korean at Yangon University of Foreign Language, one of the few campuses located in the city. I dropped out after two months, it was just not my thing.

     Then it was just teaching, reading in long breaks and gaming in my free time and repeat, for three years. Then i started to realise that i need to change. What i’m doing and my passion are not related at all. My passion is IT. The income from teaching was 4/5 lakhs a month which is not so bad at that time but i didn’t want to sacrifice my dreams just for the money-making. Just when i was looking for a change, i was able to attend Software Engineer Class at Teacher U Thein Oo’s ACE centre, for free of charge.

     However, when i actually attend the course, i found that i was more interested in the IT business rather than the programming itself. So i talked to my classmates about the business idea i had and they neglected it, saying it’s impossible. It made me want to prove them wrong. After that, i went in IT business.

     When i co-founded Sundew Myanmar 2011, i was nineteen. Being an IT entrepreneur back then was not easy. Even the terms Internet, Mobile Applications, Computer Software etc, were not familiar with the public. Even so, it still makes me excited to think about that teenage time of my life full of meetings with the partners and customers during the day and at night, in front of a computer with project plans and data bases. I was fearless. Now it took more time to make decisions weighing the pros and cons and takes more energy to be active. Something with the age getting older, i guess.

Currently, my role is co-founder and VP of Sundew. I still play computer games no matter how busy i get. I also took English Major(Distance) at Dagon University so now i can say i have a Bachelor degree.

     I’m always looking for opportunities to develop myself because i believe developing and progressing in life is just as important as being content with the current situation. I’m very proud to be a women in tech.

My idol for life is the former CEO of Apple, Mr.Steve Jobs. This is my suggestion for young girls. “Everything is not so easy but not as difficult as it seems.”

With warmest regards,

#NOe

Translated by

Khin Htet Htet Lwin

Women in Tech of February 2016

For February, we got to interview Ma Chaw Khin Khin in person, CEO of MCC Group, the first ever computer company in Myanmar, dating back to 1989. The two and a half hour talk took place at one of her offices at Junction Square. It was filled with topics such as the role of career women in tech industry, youth, community and a bit about her life.

The interview was very educational and knowledgeable. At the start of it, her voice was a bit hoarse from sickness, but as the interview progresses the voice gets energized and fueled by her passion for tech. She’s very business-oriented and most of the time she talked unfiltered, openly and matter-of-factly, showing her strong and assertive personality, everything you would expect from a CEO.

How it all started

I was in 8th grade when my father opened the first Micro Computer Course in Myanmar. Every morning I would open and prepare the computer room for him. As a kid, I loved what he’s doing. In summer, I was one of the kids who finished Children Computer course. So I've been working with him since then, and I’ve always wanted to be the successful business women leading MCC group. That was my dream. I was going to pursue a business degree but to lead a tech company, first you have to know technology.

On the most important thing for a leader in technology field

     Technology, unlike other industries, leaders need to be very innovative and proactive. So inspiration is essential. All you need is that one idea. Then there are people who can carry out the rest. So I would say being inspirationally excited is the most important. And the difference between a leader in tech and the leaders in other industries is that tech leaders think about the process flow first, from end to end so in a way it’s more systematic.

     As for coders, I see that most of them lack the reporting requirements users want. Coders need to understand the business case and to try to get a lot of input from users' expectations from the system.

Ideas don’t pop up in dull meeting rooms. For me, I spend time with my family, playing with my kids, watching their movies and conversing with them. And sometimes you get inspired by them. For instance, my daughter loved playing Cooking Mama, which is in Japanese version, and she asked me if she can make it to cook Burmese dishes. I told her, “Why not?”

     I am also very interested in Gaming industry. We are offering Game Developer Degree, and we’ve sent some students abroad to continue studying but there’s few market demand here. Parents would say their kids are spending too much time on gaming as it is. However, it is a matter of creating the games which is awesome and just playing what someone has invented. There’s a huge difference.

     The generation has changed now. My 16 years-old daughter finds everything on Wikipedia, but my younger son doesn't. He’s all Youtube, which is more of a visual learning. If young people use Wiki and Google as much as Facebook, it would be a lot more beneficial for them. Technology and gadgets should be a utility and not a luxury. It should be part of what they are doing in everyday life. Only then, innovation can happen.

On leveraging technology for development

Now everyone, the street vendors, the trishaw guy, the journal girl, etc. has a mobile. They need basic apps. MCC is going to launch App training in all of the branches soon. Through that, people can make simple apps for their community, for example, an app for their town's sports competition, which is a big deal for them. And one of the Startups I'm supporting involves making an app for villagers and farmers, to give information and let them know what their products really worth in the market. Because we have to develop not only personally and for our own organisations but also for the community and for the whole IT industry.

In ASEAN, we are at the far back in almost all indexes except the mobile growth and the happiness index. The way i see it, the only way we can get out of it is leveraging the technology.

On life as a successful Women In Tech

I was asked during a discussion in Manila that when women economically participate, they have to sacrifice their time for family and so if I was happy with my work-life arrangements. I told them,"You have to make yourself happy," It took me 15 years to notice that. In the beginning years, business and family grow fast simultaneously so it was very tough for me. Now I try to live on my own terms. I reduced the number of social events and devote my weekends, especially Sunday to my kids.

I always want my performance to be nothing short of the best, I have to choose wisely and say no to some projects. Of course, balancing can be hard, and there are times when you are frustrated because you lose an opportunity to attend a seminar and have to stay home for your ill child. There are some trade-offs for sure. And it’s not yet fully accepted in Myanmar for a woman to be a techie and lead a tech business. Sometimes you can get caught up in the operational core. People would say I'm tough but women in a certain position; they are all tough. They have to be.

Last but not least,

On Women In Tech participation

Women participation in tech in the industry is very high but women in the leadership position is still very low. However, there are only a few women at the leadership positions. Then again, almost every teacher at the technology university is female and there are a lot of girls at the university, yet in the industry it's still a boy’s club. I think we need to bridge the gap of women participation between academic and industry. It would be great to have a formal association for Women in Tech that can interact with similar international organisations like Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In Circles. Also to have a Women Chapter in engineering.

Translated by 

Khin Htet Htet Lwin

Women in Tech of January 2016

My name is Poe Poe Myint Swe. I am from Mandalay and graduated from Technological University (Mandalay) majoring in Information Technology in 2012. Currently, I am working as an Android Engineer at a property search portal 99.co, one of the growing startups in Singapore.

I got into the IT field by accident because of a friend. A year after graduation, my friend working in Singapore asked me to come and work there. I’ve always wanted to study aboard whenever I heard someone going there for study. But it was impossible back then because of my parents’ financial situation. My mom was suffering kidney failure, and we were having a hard time. After my mom passed away, I had to work on my own to pay tuition fees. So my dream of studying in a foreign country seemed impossible. At that time, I was a private tutor for kids. My friend reminded me to learn the skills relevant with my current degree. So I decided to take a short Java course and be a Java Developer. I went to Singapore and failed to get a job since I didn’t have enough experience and skills.

But even before going there I was interested in Android. Android is also written in Java. And fortunately I could afford a cheap Huawei phone. I tested the device installing apps and such. There were a few Myanmar apps back then also. I was inspired by them and wanted to write my own app. I learned from online tutorials about how to develop apps for Android. The advantage I have is I have good enough English to be able to read and write. So learning online is not difficult for me.
After coming back from Singapore, I taught as before and learned android lessons from online. One day an idea pop into my head. I always use the Internet with mobile data connection. So it would be great if I could track the usage. Back then, MPT charged data per minute. Afterwards, I decided to write an app of that idea. I learned about the things required to convert my idea into reality. After three or four months, I got my first prototype. Of course, I did spend a lot money on phone bills too, haha. One of my friends helped by giving Google Play developer account as a present. The first ever app I launched on Play Store is called Internet Watch. Then most people know me as Internet Watch developer. Everything was as usual, teaching and coding for fun.

I came to know an Android Developer from Yangon on Facebook. He invited me to come to Google Extended Yangon. Out of curiosity, I went to Yangon from Mandalay just to know what is IO. From that event, I came to know Yangon Developer Community. Some companies offered me to work in Yangon. Being afraid of staying in a hostel and taking crowded buses every working day, I chose Zwenexsys which let me work remotely from home in Mandalay.
Often, I went to Yangon to attend events and also participated in Hackathons. Then I became a member of MMAUG, Myanmar Android User Group. I even conducted as an instructor in Android
Bootcamps host by GDG Yangon. I learned many things working together with them. Otherwise, I was learning alone. Some members are my colleagues. So we work together as colleagues in office and code together for fun outside. I am still a member of MMAUG although I stay in Singapore.

The difficulties I faced are not because I am in IT field. There are difficulties everywhere. Most of them are because of lack of money. I am standing on my own feet. I cried when my netbook was not functioning anymore knowing I would not afford to buy new one. Sir Soe Htet gave me one of his laptops, and I am still thankful to him until today. Even then Android Studio demanded more high-end machine, and I couldn't afford one. So when I got the job, the office gave a good computer to work. Then a friend helped me to buy a Macbook Pro with a hire-purchase. I was lucky to have such people to help me. Part of me always know it is because they think I am passionate and hard working.
After having adequate experience, I decided to go back Singapore and tried my luck. The friends helped me everything. When I applied current job, they gave me a mini hack challenge to develope an app within 24 hours. I wrote that and got a job. Most of the things are same as the previous company. However, the difficulty is they want me to talk and participate more. To be honest, I am struggling with that until now.

Being in IT field three years for now, I don't have one particular thing or app that I'm proud of. I was proud when I could build my first app, so as second app and so on. I was proud when I developed a library management system together with the friends from Java class. I was proud of the app PyawKyi from Zwenexsys.
In late 2015, I was a part of MMAUG developing Myanmar Flood Info when there was flood happening all over the country. I also won second prize with them as well in MaePaySoh Hack Challenge with Mae app. I am glad i could assist my country with the technology. The past makes what I am today. I did so many wrong things as well as right things. I learned from the wrong and encourage myself to do the right more.
There isn't a particular Idol for me. I try to learn the good manner and habits from people I see around. As I am from Android Development, there are a few people who did some awesome stuffs, and I want to be like one of them. And I am trying so to be one.

In the future, I will still be staying in Singapore for next three or four years. I have so many things to learn. When the time comes, I will go back home. Before returning, I will be a part of MMAUG and Arpalar Tech working with them. The good thing about my job is I am able to work from anywhere. Now as a personal project, I am working on a platform called Sarjapoe with them. We hope this will be able to encourage more to read.
People talk about the fact that there are fewer women participating in the tech industry, in Myanmar. However, I don't think it is true. If you compare to what is happening outside, there are indeed a lot of women from our country are participating in the tech industry. I even think it's more than men participation. Even so, sadly, there are not a lot women in the leadership roles. It is not only happening in the IT industry but everywhere. As women start to believe in themselves as leaders one day, there definitely will be more women leaders in the industries. I would like urge and encourage ladies to step out of their comfort zone, participate in the discussions and events. I believe it is necessary for them, including me, to be active in outside giving more time other than just between home and office.

 

Women in Tech of November

Mingalabar.
We are Chit Hnin Pwint Wai and Chit Moe Pwint Wai, founders of Global New Wave Technology.

How we entered IT industry

After High School, we went to MCC to learn ICT level 1 and 2. We learned about the basics of HTML and CSS in level 2. We were hooked. So after level 2, at age 17, we started interning in a IT company. Along with work, we studied Website Development at Myanmar World Wide Web Institute (M3WI – Geneva, Switzerland Certificate).
Our aim after that course was to start our own company someday in the near future. We understood work experience and professional skills are a must for that dream to be realized. Thus, we worked passionately for a Web Development company for seven years. During that time, we met with Ko Linn Phyo and Ko Pyae Phyo who are professionals in Mobile App Development & UI/UX Design and who also have the same aim as us. We became a team.
Our team members have skills that complement each other. So we worked together to give Web Development and Software Development services. Times were tough in 2012 because Web Development was just not popular then. However, we couldn’t give up or lose hope. We even used all of the income for business development. There were no dividends at all.
In 2014, our dream was realized, and we were able to register a company under the name www.newwave-tech.com.Our services currently are

  1. Web development
  2. Mobile app development and
  3. Software development.

Right now, we have over 200 projects with over 100 companies as clients. We also do outsourced-projects from UK, France, Japan, Singapore and Vietnam.
Last year, we were chosen as a Training Provider for SAMSUNG Tech Institute Android Mobile App Development Training. 100 computer students from all over Myanmar in 2014 and 150 students in 2015 were successfully trained. This is one of our achievements.


The idea started when we did the SAMSUNG Road Show throughout the whole country. During that trip, when we searched the web for nice hotels, good restaurants and the tourist attractions, etc of the places we are traveling in, we couldn’t find them. There were few information sources.
That’s how Let’s Trip got started. As our first trip, we went to Bagan, collected the information a traveler could want such as tourist attraction places, maps, hotels and restaurants and then post it on the app.


In upcoming versions, we’ll try to make the online payment for hotels and we’ll update with more information from a lot of different locations in Myanmar.

You can download the app here. 

Listen live interview with Mandalay FM here. 

Thank you Geek Girls for letting us share!

Translated by

Khin Htet Htet Lwin

Women in tech of October

Hi! My name is Thet Mon Aye. My education background, I went to government pubic high school and from 2006-2009, I studied a diploma course in Electrical Communication and Computing Engineering. Then, I went to UCL to learn Computer Science.

Before talking about passion, I’d like to share an experience of mine. When I was in university, I had to become a member of the hiking team to get an award. Being not a very active kind of girl, I skipped a lot of trainings. So when I had to climb a mountain, I was in big trouble. I didn’t train or choose the right shoes. So I got blisters from the start, they became worse when we start to hike on a steep trail for 6am to 4pm a day.

I had to tell the organizer to drop me off at the village which was the starting point of the second day. However, the teacher said” It’s easy to give up and go back. We can escort you back safely. But we arrive at the top tomorrow, don’t you wanna see the view from there? You’ve made it this far. What if when you think about it later, regretting not reaching to the top? So think it over tonight.”

I wasn’t able to sleep that night. I was thinking about that regret and in the morning I decided to continue. With the help of the teachers and friends, I reached the top and I was able to make my way back with limpy legs.

The lesson learned from that experience was the attitude you have on the way to the top is more important than the view you get on the top. And that confidence is increased with every accomplishment.

Everyone has their own passion. I believe the difference between a hobbyist and a professional is how far they would go to study and learn about it. It is about perseverance. Like choosing between not giving up and continue till you see the great view or quit because of the pain.

My passion is technology. It makes me happy to help in creating a better world with user-friendly communication networks and technology. It all started when I watched a Youtube video about the biggest Japanese telecom called NTT Docomo’s 2010 world vision in 2008. That video described how it’s going to be a small world with technology helping people connect with each other anytime,anywhere.( like the now-apps Viber, Snap chat, and Facebook) also I saw young people buying clothes from just viewing catalogs on Tokyo Girls Collecions. After that I was compelled by the power of tech that can change people’s behavior and culture. So I chose CS major in university.

After I got back with a degree, I started Ignite Software Solutions with a staff who’s really passionate about technology. We develop customized website and applications. At the early stages, everything was a new experience for me, finding the right staff, clients and retaining them, financing and keeping documents.. But then I got used to it.

Right now, we’re focusing on a bus ticketing engine called Star Ticket. It was started when my friend and me were hanging out at night and wanted to go to Bagan the next morning. It was supposed to be a spontaneous trip. The hotel was okay but we couldn’t find the bus ticket cause it’s already late at night. So the plan got cancelled. We realized the bus ticketing industry was not digitalised yet, so we decided to to develop a Bus Ticketing Engine. It’s a hard and long journey just like the hiking trip.

First, we copy and remodeled an existing bus Ticketing Program. It didn’t cope well with the systems of Myanmar. So we tried going to the bus station which is a 2-hour drive, a couple of days a week to do surveys and such. The adjusted program was finished after about six months, but the bus owners didn’t dare use it. It was new for them and they were afraid they have to close operations if something goes wrong. It is indeed better to use paper than to rely on a new operation which could go wrong. So we had to provide them with our technical staff . Should something goes wrong ,our team and me had to go and fix it even if it’s midnight. My team, they are like my climbing partners. I’m so thankful for them. Now at Mandalar Min, they only use 20% on paper and at Elite, 40-50%.

Now the bus tickets are available at City Express, ABC, and G&G. We have an app on Google Store and tickets are available on http://www.starticket.com.mm/. Our mission is to make tickets available online so that the customers can buy them conveniently. We are still on the path, we haven’t reached our goal.

Good news came on 12th this month, we were chosen as a finalist for Rice Bowl Award( Tech entrepreneur of the year). I went to the finalist gathering. My team and me are so pleased to have recognized like that. We still have so many things we have to improve so any suggestions or idea to develop the Bus Ticketing project is more than welcome. Together we can build better systems.

And thank you GeekGirls for sharing about my journey.

Translated by

Khin Htet Htet Lwin

Women in Tech of August

My name is Cho Zin Wint. How did i get involve in IT field??

10 years ago, my friend and i biked to Mandalay Hill to ask an astrologist if i could get a job in Yangon. After my matriculation exam, my good friends asked me to join them to go to a diploma course at Lashio Computer College. As a kid, whenever i saw people in movies working on a computer, i was inspired to be like them. With the basic programming knowledge i got from the course and the help of books and journals, i was able to do self-studies because the small town i lived in didn't have any private computing schools. To study programming from books only is not an easy thing to do. However, i just like to read them no matter what. That's how i knew where my passion lies. Then, i was able to make up my mind about pursuing a career in this field with the encouragement from my schoolteachers and from books about what it's like to be a software engineer.

At that time, i haven't even started university, even so i wanted to start working. I didn't know how to tell my parents about it. Then i started calling IT companies and send them post mails. Finally, one of them called me for an interview. My dad wouldn't let me go," Too young to move out and work ", he said. Mom was okay. And then my sister helped persuade dad. I had already made up my mind though. In the end, they let me take the interview. I was preparing and praying all day. Just the thought of getting that job made me feel too happy to feel tired. When i called back in the afternoon. i was hired! It was awesome, one of the happiest days of my life. I was 17 and internship had started. I took distance education after consulting with my family. First time being away from home and inspired by IT Idols, i struggled to learn whatever type of technology i want to know more about. There were days i couldn't sleep because i was imagining having my own IT company.

In 2006, i decided to work in Singapore. Again, my family helped a lot. i arrived Saturday and hired in an interview on a Tuesday. I was amazed!

I had always worked in a company that does government projects, i was involved in the projects of about six government organizations like writing programs for Singapore Changi Airport or writing OCOE bidding system that requires connecting with all the banks there.

Meanwhile, i was also volunteering as a teacher, which is another passion of mine. Once a week after work, i taught the juniors who are working or going to programming schools. These days were my dinner-free days. I was inspired to continue every time a kid tell me they got a job. So i taught for three years straight. It was more like helping them polish and perfect the skills they already have.

In 2013, i worked for the management sector of the company i was in. The higher, the better the view. I liked that job. However, it never crossed my mind to live abroad for the rest of my life. I was always thinking about going home, back to Myanmar. At the start of 2014, i was offered a project. My colleagues, students and i were to write it together. But it was too big to be done in a short amount of time and that became my opportunity for me to start a company. I discussed it with my family, close friends, colleagues and decided to come back for good.

I've always fancied the word Myanmar High society. That became my company name. It means "Aiming to improve the lives of young Myanmar people with technology". We do customized software for companies in the industries like Banks, Colleges, Petrol Stations and such. We also accept projects from overseas companies, with long-term contract. Every now and then, i teach my employees about programming in details. Now i can also rely on some seniors who act as a mentor to the juniors. In office, i managed in a way that allows the employees to work and learn freely without limiting them with unnecessary rules. What's really important for me is the attitude and value we uphold towards our customers.

Given a chance, i'll of course share my 12 years of programming knowledge. Last couple of months, i was in a panel discussion for young IT people. It's really good to see how excited and energetic they are, definitely a good sign for Myanmar IT sector!

I'm focusing on the business side right now. In the year and a half since i started my company, the best achievement is seeing the staff becoming more motivated and happy at the workplace.

I still have dreams that are yet to be accomplished. Everyone does. It's key to balance spiritual needs, wisdom and perseverance. I also believe the emotional support you get from friend and family is essential in life. With that and when the time's right, your dreams will happen.

Translated by

Khin Htet Htet Lwin

Women in tech of July

I am a Burmese, born in Myanmar. My dad is an government electrical engineer and my mom’s a housewife. I have an elder brother and a younger one. There's a reason for telling about my family background.

My Family had to move wherever my father was assigned. I was born in Bago while he was assigned there. I had gone to schools in different towns with different education systems, passed the Matriculation exam with a few distinctions and graduated with Computer Science from Mandalay Computer University. In 2004, we were back in Yangon where i was able to do Masters degree. That changed my life.

For eight years, i was away from the ever-changing Yangon.The different education systems between Yangon and small towns, standards of living and my less-than-good education background made it a bit difficult for me to adjust back into city life.

Even until i graduated, i never thought of working in IT field. I went to the university without a specific aim. But i have a belief that i would finish the work that had started to the best of my ability. After graduation, i feel bad for not using what i have learned after four years of investing time and money. (This is just my personal feeling.)

So, in early 2006 i started working as a researcher in Natural Language Processing. I'm still working with NLP. It is still a part of me. At that time, the labour demand for NLP was so low in Myanmar with very little support and encouragement from organisations. However, i didn't stop studying and learning as much as i can even when some organisations stopped working. It was like my own business. When it comes to national language,i'll always help and share whether it's financially beneficial or not. Whether i'm working as a software developer or a general manager of a company, I studied more about NLP and Myanmar linguistics.

In 2013 early November, an organisation offered me a team leader position in Myanamr Text to Speech Synthesiser. I started working in December 1st,2014. I admire the kind of work that can show my ability and potential despite it not being the best-paid job. Based on the previous education i had- courses in foreign countries and the help of the teachers- MyTTS was born. It's an app that can be used by people with weak eyesight, who are blind or normal people. The engine can pronounce every Burmese word. It was first published for free as a beta version after six months. After development, it will be published as an open source.

Building Myanmar text to speech is not just 6 months' work. It's based on the work of many years. Building it is such a privilege that i put my heart and soul into it. I'll be making an effort to help people with the skills i've learned. I also hope to be taught and shared about the things that i don't yet know about NLP.

I'm not saying i'm a very brilliant woman but i always strive to finish the work successfully and in the right way and try to be conscious about my honesty. Although i wouldn't want to comment on the gender gap in tech field, i'd like to advise young working people not to be unnecessarily too proud and to believe in their chosen career path.It's no doubt that if you believe in your work, be professional and always try to fill skill gaps, everyone, including your family will believe in you.

There's a motto that i live by and that motivates me " Even when nobody changes, change yourself."It does not matter if no one or organisation recognises my work, I'll always be helping to preserve and maintain the much precious Burmese and other minority languages in every way that i can.

Translated by

Khin Htet Htet Lwin

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