Sat04192014

Community

Middle East TechWomen exchange ideas with SV counterparts in Los Altos


Photo By: ELLIE VAN HOUTTE/TOWN CRIER
Photo Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier

TechWomen participants, from left, Maria Salama, Julia Lovin, Soumaya Benbartaoui, Lina Akiki and Rekha Pai exchanged ideas during the mentoring and cultural exchange program.

Three accomplished, tech-savvy young women from the Middle East visited Los Altos last month courtesy of a new U.S. State Department mentoring and exchange program.

Lina Akiki, Soumaya Benbartaoui and Maria Salama partnered with Los Altos residents and Juniper Networks employees Rekha Pai and Julia Lovin, participating in the TechWomen program. The program fosters development of emerging female leaders in business and technology. The three were among 500 applicants from eight countries competing for 41 sponsored positions.

The three women, here from Sept. 5 until last week, worked on Juniper projects, exchanging ideas with other tech women. They made a brief visit to the Town Crier Sept. 25, discussing their roles in their respective countries and dispelling myths about their homelands, their faiths and their countries’ treatment of women.

Akiki, from Lebanon, is an electrical engineer currently working as a sales and business development engineer at Schneider Electric. Akiki is starting her own company in facilities management. She is active in Lebanese politics and is considering running for Parliament in 2013.

Benbartaoui hails from Algeria and serves as head of the Department of Service Providers of Electronic Certification at the Regulator Authority of Post and Telecommunications. She is passionate about networking security and enjoys gaming in her spare time.

Salama, a native of Egypt, is an assistant lecturer in computer science at the British University in Cairo. She runs several of the university’s online programs and is researching how to bring cloud computing to Egypt. She loves to travel and is an amateur photographer.

Lovin said she and Pai learned about the TechWomen program from colleagues who had participated in the inaugural session last year.

“While we have tried to make the experience valuable and memorable for the TechWomen, it has certainly been valuable and memorable for us,” Lovin said. “We’ve learned so much about the Middle East-North African region, the Muslim faith, and news coverage around the world. The fact that we have a lot in common with one another has been reinforced.”

Lovin said that although there are extremists in the Middle East, as there are everywhere, most people want to coexist in peace.

“They are very busy working, paying their mortgages, sending their children to school – just like we are,” she said.

For more information, visit www.techwomen.org.

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