Elham Abidy (EPITA Class of 2021): From Technical Expert to Manager
Working at Baracoda, a health technology company, Elham Abidy wears two hats: a QA tester, which is an entirely technical role, and a product owner, a management position. How does she handle both professions? Let’s discover her story.
What did you do before you come to EPITA?
I come from Afghanistan. My academic background and my passion to pursue my education abroad helped me win the Indian government full scholarship for my four years of bachelor’s studies in Computer Science and Engineering from 2014 to 2018. After returning to my country, I got BGF (Bourses du gouvernement français), 2 full years of scholarship for my master’s degree. Since the search, application, and processing of the scholarship took almost a year, I started working as an Assistant Director of Information Technology in the meantime until I came to France in September 2019.
Why did you choose Master of Computer Engineering in Global IT Management (ME – GITM)?
I had a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and I spent 4 years on technical subjects. I know it’s not enough to be a good engineer, but I was sure I could go on as a programmer. In my opinion, IT is not only about coding, or to be honest, I’m not the type of person to sit in front of computer all day and look at thousands of lines of code on a black screen, or code like a robot. I love communication, meeting different people and management.
I found ME – GITM as combination of management and technical subjects, and it fits perfectly with what I was looking for. In GITM, you learn everything about management skills. And since it comes under the Master of Engineering degree, you also have technical classes.
Elham Abidy with her teachers and classmates
What courses did you enjoy the most? How does your study relate to your career?
EPITA keeps a balance between technical and management classes. I had a lot of interesting technical classes, but my favorite classes are those about management taught by Mr. Oliver BERTHET and Mr. Bill MANOS. Now that I am a Product Owner, I see that those classes have helped me a lot to manage my work and the team.
What is your favorite memory from studying at EPITA?
Now that it’s been a year since I was far from EPITA, I realized that I had a great student life, and I missed every moment of it. We had a great time in French language classes.
EPITA is much more than an Engineering School. Many of us expect an Engineering School to be just about coding and coding. But here they teach you how to behave in a professional environment when you start your career. I really liked cultural and management classes, which teaches me how to deal with different cultures and environment.
Elham during the Integration Week
What was your internship and how did you find it?
I did my internship as a project manager at Baracoda, and then obtain a permanent work contract at the same company. In my last semester at EPITA, I attended some workshops on how to write my CV, search opportunities, perform well in an interview, which help me a lot in finding my internship.
Can you tell us about your current job and company?
Baracoda is a health technology company. We have various startups working on new ideas and projects. I started working here as a project manager at Kolibree, which works on the technical side of the Colgate smart toothbrush.
The company has an international work environment. We have about 300 employees from 20 different nationalities. At this company, we value ideas. We collect them and send them to the Blab team (Baracoda Lab) to analyze and see if they are feasible.
At Baracoda, we are given the freedom to work on a variety of topics and projects that you find interesting. I currently have two positions in CareOS that work more on smart mirrors for future smart bathrooms.
I am a QA tester and product owner. Even though it is sometimes difficult to follow the combination of two different positions due to the volume of work, I learn a lot from them, and I enjoy working on both.
What are the difficulties that you encounter during your job?
Working in a start-up has both advantages and disadvantages. You start everything from zero, so your workload is heavy. As a product owner, I communicate with the relevant stakeholders across the board including customers, business managers and the developer team. I have to make sure the messages are clear, and the product aligns with the business objectives.
Sometimes the requests from clients are unrealistic or they are not meeting the scrum rules. At the beginning, convincing clients and keeping them happy while making sure your team is still motivated and happy with my decision were difficult for me. It got better now.
How do you think a degree from EPITA has helped you to gain employment?
At first, I started my permanent contract as a QA tester, which is an entirely technical position. The technical classes I had at EPITA helped me to carry out my responsibilities.
Now I am working as a product owner and a QA tester at the same time. It’s also thanks to EPITA. Product owner is both a technical and management role. Since I have obtained the relevant knowledge from EPITA, I can handle both areas and my work scope became larger.
Elham at Graduation Ceremony
What advice would you give to students looking to get into your industry?
For those who have already joined EPITA, I’d like to say, “Enjoy each moment of your experience and attend all classes!” Students who would like to become developers may say, “I will be a developer, so I don’t need the management classes. Or I will be a manager, why should I need these technical classes?” It is not the case when you start working in a company. You cannot just sit and code without communicating with your team and your product owner, or you can’t be a good manager without having knowledge about what your developers are doing. It is important to learn both sides. I say this because I used to be the one who said, “I came here to study about management, why do I need technical classes?” However, when I start my current job, I say to myself, “Thanks to EPITA which delivers both technical and management classes, now I can manage both sides as a product owner and QA tester.”
What about to those who wish to join EPITA?
The EPITA name on your CV can guarantee your future career. Don’t hesitate to join EPITA. After I start my job, I was surprised by companies’ great confidence in EPITA students. Although they expect a lot from us, and it can be challenging sometimes, it gives us a lot of opportunities. For example, my specialization is IT management, and I did my internship as a project manager, but they offer me a permanent work contract as a QA tester without a single job interview, as they believe EPITA’s curriculum is perfect.