software and sheesha in cairo


Yesterday was a pretty good day for us.  We found another three full-time hires, an managed to talk to 12 candidates (we had seven of them in the afternoon).  Also important was that we managed to finish on time for our reservation at a great Egyptian restaurant downtown!


Ahmed from the Cairo Microsoft Innovation Center drove Bret and I to the restaurant, while Priya, Anne, and Viresh followed with Sherif.  The traffic coming in was amazing.  There were times that we were mere inches from the cars around us.  Things took a more exciting turn when Ahmed took a phone call while we were in traffic.  I simply could not believe the spaces people were willing to try to dart into … New York drivers have nothing on drivers in Cairo.


In the car Bret and I had a really interesting conversation with Ahmed.  He had worked in Redmond for 10 years before relocating back to Egypt about six months ago when the CMIC began hiring people in earnest to take on applied research projects. 


Ahmed told us a bit about some of the opportunities before us in the dynamic and growing Arab-speaking market.  In a many countries the population is very heavily weighted towards the under 25 set, and in some of those countries the middle class is expanding exponentially.  If we are wise as a company, we can leverage our previous products and improve them to meet the needs of this growing 300 million person market.  It was a real treat for me to be able to speak to someone who knows the region this well, and is familiar with the social and technological dynamics as Ahmed.


Ahmed’s situation is also interesting in that we have many Egyptian expats who work in Redmond.  Just imagine being able to take some of the top technical minds in any country and bring them together … this is the privilege of working for a company with the resources and reputation to hire internationally.  Over the past few years we’ve opened R&D centers in many more international locations.  As that happens some of the people native to these places have opted to move "home", without having to leave the company – which is good for all involved.


Anyway – back to the food, which is really one of the more important parts of the trip.  This food was really amazing.  Aside from a pair of rather gruesome looking pigeons that Bret ordered, the table was a work of art.  After dinner, I got to observe the others enjoying sheesha – flavored tobacco – which apparently gives you a bit of a rush.  It didn’t interest me very muich – I’m still tryign to get over the same cold i’ve had for a while now – at the end of each day, I’m barely able to croak my words out.


Sheesha is quite the ritual to see though – I’ll try to post some pictures of this when I get a chance.



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