Ahmed, can you start with telling us something about yourself?
My name is Ahmed Omar and I’m from Egypt, where I lived for the most part of my life. I got a degree in Biomedical Engineering from Cairo University. During my time in university I discovered my love for programming and teaching. My first professional experience in that area was a part-time job teaching a programming course. At that time I was still a student.
After graduating I worked in Egypt for a while. In 2010 I left Egypt and my job at Ericsson to move to Rotterdam and work for a company called Nimbuzz. My wife and I still live in Rotterdam actually. We grew very fond of the city, we really like it there.
After about three years at Nimbuzz I joined NGTI by the end of 2012. For six years I worked as a senior developer, architect and team lead, before I was appointed CTO in September 2016. Recently I left NGTI to become CTO of Lepaya.
You worked for NGTI, a global business division of Swisscom AG. Now you’re CTO of Lepaya. Why leave a comfortable position in a big corporation for the unchartered territory of a start-up?
In fact, the answer is already embedded in your question, and has to do with comfort. I think I just felt too comfortable at NGTI. Even though being comfortable feels good in a way, I believe you need to get out of your comfort zone once in a while to keep learning. To keep evolving. A start-up like Lepaya gives me the opportunity to challenge and improve myself.
You just talked about your reason to you join a start-up, but are there any aspects of the corporate environment that you miss?
Structure. I mean, it’s a double-edged sword kind of thing. On the one hand, structure helps you keep things stable and predictable. On the other hand, too much structure can slow down progress and prevent individuals or even the whole organization to try new things. So I do miss a little bit of structure, but not too much.
You told me about your love for teaching. Was that what made you move into the Learning & Development industry?
Yes, I think that’s fair to say. I have been passionate about learning and development ever since I was at Cairo University and maybe even already before that. As mentioned, my first job was teaching a class. Afterwards, during my professional career and in every position I held, I always tried to contribute to and advance the learning culture.
Over the past years I frequently faced the challenge of making Learning & Development measurable and impactful. Therefore I know firsthand that there is a lot of room for improvement. It’s an exciting area to explore and one through which I hope to make an impact on a lot of people’s career and potentially on their life. That is something that really energizes me.
From all the companies working on Learning & Development, how did you end up at Lepaya?
When I decided it was time for a change, I started exploring the start-up community. Lepaya immediately caught my eye. Their mission, or as I should say now ‘our mission’, of making learning sticky, engaging and measurable resonates well with me. They were looking fora CTO — and I just decided to ping them.
The first thing that positively surprised me, was how quick they responded. We started talking and I soon realized that this was something I wanted to be part of. It was the mix of their take on Learning & Development, the potential I believe Lepaya has as a company and the energetic and fast paced start-up vibe that made it easy for me to make up my mind.
You started at Lepaya early May. What is your first impression?
The first thing I thought was: “This is gonna be fun!” Lepaya has this amazing mix of working hard with a purpose and having fun while doing it. And the people here are great. Everyone is really open. They are doing everything they can to help each other and to learn from each other.
What do you see as your biggest challenge for the coming year?
I think the biggest challenge would be to expand our engineering team (we’re hiring!) to take Lepaya to the next level. We want to grow, but without losing sight of our core and while keeping up the fun.
Where do you see Lepaya five years from now?
In five years from now, I want Lepaya to be THE place for impactful learning in the workplace and beyond. I want the answer to the question “What can I do to become a better professional?” to be an obvious one: Lepaya.