Amira is a Cryptographer and security engineer at ConsenSys.
She co-founded the HellHound project, which allows developers to implement privacy by design in dApps.
Amira is at the center of the movement to create awareness about the value of privacy, put us in charge of our digital private data, and promote blockchain technology amongst enterprises and governments.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I am a cryptographer and security engineer at ConsenSys. I co-founded the HellHound project, which allows developers to implement privacy by design in dApps (decentralized applications). I’m also at the centre of the movement to create awareness about the value of privacy, to put us in charge of our digital private data, and promote blockchain technology amongst enterprises and governments.
I graduated from engineering school and specialised in cryptography and cybersecurity, and I hold a Master’s degree in applied math.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
Several times actually. When I was little, I was always interested in problem solving and math, I just wasn’t aware of all of the career possibilities available for those who are passionate about math. I had a lot of ideas, but young people do not always receive a lot of guidance or information on the types of careers that are available in math and in the exciting area of technology. However, I always knew that I wanted to develop my own project and work in an international environment. My advice for young people is that it’s OK if you don’t know what you want to do later in life, and it’s important to experiment and follow your dreams. Even at university, it’s OK not to plan everything ahead, but if you are ambitious, determined and work hard you can succeed in whatever you want to do. I believe that in pursuing their career paths, women can achieve their goals. Traditional ideas are just an obstacle in the mind, and women are not obliged to follow them. I have always dreamed about the future and wanted to be independent in my career path. Your professional dreams can come true if you work hard to achieve them.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
Yes, I have faced a few challenges. For example. I realized I had to study abroad because, in my home country, the options were limited for studying the subjects I was interested in such as math and cryptography. Therefore, I knew I had to travel to learn more in these fields. To explore new opportunities and to follow my dreams, I had to study away from my family and that was one of the hardest challenges for me.
Several people tried to discourage me and one example was a math professor, but I listened to my heart and trusted my capabilities to succeed. I was fortunate to be surrounded by those who supported me, and especially my parents. During my studies, I had to prove that I was good at what I do. On occasion, I still face that challenge today at conferences. I enjoy working with men and most of them respect me and my expertise. However, there are some men who can underestimate me at the beginning until they develop trust and see that I have the skills in my field. I find that as women, we sometimes have to work even harder to prove ourselves.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
During my studies, I helped teach others and I have always been open and willing to answer questions and provide guidance or advice to others. I have not yet had the chance to mentor someone in a formal way and I would love the opportunity to be able to do that.
My parents and several others in my network have been helpful and supportive to me. My mother and father have been inspirational and great mentors, always encouraging me to not give up and to follow my dreams.
What do you want to see happen within the next five years when it comes to diversity?
What I see and what excites me in the blockchain field are people from different backgrounds, cultures, races, and genders working and collaborating together and it’s so positive. I would like to see even more of that in the coming years. Decentralized organizations allow the flexibility for people to work when they are most productive, from wherever they are located, and even though the collaborators are not in the same place, they can all work together on their projects. I would like to see more inclusive collaboration not only within ConsenSys but also in other organizations.
If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?
Organisations should not put barriers to women at any stage of their career. There should not only be more encouragement for women to advance in their career, but also the flexibility to enable women to achieve a work-life balance. There are also inequalities in the workplace that need to be addressed. For example, it’s frustrating as a woman when you have the same skills and work experience as a man, and yet you face pay gaps based on your gender.
How would you encourage more girls and women into STEM?
Math and technology are beautiful fields, they are not scary, these are areas where everyone can excel. Girls and women should not be intimidated and think that these fields are only for men. When women want something, we can achieve it! Many successful women are professors and engineers and have fantastic and stimulating careers. My advice is not to listen to others with traditional views and to those who are negative and who tell you that you cannot do something, or that you are not good enough. If you really want something and work hard, you can achieve it. Having a vision of what you want to achieve for yourself, combined with hard work and determination are the most important things you need to reach your goals. You can achieve a lot by following your dreams!
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
I’m proud that my career is on the right path. My project HellHound is advancing well and it’s one of my biggest achievements so far.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
My goal is to make HellHound successful and to make it used by every dApp in the world. HellHound is a blind computation platform that allows developers to use cryptography tools to achieve privacy by design in their applications. I want to not only educate people on the importance of privacy and the right to keep your data private but also help make privacy by design used in every application. If we can achieve this, that would be great!