Meet Abeer Eltanawy

How did you find out about PDXWIT? When I decided to do a career shift to the tech field, I started to surround myself with people of the same interests. I was hoping to find a community that would empower me through that career-defining transition. I came across PDXWIT through Meetup, and it was exactly what I was seeking.

Describe your path to your tech career.  As a teenager, I was always interested in both technology and science. For technology, I attended a national programming competition in Egypt where I came in second place and was also responsible for website editing for the British Council in Egypt. But eventually, when the time came to make a choice, the teenager me chose science and research. 

I started out as a chemist and then moved to the US to acquire hands-on research experience. In the Bay area, I spent three years in cancer research where I finished my masters. To cover my living expenses as well as the tuition fees, I worked as a teaching assistant throughout my graduate program.

That was a very tough time as I was a full-time new mom, full-time student, part-time teacher and full-time researcher. On top of that, my husband had to leave to Oregon for his new job. For all contributing factors, it was the time for us, my husband and me to rethink our priorities and pave a different path to reach our goals. Eventually, I decided to cut my Ph.D. at the time into masters and rejoin my husband and my daughter in Oregon.

Because of the challenges of funding that academia faces, I wasn’t able to secure a graduate position in Portland, and so I decided to shift industries.

Transitioning over to the Clinical Diagnostic field working as a Research Scientist in a Startup and seeing that technology controls most of our day-to-day operations, I was intrigued to learn more about software engineering and development.

In 2017, I completed my second transition as a QA scientist in a software company called Schrödinger that is a scientific leader in developing chemical simulation software for use in pharmaceutical biotechnology and materials research in the cheminformatics field.

In my free time, I’m finishing my second masters, online, in Computer Science.

As rough and rocky as my path was to reach the point of where I am, I feel I’m finally pursuing my original and true passion! Cheminformatics field is fairly regarded as a new field, and I believe my past experiences have been shaping me to this role.

Can you speak to the modern (busy) woman/ally looking to advance their technical knowledge, education, and training? To answer this, I want to first mention Oprah Winfrey's quote, that is also in my LinkedIn description: “The whole point of being alive, is to EVOLVE into the complete person you were intended to be." I never think about the degrees but more about the information I’m gaining from it and from that perspective a person should never stop learning in order to evolve. Online courses are out there, information is out there, if you are really interested in finding it, you will get it. Then what you really need to do is practice, practice, practice (fading echo sound of repeating “practice!”). Put yourself out there, try to get out of your comfort zone as this is when the magic happens.

We asked Abeer about a travel experience that impacted her life. In fact, I do have one experience that has greatly shaped, and continue to shape who I am. During my final year in high school, I traveled to the UK on a scholarship to attend a school there for a year. There I stayed in the boarding house where I was living with girls from all over the world (think Harry Potter’s Hogwarts!!). This opened my horizons in ways that I can’t describe. Before then, I thought my hijab would be a hindrance and would restrict my opportunities. What I found out is that only you define the boundaries of your ceiling. I found people respecting me even if they didn’t agree with my beliefs. Of course, you meet those who try to discourage you from proceeding, but that in no way the norm. In return that taught me how to accept others as well. Travel, mingle with other cultures, get to know their perspective and learn to coexist.