Saturday, February 27, 2010

My Presentation

Hi guys,

I hope you are doing well. This is my presentation I made at AT&T. Please give me some feedback for corrections to make it better next time. I put it on Facebook, this is the link.

MY Presentation


Friday, February 26, 2010

Hello from Samir

Hi I'm Samir, one of the Iraq IT Interns, and I'm spending my internship right now in San Francisco with a company called Engine Yard. After everybody went to their internship destination, I started my life in San Francisco for the next few months, and it has been wonderful. The weather is not very cold and rainy (just how i like it). My co-workers are very nice and helpful, especially Matt and Shannon, my supervisors.

At first I started learning Ruby programing language, and then moved  on to learn the Rails platform, both of these are new to me, but I had so much fun learning all about them. Then I was assigned a project to do a web application using the Ruby on Rails "RoR". At first it was a little bit hard, but as I'm moving on, it's getting easier and easier.


More Pictures from Portland

Portland City, Gateway station

Portland City, inside the Mall !!

Columbia River, waterfalls

Portland Zoo, with Floyd's Family

Portland Zoo

Portland Zoo

Columbia River, Electrical Station

Columbia River, inside the Electric Station

Portland Zoo

Columbia River, waterfalls

Columbia River, waterfalls


you can read more information on my blog:

Lunch at the Science Center

When i say lunch back home, it means just a meal, but here when I say lunch or hear the word lunch break, in my mind I hear go on, it's a new opportunity to learn something new. In Iraq, people don't tend to talk while they are eating, but here, the most beneficial talk happens during lunch time, because people will talk freely. They always talk about their experiences, and how they overcome any obstacles they have in life, and those are the kind of stories that I want to hear and benefit from.

Marti and Christine invited Sarbast and I to lunch, where we spoke about Iraqi technology, politics, and business. One of the things we talked about is the difficulty we face as an intern, to transfer whatever we find here in theU.S. back to Iraq. Here in the U.S., we find many ideas, and they are really good, and at the same time, they're not applicable in Iraq because we don't have the infrastructure nor the mindset to make these projects work.

Marti was very nice to share with me this story about her mother. She said when she was in Mexico, she came from a poor family, and whenever she wanted a dress, her mother made something from the small bits of clothes she gathered, and made a good dres for her. She continued, that our role as an intern, should we want to apply these idea in Iraq, is to find a way. It's all about creativity, and she emphasizes this. "Don't wait. Do it with what you have and you'll find a way."

After we finished the meal, the Science Center team brought us some gifts and a free ticket to access the Science Center again. They are such nice people, they gave us their card and invited us to come again and to contact them whenever we want to come.

After that, I thought that I have seen everything, but I was wrong. There is more interesting stuff there than I could imagine. We saw little kids playing with toys, they built an arch (a very famous building in St. Louis)
to cross to the other building, and beneath it, the street. They have a device that you can point to a car and you see on the screen how fast the driver is driving.

The other building for the Science Center dealt with space. We met a very kind gentleman, but i forget his name, who helped us a lot and gave us lots of information about the center and guided us in the tour.

We saw a little bit of history of the space ships; we calculated how much money we would need to pay in order to go to space on this nice device that calculates your weight and gives you the amount of money you have to pay.

At this time I was thinking people don't need to participate in the "Biggest Loser" show in order to lose weight, they just have to come to St. Louis Science Center and see how much difference one kilo can make. In cost, the device calculated that I have to pay $1,645,000 in order to go to the space.

Afterwards we moved to another place, which is really unique to the whole world. It contains a device that has the ability to show you the stars and moon and other planets from any night. Patrick put it back to the night when we were born to see what it looked like, and this is it.

             The night I was born

Then we went to see and touch the rock from space. They told me that it is the only place I can do so. After that we saw a live broadcast to the space station and one of them is from St. Louis. It was a great day in which I saw things that I never dreamed to see before. I want to thank Patrick, Debra, and all the people in Science center for the wonderful tour.

The Science Center

Do you ever wonder how its look like when your born??
Do you ever wonder how much money you have to pay in order to go to space??
Do you ever sit down in science class waiting for the class to end counting every minute??
Do you ask your self why ??
Do you ever watch a movie and feel like you're in it??
Do you ever wonder how the rock look like in outer space??

If you still wonder, I am happy to receive my answers to all these question. It was Monday, 15 Jan 2010
If you want to get answers to those questions, just go to the Science Center.

 Pharmacy students teach kids

We went out to visit one of the most fascinating places in St. Louis, the Science Center. When we arrived with Debra, we met Patrick Galvin, a gentleman that works in AT&T who also worked in the Science Center. Before we entered to the Science Center, we saw a big van come in, filled with young students who came to the Science Center to see and apply their knowledge. Upon entering, we saw a big toy hanging on the celling, and the balls walk through it, I cant describe it, it was probably a piece of art.

Then we met two beautiful women, Christine and Marti, who took all of us on the tour. When Christine introduced herself and welcomed us, she had to talk loudly, because the Science Center was filled with all these little, active kids that can play inside. It is really an amazing place, where you can see a dinosaur, and even build one.

then we take the stairs to go up because the science center is really crowd this day we go to see the movie but its not like what ever i seen before basically its like a huge screen in front of you and even above you and the sound came from every angle and when they play the movie i fell like i am actually in it and forget that we are in movie it was awesome .when the movie is finish i was thinking that its always better to make student see the information and feel it its better than talk about it because in that way he will grasp the idea really quick and he will never forget it so i ask Marti "do you have any cooperation with universities or schools so that they send their student to see an experiment or specific science subject" and she replied yes we have another films and we work on making more.

then we get down to the labs we met PH.D Cindy Encarnacion the director of life sciences she welcome us and begin talk about the science center and the mission they have while she speaking we saw the kids and how they react to what they saw like a bird or leather from an animal but what really was amazing is the 3rd picture i keep looking to them with the 3rd class and without it noticing the difference.

Kids, or should I say, young Scientists

we go to the lab with Cindy and the first thing we saw is little kids with white custom that all the science wear i saw the kids and how they react the lab was contain DNA analysis ,finger print recognition and the kids just love it and i just thinking with my self that this is the best idea to motivate the kids to learn to make them see what the science is rather than talking about it for an hour with mathematical concept . i bet when those child get back to the class and the teacher talk about DNA they will say ohhhhh DNA i saw that i know it its like the human id and he will talk about it in enthusiastic way and he want to learn about it rather than counting the time for the boring science lecture to finish i wonder why we don't have this in iraq and why the labs are always closed .

then we go to see another lab but this time its really different its not for kids  its for real scientists we saw some mutate creature and its like what you see in tv and wonder if that real guess what its real 
then we went to see their IT stuff they done good job but they are not that advance but they do really good job.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Washington, D.C.

Welcome to our blog! my name is Saif, I am one of the six IT interns. We started our program from Washington, D.C., discovering and visiting companies/universities with our guides from AED (Jill & Julia).

It was the first time for me to visit the United States, and to explore the country; even my first time seeing real snow and playing with each other with snowballs! Our tour in Washington, D.C. gave me self-motivation to start my internship, so I hope that I can do much more than I expect within my internship at Howcast in San Francisco.


The Important Knowledge

In the previous days, mainly I have just been involved with many web technologies and the web development team I work on, gathering information from multiple databases, and then putting them into interactive maps on the website. That is what my supervisor, Floyd and the team manager, Jacob have been working on with me;
besides many graphical tools and secretes I have learned from Paul (the cool web designer).

Floyd still invites me out with his family, like to the Portland Zoo, a very interesting place for families, and for me! I still love Portland and the people that I work with, but I want to learn more and discover many other places.


you can read more information on my blog:

Big Company, Big Family

I remember when we were sitting in the Embassy of United States in Iraq, itswas about 20 Jan., 2010 and we were talking about the IT Intern Program, and they were talking about the generous gift for us from AT&T, the Blackberry with free phone calls inside the U.S., and I remember the look in the face of the speaker man of the Embassy when he said a Blackberry!!

BlackBerry Bold 9000 Phone, Black (AT&T)

It was really a generous gift from AT&T! When we arrived to Washington, D.C., the AED staff brought our phones and we played with the GPS for the whole day because it's new technology to us in Iraq. Frankly I see that it was a very generous gift to give, but when I first entered the AT&T building in St. Louis, I realized that this company is different, despite the fact that the company is so big! Just in St. Louis we have 3 big buildings!

The Pipe, the Data Center and the main AT&T building, where I work, all of them are big buildings, connected together. There are so many employees and the company is so huge it's really fascinating. And what I really consider a phenomena, is the way the company treat its employees.

It's like a big family where everybody cares and everybody greets you with a big smile. I belief part of what makes AT&T a very successful company is the way they treat their employees. They give them the option to work from home, if they can't come in, and they ask their opnions, and listen to their suggestions. They even give birthday parties for employees, it's like one big family filled with love.

At Work

It is amazing how my first day at work is going; it's simply too good to be true! We arrived at 8 am and see our supervisor, Sara Gateley, she was just walking through the stairs and waved to us. She helped us get our badges to get into the company. Then we headed upstairs to our office, it's on the 22nd floor of the building. The building is so big, it consists of 42 floors!

Then she gave us instructions about how to begin work and fit in at the company. At 9am we were invited to a breakfast on the 41st floor, hosted by the most kind and lovable person in the company, Debra Hollingsworth. If I wanted to describe this woman, I would simply say that she is an angel filled with life and action. She invited so many people to the breakfast, and introduced us to all of them!

All of us were sitting and everyone gave a little introduction about who they are and what they do in the company, then we started eating. Then she brought us some gifts, one of them is the flip camera, which appears in the picture below.

Flip UltraHD Camcorder, 120 Minutes (Black)

After we had this lovely breakfast and met all these wonderful people, we exchanged our emails and telephone to keep in touch. In fact, everybody was giving me their address and telling me whenever I want any help, they will be more than happy to provide it.

I am going back to my office, so excited to start work again at AT&T. The staff thinks very well, and plans everything. They tell us that we will explore, how the company works, and what is the software lifecycle. Then we decided in what teams we want to work. When it was about 11 o'clock, Debra Hollingsworth took us to a restaurant. She was so nice, that she read our bios, and asked for our dietary restrictions. Since she knows that I am vegetarian, she took us to a Thai restaurant, because they have a variety of veggie food.

        Debra Hollingsworth and me

When I arrived to St. Louis

After we left San Francisco, I was a little sad because I never heard anything about St. Louis before, but I found out that St. Louis is an awesome place to live.

We got up early and went, the three of us: Julia, Sarbast and me to the airport to take our plan to Denver. After landing in Denver, we got another plane to St. Louis, Missouri. We arrived to St. Louis and headed to our hotel. On the way to the hotel, I saw a big building and at the top of it, the label of AT&T appeared. It was fascinating! Then we arrived to Mansion House.

Our room in the Mansion House was booked by AT&T, and they pay for the rent. The place was awesome in every aspect of it! The apartment is so big and huge, and it's on the 29th floor with a big window with a view of the arch. This is one of the most famous buildings in the St. Louis; it iss built to represent the idea that St. Louis is the gateway to the west. And the most important thing is that it's near the AT&T company, so we can walk by it on our way to work. It's awesome in every aspect of it!

AT&T has thought about everything, and they make sure that our stay is pleasant and comfortable. They think about everything! Even the internet! We have a free access to the internet.Then Julia left us and went to her hotel; of course not as big as our room in the Mansion House, because it's the best in St. Louis.
The next day we went to AT&T. It was our first meeting with the company. They welcomed us and asked us about our stay, or if we need anything. I met my boss, Frances Rogers, for the first time, and my supervisor, Sarah Gateley, and their boss, a very nice woman. I think she is from Texas...I don't remember her name.

After they welcomed us, Julia said that she had to go because the bad weather in D.C., and she left. Then we stayed talking about our work in the company. The best thing is I feel so comfortable, even if I am talking to my boss, because they are so friendly and welcomed me and Sarbast very well. Then we went back to our fancy apartment, to prepare for the next day of work.

Monday, February 22, 2010

AT&T Innovation Center

When I was a kid, I always loved to watch films about aliens and on the edge technology advanced stuff like super communication and spy cameras etc ...I never imagined that I could see that for real, but guess what! I did! It was Thursday, January 28, 2010 in Washington, D.C. when we went to the AT&T Innovation Center, the most high-tech place you could ever visit in D.C.

Iraq IT Interns with AT&T employees

When we arrived to the AT&T Innovation Center, we met a gentleman (I don't recall his name, but he is on the right side of the picture) and he began to talk about Uverse and high-tech equipment AT&T has started to develop. But what really took my attention is Doctor Bag, a high-tech bag with a screen in it that can contact a doctor and send the test to him and ask him for solution for the problem whatever it is. They designed this so that they can give medical care to the people whom live far away of medical care, in dangerous areas.

The first thing that jumped in my head is that we can take this to Iraq and it will be something we really benefit from. I had a small talk with Richard Robbins, Director of Social Innovation, AT&T Public Affairs. He is a resourceful man. I really benefited from talking to him, and I asked him why AT&T doesn't come to Iraq to invest, because we need a good service like the service offered here by AT&T. He said that it is uncertain right now, but he thinks it's still an option for the company to consider. And if they don't invest in Iraq, I think Iraq should contact them because they could benefit from the device I talked about earlier the, the "Doctor Bag".

After that, we went to the conference room. It was an amazing place to be! There the room was designed by a team from Hollywood to do the decor, and they painted the wall in a fantastic way. The technical part was done by cooperation between AT&T and Cisco. And when we tested a video conference to communicate with another person at another AT&T office, it seemed so real, that we thought that the man on the other side was actually with us. It was simply amazing!

Stanford University

After visiting Google, the van started and we headed to one of the best universities in the U.S., Stanford University.

The interns with a professor and his assistant form Stanford

When we arrived to the university, we realized that we were in one of the most fascinating places. The university is so big, and so beautiful! On campus, I saw some advertisements from companies, like Google, inviting students to apply for fellowships.When we talked to a professor on campus, he spoke about a student's future in the U.S. The student starts to work in his field after his graduation. Of course before that, he works in an unrelated area, so that he can earn money, but here is the dfference in the equation. In the U.S., companies come to the university campuses to make contact with the student, while he is a student, to work with them. Then the student has the opportunity to apply what he learns in university, to work, in a real world application.


We wish we had an opportunity like this back in Iraq. An opportunity where there is real cooperation between companies, and universities start to teach students what real world application is, instead of teaching them just the concept.

I cant believe how fast time is going. We spent the time with the professor talking, and talking, then it's time to go. But before that, there is one thing that caught my attention. That is the statistics done by the university to keep track of their students. The professor makes it clear how many of the students work while at the university; around 20%. He also talks about the students working in companies, and the students whom start their own businesses.

If you keep track of your student, you will know your strengths and your weaknesses, and you will know if you have a problem, and how to fix it. In Iraq, we simply don't do that, and i wonder if  the professors in our intern group realize this fact or not, and why they don't do it.

This makes me start thinking of leaving the whole IT profession, and start a new university in Iraq, where a student has a real opportunity to work not inside Iraq alone, but even at international companies.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Behind Google's Closed Door

Nowadays it is a norm that whenever we need a piece of information, to get a definition of an unfamiliar word, to find a Web site that we don’t know the exact URL for or even to check the spelling of a word or a name, what we do, of course, is we “Google it.” It is interesting how many people are behind this simple Web page, or to be more specific, behind the little dummy-looking button that is labeled “Google Search.” And how many smartly-written lines of code are behind it.

The van took us from San Francisco to Silicon Valley, the U.S. location of all the major high-tech companies such as Adobe Systems, Advanced Micro Devices, Apple, Cisco, HP, Intel, Oracle, Yahoo, eBay and the list goes on. Silicon Valley has 280,300 high-tech jobs with an average salary of more than $144,000 a year, according to Wikipedia. That is higher than the average physicians’ salary in the United State, as reported by And Google is one of the biggest names among these companies. It made around $1.5 billion in the first three months of 2009, according to the Guardian newspaper.

We arrived just in time to Googleplex, the name of Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. I immediately noticed the beauty of the area, colorful buildings, nice gardens, statues for famous inventors, a volleyball yard and a funny dinosaur skeleton. We entered the main building; at the front desk there is a big screen that displays real-time queries of Google users around the world. On the left there is one of the very first servers that Google used, and it was built by Google’s engineers at that time.

The funniest thing in Googleplex is that the furthest cafeteria from each working office should not be more than 100 feet (nearly 30 meters). And because of that they have coffee machines, chocolate bars, candies and all kinds of juices and sodas nearby the offices in addition to the main restaurant, which serves mainly all kinds of foods for free.

After having lunch with my new IT friends and developers in Google, we continued our tour in the building. The most astonishing thing was the circular screen that has Google Earth on it, controlled by a joystick, which was specially designed for Google Earth. It simply enables the user to fly over the world and zoom in to the place in a fraction of a second. And if the user did not want to use the joystick, he can simply pronounce the name of the city, and it suddenly appears.

The work environment in Google is different; most of the employees are young, and they dress in a very casual manner--no need for business suits at all. The offices are close to each other, and those in the same area are more likely working on the same project or task. The managers in Google have created the ideal environment for creativity and competency; it is created in a way that the employees love their offices more than their apartments.

There is a big library in Goolgeplex for the ITs who take advantage of their leisure to enrich themselves with new knowledge. Google also provides housing for its employees who do not live in the city. They have swimming pools, gyms and many other entertainment means. They work, invent, enjoy, make money, help people--like helping rescue efforts via Google Maps in Haiti --and learn at the same time.

“Google’s main revenue comes from advertising” one of the young marketing employees told me. “The way we do it is that we charge the cost per click.” That means if a company advertises with Google, each time a user reaches the company’s Web site through a Google Ads portal, Google will charge that company a certain amount of money. And if someone tried to click many times on the same link trying to ruin the advertising process, it will not work because Google immediately determines whether that click is made based on a good intention or not. And the reason the code behind Google’s search engine is smartly written is because it brings back the most relevant information based on the phrase itself, location of the user and other variables. That is the biggest reason that makes Google the top search engine.

There are still several unique experiences inside Googleplex that there is not enough room to mention. However, visiting Googleplex summarizes the life in Silicon Valley and other high-tech cities. Finally, the hardest moment of this tour was when I left Googleplex because once you see this ideal work environment you do not want to leave it.

First Published in

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Congress

The most fascinating place we ever went is the congress. And what i mean by that is not the building itself, although its done in really artistic way, but the idea of democracy and how they apply it. Even small state have the same number of senator and from the other hand to give the bigger state their share they give them by the population in the congress. 

Then we have an unforgettable experience when we get to the restaurant and book store, Busboys and Poets, which is very good combination its gave you the idea of feeding the brain with feeding the body together. We watched President Obama speech its amazing how crowd was the place and how much noise was in it but then the noise was gone and people start to listen.

After a while the interaction was incredible and people talk with each other to discuss what the President said, and even if they have a different point of view, they still smile to each other and talk politely. 

Now I get what they mean when they say that democracy is not just a law, its something that you do over and over until you get it.

The Iraqi Embassy in D.C.

In D.C. we visited the Iraqi Embassy. It was really great at the beginning because we felt like we are at home and we literally at home because it's Iraqi land. Then after a while we realized that we are really at home because of the way that the things run in the Embassy is the same is in Iraq.They're so obsolete, their website is static, and they still use paperwork.

But we see a hope when we were eating the delicious Iraqi meal with the AED staff and a representative from the State Department. We see the people in the Embassy whom start talking about how they want to build a new website for the Embassy and how they show us their concerns and payed attention to what we said. We discussed lots of things and we offered to help them with building a new website for the Embassy of Iraq in the U.S., but sadly we don't meet them again, but we will contact them soon and help them with that .

University of Maryland

It was in the morning, I was sleepy and tired and the phone just ring and despite of how sleepy I was I just get energetic and enthusiastic when I pick up the phone because I feel the excitement and the power and passion in my friend's voice when he told me "Wake up Sadeq! Come on and take a breakfast today, we will go to the University of Maryland!" We ate as fast as we could, then the AED staff came in and told us that its time to go, and we couldn't wait for this moment.

When we got to the university we went to see where their server is kept, and see their advance equipment, and the funny thing is that we see this equipment for the first time despite of our knowledge in the IT field and our work in it. Then we have the privilege to see some of the professors in the Business College and talk to them. And for the first time, we know what the research means. We actually see the college help its students start new research projects and help them with their idea to invent something new. I was wondering could we do the same in Iraq, and my friend look at me straight in the eyes and told me "We will, we will".

I smile because I see the hope and the future of Iraq when I see the excellent group that I am with. I wish I could publish their names, but I think it's not safe right now; so I will publish them when the time comes, and Iraq is safe for all of us. And I hope that day comes soon.

Then we went to the Computer Science class with David, the intelligent designer who work with AED, and after that we went back to our hotel in D.C. And despite of how tired we are, we just sit down and talk about our perceptions, and what should be done in Iraq.

The Journey

The journey started on Tuesday, October 20, 2009 at the U.S.-Iraq Business and Investment Conference when Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton annouced the Iraq IT Interns program. The program selects 6 Iraqis from the IT industry, and I am lucky enough to be one of them.
I can see the excitement and the enthusiasm in the eyes of all the 6 interns. Even in hotel in Jordan, all the interns discuss the future of Iraq, the infrastructure of the internet, their ideas about how to make it better, and frankly listen to a real solution to what seems to be the biggest problem in Iraq. These skillful young people know so much, and they always come up with the easiest, and the best solution. I am so proud to be with such a group of excellent people.

We are 6 interns, but they think like an army of intelligent scientists. I can't imagine how much they could do if they got the chance. In fact, I believe that these skillful people, despite of how young they are, will make their own future and create their own opportunity.

We arrived to DC on 24 Jan 2010. We met a lot of important people to discuss the future of Iraq and got to know so many things in so little time; the information was overwhelming, and I keep getting new ideas after every meeting. And what astonishes me, is that even if we have two meetings a day, and basically we discuss the same issues, the interns always come up with a new idea, and it is like meeting new people every time.

Salaam Alaykum!

Welcome to the Iraq IT Interns' blogspot! Right now we have six Iraqi IT young professionals placed at various companies around the U.S., taking part in a 12-week internship. The five companies participating in this pilot program are: AT&T (St. Louis), Blue State Digital (Boston), Engine Yard (San Francisco), Howcast (San Francisco), and Mercy Corps (Portland).

AED invites you to follow the interns' blog, as they share their first-hand impressions with you on this life-changing experience!

Julia Borland
Program Associate, AED