Basem Helmy, 24, is passionate about computer security and using technology for good.
interest in computer technology was sparked by something seemingly unrelated: Hollywood.
Watching action films as a boy, he was struck by a movie about a hacker breaking
into a computer system. The film sparked his interest in computer security. He read
as much information as he could about automatic programs and scripts, and phishing.
At this young age, he made a decision: “I decided that I needed to study computer
engineering and learn how the systems run so I could prevent such attacks,” said
Basem, now 24.
It wouldn't be an easy decision to implement. He grew up in Tanta, about 55 miles
north of Cairo in Egypt, with his mother and siblings. His father died when Basem
was just 10. His father was a doctor and had his own practice so the family expected
Basem would follow in his father’s footsteps and enter the medical field. When he
announced that he wanted to be a computer engineer, his family was opposed. Against
their wishes, he enrolled at Tanta University, majoring in computer engineering.
Young people share personal stories of their experiences during the Arab uprisings
at the YouthSpark Live conference in Cairo. A goal of the event was to discuss
the role technology played in the protests.
want to solve problems,” Basem explained. “I want to think outside the box.”
Basem found out about the Microsoft Student Partners (MSP) program at Tanta University.
MSP provides training to university students around the world in the latest advances
in technology from Microsoft and helps them share their newly gained knowledge with
other students. Basem applied, and he was accepted to represent his school in the
program during his third year at the university.
“It was an indescribable moment when I was accepted,” Basem said. “The first day
of Microsoft Student Partners, I walked to the front of the building and remembered
the first time I ever saw that logo, and dreamed of working there. It was proof
for me that I can reach my goals with hard work.”
Participants gather at the YouthSpark Live event in Egypt to share stories and
learn about social entrepreneurism.
During that time, Basem attended a session about Microsoft’s Corporate Social Responsibility
initiative, led by Ghada Khalifa, Citizenship manager of Microsoft Egypt. Inspired
by that experience, he joined TechHope, a YouthSpark program to engage MSPs in volunteering
for community initiatives and activities focused on information technology. At TechHope,
Basem worked on information security and Internet safety and coordinated sessions
for students on those topics.
Partway through university, Basem faced a health issue and required serious medical
attention. Still, Khalifa said, he maintained a strong focus on his work as well
as on his studies. He continues to pursue national projects on Internet safety and
creating Arabic educational materials for youth and children.
“It is not common that you meet a person with so much determination to overcome
his challenges in such a cheerful manner,” Khalifa said. Basem’s dogged pursuit
of knowledge in the technology field and multiple various experiences with Microsoft
have borne fruit: he now works in Egypt as an information security engineer.
attending last year’s YouthSpark Live event in Egypt, at which youth shared their
experiences in the Arab uprisings and learned about social entrepreneurism, Basem
decided to establish TEDx Tanta. With help from Microsoft, he organized the first
TEDx event at his school. Called Unveiling Hidden Potential, the event took place
just a few months after the revolution in Egypt that began in January 2011, and
the major changes in the country were a principal focus. Three hundred young people
attended shared ideas on how technology could be used to build the new Egypt, and
how citizenship initiatives of major companies could be part of that effort.
“We shared ideas about the next step in developing our country,” Basem said. The
event encompassed what he wanted to achieve as a boy: securing safety for the world
through technology. “It was a start for a new beginning.”