Meet Hamza Al-Husseiny, a mentor for Springboard’s Data Analytics Career Track.
After realizing he disliked corporate life, Hamza Al-Husseiny decided to start a freelance data analytics consulting business and travel the world while mentoring students enrolled in Springboard’s Data Analytics Career Track.
He now divides his time between Dubai and his hometown of Cairo, working with clients scattered across the world in industries ranging from oil and gas to IT and education management. One of his favorite things about working remotely is having the opportunity to meet so many more people than he would if he were bound to an office.
What is a digital nomad, and why do you consider yourself one?
There are different types of digital nomads. Some work full-time. Others, like me, rely on contracting. You can find clients on websites like Fiverr or by networking. Most freelancers are location-independent and can become digital nomads more easily.
The second reason I consider myself a digital nomad is I don’t enjoy corporate life. I like having the freedom to work wherever I want. Mind you, being a freelancer is a huge responsibility because you are your own boss. No one runs quality-control checks on your work. But greater risk equals greater rewards.
Do you travel full-time?
Not all of the time. I’m mainly stationed in Dubai and Cairo. I work from these locations because I have friends and family here. I might go work in Malaysia in a year or so. It’s one of many countries that grants a digital nomad visa.
Why was it important to you to have a fully remote job?
I’m an extrovert, and I love talking to people, but I also like to do different things simultaneously. Having a full-time job gives you the benefit of interacting with people face-to-face and building relationships with your coworkers, but it’s slow-moving. You spend 2-3 years in one place interacting with the same 20 people, but when you work as a freelancer, you interact with so many people in a very short time.
What are some of the coolest places you’ve been as a digital nomad?
Hands down, the most beautiful city I’ve been to was St. Petersburg, Russia. It’s like walking through a fairytale. The rivers and buildings are so beautiful, and I love the weather. I live in the Middle East, which is hot most of the time.
But my favorite place to do business is Dubai. Everything is convenient. The city is safe and multicultural and has fantastic beaches for those who want to fulfill the digital nomad’s dream of working from the beach.
Finding a good place to work remotely is tricky, especially outdoors. Can you recall a time when things went completely wrong for you?
Once, I traveled to Alexandria on the northern coast of Egypt during the winter, known for heavy rain. I was working from a cafe, and when the rain started hitting the tin roof overhead, the noise was so loud my clients had to stop the meeting because they couldn’t hear me.
Also, beaches are unsuitable for your laptop because there’s a lot of moisture, poor Wi-Fi connection, and too much background noise for Zoom meetings. You don’t want to miss a deadline because someone hit your laptop with a volleyball or something like that.
How do you manage the time differences between you and your clients?
I have several clients in the UK. Their morning hours are during the nighttime here in Cairo. I block off one or two hours at the end of the day to catch up with my clients. Managing time differences requires you to stick to a schedule: go to sleep, wake up, and have breakfast at the same time each day.
The last three months of the year tend to be slow. This is when you can take a vacation, travel wherever you want, and visit family and friends while working part-time.
What’s your best piece of advice for other aspiring digital nomads?
Always have a backup plan. If something goes wrong with my internet connection, I have a hotspot device available. When I book airline or train tickets, I know which websites offer discounts. Being a digital nomad makes you overanalyze things sometimes, but it has taught me to be thorough.
How has becoming a digital nomad changed you as a person?
I’ve learned how people in different parts of the world use technology. For example, people in Europe might get specific tasks done in a few minutes while it takes you an hour, and vice versa. This is because they use different apps than we do.
You also learn that culture doesn’t only reflect what people eat or how they dress; it affects how they work. This perspective gives you an edge that helps you land more clients because you have more empathy. At the end of the day, technology is about people working with people. Computers and software applications are just intermediaries.
Do you have an example of a cultural norm you learned about recently that surprised you?
Malaysia has a small Hindu population that honors “Nyepi,” a day of silence, every year. The lights in the city are turned off, and there is no electricity use. If you want to work during that time, you must leave the city. To leave, you must book a ticket two days before that. If you are late, there is nothing you can do. Once, a friend of mine got stuck, and he had to work in the dark using a portable hotspot device. He lit a candle, and when he got on a Zoom meeting, his colleagues asked, “Are you okay? Is something wrong?”
Do you have any stories about trying to get work done from an airport lounge or a cruise ship?
One of my trips to Dubai was an indirect flight. My plane was delayed for some reason, and I forgot to change the time on my watch when I arrived in Dubai. I logged into a Zoom meeting and waited for 10 minutes, but the client didn’t show up. When I emailed them, they responded, “Our meeting was an hour ago.”
As a digital nomad, you’ll have situations like these. If you can make it up to the client, it’ll be a funny story you can tell later.
How does being a Springboard mentor affected your life as a digital nomad?
I get to set my own schedule. I let my students experiment with any tools they want as long as the curriculum permits them. I give constructive feedback when they make mistakes and praise them when they do good.
A lot of teachers tell students, “You made a mistake here. Fix it.” That won’t teach them not to repeat the mistake. And if a student does well, you must also tell them why. This teaches them what the industry standard is and keeps them motivated.