As Bahrain is gearing towards the tech revolution, a lot of the focus is being shifted towards not only keeping up with the fast-paced tech industry but also leading it. Since tech or IT backgrounds are the most sought after at the moment, with more and more young people starting careers in the field, we had to have a conversation with someone who’s been there and done that (and continues to do so) to try and understand what it’s like to get into the tech field and the many possibilities it has to offer.
Ameen Altajer is one of the names which are synonymous with the tech movement in Bahrain. An avid techy, Ameen’s knowledge and passion spans through different areas from Artificial intelligence (AI) to Game Development. We spoke with Ameen and got to learn his perspective on growing tech industry in Bahrain.
How would you explain what you do to people who may not have a tech background?
I'm the managing director of INFINITWARE, we're an artificial intelligence company, Bahrain's very first AI company to be more exact, the whole work that we do revolves around two main things:
The first thing that we do is integrate artificial intelligence to support organizations in reaching their goal, be it financial or social, this is really valuable because artificial intelligence is now so accurate in translating your raw and crude "data" into valuable insights and accurate predictions, this is normally referred to as "knowledge", and with better "knowledge" you are more likely to make better business decisions, this could either make or break businesses.
The second this is what we refer to as "automation", now finding good insights and solid predictions is only half of the solution, putting this "knowledge" to use by translating all these of findings into automated actions is the holy grail or each company, enter automation, two examples of this are customer sentiment analysis and real-estate property estimation, let me shed more light how that's pretty useful:
Through the power of AI, we can really assess customers’ sentiment towards a specific brand by analysing their vocal tone on the phone while talking to customer service, it's now even possible to do this through face gestures, you can now accurately estimate if your customers are happy about your services, product, and brand. You begin to appreciate the beauty of automation when you automatically offer free loyalty programs and offers to customers who are thinking about switching to a competitor, for example, automation is all about offering intelligent solutions on spot.
Another thing that we offered to one of our clients is the ability to fairly estimate the true value of certain real-estate properties, and not only that, the system automatically initiates conversation with property owners to express interest in such properties when the value is just about right.
When you see all of this in action live, you really appreciate the magic of both AI and automation, that's what we do.
How big is the game development industry in Bahrain, and what are some of the ongoing and upcoming developments in gaming in Bahrain?
The game industry in Bahrain is still in its very early stages, to be frank, but there are a lot of good things that are happening that make me super optimistic for what the future holds in Bahrain.
I remember there was only dust when I first started the whole game development scene in Bahrain back in 2012, there were zero game development communities, no government involvement, no presence in gaming events whatsoever, it was pretty difficult to convey to people what making game takes and the craft's social and financial incentives.
Fortunately for us all, things have changed drastically years later of hard work, even though there is so much room for more progress, now certain government parties acknowledge the potential of the craft and the presence of the community in Bahrain, they even consult my business and the community when it comes to meeting regional studios and ventures, we now get support of multiple parties when we create game development events.
In fact, we managed to do Bahrain's very first game development conference: the GCC Game Conference, where we had regional talent, we had speakers and professionals coming in to share their experience on the technical matters of making games and also the business side of it, it went really well, I'm super glad of how this turned out, Bahrain now has several game studios that are working on their own projects, I’m honestly very impressed by how this changes the game in Bahrain, pun intended!
In my game development ventures, it's always been important to let customers understand the potential of the medium, how strong it is in conveying messages and information in an interactive fashion, the fight is still going on but we're making some amazing progress both on the community level and on the business front in INFINITWARE.
With Bahrain becoming the tech hub in the region, based on your experience, what are the most in-demand specializations at the moment in Bahrain?
That's a very tricky question but I can tell you that following the trends always might not be the best choice for the long run, it's almost very easy for youngsters to get excited about trendy technologies and just ship to focus their efforts and time on fads that could go really quick, a true professional will never take technology decisions based on trends and buzzwords flying around, you need to assess the likelihood of a technology to survive and then commit to it.
In my honest and humble opinion, it's always important to focus on solid, well-proven technologies and fundamental core skills, let me shed some more light.
A lot of people go crazy when they hear buzzwords, especially investors or pure business people and by that they create this phantom and momentarily need for certain trends, the problem is that these skills and disciplines go away in no time, things like the blockchain, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and augmented reality are nice things but when used well in their proper context and justified business case, the problem is when you hear business people making big fuss about such technologies thinking that these technologies are the ultimate silver bullet for every problem in business.
It's not like that, professionals have to realize that technologies won't work for every scenario, take blockchain, for example, if you go around you'll find many people thinking that it's the ultimate solution to almost every problem, that's simply not true.
My ultimate advice is for professionals to focus their efforts and time on subjects that will not render you obsolete in the coming years, things like understanding how the web works, core security concepts, operating systems are the basic principles that will never fade away soon, in fact, the core infrastructure of the internet relies on these technologies, they will never fail you in your career.
What are some of the current and upcoming evolutions/trend in tech, young job seekers into the industry should be aware of?
This exclusively depends on you as a professional or a professional-to-be, let me share my two cents on both AI and game development since this is where I've spent most of my career and experience.
Game development is a very mature field in Europe and North America whereas it’s not in its Middle-East counterpart, if you'd like to take my approach of being physically here while focusing your products and services to serve customers around the world, then you might be able to sustain your business in this field, for this to happen, you either have to be super good in using the tools and technologies available for game development or you'll need to have the vision, commitment and most importantly money to drive your ideas forward, if you're not organized and focused you'll not survive ever in this business, period.
Artificial intelligence is really killing it lately, to join the force you'll need a thorough understanding of math, statistics and data engineering, remember that intelligence without autonomous action is not that useful, this is why you need automation, for that you'll need really good experience in integration and software development.
Blockchain, on the other hand, has many opportunities; not only in the financial sector but away from it too, understanding how the technology works inside out, its short-comings and strength points is really the bread and butter if you plan to have your business flourish in this domain.
Security is very important and it'll never die soon but the twist is that you have to be really good in understanding how systems work, having a thorough programming mindset is really key otherwise you'll not comprehend what you're doing and the scope of the job, the field is very technical-oriented.
Based on your experience, what advice would you give to someone looking into entering the game development market?
Game development has many disciplines that cater to many career choices, that is the absolute beauty of working in this industry.
If you're a programmer at heart and love solving technical problems, you can either hone your skills by programming tools and functionalities to be used by the rest of game designers in the team, game designers are the people who create the ideas that make games fun to play; they're an indispensable gear of the whole game development machinery.
If you love music you can always practice your creativity by composing tracks and emotional pieces that complement the game experience, and if you're an artist then you can go around by building art for the game, be it 2D, 3D or even hand-drawn sketches. Those are just a few roles; it's just amazing how you can really fit within the game development spectrum.