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‘Engineers must be a jack of all trades and aim to master one’

Mastercard’s Uzair Qureshi discusses the exciting elements of his role, such as helping to design and build the company’s carbon calculator.

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Software engineer Uzair Qureshi has lived in several places, including Mexico, Turkmenistan and Pakistan. He now lives in Ireland and works at Mastercard Foundry, the innovation arm of payments giant Mastercard.

He told SiliconRepublic.com his role is always exciting because of the emerging technologies he gets to work on, from new payment flows to quantum computing.

‘If you don’t keep moving forward, you will stand still’
– UZAIR QURESHI

If there is such a thing, can you describe a typical day in the job?

Since returning to Mastercard Foundry following my internship in 2019, my routine has been drastically different due to us all working from home. The first thing I do in the morning is head to the gym as I find working out sets me up for the day.

After my workout, I start my daily activities by preparing for upcoming meetings. I look forward to my team catch-up over coffee around 10am in the place of the typical office kitchen chats.

We follow an agile project management flow using Jira, with a daily stand-up on Microsoft Teams, which allows the team to collaborate and discuss any blockers or issues. Then, for the rest of the day, we work on our delegated tasks.

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Apart from the assigned tasks, Mastercard encourages upskilling and allows time to learn new technologies through our internal learning platform. We are also encouraged to collaborate with other teams across the organisation, typically through interdisciplinary learning groups, where new ideas are shared and discussed.

I personally keep up to date with the knowledge graph group where we discuss the latest graph technologies and products used in Mastercard.

My day ends around 5pm or 6pm when I start to unwind for the evening and meet with friends or colleagues.

What types of engineering projects do you work on?

In Foundry, we de-risk the development and execution of new products and services. We work on various emerging technologies, so projects and sectors change quite rapidly, from new payment flows to quantum computing, which keeps work exciting and fun.

The most interesting project I’ve worked on to date is the Mastercard carbon calculator. As part of our Priceless Planet initiative, the project was introduced to our team as a concept and it was our job to build, test and deploy it for an internal pilot programme within a few months.

The application integrated several of our APIs to build a solution to enable cardholders to gain insight into the effect their day-to-day spending has on the planet. This project went from design to internal market testing with the help of our internal product engineering platform called Forge.

Forge is transforming the developer experience in Mastercard by providing a self-service, cloud-based infrastructure and automated software development life cycle (SDLC).

In addition, Forge uses the latest DevOps tools and automation to empower teams to move fast through the SDLC with confidence. This is important when testing new products with customers like we did with the carbon calculator.

My team worked on the Forge internal developer documentation website, using GatsbyJs with React. It was an exciting challenge for me to build a performant documentation site fit for purpose.

Which engineering skills do you use daily?

As a full-stack engineer, understanding all tiers of an application, back-end, front-end and database, is crucial. My daily job requires taking a business problem and mapping out how the software components should fit together architecturally.

I use Spring Boot (Java) for back-end services and Angular/React for front-end UI. Technology stacks evolve and change over time, so understanding the core principles of the stacks will always pay dividends.

There will always be new things to learn at Mastercard, so you will need to draw on unexpected skillsets. It’s important to adapt to new ideas and challenges.

What are the hardest parts of engineering?

The hardest part of engineering is keeping up with a consistently evolving field. Research and development has been at its peak due to collaborative efforts from the global community. Products and technology are innovating at a fast pace, and our job is to incorporate and implement better, innovative customer experiences.

Keeping a schedule to upskill yourself within different fields consistently is very important. If you don’t keep moving forward, you will stand still.

Do you have any productivity tips that help you through the day?

I have enjoyed using an app called Centered to help set up my daily workflow. It’s a timed to-do list, where you can add tasks against a time limit, so you get a better overview of how long small tasks take to complete throughout the day.

Besides that, automating your recurrent tasks adds a lot of value, such as quick Git commands scripts, quick links to tools, Vim, etc. The Forge platform has a command-line interface to help us spin up and update our applications, allowing us to quickly see our changes from desktop to the cloud environments.

Which skills and tools are you using to communicate daily with your colleagues?

We use both text and video channels to communicate with our colleagues throughout the day, including Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Outlook. We maintain a lot of group text channels, where questions can be asked guilt-free and a swift reply is always available.

We like to keep an open-door policy, where anyone is free to ping each other at any time. This helps resolve issues quicker as you don’t have to consistently slot in video chats to already busy diaries to ask non-pressing questions and the person is able to reply at their own pace. When more dialogue is required, we can easily start video chats and screen share.

How has this role changed as the engineering sector has grown and evolved?

As the engineering sector has grown, the role has become very segmented. Additional roles have been created under the same umbrella to allow for specialisation in a specific field.

This is due to technology continuously evolving and improving. Paths under engineering have diverged significantly and must be chosen to allow more focus time.

For example, you have a blockchain engineer and a cloud engineer both applying knowledge differently. I studied computer and electronic engineering, however I’ve ended up focusing more on computer engineering towards the end. So, an engineer must be a jack of all trades and aim to master one.

Mastercard uses a lot of the latest tools and technologies, so I’m fortunate that I can keep up to date in my role and also have the opportunity to introduce new technologies such as graph databases, which I suggested for my latest project.

What do you enjoy most about working as an engineer?

I love the problem-solving aspect. The challenge to solve interesting, real-world problems that have yet to be worked out and always finding ‘gotchas’ pushing you to reassess your solutions.

Inventing, designing and testing complex systems to fulfil objectives keeps the workday exciting.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to work in engineering?

I would recommend focusing on understanding abstracts of many fields in engineering. This provides a better understanding of how different components can be used to solve an issue rather than being a one-trick pony.

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European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.


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China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending ‘Taikonauts’ To The Moon From 2030 Onwards

China Reveals Lunar Mission

The Voice Of EU | In a bold stride towards lunar exploration, the Chinese Space Agency has unveiled its ambitious plans for a moon landing set to unfold in the 2030s. While exact timelines remain uncertain, this endeavor signals a potential resurgence of the historic space race reminiscent of the 1960s rivalry between the United States and the USSR.

China’s recent strides in lunar exploration include the deployment of three devices on the moon’s surface, coupled with the successful launch of the Queqiao-2 satellite. This satellite serves as a crucial communication link, bolstering connectivity between Earth and forthcoming missions to the moon’s far side and south pole.

Unlike the secretive approach of the Soviet Union in the past, China’s strategy leans towards transparency, albeit with a hint of mystery surrounding the finer details. Recent revelations showcase the naming and models of lunar spacecraft, steeped in cultural significance. The Mengzhou, translating to “dream ship,” will ferry three astronauts to and from the moon, while the Lanyue, meaning “embrace the moon,” will descend to the lunar surface.

Drawing inspiration from both Russian and American precedents, China’s lunar endeavor presents a novel approach. Unlike its predecessors, China will employ separate launches for the manned module and lunar lander due to the absence of colossal space shuttles. This modular approach bears semblance to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, reflecting a contemporary adaptation of past achievements.

Upon reaching lunar orbit, astronauts, known as “taikonauts” in Chinese, will rendezvous with the lunar lander, reminiscent of the Apollo program’s maneuvers. However, distinct engineering choices mark China’s departure from traditional lunar landing methods.

The Chinese lunar lander, while reminiscent of the Apollo Lunar Module, introduces novel features such as a single set of engines and potential reusability and advance technology. Unlike past missions where lunar modules were discarded, China’s design hints at the possibility of refueling and reuse, opening avenues for sustained lunar exploration.

China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending 'Taikonauts' To The Moon From 2030 Onwards
A re-creation of the two Chinese spacecraft that will put ‘taikonauts’ on the moon.CSM

Despite these advancements, experts have flagged potential weaknesses, particularly regarding engine protection during landing. Nevertheless, China’s lunar aspirations remain steadfast, with plans for extensive testing and site selection underway.

Beyond planting flags and collecting rocks, China envisions establishing a permanent lunar base, the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), ushering in a new era of international collaboration in space exploration.

While the Artemis agreements spearheaded by NASA have garnered global support, China’s lunar ambitions stand as a formidable contender in shaping the future of space exploration. In conclusion, China’s unveiling of its lunar ambitions not only marks a significant milestone in space exploration but also sets the stage for a new chapter in the ongoing saga of humanity’s quest for the cosmos. As nations vie for supremacy in space, collaboration and innovation emerge as the cornerstones of future lunar endeavors.


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Aviation and Telecom Industries Reach Compromise on 5G Deployment

The Voice Of EU | In a significant development, AT&T and Verizon, the two largest mobile network operators in the United States, have agreed to delay the deployment of 5G services following requests from the aviation industry and the Biden administration. This decision marks a crucial compromise in the long-standing dispute between the two industries, which had raised concerns over the potential interference of 5G with flight signals.
The aviation industry, led by United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby, had been vocal about the risks of 5G deployment, citing concerns over the safety of flight operations. Kirby had urged AT&T and Verizon to delay their plans, warning that proceeding with the deployment would be a “catastrophic failure of government.” The US Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the issue further highlighted the need for a solution.
In response, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) head Steve Dickson sent a letter to the mobile networks, requesting a two-week delay to reassess the potential risks. Initially, AT&T and Verizon were hesitant, citing the aviation industry’s two-year preparation window. However, they eventually agreed to the short delay, pushing the deployment to January 19.
The crux of the issue lies in the potential interference between 5G signals and flight equipment, particularly radar altimeters. The C-Band spectrum used by 5G networks is close to the frequencies employed by these critical safety devices. The FAA requires accurate and reliable radar altimeters to ensure safe flight operations.

Airlines in the US have been at loggerheads with mobile networks over the deployment of 5G and its potential impact on flight safety.

Despite the concerns, both the FAA and the telecoms industry agree that 5G mobile networks and airline travel can coexist safely. In fact, they already do in nearly 40 countries where US airlines operate regularly. The key lies in reducing power levels around airports and fostering cross-industry collaboration prior to deployment.
The FAA has been working to find a solution in the United States, and the additional two-week delay will allow for further assessment and preparation. AT&T and Verizon have also agreed to not operate 5G base stations along runways for six months, similar to restrictions imposed in France.
President Joe Biden hailed the decision to delay as “a significant step in the right direction.” The European Union Aviation Safety Agency and South Korea have also reported no unsafe interference with radio waves since the deployment of 5G in their regions.
As the aviation and telecom industries continue to work together, it is clear that safe coexistence is possible. The delay in 5G deployment is a crucial step towards finding a solution that prioritizes both safety and innovation. With ongoing collaboration and technical assessments, the United States can join the growing list of countries where 5G and airlines coexist without issue.

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