When I first started working at Google in 2006 I was amazed to see that the fabled 20% time really existed, and that it was up to me to decide how to use it. Being of Egyptian descent and having lived in Canada and the U.S., I became increasingly interested in Google's international work. Based on my interests and background, I helped assemble a team of Arabic-speaking engineers and we began to spend 20% of our time on developing Arabic-language products. Over time this has become a more formal effort, so I'm really happy to tell you that today we're stepping up our commitment to users in the Middle East by hiring full-time engineers familiar with the Arabic language and its engineering challenges.

The reality is that in many countries across Middle East and North Africa (MENA) there is only single-digit Internet penetration rate. On the other hand, there are over 330 million Arabic speakers worldwide, many of them hungry for the information, interactivity, and opportunities that the Internet can provide. As more Arabic speaking people come online -- the vast majority via mobile phones -- our team wants to help provide effective and useful products in their native language. For example, despite the fact that there are millions of Arabic speakers worldwide, only approximately 1% of all of the content online is in Arabic. We want to build tools to make content creation even easier for our Arabic-speaking users, encouraging them to connect, share and interact with each other, and with other users around the world.

This isn't easy. Creating an Arabic-language product is actually significantly harder than for most other languages. As mentioned in a previous post about our 40 language initiative, Arabic is written from right to left. An Arabic speaker searching for [Ramadan TV series schedule 2008] (a very popular query during Ramadan) would type [مواعيد مسلسلات رمضان 2008]. Part of the query will be written from right to left in Arabic while the numbers will be written left to right. Sometimes the right-to-left difference can mean having to change the entire layout of a page, as with Gmail.

As you can see, just delivering products in Arabic is challenging, but we also believe the differences mean that the capabilities of the products can be different. There are a large number of new, innovative features and products that need to be created to properly serve the Arabic markets, many of which have fundamental computer science challenges.

Intrigued? Google is looking for the best Arabic engineer minds to join the first dedicated team focused on tackling these engineering challenges. Our goal is to put together a top-notch Arabic engineering team. I am passionate about building an exceptional global team of engineers whose job it will be to design and develop innovative products and features that meet the needs of our Arabic speaking users. I was initially attracted to this challenge because I knew that my work at Google could easily have an impact on tens of millions of people around the world. It especially excites me that for a language that has been underserved to date, we'll be making product innovations that can have a material effect on the future of the region.

Google has been formally recognized in the UK and in the U.S. and publicized worldwide for our unique work environment. The first question I always get from people after they find out I work here is, "Is what we've heard about Google really true?" The short answer: Yes. Two of our offices have slides, and one actually has a firepole between floors. We have numerous gourmet cafes that are free. We have massage therapists available in many locations. And the list goes on. It is truly a fun and rewarding place to work. But what I think what is most exceptional about Google is that we bring our own unique culture to every country we open an office in, and blend it with the uniqueness of the local culture.

Interested in joining our effort? Well if you've heard anything about our interview process, you probably know that simply put, it's tough, but for good reason. When I interviewed two years ago I went through many intense interviews. You're expected to be well versed in areas such as coding, data structures, algorithms, designing large scale systems and, depending on the role, you might be asked leadership questions. Having a Bachelors and Masters in Computer Science definitely helped, but it was still grueling. The interview process was less about what I had memorized from the past (fact-based questions) but instead included questions that showed my ability to apply what I had learned to problem sets that I had never encountered before. I came out of the interview with a deep respect for this style because Google hires the best of the best, and it shows in the rigor of the hiring process.

Are you a great engineer familiar with Arabic speaking skills? We're looking for engineers with the regional knowledge and Arabic language expertise to make Google products more relevant to this important population and to build new products for the global market. If you're interested, please visit our job center and apply for one of the open positions. You could be a part of a team that will positively affect the lives of millions of Arabic users around the world.

Some of our engineers working on Arabic products (L to R):
Mohamed Elfeky, Adel Youssef, Amgad Zeitoun, Ahmad Hamzawi.