Portraits

World Citizen 2.0

Lebanon, France, Spain, USA. Joey DIAB is at home everywhere he goes.. as a software engineer with Apple Inc. Ever since his childhood, he has had the good fortune to evolve in numerous, multicultural places to. Here is his thumb-picture, a portrait.

World Citizen 2.0

The following story, in Joey DIAB’s own expression, then a young undergraduate engineer from UTC-Compiegne, is a perfect summary of his international profile. Leaving France one day for California for his end-of-studies final internship, the US Airport Border officials naturally ask him for his ID papers. Joey presents his Lebanese passport and his Residency Permit (France). A Custom’s Officer then asks him what he was doing in Spain; Joey presents his Student’s ID for the Universidad Polytécnica, Madrid. Lastly, to justify his right to enter the USA, Joey shows his Green Card. Somewhat intrigued, the official takes all these papers to copy them and on returning them, asked Joey “Excuse me, Sir … but where do you actually live?” Joey DIAB had in fact decided to take up residency in California, or to be more precise, in the city of Cupertino, home also to the Headquarters of that famous company with an apple on its headed-paper.

Joey received his early education from the Jesuit congregation at Notre Dame de Jamhour, in the Lebanon and never forgets that his roots are first and foremost in that country which is “rich because of its culture and diversity . From infancy on, we learn to speak French, English and Arabic and indeed none of them is considered to be a foreign language. As we were supposed to choose one, I opted to start learning Spanish as my “foreign” language, at age 14.” Indeed Joey was able to perfect his language skills in Spanish, when he registered a double degree course, jointly organised by UTC-Compiegne and the Universidad Polytécnica, Madrid, spending over one year in Spain under the terms of this agreement. “After the War in Lebanon, many Lebanese immigrated to other countries round the world, and my family was no exception. As far as I personally was concerned, in order to come to France, I first had to convince my parents that I wanted to register at UTC-Compiegne, where the cursus offered corresponded with my personal choices and with my wish to be self-supporting”, Joey explains. Convinced as he was then that his university training would follow his aspirations, he joined UTC’s Computer Science Department and moreover, “made the most” of the UTC-Compiegne associative environment. To illustrate this, he became President of the Esperanto Association, the purpose of which is to help incoming foreign students when they first register at UTC-Compiegne. “I remember being in charge once of a group of about 100 students from 30 different countries. A fabulous experience”. Now that he was fluent in his first four languages, Joey started a course in Chinese: “I realised that I was already keyboard friendly with two language systems and alphabets: Latin and Arabic. What was missing was to get familiar with an Asian language, able to speak it of course, but even more so, to write it !” So, five years later, with his UTC-Compiegne engineering degree in hand, Joey signed up with Apple, in the heart of Silicon Valley. “All the software and hardware majors are there: Facebook, Yahoo!, Google and Hewlett-Packard. This gives you an environment that is conducive to innovation processes, notably because of the sheer number and pervasiveness of computer scientists everywhere you are likely to go and this naturally enhances the discussions you can have that revolve round computer science issues and industries!” In order to see this dream come true, Joey the UTC graduate had to be patient, making the most of the resources available: social networks, Internet sites, graduate or alumni clubs, conversation … he finally got his job interview after two years, then after three an internship and finally the signing of a tenured position with Apple.

Working as a software engineer with the “Localization and Release” Department, Joey is currently responsible for the integration of Arabic in Apple’s market products. “Arabic is one of the bidirectional languages, since it is written from right to left”, Joey explains. “If you want to correctly display an Arabic text on Apple’s various interfaces, you first have to have a perfect understanding of bi-directional algorithms and of course the specifics of Arabic as a language”. In a multicultural team of engineers and translators, Joey works daily alongside Canadians, Europeans, Asians, Indians … “Only my boss is American! And as foreigners in the USA, we defend our cultural values which I think is vital when you are developing products, like Apple’s, for the world market. Naturally we shall find these products where two women are following Joey with special interest: “My Mother and Grand-Mother, who brought me up, know the stock exchange value of Apple® and probably hand out more of my business cards than I do myself!”