As a girl, Ingy Girgis was fascinated by a work of art in her family home – a framed painting of a young woman sitting by the lake surrounded by mountains. Growing up in Egypt’s bustling capital Cairo, it was hard for her to imagine such peace and quiet. “We lived in the middle of a city with tall buildings and very few trees, with lots of cars and buses honking and people rushing to work. I always stood in front of that painting and said to myself, I’ll be that girl one day. And, believe it or not, now I am. ”
Girgis speaks via Zoom from his home in the coastal village of Killala, Co Mayo. “I lived in a city most of my life, so I know how rewarding it is to wake up in the morning and just hear the birds or the rain. It’s like the sky,” she says. “I think there are a lot of people now who want to move. away from the city and find the peace and beauty of nature. “
The daughter of a businessman and a stay-at-home mom, Girgis and her two younger brothers grew up in an Egyptian middle-class family and attended a private school where she learned to speak English fluently from an early age. Her father worked hard to give his children opportunities; her mother, who also studied business before having children, returned to university when all three children had gone to college. “I grew up watching my dad build his own business and meet challenges. Still, he always made sure we got what we needed, and that my mom took care of us kids and then went back to work because that’s what she wanted. .
“I was really lucky to have parents who pushed us to do what we wanted in life, who understood that if we study a subject, it does not mean that our lives have to go in that direction. They encouraged us to do what we wanted, not what culture required us to do. ”
After school, Girgis studied for a degree in architectural engineering and was fascinated by the work of Iraqi-born architect Zaha Hadid. “She went against the norm and was an amazing woman. She won lots of awards even though people at the beginning of her career said she would not make it. I love people who push through, especially women in male-dominated professions like this. And to see a woman with very creative ideas outside the box thrives in that area, it made me want to be like her. ”
After graduating, Girgis moved to Brighton for a year, where she worked and lived with cousins. “I chose Britain because it felt close enough to home but was English speaking. It is not common in Egypt for a girl to travel on her own. Most people do not leave their parents at 18; they stay with them as long as they want. But I was determined to do things on my own, to work and support myself. ”
Although she liked England, Girgis struggled to settle down, so she began to look for opportunities elsewhere. She had heard positive reports about Ireland and its booming technology industry, so she applied for some jobs across the Irish Sea. In 2015, she was offered a role as a data analyst working with Apple’s map application. She packed her bags and arrived in Cork city on New Year’s Eve.
“I spent that night walking around and seeing people celebrating, and it felt like I was in the right place. I wanted to be somewhere smaller and quieter, but I was not ready for a small town yet. Cork was just the right size for me.”
Girgis spent two years in Cork and formed strong friendships with Apple colleagues from around the world. “I took the same bus to work every day with the same bus driver and I got to know him. I had never experienced that before. When they know you in the local store, it was a really new feeling. You never talk to strangers back home; you were raised not to look people in the eye or say hello. “
In 2017, when the Apple project ended, she started looking for jobs in more rural areas and found a position at an international technology company based in Ballina, Co Mayo. Unlike in Cork, most of her new colleagues were Irish and from the immediate area.
“I was the only foreigner on my team, and the accent was very difficult to understand; it did not sound like English to me. Everyone was so welcoming, but no one could believe that I had moved from Cork to Mayo. They told me that they most people go in the opposite direction; they move to Cork or Dublin. “
For the first time, Girgi could afford to rent his own apartment instead of sharing a house with others; she found a three-bedroom home in Foxford. When the pandemic struck in March 2020, and Ireland went into lockdown, Girgis had moved to Ballina. She was already used to working remotely with her company but found the total lack of human interaction extremely difficult.
“At that time, all I wanted was to be at home with my family. I do not want to say I was depressed. It’s a big word, but I was not me. I am a very happy and happy person and try to find the good in things But not being able to meet friends and be locked up, it was very difficult. “
After having plenty of free time, Girgis began studying at a distance for a degree in pharmaceutical business at Griffith College. When she completed the course, she got a new role at Peroptyx, a Castlebar-based machine learning company that works with AI.
“I felt that I had given everything I could to my previous company, and I am always looking for growth, personally and professionally. I honestly think Peroptyx was the best decision of my career. I have been extremely lucky to find the people I work with. ”
Girgis feels lucky to now live in Killala; she has heard horror stories from friends struggling to rent or buy a house in Ireland. “I have talked to people who rent places that no one should live in for a huge amount of money. It is unfair to people who work hard but can not climb those steps.”
She loves to visit Egypt but says that when she sees the sign “Welcome to Co Mayo” when she returns from the airport, she feels at home. “It’s like I can breathe: I’m home. I’ve never been this far before. I was never attached enough to a place that it feels like home. Egypt has so much to offer, but I wanted something else.”
Living in Ireland has also given Girgis a self-confidence she never thought was possible. “When I came, I was that shy girl who did not trust people easily. Now I say hello to everyone on the street and I am much more relaxed. I can succeed as a woman here and be respected.”
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