My guide to buying things

When I moved from my parent house and the residential school. I started cooking for myself. And from that time, I’m cooking at least 3 days per week (sometimes you just want to eat outside, you know…)

To start cooking from zero, I needed a lot of kitchenware. The decision was easy for some: spoons, knifes, etc. But for others, it wasn’t that easy: blender, rice cooker, and other crazy stuff.

I don’t consider myself a minimalist. But I don’t want to buy things I will rarely use. Or things that have only one usage! For me to buy something, I need to be sure I’ll be using it frequently and is used for more than one thing. Being completely new in this cooking thing. I asked around for advice. And a lot suggested I should buy an immersion blender. “You can use it for juices, soups and lot of things”, they said. So I decided I to give it a try.

I couldn’t afford buying something expensive to find out I rarely use it. So I used a process:

1. Buy a cheap Chinese version of what you want

This helped me validate my need without spending a lot. Generally speaking, a Chinese version is at least 4 or 5 times cheaper. For instance, that immersion blender costs +80$ in Morocco. A Chinese version costs 20-30$.

When trying something new, chances are you’ll be using it everyday. So give it some time and don’t rush to a decision. If you don’t use it at least one time a day/week/month (depends on the item), then it’s probably not a good idea to have it in the first place.

For my immersion blender, I found myself using it a lot in the first week, mainly for juices. But after that, nothing! I barely used it once in a month. I find it hard to keep smashing fruits to make juices. There was too much effort to put in it, at least for me. Comparing it to a blender, where you can throw everything and turn it on. That was a quick decision: I don’t need it.

2. Buy the best your money can get

If you’re using it constantly. You know this product is useful for you. So the next step is to buy the best quality your money can get. And throw that Chinese version away or give it to a friend so they can test their need too.

I like to think of it as an investment. What I’m buying needs to be used for years. And I generally do not fall into the hole of changing things just because a new version is out. Kitchenware will serve you at least for 3/5 years. Others can go beyond that but not less. Some usually have a warranty and you can replace them in the first 2 to 5 years if something bad happened.

One advice, buy only what your money can get and don’t go really all in. Some models, at least for kitchenware, are expensive and usually for professionals. Odds are you don’t need those extra functionalities.

3. Treat it with love ❤

Learn to love your things. Treat them with love. And keep them clean. They are there to make your life easier. The more you invest in keeping them functional and clean the better they’ll help you.


I’ve used this process for everything. From electronics to kitchenware. The only thing I still don’t know how to use this process in it is clothes. I believe this process, as it is, isn’t applicable to them. But maybe a variation of it will be.

I also applied this method when I wanted to buy an action camera. The GoPro costs at least 600$ here. So I ended up buying a Chinese version called Yi Action Camera with less than 100$. In a year, I used it 2 times I think. And for me, that don’t justify me buying a GoPro. Especially with that price tag. So it was a no too.

After trying that immersion blender. I tried a proper blender just after it. And I was using it a lot. One day, I found a deal by accident for a blender and a food processor from Bosch. A german brand known for quality. So I ended up buying both. And I’m using them constantly 🙂

Remote Working: The Untold

When I was in engineering school, I stumbled upon the idea of remote working. That idea of doing your work from anywhere. It is a dream! Right?

That was at least 3 or 4 years ago. And from that day, I started following distributed companies and people working remotely to learn more about this remote working thing.

Fast forward to now. I started working remotely 4 months ago. It’s magical. And I can say, it’s the biggest thing that happened to me so far. I don’t need a vacation to go see my family now. I can now travel to see them and work from there. I can stay as long as I want.

When people think of remote work, they think of working from the pool, traveling all times and living a nomadic style. At least this is what we see in social media. It should be true, right? Well, it depends.

Here I’m going to present you the remote working from a perspective of a new joiner from a third world country. I’ll present what makes remote working challenging compared to going to an office. But also what makes a nomadic style nearly impossible for us, in third world countries.

Ok, let’s go!


Photo by [Juliana Kozoski](https://unsplash.com/photos/IoQioGLrz3Y?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText) on [Unsplash](https://unsplash.com/search/photos/world?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText)

Photo by Juliana Kozoski on Unsplash

Your country

I’ll ask you this simple question:

Is the company you’re working for is based on your country or has a subsidiary there?

If yes, you’re lucky. Basically you’ll be salaried. You have your national healthcare and some other things depending on the law of your country or what the company is offering.

If no, things are different. You’ll be, technicaly speaking, a contractor. Which means, you need to setup a company, get an accountant and get ready for some paperwork. You’ll be responsible for paying your companies’ taxes, your own healthcare, retirement plan…

When you’re a salaried person, money just shows-up, every month, in your personal account. Now, things will get a little bit complicated… Your salary will get to the company’s bank account. And everything you’ll do from now on need to be justified by an invoice in the name of your company.

As you guessed, not everything can be expensed in the name of your company. Your laptop, monitor, and working material can be expensed. Your groceries can not.

The recurrent problem here in Morocco is invoices do not contain all necessary information. Especially in restaurants. They’ll tell you they have a stamp containing those, but the accountant took it. If you came next time, they will stamp it for you… And yes, it’s the same story the next time too. A legend says they are lazy to add them to the invoice. Another one says they just don’t want to be taxed. Either way, you’re not getting paid for that invoice. Sorry!


Photo by [Sidney Pearce](https://unsplash.com/photos/FMuxPtlE89E?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText) on [Unsplash](https://unsplash.com/search/photos/passport?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText)

Photo by Sidney Pearce on Unsplash

Your passport

Let’s get back to our problem, we third world countries: the passport. Even if we can afford traveling while working. Our passport is holding us.

This makes ideas like nomadic living nearly impossible. I’m saying nearly, because you can always plan in advance for a long trip, ask for all the visas you want, and voilà. You want to know how long in advance? Here you go, it’s maths time!

Let’s say you want to go to country A, and country B. To give a best estimation, we’ll not talk about the scenario where A & B need the same Visa, (ie. Europe).

To get a Visa, you need to prepare some documents and then go to the embassy (or a certified service) to deposit your documents. There are two bad news in here. First, generally speaking, if you’re not in a big city, chances are the embassy (or the service offering this) isn’t there. So, get ready to travel my friend. Second, you don’t get that appointment easily. You need to ask for it in advance. In peak season, the waiting time can range from 3 to 8 weeks to get an appointment. In other seasons, it can be a week or two. Let’s say we had it in one week.

Okay. Appointment in hand. Documents ready. I did the deposit and left my passport with the embassy. Now what? You need to wait my friend. Usually, it takes from 3 to 6 weeks to hear from the embassy. And because we’re always optimistic, let’s say it’s just 3 weeks.

And btw, you were crazy enough to ask for appointment in embassy A and B in the same time. You took them one month apart to play it a little bit safe. Nice work, man! After a month, you got your final response. Right!

Let’s wrap this up. To visit a country A and country B, and given the best case scenario, and the fact that the embassy actually accepted your request. You need 7 weeks. That’s two months. Two months in dust. Two months you can’t travel in them. Because simply put: you don’t have your passport…

Compared to others who just grab their passport and go, this is a big disadvantage for us and will likely be forever. Also, if you were in country B and you want to go to country C. You can’t do it abroad. You need to comeback. And do it from your country. Sorry!


Photo by [rawpixel](https://unsplash.com/photos/FQU0c85S70o?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText) on [Unsplash](https://unsplash.com/search/photos/online-communication?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText)

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Your communication

It’s not explicitely stated that writing is important to get a remote job. But it is more important than you can imagine. It’s the essence of communication and you’ll be using it everyday.

You just can’t go to see your friend to tell him how to do things. You can’t express yourself, your ideas or your arguments by your budy language. That’s not working anymore. From now on, you need to write everything down.

Also, the work is going to be done asynchronously now. Your team mates are probably spread around the globe. With different timezones. And different working hours.

It doesn’t really matters if you’re coding or doing customer support or marketing… In all these fields, you need to be a good writer. I’m not talking about writing award winning novels. I’m talking about describing your ideas and intent using simple words so others can understand easily.


Photo by [Dmitry Mashkin](https://unsplash.com/photos/DHdFmjYBDeg?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText) on [Unsplash](https://unsplash.com/search/photos/organised?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText)

Photo by Dmitry Mashkin on Unsplash

Your organization

In a normal job (you know, that one you commute for it). You have those desks touching each others. And sometimes you can sneak peek into the monitor of your friend. They call it the open space. They say, somehow this thing will help you be more productive and collaborate with others. If they are not putting headphones, of course.

Anyway, in those jobs. When you commute. You already know you’re going to work. Deep inside your head, you know this place is only for work, nothing else. Once you leave it, it means the work is finished.

That’s. Going. To. Change. Drastically.

Now, your home is where you live, but also where you work. Your desk is there. Your monitor is there. Your laptop is there. And probably, you’re a notification away from work. And this needs a hell lot of organization to pull it off!

You need to organize things. Your working environment. Your working hours. But also, when to stop. Some call it work/life balance. I don’t like to call it that way. It makes the work part of it sound creepy and unethical. I would say, trust your gut! When you feel you need to stop for that day. Just stop. Sometimes you’ll stop at 4 but others at 6 or 7. It depends.

Given people don’t see each others everyday like normal jobs. You usually need to plan your work and how your days will look like. There is no micro management in remote working. There is a get the work done mindset. It’s built on trust and not sneaking on others’ monitors.

Getting ideas

Last update 07/12/2018

I still remember the first days when I wanted to learn to code…

I wanted to code so I can make things. I love building things, and I still do. I believe I had that maker mind from the start. Now, years later, “making things” si the best advice you can give to someone learning to code. For me, I think I was fortunate, or maybe lucky, to have it from the start.

Even with this eagerness to create something new, I struggled to get new ideas for something I can build with code. That thing should to be 1/ easy enough for me to practice my coding skills 2/ don’t take too much time, but also, 3/ solves a problem.

So I started thinking about all this, then came up with some bad ideas at first. But the more I was thinking about getting them, the more I started getting good ones.

Thinking about it now, I believe that in our head, there is a muscle responsible for getting ideas. This of course isn’t scientifically correct, but used for metaphor only. I like to call it the muscle of ideas.

Like any muscle in our body, we need to train it to make it stronger. The only difference here is we’ll train it by producing ideas and not by some kind of workout. Those first ideas will probably be bad, really bad. And that’s normal. If a muscle was resting for a long time, what was you expecting?

If you search online about this subject. You’ll find people talking about some hacks or some ways of getting ideas. A lot of them even suggest coming up with at least 5 or more ideas every day.

It was different for me. I used another process and I’m still sticking to it so far. To train my muscle of ideas, I forced myself to think about a solution whenever I encounter a problem. And believe me, we encounter a lot everyday. We just need to be curious.

One day, I saw a girl in front of the door, looking up and waiting something to be dropped. Her mom was going to drop the door keys from the 4th floor. I still remember her yelling at the girl and saying “you better catch it, I don’t want that keychain broken”. This is a normal day in Morocco, and we’re used to this. But given that I trained my muscle of ideas to respond to this kind of stimulus. I started thinking about a solution to this problem.

My solution was: a simple keychain that works like a parachute. When the keys are falling, the keychain will open like a parachute and decrease the keys speed. So anyone can catch it without being hurt. I’m not sure if this product exist, or if it’s even possible to do it. But for me, it was a solution to that problem. A way of training my muscle of ideas.

Another day, I was doing the groceries. And the problem with groceries is there is a lot of brands. For things I use frequently, I know which brands to pick, because basically I tested a lot of them. But for other things you buy once in months, how I’m supposed to pick?

I started thinking about a solution, and it was very clear that you need input from other customers. A way of displaying all products and make people vote for the best. So when you want to shop next time, it’s easy to choose.

These kind of situations can happen every day. And I’m sure everyone can pick a problem to think about at least once everyday. In the commute, the grocery store, or in home. We just need to be curious.

So if you want to get ideas for your next project, your next talk or your next book. You need to train your muscle of ideas. There is no shortcut. And there is no hacks. There is work. Picking what idea to work on from all those ideas you come up with is a different story. And that’s for another time…

Saving my life in the last minutes

Back when I had to choose my last internship for my electrical engineering degree, I had two options: An internship in the electrical field, doing what I’m supposed to be doing. The other one was an opportunity I was offered in software development.

By now you probably know my choice, but I wanted to give you an idea about how it all started:

Electrical Engineering

Choosing Electrical Engineering was a mistake I made by listening to people and not doing what I want to do.

I’ve chosen it based on my rank in an test where high ranked choose either Civil, Industrial or Electrical Engineering. I was basically just following the mass. And that, was the biggest mistake I made so far. A mistake that nearly costed me my whole life.

One week is all what took me to discover that electrical engineering wasn’t for me… Nothing seemed interesting in it and I couldn’t imagine myself working in it in the next 5 or 10 years.

I tried switching my major. The administration said “No you can’t”. And that lead me to two conclusions:

  1. You need to study the minimal things to pass exams and get your diploma
  2. You have 2.5 years to figure out what you’ll do about this mess

The positive side is I had plenty of time to learn something on my own.

Software Development

Disclaimer: This is a love story

My crush for software development started when I got my first computer with an internet connection. I used to play with some basic HTML and CSS to create websites and web interfaces. Then we got an Algorithmic course in school with some basic programming with C. And my love for software development started from there.

So when I screw up by choosing Electrical Engineering. I wanted to correct my mistake by learning something I love this time. And this thing was called: Software Development.

I spent my engineering school years reading books, watching programming videos and programming on the side. In the weekends, or sometimes during a boring lecture of some electrons traveling a wire.


Now, back to the initial problem: Accepting an internship in software development or doing what I’m supposed to do, electrical engineering.

Choosing the first one means I’ll work on something I love and I’ll be happy to do it for at least the next 5 to 10 years. But my resume will be Electrical Engineer with an internship in Software Development… Not a good thing.

Choosing the second one means I’ll work on something I hate in this internship (like 2 prior ones) and probably for the rest of my life.

As you probably know, I decided to choose the first option. I prefer to take a risk to live happily after. Or do what I’m supposed to do and live sad for the rest of my life.

After finishing my internship, I got an offer from the company and accepted it without thinking twice.

Nearly 2 years later, I’m happy with this path. I’m working on something I love every day, I’m learning a lot and I have no regrets. I’m thankful for people who trusted me and helped me do what I love.


It’s normal to make mistakes, we are all humans. What’s not normal is not trying to solve them.

It’s your life, take opportunities and live the way you want.

Do what you love.

What it feels like to launch an online business from Africa

When your country crashes you before even starting

3 Aug 2017, 10:27 PM: I was sitting on my couch scrolling Twitter, when I found this tweet:

I was always asked by my friends to review their resumes. They say I have an eye for quality, can catch errors and give ideas for amelioration. But the reality is, I’ve spent a lot of time writing, sending and correcting resumes that I can now spot errors and give “advices” or what they call ideas for amelioration.

So the first idea that came to my mind after reading Pieter’s tweet was: What if I can propose this as a service? You upload your resume, you pay some cash, 24h later you receive a complete review with advices to improve it.

That was my answer:

Shortly after, people started joining the conversation andgiving their feedback on the idea.

So without thinking twice, I started working on it!


3 Aug 2017, 11:40 PM: 1 hour and 13 minutes later, a prototype was ready for launch:

All it needs was verifying my Stripe account to start accepting payments online, no big deal! Well, I was wrong. Terribly wrong.

Stripe doesn’t support African countries. So being from Morocco, it was impossible for me to use it. Some folks on Twitter suggested to try other alternatives: PayPal? Nope. Braintree? Not even close…

I was exhausted, I checked every payment provider suggested and not a single one is supporting my country.

It’s time for bed…


4 Aug 2017, 3:28 PM: I spent all day thinking about a solution but couldn’t find one. So I asked on Twitter:

And then got a reply:

Looks like this is the answer, they are supporting African countries! But after checking their website, I found they are supporting: Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya.

However, they told me to contact them. According to their support, they may have something for me. After a few messages on Twitter, they wanted me to beta test a new product designed for Morocco, I said Yes. I’ve been told that a representative from San Francisco will call me. And then, they vanished, with no response. I’m still waiting Flutterwave…

After all this, I started to lose hope. Not in this project, but the idea of starting a business online. Why starting an online business while you can’t even charge your customers?


14 Aug 2017, 2:42 AM: Suddenly I got another response:

A roller caster of emotions started again. What if it’s the answer? What if I can finally make it?

After removing Bitcoin and PayPal from the list, I was left with two options, and as you’ve guessed: They are not working in Morocco.

One because they aren’t implemented in Morocco:

And the other because my idea is against their Terms Of Service… I still don’t know why:


3 Sep 2017: This is when I tried something I didn’t want to try in the first place: Checking local payment providers in Morocco. Not because I’m lazy or something, I didn’t want for one simple reason: The monopoly.

Monopoly kills the industry. When no one is trying to take your customers, there will be no innovation and no improvement.

Let me describe the payment monopoly in Morocco:

  1. Only one company is allowed to move funds between banks in Morocco. If you want online payments, you’ll use them eventually. I spent a lot of time on their website and I couldn’t find any information about how much they charge on transactions. Welcome to the dark world! After contacting them (they work with phone only, I sent countless emails), they charge 1.5% for local cards2.5% for international cards and in order to be able to use the service, you need between 1000$ and 5300$ as a deposit depending on the business. Now that’s a lot! In addition to this, this company is in charge of moving funds only. If you want online payment, you need to chose a payment provider
  2. 3 payment providers can help you add payments to your website, and of course, their website don’t have enough information either. So I took my phone and called them: First one didn’t responded, I lost hope after trying multiple times. MarocTelecommerce want a 120$ initial fee + 0.5% per transaction. FPay want a 0.5% per transaction, with no initial fee, but if you want to quit before 3 years, you need to pay 300$

So let me sum up for you:

You need between 1000$ and 5300$ as a deposit, 2% to 3% per transaction, some hidden fees and be ready for a lot of paperwork

And guess what, you need to do all of this for EVERY WEBSITE. Yes, this setup is related to every website you own. In other words: There is no place for makers here.


21 Sep 2017, 3:43 PM: As a last try I asked Marc if he knows a payment provider that supports Morocco and he tweeted about it:

One of the responses that got my eye was this:

Paddle business model is quite different from PayPal or Stripe. They aren’t a payment provider, they are technically re-selling your products and they take care of VAT and everything for you. But this comes with a cost, you can’t actually sell services, only digital products: Books, software licences, subscriptions…

My original idea was a service: reviewing resumes. But looks like I can’t use Paddle with it either!


25 Sep 2017: “I need to do it! I just need to launch it!” Those are the words that kept coming to my head every time I think about the subject.

The only solution that came to my mind was transforming my idea to an acceptable business by the newly discovered Paddle. What if I could write everything that I know in a book/guide and sell it online? That’s it! Even if it’s not the type of experience I want to provide to my customers, but I prefer to at least launch something.

I opened my laptop and started writing…


10 Oct 2017: Website looks good, my guide looks good, payment working, it’s time to launch.

I launched my product: Review my Resume as a step-by-step guide on how to redact and review your resume. You can find it on the official website.

EDIT (April 2nd, 2019): Site isn’t working anymore as I took it down, I sold one copy of the book 🙂

It took me more than 2 months to launch a product! Not because the product is hard itself, but because I need to deal with things I’m not supposed to deal with. Imagine what could happens if we lower the barriers? Imagine if we could only concentrate on our products instead of integrating payments, etc? Good things can happen, more and more people will make and sell products online and probably employ others.

I know that people from developed countries have these advantages. They can start selling online in minutes, but the majority don’t have this privilege!

So, I guess I’m not allowed to access basic services just because I’m born in the wrong country?

Ahmed

How to keep your interest

I had a problem, a problem I know a lot of people suffer from. I’m always excited to learn something new, but after some time, I lose interest. Searching online gave me almost the same answers: Be curious, start small, be accountable… I had all of that, this was not the answer I wanted! So I started analyzing what happened when I lost interest!

I discovered that, in every subject or skill you want to learn, there is always that part I call the least pleasing part. When you hit this part, you lose interest in what you’re learning and you just give up. In addition to this, we don’t share the same preferences, thus, the least pleasing part isn’t the same for everyone! In order to find it, you need to deconstruct what you’re learning and identify what the possibilities might be! (I’ll show you how to do that with some examples)

If you want to keep the interest, you need to identify the least pleasing part about what you’re learning and try to resolve it while learning. Yes, while, not before nor after. Don’t get distracted by it, resolve it while learning, and get over it!

To help you understand how this works, I’ll give some real world examples of how to deconstruct your subject and find the least pleasing part. I’ll share with you 3 skills I wanted to learn and how I applied this to them: Writing, Coding, and Cooking.

Writing

I always wanted to write, for me, it’s how you learn to express your ideas clearly and communicate with others.

To develop the habit of writing, I did what all writers tell you: write a lot! However, the least pleasing part about writing for me was finding ideas to write about.

So instead of not writing until you get a new idea, just keep writing, just put what you think about or what you did in that day in a text file. And while writing, sometimes you’ll get good ideas, or you’ll see that there is a connexion with what you wrote yesterday, you start to see patterns, and now you got a subject to write about!

When I get an idea, I create a new file for it with a small description of what I want to write so I can complete the writing later or stop everything and start working on it if it’s important.

This is how I fixed the problem while learning writing! Even this article started like that!

Coding

I’m a self-taught programmer, coder, software developer or whatever they call it nowadays. And while learning the art of programming, I started with: the basics, picking a programming language, doing side projects and small applications to apply my knowledge.

Learning the basics and picking a language was kind of easy. Watching online material and choosing the language depending on the platform you want to develop for. Things got out of control when I wanted to do side projects! The least pleasing part of my coding journey was architecting my applications. Whenever I wanted to start something, I take a pen and paper and try to get an architecture for the app. But when I start coding, I hit some edge cases I didn’t think of, and now, my architecture is not working! I tried to solve the problem before, I was wrong!

I got frustrated at first, I taught I’m going nowhere, I was always wrong! But after some time, I just accepted the fact that it will never be good from the first try. So I started fixing it while coding. I start with the most basic architecture I can think of and whenever I hit a problem due to it, I stop, fix it, and continue coding. Just like that, a happy ending!

Cooking

When I want to cook something, this is how I go with it: Pick a recipe, buy ingredients (all of them or what I don’t have), cook, clean dishes (because no one likes dirty dishes).

For me, picking a recipe was easy, I just google whatever I want. Same goes for buying ingredients and cooking, you just follow steps. But the part when I need to clean dishes was hard! Whenever I think about cooking, I think about the dishes I need to clean and how I’ll lose a lot of time doing it. So I end up… eating out!

Once I tried** cleaning dishes while cooking, the frustration disappeared. The idea is to **clean anything you used in the preparation while waiting for your meal to cook. You’ll end up with one dish (the one used for serving) to clean after eating, which is less intimidating than cleaning the whole army of dishes.

This is how the idea is applied to cooking, clean while cooking! Let’s make cooking great again!

To sum up:

  1. Deconstruct what you want to learn and identify the least pleasing part about it
  2. Resolve it while learning, not before/after
  3. Repeat