“Coding is therapeutic because when one is solving a coding problem, one forgets about life’s problems.” — Qamra Jema Khan. Pix by Saddam Yusoff
Qamra's Android apps can be downloaded for free.
Qamra (middle) and her team taking part in the Maybank Hackathon last year.

A senior quantitative analyst by day and Android app developer by night, Qamra Jema Khan tells Balqis Lim why coding is her passion.

WHEN it comes to mobile app development, men outnumber women at a startling pace.

Some say the gender gap starts in universities where more men take up computer sciences.

Others say women developers are less evident, rarely speaking at conferences or attending events, making role models hard to come by.

While coding isn’t particularly easy and fun to learn, 29-year-old Qamra Jema Khan considers it therapeutic.

“I love app development because it allows me to use my problem-solving skills to create solutions.”

The Sabah lass has published her own apps and spoken at app development workshops and events, to encourage more women to take up coding and app development.

HOW IT STARTED

Qamra learnt to code while studying at Imperial College London.

Upon graduating in 2008 with a Bachelor of Engineering, she worked for two years as a quantitative assistant. Her job scope included analysing price trends, market behaviour and football data and running models for football betting.

Realising that she could apply her skill set in finance, Qamra took her Masters in Risk Management and Financial Engineering from 2010 to 2011.

Upon returning home, she took a job at a financial institution as a senior quantitative analyst where she is still working today.

Qamra said the technology was up and coming when she returned but it was not until July 2015 that she decided to explore further.

“Android was just starting out and once it got more mainstream, I started programming in it as it was quite similar to what I learnt in university.

“A month later, I participated in a hackathon and my team won the Best Community App at the AT&T Malaysia Developers Day 2015.

“It was my first time competing. My intention was just to gauge my progress.”

Since then, Qamra has published a few apps on Google Play.


Qamra showing her app on Google Play. Pix by Halimaton Saadiah Sulaiman

GOING ABOUT

Qamra’s first Android app is Seasonal Cracker Jokes, published in 2015.

“I wanted to try publishing an app on Play Store. It’s just a list of jokes I find funny.

“Although it was a trial run, it has sentimental value and I update the jokes every now and then.”

Her second is Scoop, an app which allows users to generate stock recommendations based on the photos they uploaded.

Qamra said the app will detect stocks that users may be interested in based on objects in photos taken or uploaded.

Her third app, FoodNinjaDigiCFC, was published for a competition last year.

Qamra decided to publish her own apps to add to her portfolio.

In February, she ventured into Augmented Reality (AR) and her team was selected as one of the top 20 teams eligible to compete for Malaysia Airlines Hackathon 2017.

Qamra experimented with AR and Tango (an augmented reality computing platform, developed and authored by Google).

“Tango uses computer vision to allow your mobile device to understand the world around it. It enables mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, to detect their position relative to the world around them without using GPS or other external signals.

“It is similar to what Pokemon Go utilises,” she said.


Qamra’s experiment with augmented reality (AR) and Tango which was shown at the recent Women TechMakers 2017 event.

MOVING AHEAD

Qamra loves playing with technology.

“As of now, I don’t have any plans to publish more apps as I like to explore more and be adventurous.

“I just want to play with everything and build my skill sets.

“For me, it’s not work, it’s a passion.

“And it’s actually quite relaxing. Coding is therapeutic because when one is solving a coding problem, one forgets about life’s problems for a while.”


Qamra and her team emerge 1st runnerup at the Startup Weekend KL (SWKL) hackathon marathon at Google Malaysia.

In the near future, Qamra will be exploring big data learning, and take part in more competitions.

She recently set up her own website (www.qamracodes.com) to document her adventures in Android and share them with the public.

Qamra hopes that more women will take up coding, especially apps development. “Events such as the Women Techmakers Kuala Lumpur act as a platform for networking with women with the same interests,” she adds.