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Elsa Amri

From Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Designer & Webflow Developer, Elsa was the first ever winner of the Speed Build Challenge at Webflow Conf 2021, a lover of true crime podcasts, and an avid book reader when she’s not vlogging about food.

About this episode

In this episode, we'll be reminded to love what you do, build relationships with clients you enjoy that also trust you, and focus on being yourself while enjoying your personal journey.



Matthew Munger: Hey Elsa. Thank you for joining me today.

Elsa Amri: Hi, Matthew, glad to be here.

Matthew Munger: Let's start off by having you just quickly introduce yourself, and tell us a bit about who you are.

Elsa Amri: Great. So, hi everyone. My name's Elsa, and I'm a designer and Webflow developer based in Tanzania. I currently work as a freelancer and I've been doing that for around, gosh, I think almost three years now. So it's been a minute. And prior to that, I worked as an art director at a couple of agencies. 

Matthew Munger: Hmm.

Elsa Amri: Other than, of course, design and development, I'm also into reading. I'm a big bookworm. I love video games as well. And, occasionally watch some anime, read some manga. Yeah, happy to be here.

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Matthew Munger: So you said you're located in Tanzania. What's it like living there?

Elsa Amri: It's really hot all year round. I think our average temperature is like 30 degrees Celsius, so pretty warm throughout the year, but I also love that because I’m used to it. I would say people usually describe us as chill or very relaxed. I think people kind of just go with the flow here a lot. Obviously not everyone, but quite a few of us, and I think that's what I really like. I think it's one of the ideal places to settle down, just because it doesn't feel so high paced and high stakes compared to, you know, major cities around the world. Obviously all my family's here, so it’s become my comfort zone.

Matthew Munger: Is there any sort of saying for that, being chill, being Tanzanian? Is there a phrase or something that refers to that?

Elsa Amri: Well, I mean I guess I can think of maybe two. There's a popular one that I think was in “The Lion King”, which is “hakuna matata”, which means no worries.

Matthew Munger: Mm-hmm.

Elsa Amri: It doesn’t literally mean slow pace, but I feel like the essence of it is really just, life is chill. There are no worries, you know, everything is cool. There's that one, which I think a lot of people know.

Matthew Munger: And did that saying come from there?

Elsa Amri: “Hakuna matata?” Yeah, it’s Swahili.

Matthew Munger: Nice

Elsa Amri: So it means “no worries.” If you know the song, you're probably singing it in your head like I am now. I would say that's probably the best way to describe life here very much. Everything's chill. No worries.

Matthew Munger: And what was the other saying you were thinking of?

Elsa Amri: The other one is an idiom, I think, is what it is.

Matthew Munger: Yeah.

Elsa Amri: In Swahili it’s “pole pole na mwendo” which means, “slow and steady is how things should go.” Or the opposite of that, because there are two, is “haraka haraka haina baraka” which means “hurry, hurry has no blessings.” So they kind of mean similar things in that there's no need to rush, you know? Just take it easy.

Matthew Munger: In English there's a saying that goes, “slow and steady wins the race.”

Elsa Amri: Yes, that is the one I was thinking of. Yeah, for the first one. 

Matthew Munger: Oh, okay, that is what it means. Okay cool.

Elsa Amri: Pole pole na mwendo, yeah, I think, yeah.

Matthew Munger: What do you really enjoy about living there?

Elsa Amri: I think that the first thing is probably just being around my family. I mean, I spent my uni years abroad in the UK.

Matthew Munger: Mm-hmm.

Elsa Amri: And then I spent a year in Japan. So I was abroad for a couple years and loved it a hundred percent. But I think after I came back, I realized how much I do enjoy being at home and being around people whom I've always grown up with. It’s just become more comfortable for me. 

Family is probably the number one reason why I do enjoy being here. I think the second is similar to what I said earlier in that just don't feel so, I don't know, stressful. And it isn’t in the sense that there's not stuff going on that might stress you out, that could happen anywhere.

But it's the sense that when I was living abroad in cities that were very much major metropolitan environments, everything feels so much more high stakes, and maybe you feel much more pressured to do well in that kind of environment. Whereas when you're in an environment that's chill and it– I think it does affect your mentality in a way, or it affected me.

So as much as I did enjoy living abroad, I definitely remember being a lot more stressed out and a lot more pressured to succeed, and to do well, and to keep up with everyone around me, which isn't healthy in the long run.

When I do leave the house, it's probably because my boyfriend planned for us to go somewhere, or we agreed to go somewhere. So we go out to places to eat a lot. I think food is like number one. There are a lot of really nice restaurants here. And I have like a restaurant food TikTok thing I started a couple months ago.

Matthew Munger: Oh.

Elsa Amri: So that’s made me go out more to explore new restaurants and blog about them. So food is probably a big one. We are a coastal city. So I live in Dar, which is a coastal city. You can obviously go to the beach. I'm not a beach person, surprisingly, but it's something fun that you can do on a day off if you don't have anything else to do. Or one of the nearby islands, people like to do that a lot. But I think for me, definitely going out to eat is probably number one on my list of things I like to do.

Matthew Munger: What would a good local dish be if I was visiting? What's a good local dish you would recommend for me?

Elsa Amri: Okay, this is a basic answer, but it's one of the things I like, it's called chapati. It’s similar to naan, which is the Indian version of the dish.

Matthew Munger: Mm-hmm.

Elsa Amri: If you've eaten naan and you liked it, you probably like chapati as well. It's similar. But that's definitely one of my favorites. And I usually pair that with beans, which we call maharage here, or any type of sauce, obviously chicken. 

Matthew Munger: Mm-hmm.

Elsa Amri: So that’s a really good one. Also easy to make, um, not hard to make at all. I would recommend trying that out. If you're really looking to challenge yourself and eat something probably different from something you've had before, probably ugali. That's like one of the main traditional dishes here, which is essentially flour and water that's been boiled and molded. So it's, like, soft, and you normally eat it with your hands. I don’t know what other dish I would compare it to, but it's also really good to eat with meat or beans or anything like that.

Matthew Munger: So I lived in Lesotho.

Elsa Amri: Oh.

Matthew Munger: And we would eat pop, we'd call it pop. But it was, yeah, that meal, I think it was cornmeal, right? And with water? 

Elsa Amri: Oh, okay, yeah.

Matthew Munger: Yeah, it was white and fluffy, like you were describing. Yeah. They called it pop.

Elsa Amri: Yeah, there’s also I think fufu in West Africa. I can't remember which country. Yeah, there are a couple of variations of it. Oh, that's cool.


Matthew Munger: What does your workspace look like? If we were gonna sit kind of where you're normally doing your work, what would we see?

Elsa Amri: Okay, I guess my official quote unquote, desk that I use that I'm in now is pretty basic. I don't have a lot going on, but just a wooden desk that's secondhand that I got from my mom. Then I have this Elgato light, which I got from Webflow, actually, for the Speed Build.

Matthew Munger: Yeah.

Elsa Amri: So that was fun. So I have that, and then I have a phone, a ring light as well. Because sometimes I do recordings on my phone. I have my Adobe Xd LightUp ornament-type thing. And then I have this large cloth called a kanga. I actually put one on my desk because sometimes things get dusty. I have that covering my desk, and it's pink and purple, so it adds a bit of color to the space. And my mic. But yeah, pretty basic setup. I think I like to mainly work here because I feel like I'm more focused. 

Matthew Munger: Mm-hmm.

Elsa Amri: Sometimes I’ll work in my room, too. I have another, slightly smaller desk in my room that I might work in, especially late in the evenings. And then sometimes I like to work in cafes. There are a lot of cafes near where I live, so sometimes I'll go out and work elsewhere.

Matthew Munger: Do you like to listen to any music while you're working?

Elsa Amri: I do, although lately, I listen to a lot of podcasts while I'm working. 

Matthew Munger: Wow.

Elsa Amri: That’s probably 90% of what I listen to, just podcasts. I'm not the best multitasker, but it works, and I find that time flies when I do that. So yeah, that's my thing.

Matthew Munger: Hmm. What type of podcast?

Elsa Amri: I think I've gone through stages. So initially it was crime. I’m very big on true crime. That's my thing. So I listened to a lot of that, and then I started listening to Webflail by Jack.

Matthew Munger: Yeah.

Elsa Amri: After I was on his podcast, I listened to, I think, almost every episode of that because it was really interesting. And then, most recently, I'm listening to a podcast that talks about people in the past who were in huge scam situations. Really just getting a sense of all these interesting stories about crazy things people have done before. So I've been listening to that a lot lately.


Matthew Munger: What are your hobbies and interests?

Elsa Amri: I like to read a lot. I used to read a ton when I was in school, like all the time. And then I slowed down a bit in uni, and now I'm trying to get back to that. I spend a lot of my time reading. I like physical books. I have a bookcase and I like to kind of get secondhand physical books from this bookstore we have in town.

Matthew Munger: Mm-hmm.

Elsa Amri: I've been doing that a lot more lately. Mostly into gaming, not as much as I used to, just because of time. But occasionally I do like to do that, especially adventure type games like Horizon Zero Dawn or Persona. Definitely my thing. 

And then going out to eat is also a passion of mine, Because I have that food vlog. I wouldn't say vlogging is a hobby because I only have the one vlog. But it's fun, I guess, to do something a bit different, but that's still somewhat creative. I never thought I was a video editor much.

Matthew Munger: Right.

Elsa Amri: But I feel like I'm one with the food vlog.

Matthew Munger: Mm-hmm.

Elsa Amri: And then, yeah, just listening to podcasts. I think I can call it a hobby now just because of how many hours I've spent doing it, and I enjoy it. So yeah.

Matthew Munger: Did you say what type of books are you interested in?

Elsa Amri: Mostly crime fiction, mystery novels. That's like, there's a theme there. I do read positive stuff too, once in a blue moon. I don't know, I like stuff that is tense and suspenseful. 

Matthew Munger: Mm-hmm.

Elsa Amri: So I read a lot of mystery novels, horror novels, thriller novels. I do like biographies. I think the last one I read was Trevor Noah's bio, which was really good. Also Jennette McCurdy's novel, which was, I think, a big hit when it came out. I read that too, which was also really interesting. So sometimes I also read a bit of nonfiction. I do watch a lot of anime, K-Dramas.

Matthew Munger: K-Dramas, Korean dramas, like TV shows?

Elsa Amri: Yes, very much so. I think that's all I watch on Netflix. That's all they recommend to me.


Matthew Munger: What is something that would surprise people to learn about you?

Elsa Amri: I like to do adventurous things. Not often, but once in a while. So I spent some time volunteering in Nepal before I went to uni. So that was in 2014, I think. But while I was there, we had some time to explore and we went to Pokhara, which is I guess, the main tourist city. And we went paragliding. And that was the first time I ever did something like that. So I've been paragliding before. I guess it's something interesting. I don't know if people would be surprised to know I've been paragliding. I dunno if I look adventurous, but I have been.

Matthew Munger: Mm-hmm.

Elsa Amri: I mean, I used to be very, not danger prone, but like, in theme parks, I would always wanna go on the largest and highest roller coasters. I found that now I’m a lot more calm and it's a bit more intimidating for me, so maybe I'm losing that aspect myself.


Matthew Munger: What is your role and how would you describe what you do?

Elsa Amri: I guess my official title is Designer and Webflow Developer. And to describe what I do, well, there's a design part which doesn't just cover website design. I mean, that's mainly what I do.

Matthew Munger: Mm-hmm.

Elsa Amri: But I also do some graphics designing. So I've done designing for posters, social media, content design, presentation design.

I used to work in an events company where they did a lot of events. So during my time there, I did a lot of designing for floor artworks, and banners, and all that stuff. And I worked at an agency, so I did a lot of designing for billboards. It's not what I do as much anymore, but it covers what I'm able to do.

Matthew Munger: Right.

Elsa Amri: And then for the Webflow Developer part, I think it's self-explanatory: design and develop websites using Webflow.

Matthew Munger: And what you're doing today, is that different from what you thought you might be doing at this time in your life?

Elsa Amri: I didn't actually know at the time when I applied, when I was in high school or when I started uni, what I wanted to do afterwards. My degree was in media communication, which was pretty broad and mostly theoretical too. 

Matthew Munger: Yeah.

Elsa Amri: So it wasn't really even a lot of practical work. And at the time, I thought what I was learning would be suitable for maybe a career in PR or advertising and that kind of thing, which wasn’t necessarily what I was passionate about, but what I thought was the logical career to end up in.

Matthew Munger: Mm-hmm.

Elsa Amri: I don’t think I started being curious about design or considering design as a career until after I graduated. I was really stuck on what I actually wanted to do, and I was no longer so sure about PR and advertising and marketing and thought maybe I should be doing something different.

There was a time I think I wanted to do front end development because I did a course in CSS and HTML. I guess at the time I didn't realize what I really liked was design and not the actual coding. I thought it was fun, until it got super difficult then I was like, “Oh, maybe that's not fun anymore.”

And then I eventually learned about how you can just do design or UX design, UI design, and that's what snowballed everything.


Matthew Munger: And what excites or motivates you about what you're doing? What keeps you going every day?

Elsa Amri: I guess there are a couple parts. The first being I genuinely do love what I am doing. And I think that's a valid reason, because at the time before when I was working in agencies, it was interesting and I learned a lot. But I remember that the enthusiasm was lacking, it didn't bring me as much joy. It wasn't until I started doing, focusing more on website design and development– keyword being “and development” because I really do take a lot of pride and joy in being able to design and build something which I never thought I would be able to do. I think that's the first part of it. 

And then the second is, I think the clients I work with, honestly, are so great. A lot of them I've been working with for, like, two years now. I think those connections are also really great to have, knowing that there's someone there who trusts you to do their work for them, satisfied with what you give them. I think building those partnerships and relationships is also a big motivator, because it makes me feel like I'm, you know, in the right field and I'm doing the right thing. 

And then the third part would be just learning more and growing. I think one thing I also didn't wanna do is feel like I don't have the enthusiasm to improve my skills or to be better. But with design and development, I always feel like there's something new to learn, and I think that's also what motivates me.


Matthew Munger: What is a resource that you think more people should know about?

Elsa Amri: Twitter, because honestly, like 100% Twitter. I know a lot of people who– social media in general, I think sometimes when you're starting out, can be difficult to really dive into.

And I think that once you do dive into it and start connecting with people on those platforms, mainly Twitter, there's so much opportunity there and so much you can learn from people there. People are so supportive and inclusive and always posting interesting things, like what they've learned or what they've created, and we find so much value from it. 

Because prior to joining Twitter, I honestly just didn't even understand the platform or how it could be beneficial at all for me. And now that I have joined and it's been, I don't know, two, three years, like the best platform that I've ever joined for my career in so many ways.

Matthew Munger: Any other resources you wanna mention?

Elsa Amri: Okay, if you're specifically trying to learn something or improve on a scale, you know, I would always recommend online courses, because I think those are good, and YouTube being one because there are free courses on there. And then there is Udemy, which is another good one for checking out courses, and a lot of them are usually on sale. For people who are really interested in User Experience design, I would definitely recommend courses from the Interaction Design Foundation. They have really good ones that teach you a lot. I did one or two with them and they were really good. Awwwards also has good courses that I've done. So are good platforms I'd recommend.

Matthew Munger: What is a tool or something that you find yourself using a lot with your builds?

Elsa Amri: I guess Relume.

Matthew Munger: Relume, yeah.

Elsa Amri: I use Relume a lot. Yeah. It's honestly super helpful, even just to give myself ideas. I maybe don't necessarily copy the layouts onto my builds, but sometimes you're stuck on like, “How can I make this hero section different from like the 10 other hero sections I've done?”

So it's kind of seeing different design options of how you can build something, and then also I use their style guide template for all my builds, too. F’in sweet, I navigate through their website for almost every build for their filters and all the other attributes that they have.

So I think those are the two resources that I access for every project that I do.


Matthew Munger: Is there someone in the Webflow community that inspires you?

Elsa Amri: Oh my God, there's like so many names in my head. Okay. The first person I'll say is Claudia. Because I met her through Floxies.

Matthew Munger: Yeah.

Elsa Amri: I’m an ambassador with Floxies now. I think that she obviously does a lot of great community work, which is not easy by any means. And I think that's why she inspires me, because she’s so committed to growing Floxies and connecting with us on a daily level. So I think that it's amazing that she's able to consistently do that. She's super passionate about what she does, and I think we all just wanna be as passionate about whatever we do that we're willing to give it our all. And she's super nice. 

Matthew Munger: Yeah.

Elsa Amri: So I think she would be, like, number one for me. I think the second person, just because I went through a deep dive of his work and I was so impressed, but Diego. I think it started after–

Matthew Munger: Mm-hmm.

Elsa Amri: I have a newsletter where I interview people on websites they've made. And after I interviewed him and checked out all his other work, I was like, “This is, honestly, the kind of work that I wanna be doing on the regular, or that I want to learn how to do.” And so whenever people are doing things that I could never fathom doing, I think I always feel inspired by them, especially on a consistent basis. So I think his work is amazing and I'm definitely inspired by the amazingly technical builds that he's consistently doing.

There's Koysor as well. I love his work and we work Crew together, so I see his work a lot and it's always just amazing. But yeah, there are just a bunch of people doing amazing stuff.


Matthew Munger: What is some advice that you'd like to share with others?

Elsa Amri: Kind of focus on your own journey, because social media is great, and like I said, it's a great resource for building your career and networking, but it also can be very loud. And it's really important to just know that whatever journey that you're on is your own personal journey, and you don't really know what other people's journey is. I think that's why I like Webflail, because there are these big names and you're like, “They're doing amazing things, but they had huge failures before they got to where they are.”

You don't really know what people's failures are or what their journey is, you automatically assume that they made it. I think there's a difference between feeling inspired and just wanting to be exactly like someone, like do what they do, essentially just be them.

Matthew Munger: Mm-hmm.

Elsa Amri: And I don't think that's the way to go.

Matthew Munger: Be you and appreciate your journey.


Matthew Munger: All right, Elsa, how can others in the community reach out and connect with you?

Elsa Amri: I mean, I'm always on Twitter, definitely there. My handle is at Elsa Aaamri with three A's in the middle. That's probably number one. LinkedIn is another one that I'm on. My name is Elsa Amri there, I think Instagram too. Occasionally I'm on there. Elsa Edward Amri is my handle. Probably those three places, but I would definitely say Twitter and LinkedIn if you wanna connect. Every day I'm on either of those platforms.

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