We spoke to two coding students from Hack Your Future, the organization helping refugees through programming and technology courses.
Edited July 5, 2019
Hack Your Future is an organization that started in 2016 with the aim to help successfully integrate the vulnerable population of refugees, asylum-seekers and other marginalized groups in Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium by providing computer programming and technical coding courses. As the demand for talented software developers grows, HYF teaches asylum-seekers these useful skills, all the while improving the job market with worthy candidates.
Their coding school teaches a six-month web development program, after which 90% of graduates find employment. The curriculum is taught by a local volunteer network of professional developers, who teach the necessary programs, as well as how to work on projects in a modern tech team with a problem-solving mindset. The newest addition is the women’s coding course, which supports women-centric coding communities and helps applicants to prepare for the challenging entrance test to join the program, boosting the number of women benefitting from the organization. HYF is an awesome, hands-on program that lends money for students’ transport while also offering support for students online throughout the week, making sure they are a readily available resource overall.
We had the unique opportunity to speak to two students, Jackline and Tala, about their experience with Hack Your Future. While the life of an asylum-seeker is never easy, HYF is a support system that truly makes a positive impact.
I am Jackline Grant Nassozi, Ugandan by nationality. I am 27 years old and I have been living in Denmark for two and a half years now. In studying with HYF, my great interest in coding developed into an abiding passion – I always wanted to be a great programmer, but as for now, would like to switch to software engineering. It is my first time to be in Europe and it feels good but stressful at the same time. It’s hard to live in a country as a foreigner sometimes, especially If you don’t have equal rights.
I heard about Hack Your Future from a friend who was already a student of HYF. I have been in the field of computer science even before I came to Denmark; I was doing a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science at Makerere University in Kampala. One of the best parts about HYF is the community of friends and mentors. We have the best mentors I have met ever – so caring and helpful. They give all they can when it comes to helping… The program means a lot to me. I see so many opportunities ahead! They gave people like me a chance to meet our dreams. I would advise any girl with interest in coding to give it a try and never hesitate.
Hi Tala! How old are you?
I’m 21 years old.
Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in Denmark? I’m from Syria-Aleppo and I have been here for two and a half years.
What did you want to do “when you grow up”, as a young girl, and how has that changed, if at all?
Actually, my passion had always been medicine, and I had dreamt about being a doctor one day. But since I came to Denmark and I got to start everything again, I decided to think outside of the box and give myself a chance to see other opportunities. So I joined Hack Your future to learn programming and that’s where my journey started.
Had you ever been to Europe? How does it feel now, to now be living and working in Denmark?
No – it feels good to live in a safe country after living in a war zone, at the same time I feel homesick. But I always motivate myself to work harder and show that I can do it even though I had to start from the bottom in a foreign country, with a new language, culture and life.
How did you find out about the Hack Your Future program?
My sister saw Hack Your Future’s Facebook page somehow and insisted on me to participate in the program since she believed I have some talent related to programming.
Have you always naturally gravitated towards computer science? Or is it a new experience for you?
I wrote my first code at Hack Your future. So it was a completely new experience for me.
Do you have friends or mentors within the program? What’s the atmosphere like?
Yes, I know many of the students in Hack Your Future, they all are so friendly and nice. It’s easy to be friends with the others since we have a common interest, which is programming. Mentors are super helpful, they give their time and energy and always help when it’s needed. I asked many of the mentors about studying computer science at university and I received much helpful advice. Hack Your future is a mixture of a cozy and a professional atmosphere during the classes.
What has the experience been like, so far?
This program has literally changed my life, my plans and thoughts about the future. I’m happy to be in such an amazing field which is very important for now and in the future. It’s true that there are more men in this field, but women had always been an important factor in computer science developing. I believe that we can achieve more equality if there are more women.
Do you feel a sense of community there?
Hack your future feels like home for me, I feel most welcomed there. I’ve met so many people from all over the world and got the chance to build my network.
What’s next for you?
For now, I’m studying software engineering at DTU and I’m working as an intern at DTU-Biosustain. So I’ll just keep diving in this field and code as much as possible.
Any advice for other girls or women interested in computer science, or any other fields that are typically male-dominated?
I believe that women can achieve and do what they want if they believe in themselves. As I mentioned before, programming was never my first priority till I joined Hack Your Future. Therefore, my advice is to try new things, challenge yourself and follow your passion as it will lead you to success.
Girls Are Awesome will be making a charitable donation to Hack Your Future, to broaden their offerings and support their female-centered aims while improving the lives of marginalized groups in a genuine way. If you’d like to do the same, feel free to visit their website to make a contribution and see how you can get in the mix!