Hack Your Future

About the project

More than coding - building a better society

HackYourFuture is about more than just teaching coding skills – it’s a life-changing opportunity for newcomers to live up to their potential and gain back control of their lives. Emakina is a long-term partner of this legendary coding school, from donating laptops and hosting agency visits to providing coaches for the final project of the classes that graduated in January 2021.

Change the label: refugee to web developer

Originally founded in 2015 in the Netherlands, the Belgium chapter of HackYourFuture was launched in 2018. This excellent initiative helps refugees and migrant newcomers to build digital skills for a career in web development, facilitate the integration of newcomers, and address the shortage of a qualified workforce in the IT sector. HackYourFuture has graduated 100 people in Belgium (40% of which were women) and more than 300 globally. In Belgium, over 70% found and retained a high-quality job as a developer, while others continuing their training or found an internship.

desktop mockup 1 HYF

Emakina coaching the final project

During 2020, the pandemic forced 21 students to complete their entire HackYourFuture journey online. After an 8-month training programme, they joined an intensive 4-week development sprint to work on a real project with a real partner. Two Emakina staff members joined the coaching team of four, volunteering their time, guidance and mentorship: Director of Technology, Maurizio Pedriale, and Scrum Master, Kris Baes. Over this time, students are supported online in their self-study, homework and peer learning as they create a prototype web application. The brief: something that will have a positive social impact on (Belgian) society.

“It’s a huge achievement for people who are learning on the job to pull off fully functioning software in just 5 weeks.” Maurizio Pedriale, Director of Technology, Emakina

Remote collaboration in action

Imagine the challenge of collaborating with 20 other newcomers from 14 nationalities – all with different technical backgrounds (or perhaps none to begin with), cultural baggage and, often, heart-breaking stories of suffering or hardship as they made their way to Belgium from countries like Syria, Palestine and Ethiopia. Now add in the extra challenge of having to work together virtually – all while juggling families and day jobs! The group showed remarkable proficiency in remote collaboration – a very necessary skill for a new way of working.

“I was amazed by the positive attitudes of these team members, the way they self-organised with very little conflict, and their choice of solution was really based on personal empathy. It was impressive to witness their dedication and customer focus.” Kris Baes, Scrum Master, Emakina

Ischool: a matchmaking service for parents and schools

Born out of a real life need of one of the students, one group came up with the Ischool app – a smart way for parents (unaccustomed to the Flemish school system) to find secondary schools, and for school managers to connect with parents. The group had to plan and execute the project exactly as a software dev team would do it in real life – including daily stand-up meetings.

Under the helpful guidance of Kris and Maurizio, the project scope included everything from app naming, creating user personas, testing user journeys and crafting information architecture to design and choosing the right framework for building the app. With user-centricity in mind, they integrated useful features such as a distance calculator and map search functionality.

Another team created VoxBox – a way for volunteers to connect with people in their community in need of help – while the third group conceptualised Hear My Story – a platform inviting and sharing stories from within asylum centres.

"The enthusiasm of the Emakina coaches gave such a boost to our students' goal to become junior web developers. The intense collaboration with people from within the field brings our almost graduates closer to a real work experience. It's the icing on the cake of our programme. Emakina helps us to realise our mission to help new talent enter the world of tech." Lien Arits, General Coordinator, HackYourFuture Belgium

A shining example of teamwork

For many participants, this was not only the first time creating a working app but also working in a team. This experience gave them a valuable taste of life as a programmer – how to solve problems, manage a project, deal with team members from different walks of life, and present ideas in a group.

Emakina relished the chance to give these talented individuals the guidance they need to hopefully get their first web developer jobs soon, and play our role in having a positive impact on society. In 2020, we also donated 15 HP and 10 MacBook Air laptops to help HackYourFuture achieve its 2020 objective: offering 90 additional students the possibility to follow the programme. If you wish to donate funds and/or hardware, become a mentor or support the initiative in any way you can contact the organisation via contact@hackyourfuture.be.

“Our Emakina coaches, Kris and Maurizo, are both positive and realistic. What makes them precious is how they really trusted us and supported us along the way. I believe words are power so their good and motivational feedback makes us stronger web developers and humans. During the Final Project, they helped us to use our time effectively via communication and planning.” Feruz, Graduate, HackYourFuture Belgium