Code Your Future: Our volunteer experience so far
Code Your Future is a charity which teams refugees, asylum seekers and otherwise disadvantaged people learn to code.
This is important as it helps to increase diversity in software development, which is stereotypically not diverse, as well as helping improve confidence and employment prospects for people who are more often unemployed. Here are some case studies of how it can affect people's lives: Meet Abdoulrazack; Meet Madiha.
We have been able to find volunteering roles with Code Your Future that are suitable to our skill sets, time commitment and interests. We have started volunteering as technical assistants, interviewing potential students, and leading sessions on software quality assurance and testing.
I have volunteered with Code Your Future as a teaching assistant on the Fundamentals course. I have really enjoyed it so far. It's been great to meet people from all over the world, and they are all super keen to learn, which makes them really easy to teach. I have particularly enjoyed the sessions on background and culture as it's so nice to learn about different places and people. It also really hit home for me how lucky many of us are, and how awful it must be to have to leave your home and become a refugee.
Many people at Alfa joined the company not being able to write code, so we are a case in point that it is possible to succeed in the industry without a degree in Computer Science or similar. That's why I think Code Your Future is so good, because it provides the students with the skills to be able to get jobs in a well paid, exciting industry that otherwise may be hard for someone in their position.
The unemployment rate amongst refugees is four times higher than the rest of the population, so helping to change that is something that I feel is really important. CYF have links with lots of tech companies who offer jobs to students who successfully complete the course, similar to Makers Academy, who we also work with.
I'm looking forward to continuing with the Fundamentals course and helping the students to develop. After that I will continue to volunteer as a technical assistant and possibly see if I can also assist in a personal development role. The CSR allowance that Alfa provides has been great for this too, as it means that we can take time in lieu for the time spent volunteering.
It's been really nice to meet people from all around the world with different backgrounds - people I wouldn't usually meet. This has highlighted what ‘diverse’ really looks like, and how that is different from what most software development teams (not just at Alfa) look like. It is nice as a young woman from a non-tech background to help represent that software developers don't always look the same. I also like that the course stresses the importance of 'soft skills', such as communication and presentations, which are fundamental to being a successful software developer.
I have also been able to be a personal interviewer for someone joining the course. This is a really nice opportunity to think about what is important when hiring and more about technical interviews. I am going to do Personal Development volunteering which will start in Mid-November. This involves providing pastoral care for a number of participants, removing blockers to their optimum participation.
I am looking forward to spending time mentoring and being able to consolidate what I have learnt in Alfa as a software developer. The best way to learn is to teach, and I hope that this volunteering will help boost my technical confidence and allow me to practice skills which I could utilise in a supervisory role.
As the classes have been on a Sunday I have been able to take my CSR time off in lieu without any issues. In addition to this I have facilitated the opportunity by researching the charity, liaising with contact, recruiting people to volunteer and making sure all volunteers are engaged and progressing with introductory steps. This allows me to improve on my leadership skills and how best to ensure that volunteers are inspired by the cause, and able to make valuable contributions by using their skill sets.
I really enjoy organising the volunteering, and it is important to recognise my privilege and contribute, even in a small way, to making the playing field more even.
It's been quite a long time since I wanted to 'give back' to the tech community, so I enthusiastically welcomed the volunteering opportunity for Code Your Future.
I chose to get involved in the role of a teaching assistant during the Fundamentals course focused on the basics of programming. To date, I have participated in a training session held by CYF for the prospective course attendees. It was an introduction to HTML and CSS and an opportunity to see how the sessions of the actual course would look. In addition to that, I responded to the call of the CYF Midlands chapter searching for people who would conduct mock job interviews for the course participants at the end of their eight-month learning journey.
I was able to give specific and actionable feedback on how they presented themselves during the cultural fit type interviews. At this point, I am looking forward to the upcoming weekend when I will be able to participate in the Sunday learning session as a technical assistant.