14-02-2023 16:42

Volunteering to create a better start for others: "I know how it feels"

In september Nordea started a new community engagement programme: the refugee programme. The aim is to enable refugees to re-build financial security and better financial wellbeing in the future.
People sitting with computers
Gaurav Saxena, developer in Asset Management and Personal Banking Technology.

Normally, Gaurav Saxena works as a developer in Asset Management and Personal Banking Technology, but for a short period he has swapped his job at Nordea for teaching refugees from Ukraine, Syria and Somalia, who are studying to become web developers via the programme HackYourFuture.

“It’s nice to be able to help refugees. Even though web development is not easy, the students are really focused on developing and learning new skills,” he says.

Gaurav Saxena originally comes from Agra in India and when he heard about the new refugee programme he was not in doubt. He wanted to be a part of it to help people coming to Denmark to get a good start on their new life.

“When I came to Denmark I was lucky to get a lot of help from locals and colleagues to get started,” he says and continues:

“They helped me with everything from translations into Danish to visits to the municipal office, to report an issue and to explain how the tax system and vacation system work.  As a foreigner you’re just so grateful for the help you get, so it meant a lot to me.”

Hacking a new future

Gaurav Saxena has therefore spent his 16 voluntary hours at HackYourFuture, which was established in Amsterdam in 2016. The programme helps refugees, asylum seekers and disadvantaged groups with limited access to further education and the labour market to get new skills by educating them to become web developers. It has now expanded to other countries including Denmark.

“The idea is to teach people to hack their future with new skills. Many of the refugees had good jobs in their homeland, but have difficulties in getting a job when they arrive in Denmark. The IT industry is generally experiencing labour shortage, so with this programme the students get a new opportunity to apply for jobs in the tech industry in Denmark, where there is a strong demand for skilled labour,” he explains.

HackYourFuture is a classroom-based programme, running boot camps of eight months’ duration. As a mentor Gaurav Saxena is running a three-week module, where he teaches the students server-side programming using NodeJS and assists further during the final project phase.

“The course starts with very basic concepts like HTML, JavaScript and later advances with SQL, databases, API development and ReactJS,” says Gaurav Saxena and continues:

“It can be really challenging to teach students with different backgrounds as they don’t have any previous experience or education in this area at all. So, I also develop myself as I learn how to explain complicated things in a simpler way.”

“I know how it feels to start all over in a new country, so it means the world to me to give something back

Gaurav Saxena.

New skills open the door to a new job

During the programme the students are doing a lot of assignments to develop further and for the graduation project they team up to build and deploy a full stack application, nailing some real problems that they later demo to a much wider audience. So far, out of 220 students, who have completed the programme, 182 of these are now employed in the Danish IT sector.

“It's great to see how far they have come. They are already contributing, learning and growing, and many of them have even secured jobs in large IT companies. It’s a great feeling to see that you have been able to help someone getting a new job. I know how it feels to start all over in a new country, so it means the world to me to give something back.”

Alexander Sudarikov, studying to become a web developer.

A turning point in life: Meet Alexander from Ukraine

When bombs exploded all over Ukraine on 24 February 2022, Alexander Sudarikov and his wife were living and working in Kyiv with their two children.

Their apartment was located close to a military plant, and when he heard the bombs explode just outside the city, he got scared and looked out of the window. There he saw one of his neighbours packing the car to leave Ukraine.

“The following months were very unsafe. My daughter and son who are one and six years old, respectively, were stressed, and we had a hard time trying to distract them while sitting in the basement most of the days, especially without electricity, mobile network, internet and heating there,” says Alexander Sudarikov, who is a student at HackYourFuture and continues:

“So, we decided that we had to find a safe place for our kids, where they could grow up without being afraid.”

Alexander Sudarikov and his wife started to apply for jobs outside Ukraine. After a short while she got a job as a lawyer at a large company in Denmark that sells paint worldwide.

“We were so lucky. She is specialised in sanctions and compliance, so many companies were looking for someone with her competencies. My wife moved to Denmark with the kids and then I came later.”

A new chance with new skills

Back in Ukraine Alexander Sudarikov was working as a CEO of a small network of medical clinics. Even though he is not picky, it has not been easy to find a job in Denmark.

“I think I have sent more than 30 applications. Either I was too qualified or I didn’t speak Danish. One day in a What's App refugee group I became familiar with the programme HackYourFuture, so I decided to erase everything from my CV and start all over.”

Alexander Sudarikov’s application was accepted. He is now studying to become a web developer.

“I was so happy. I really love everything about this programme. I get a chance to learn new skills and be part of a very strong community, where we help each other in these difficult times.”

In three months he will graduate and he hopes his new skills will help him get a job.

“As a refugee you really appreciate all the help you get but when you hear how companies and employees are supporting, even though they don’t have to, it makes you happy and you get a more optimistic view on the future.”

Engaging in the societies we are part of

The refugee programme is one of Nordea’s community engagement activities. Through our programmes and partnerships, we engage in the societies we’re a part of by training participants to build successful financial lives, use digital tools for daily banking and start and grow their own companies