“Candidates are strictly selected, they must show a very strong commitment and be able to attend an intensive 3-month immersion course.”

― Nathalie Perren, senior HR Business partner for Tech&Ops division

It’s a simple equation: there are over 70 million refugees globally and there are millions of unfilled IT jobs. The answer, at least in Switzerland: a non-profit coding academy for refugees and migrants called Powercoders.

Recognised as an initiative contributing to the UN Agenda 2030 sustainable development goals, the association is sponsored by the Swiss Confederation and tries to include both political and economic refugees – once they are legally ‘accepted’ and allowed to stay in the country – to help them enter the employment market and become financially independent. The idea is to train them in an area both ‘accessible’ and where demand on the labour market is strong: that of web and digital development.

Following an enterprise by Nathalie Perren, Senior HR Business Partner for Tech&Ops, Pictet has been working with Powercoders for more than a year now. “Candidates are strictly selected, they must show a very strong commitment and be able to attend an intensive 3-month immersion course, combining both theory and practice; it is hard work, they do it in English which is a first foreign language (if not second or third) for them, and they also have to acquire good notions of French (or German) for their integration.”

Developer Mustafa Noorhussin was the first Powercoders trainee to join Pictet, in August 2019. When we interviewed him, he’d just learnt that his contract would be extended for another 18 months. ‘It’s great news! It shows I’ve worked hard enough and been useful,’ he tells us.

“When I saw the Pictet building, I was really impressed by how big the place was.” 

Mustafa Noorhussin Powercoder

Mustafa’s family originally came from Eritrea, but he grew up in Sudan, where his father was a political refugee. ‘I studied journalism and my father realised I loved coding, so he told me about Powercoders. I took their three-month intensive programming course. But it’s not just about coding; they show you how the Swiss market works and help you find a job.’ 

At the end of his training he had an interview at Pictet. “I had to google it. I thought, it’s a private bank; it must be quite small. So when I saw the Pictet building, I was really impressed by how big the place was.” 

The HR & Collaborative Solutions team within Tech&Ops were also fortunate to welcome their first Powercoders trainee in January. Mouaz Sabagh, Palestinian Syrian raised in Syria. His journey to hope started 4 years after obtaining political asylum in April 2018, the same day he was introduced to the internet and coding.

Mouaz was part of the second batch of Powercoders welcomed at Pictet. “This changed my life. It’s a project with soul, that gives people opportunity and most importantly it gives us, as refugees, hope.”

“It’s amazing how my Spanish boss is so inclusive. I immediately became more myself, taking on real responsibility.”

Mouaz Sabagh Powercoder

Mouaz has since joined the Sharepoint team, where he enjoys being part of a culturally diverse and trusting group of individuals. “It’s amazing how my Spanish boss is so inclusive. I immediately became more myself, taking on real responsibility.”  

Mouaz’s progress quickly grew with the ongoing support of his supervisor, Baza Mujynya, Head of HR and Communications Solutions, who shares, “He has recently started learning development on the Mendix low code platform, a technology towards which he should gradually evolve in 2021 and that will certainly be a great asset for his future career as an IT developer.” 

What’s next?

“Onboarding Powercoders at Pictet has been quite a success so far as part of the Diversity and Inclusion initiatives”, says Nathalie Perren, “two more Powercoders applications are currently analysed, one within Group Communication and one in Tech&Ops, which could mean a third and a fourth traineeship recruitment.”