March 5, 2023

Code like a girl: Lebanon’s new Full Stack Developers

Transitioning from one career path to another can be daunting, especially when needing a new set of skills. However, as both Souraya Abdel Kader and Asmaa Hamid have experienced, with the right mindset, dedication, and support, it is possible to make a successful transition into the tech industry.

The International Finance Corporation’s report “The Inclusion of Women in the Digital Economy in Jordan and Lebanon”  indicates that only 23% of the digital workforce in Lebanon consists of women. There are various reasons behind the low representation of women in the digital economy. The gender gap that exists in the workforce across the country extends to the online sphere as well. Additionally, women in Lebanon tend to avoid freelancing as a career option due to its perceived instability and difficulty in establishing it as a legitimate form of work. Moreover, digital literacy and awareness of online opportunities are often lacking among women. Finally, legal frameworks to support online work are not yet in place.

Souraya Abdel Kader, 25, from Lebanon, initially pursued her passion for mathematics, but her interest in coding was sparked by a professor’s advice. She eventually decided to learn how to code and started her journey by taking the “Foundations of Computer Science” course under Skills Training Education Programme (STEP), funded by the Islamic Development Bank, Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair Foundation and powered by SPARK and its partner in Lebanon, SE Factory. Despite her initial doubts and lack of experience, Abdel Kader persevered and learned valuable technical and soft skills that prepared her for the job market. She is now a junior web developer and encourages more women to enter the tech industry. 

Similarly, Asmaa Hamid, 26, a Syrian refugee living in Lebanon, studied Computer Science at school but found that she lacked practical experience in the sector, making it challenging to find job opportunities. A friend recommended SE Factory to her, and she joined the coding programme to gain more experience and learn new technologies. Through SE Factory’s Full Stack Developer certificate programme and career coaching, Hamid acquired vital skills and proficiency that helped her ace interviews and eventually land an internship with a company in the United Arab Emirates. “Currently, I am interning remotely…with the hope of turning it into a full-time job offer,” said Asmaa. 

Mastering the craft: A participant hones her coding skills with unwavering focus at the bootcamp. ©2023, SPARK
Putting their knowledge to the test: A participant in the bootcamp shows their commitment to learning as they take an exam, striving to achieve their goals.©2023, SPARK
Unlocking the power of JavaScript: Participants at the bootcamp engage in an interactive coding session, honing their skills in this essential programming language ©2023, SPARK
Building a community of learners: Participants of all backgrounds come together at the bootcamp to develop their coding skills ©2023, SPARK

Both Asmaa and Souraya’s emphasise the need for more diversity, particularly in terms of gender, in a male-dominated industry. “As a woman in tech, I believe women are as creative and capable as men in this male-dominated industry,” said Asmaa. “Women have the same skills, creativity, and problem-solving abilities as men and should be encouraged to pursue careers in tech.” 

“Looking back at the boot camp, only about 20% of the graduates were women, which is common in the tech field. The number of women is minimal, even though we are just as skilled as the other genders,” explained Souraya.  

As part of the Skills Training Education Programme (STEP), SPARK’s partner, SE Factory, conducted two boot camps and enrolled 70 students, of which 37 graduated. The boot camps offered a flexible and accessible alternative to traditional education, increasing youth employability and their chance to enter the workforce quickly with relevant skills. The boot camps focus on job-specific skills in the tech sector, provide hands-on experience, and digital skills that are highly valued by employers. Students had the opportunity to network with professionals in their field, work on their projects, and showcase their abilities to potential employers, potentially leading to job opportunities or partnerships.