Karolina Gadalska: Mozesz ITy Director Reflects on Upskilling Polish Orphans for IT Jobs

Coders Lab is mobilizing a new generation of professionals to support the innovation economy Poland. Now it is activating youth leaving orphanages and their allies to achieve diversity in the tech industry.

The Polish IT sector is one of the most vital and robust industries of the national economy, ranking highest in new job creation. Since 2000, the Polish IT industry has been growing 3-4% annually, reaching a valuation of USD 8,09 billion by 2016. Despite this opportunity, the Polish IT labor market currently lacks 50,000 specialists, such as developers, UX/UI designers, and IT project managers.

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Since 2013, Coders Lab has offered six-week bootcamps featuring courses for full-stack, Java, NET (C#), and Digital UX developers. It was the first to offer bootcamp-based learning in Poland and is now the leader of the market with the highest number of courses and graduates.

By 2017, Coders Lab had trained 1,500 students, 82% of whom found employment as developers.

The enterprise realized that the shortage of qualified developers and unemployment among youth leaving foster care and orphanages are two challenges they are positioned to solve, so it launched the Możesz ITy training program.

Through trainings, events, and early-career programs, Możesz ITy equips youth and their allies with the tools, connections, and support they need to achieve diversity in the tech industry.

Karolina Gadalska is the Manager of the Foundation and works closest with the students of the program. She supports them with accessing training from corporate partners, finding employment, and anything else that comes up as part of the students’ transition to a career such as relocations.

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I support them every step of the way, starting with the first recruiting conversation with them. Sometimes our students need support because they feel that the course is difficult for them. In such moments I’m a friend, an adviser and simply a person that they can count on.
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The course consists of several modules beginning with training in soft skills. They learn important skills, such as interpersonal communication, teamwork and time management. We prioritize activities that support the students in building confidence.
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Students choose a programming language and focus on this for the majority of their course. We conduct these workshops in six locations across Poland over the course of seven weeks. After completing the course, the student is certified as a Junior Programmer. The shortest course is a test course, the longest is Java.
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In addition to the lecturer, our students receive a personal mentor. Mentors come from different departments from the offices of our technology partners. They serve our students by providing them with expertise and professional experience in the field of the specific topic that students learn.

Through Company Days organized with support from NESsT, students become familiar with the corporate environment and what careers that are available to them upon completing programming courses at Coders Lab.

Coders Lab has hosted Company Days with NESsT supporters, like Credit Suisse in Wroclaw, where students received one-on-one mentoring from software developers that helped to resolve any technical inquiries and also to keep them motivated. During the event, Credit Suisse volunteers familiarized graduates from the programme about the IT industry, roles and responsibilities, and how to find their first job. During the workshop, participants prepared a CV and discussed how to search and secure jobs in IT. Grupa Pracuj professionals co-facilitated this training for students with Credit Suisse employees.

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What I enjoy the most is the opportunity to work with young people. Upon leaving foster care and beginning our program, they are often somewhat withdrawn and lack self-esteem and confidence in their abilities. It’s fantastic to see our students as they slowly spread their wings.
— Karolina Gadalska

By teaching youth leaving foster care and orphanages to code, Możesz ITy ensures that youth have the economic and social capital needed to access a career that promotes modern computing and the development of new technology in Poland.

With support from NESsT, Coders Lab has trained 40 at-risk youth and placed seven into employment. Placements of the 2019 cohort will start in September 2019.

Karolina Gadalska and Marcin Tchórzewski, CEO at Coders Lab & Founder at Możesz ITy Foundation.

Karolina Gadalska and Marcin Tchórzewski, CEO at Coders Lab & Founder at Możesz ITy Foundation.

I’m looking forward to building a business plan together with NESsT that will allow us to generate revenue as a business and expand beyond philanthropic contributions.
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If a student wants to talk, I never refuse. When I see them gain confidence and start to believe in their self-worth, it brings me joy and satisfaction. I enjoy staying in touch with the youth even after completion of the course. 
— Karolina Gadalska
Within months of the completion of our program, I watch students launch their careers and grow as people. This is why I believe the skills training is such a valuable component of our work. I am very proud of them and at what they are able to achieve through hard work.
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Our students have enormous determination, huge ambitions, they are very focused on changing something in their lives. During the project, a thread of trust and cooperation is established between us. I help them find their first job, and at some point, we become friends.
— Karolina Gadalska