A developer who occasionally has existential crisis and thinks if we are heading to the wrong direction, technology is just getting us there sooner.

Week 2 — Diving into the problem

My journey of running a coding group for refugees and helping them become software engineers

In our meeting Arya brought up that he wish he could just have a few months that he doesn’t have to worry about anything and focus on learning coding. Only then I realised how hard this is. I was naive and thought I can teach coding after my work so they can learn coding after their work and boom, six months later they become software engineers. But the situation for them is quite different from my own. They are on a bridging visa which they have to apply for a new one every 6 months and not clear pathway to permanent residency. I remember when my visa was going to expire and I was yet to lodge my application, I was so anxious for months because I just didn’t know if anything could go wrong and I would have to leave the life I had in Australia for so long. Even now I am on a 4-years visa, I still feel no certainty and security with the government changing their immigration policy so often. Imagine every 6 months they have to go through the process again, that’s putting one in a perpetual anxious state. On top of that, Arya has rent and food to pay, medical appointments to make, it all cost money and everything become so much harder when you don’t have money. You have to look for doctors that Medicare can cover, it might be further away so you need to take extra time travel, you have much less options so you might not be able to find the doctors that suits your situations the most, etc. So he needs a job, but if he takes a job that’s so physically demanding, how does he still have energy after work to sit down and learn new things? I just sit there and write code on my laptop everyday so talking to people after work is kind of a switch off for me. But if I had a job that’s so tiring I don’t know if I could do anything after work. This is the first time I felt so closely the social ladder is so real. Learning this, my goal this week had become helping Arya to get an office job. It doesn’t have to pay well but at least it is something that’s easy on the body so allows him to have extra energy to do something else, and an income so he has the ability and flexibility to do the things he has to do.

So I started thinking about what kind of entry level office job could be suitable for Arya. I thought of the BDR (business development representative) role at my work, so I had a chat with my colleagues Omar and Laura and asked them what the role actually is. And I thought of talking to some recruiters and seeing if they can give me some advices or even have any jobs on offer. I went on my LinkedIn and changed my status to “open to work” and within a day three recruiters messaged me and I scheduled meetings with them. From the recruiters, I found out they are more for mid level/senior people because companies often have trouble getting senior roles but not junior roles so they didn’t know any open jobs, but I got more options like data entry, office administration, customer success, etc. so that was helpful.

With the information I met with Arya and together we signed up to a few job platforms and applied for jobs. Again I felt the divide. It was easy for me, all I had to do was to put a signal up that I am looking for work and people come to me and ask if I would have a look of the jobs they have. I have definitely forgotten how hard it was when I was starting out until now. With Arya, even filling out the resume was not smooth. What do you put in your experience when you spent the past 10 years in detention? Resumes are designed for the working ants like me who have been loyal to the system and done every step the it has asked of us. Education, work experience, skills, every section is the years you submit yourself to it and in the end the system decide you are devoted enough and then the opportunities and privileges open up for you. When you are one step off, you will drift away and disappear in the current. That fear kept us going and stayed quiet. It was so natural to me until I saw it from a different point of view. I was not longer sure if I filled the resume with my life or if I fit my life into a resume. That was just a revelation, we still have to do what we have to do. We applied for 15 jobs and I asked Arya to keep applying 20 more everyday. I felt a human degraded into a product trying to put ourself into a shelf of thousands of other products waiting for someone to pick us up.

That evening the anxiety remained in me. Just a few hours of putting myself in Arya’s situation, I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t focus the second morning. I thought to myself, does everybody already know how hard it is and is that why nobody is doing it? Am I just ignorant and naive to start this group and thinking I can do the impossible?

Half lying on the couch for two hours staring into the void, I finished all my negative thinking. I wanted to cut through the process. Arya is a perfect human being and capable of doing a lot of things, but everything is designed to make it harder for us to do the actual work. So I talked to Phil my boss, who also provides the office space and $500 a month for us to run the group, and asked if we could find something Arya can work on with us. He is as supportive as usual and suggested a meeting with him and work something out. At last it was a little progress and we shall see how it goes =)

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Week 1 — First Meeting

My RefugeesCode Journey—Week -∞ /0


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