About two years ago, employees of Booking.com decided to organize a workshop for refugees. Based in Amsterdam, they wanted to help them increase their chances on the Dutch labour market. The workshop focused on sharing knowledge on how to write up a CV, prepare for a job interview, and get a taste of what it’s like to work in a big tech company.
Evy van Galen (second from the left) was recruitment manager at Booking and conducted some of the mockup job interviews. “Some of the attendees were extremely nervous. It really was a big deal for them. I could not stand the idea that these incredibly motivated and talented people would walk out again without any step forward to finding a job in the Netherlands.”
She then decided to take action and look at possibilities for internships. Together with some of her colleagues she created a three-month internship program and hired six interns with a refugee background, five of them graduates of the HackYourFuture program.
After the internship they all interviewed for a full-time position as Graduate Frontend Developer, and all of them got offered a job. Evy: “They worked their asses off. I don’t think Booking has ever brought in a group of more motivated individuals. They spent endless hours coding and learning in the office, and continued their learning in the evenings and weekends by reading books and completing online courses.”
"The idea that we are working in companies that make millions and we cannot make this happen, is absurd. In the end it is really about whether you care enough."
Another reason for success was the dedication of a few individuals. Although you need buy-in from higher management, the people at the top of an organization are not going to implement the program, according to Evy. “You need a core group of people, who are passionate enough to help out and then divide tasks”.
During the first month the interns received training twice a week. The next three months they worked on a project as a group, with each of them receiving individual training and coaching from a mentor to further develop their skills and knowledge.
But it did not stop there. Following this success, Evy took up a new position as the Head of Tech Recruitment at DAZN, a rapidly growing tech company providing subscription video streaming of sport events. She recently hired four new HackYourfuture graduates offering them a year-contract. All of them passed their probation period and are fully contributing like any other developer at DAZN. In other words: the business case for hiring all four was strong. “We are very happy with them, they are fully integrated into their teams. Their mentors say they have never seen more motivated juniors, and the level of knowledge is amazing”.
Evy stresses that also now the secret to success was the involvement of developers who wanted to mentor juniors. Evy: “Without mentorship, this would not be possible.” And the benefits go beyond hiring young talent and increasing diversity. Partially based on her experience with the HackYourFuture students she has become an advocate of peer-to-peer learning on the workfloor. She is currently trying to make mentorship an integral part of the working culture at DAZN.
“Their drive, enthusiasm and talent is contagious to those around them”
HackYourFuture reaches out to people in similar positions like Evy. More often than not the response is: we are only hiring seniors and this is too difficult. CTOs, recruitment and HR managers often argue that “business is business” and that there is limited time and resources to hire juniors. How did Evy manage to make this happen, where others fail?
“Yes, at Booking it took me a few hours per week extra to set up the internship program. But that’s all. When I hear that excuse, I think “Really?” The idea that we are working in companies that make millions and we cannot make this happen, is absurd. In the end it is really about whether you care enough.”
“Both at Booking and DAZN we had to put aside some initial concerns around time, budget and resources, but once they came on board everyone realized how much value our new junior colleagues are adding. Their drive, enthusiasm and talent is contagious to those around them, and for their mentors it provided a great learning opportunity to grow their own skills in coaching and training.”
“One of the most meaningful things I did in 5 years at Booking”
Read Evy's article about hiring people with a refugee background whilst working for Booking.com
“From Refugee to Developer at Booking.com”
Read the blog about our graduate Uday describing his time in HackYourFuture and working as a developer for Booking.com
If you are interested to make a change in your company, feel free to contact Evy via LinkedIn here.