Late 2016 Odai Kakhi (25) arrived in the Netherlands from Syria, together with his father, mother and sister. Even though the war in his homecountry was raging, he and his family were in no desire to leave, even as many of his friends had already escaped the country. But life became too difficult and unsafe. One of Odai’s family members went missing. Eventually they made the decision to leave.

Before they left, Odai initially had never been an A-student. “In high school I got low marks, I was a horrible student.” He laughs at the memory. His idea was to study first and then set up a business. He majored in Computer Networking, which became his passion. His work ethic improved. He graduated as the second-best student in his university and was asked to start teaching at university.

When he arrived in the Netherlands he wanted a job. “I already graduated and was a teacher at university, I did not want to lose more time”, he says. He heard about HackYourFuture, a program in which refugees and other disadvantaged groups learn programming, and decided to apply.

“Sometimes I was crying in the shower”

He describes those days as a “crazy” period in his life. The program was very intense as he struggled learning all the basic concepts of programming. He laughs: “Sometimes I was crying in the shower. I thought I was not smart enough, that I am stupid [..] But I made a decision: I want to continue and finish the course, whether I become a developer or not.”

Odai (on the center right) at the HackYourFuture three year anniversary celebration

And he made it. In October 2017 Odai graduated from the program. An opportunity for an internship opened up at Booking.com, the biggest international website to book a holiday and accommodation.

Booking is a true giant. It offers over a million residencies to spend your holidays. Its website is available in 43 different languages. The company holds over 85 offices in 47 countries. Its headquarters are based in Amsterdam, where it employs over 1200 people from all over the world.­­

Together with four other HackYourFuture students, Odai was offered a three-month internship. A gruesome three months of studying and coding. Odai was living in Den Bosch at the time. “I would wake up at 5 am and arrive in the office by 8:30. I would be home at 8pm, eat something and sleep.”

After three months he was offered a full-time job at Booking. When he shared the good news at home, his parents were ecstatic. Uday describes himself as a “big guy”, but nevertheless his father managed to lift him up – “he was so happy”.

His job is still a challenge sometimes, and he misses his home country. But he no longer cries in the shower, and he does not live in Den Bosch anymore. Because of his job he moved to Hilversum, where he rents an apartment for himself.

Odai at Booking with HYF Class 22

Odai remains involved in the HackYourFuture program. He sometimes teaches new students and checks their homework assignments. Odai: “HackYourFuture is my family!”

He also helps out on the introduction day for new classes of students. Every two months a new group of students start their program at HackYourFuture. On their first day they visit Booking.com. Odai speaks about his experience as a student and what it is like to work as a developer. When one of the new students asks for his most important advice, he is silent for a few seconds. And then: “Grab this opportunity!”


If you are a company looking for developers while making a positive impact on society, we can help you! Check out our website for more details or contact our Partnership Manager Federico. We want to hear from you!

If you are a motivated and resilient person with a disadvantaged background (refugee, migrant, long-term unemployed, etc.) but want to start a career in web development you can join HackYourFuture. We have new classes every two months. What are you waiting for? Apply today!