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Welcoming Newcomers into the Tech Community

“At CoreOS we are building a company based on open source technologies, meaning we believe at the heart of the company in openness and acceptance. We believe people of all backgrounds are better together than separate, and diversity builds stronger communities. We believe in building a world class team, and celebrating our difference along the way. In addition to open source, security and privacy are a part of everything we do; keeping people and the information they share online protected. As we work to secure the internet, we work equally hard to honor all parts of the human spirit, and create an environment where all human beings can thrive.” – Alex Polvi, CEO of CoreOS

CoreOS has offices in San Francisco, New York and Berlin. Below, Sergiusz explains how CoreOS took action to support refugees, now called “newcomers,” in Berlin.

Newcomers

In Berlin, “newcomer” is an important term. For people with a refugee background, it implies the the process of fleeing is finally a thing of the past. But the term “newcomer” applies to everyone. In our opinion, this applies to anyone who is new to Berlin, independent of age, gender, origin, religion, color of skin, or sexual orientation.

I’m a software engineer at CoreOS, and am passionate about distributed systems technology like rkt and Kubernetes. I am also a former refugee and immigrant, someone who became a citizen of a free Berlin, Europe, and the world. For this reason, I am also passionate about working in a tolerant and diverse environment, welcoming to everyone. Working for a startup, even for one with as positive and compelling a social mission as CoreOS, my colleagues and I have sometimes found it hard to bring those passions together.

It doesn’t have to be hard, however. We wrote this short post to raise awareness within our ecosystem of a great community to engage with, and to encourage others to see that the barriers to getting involved are not so high. You too can make a difference.

In late January, we went to the jobs fair for Refugees and Migrants in Berlin, where we offered internships and jobs for software engineers. Given the field we are working in is quite specialized and new, requiring a narrow set of technological background and interests, we did not expect to be a popular stop at the fair. But we were completely and happily surprised by the amount of motivated people interested in distributed systems. We met many newcomers speaking fluent German despite being here for merely a few months, who were also able to switch to fluent English after being told our company does not require fluency in German. We saw people with educational backgrounds in various technical fields, but most importantly we saw talent, enthusiasm, and motivation. We shared our expertise with Berlin locals seeking advice on how to help teenage refugees enter the computer science space. We offered our services to a local university seeking volunteers to give lectures in computer science composed for people with refugee backgrounds. We committed to volunteering our time with a non-profit organization called ReDI School seeking mentors to give training for tech-interested newcomers.

We found all of this beneficial for our community, and to each of us individually. We are in a position to help those in a period of difficult transition - it is only natural that we do so, and in the manner in which we know best. We were pointed to the jobs fair by the awesome Singa Deutschland, an organization connecting newcomers and locals. We already supported this organization before, sponsoring a kick-off event for their great mentorship program.

Here’s a photo of me with Mahran, my mentee, a computer scientist who used to teach at the University of Damascus in Syria:

Mentorship program

 

What did we learn?

First, there are people in every community in the world working to achieve social good. All you need to engage with them is a bit of passion, and some motivation to reach out.

Second, don’t assume that you are too small to make a difference. Our Berlin presence is still small and specialized, but we quickly found a community we could help, where we could advance our social mission, and where we could even benefit as a business.

Third, it doesn’t take a lot of time to make a difference in someone’s life. We can all do our part to be an open, inclusive, and positive influence in these difficult times. Participation in civic affairs is more important now than it has been in years.

What can you do?

If you’re in Berlin, we recommend supporting Singa Deutschland and Jobs for Refugees and Migrants by donating your time or money. If you’re not in Berlin, find a similar group, or one that supports a cause you are passionate about. Inside your company, encourage passionate people to take a little bit of time to pursue what drives them.