2017 for MIC Armenia: Key points and summary at a glance
Counting chicken after they hatched
Every year when we make reflections on global changes and trends of the IT sphere, we try to understand how we’ve responded during the year and contributed to the development of IT ecosystem in Armenia and what results we have achieved.
The quick glance at the basic statics of the field shows that the IT ecosystem in Armenia is rapidly growing, involving more and more local and international players. The vast majority of them are mostly focused on outsourcing services of high-quality IT products. Few startups continue to develop their own products. Both of these parties have one problem in common, and that is the lack of high-quality, committed developers at junior, middle and senior levels. If in case of middle and senior levels, companies usually develop them internally or head-hunt, the requirements of junior developers are very simple: good logic plus knowledge of mathematics and basic working skills. The last component is becoming more and more demanded, and unfortunately universities and training centers are facing difficulties in meeting this requirement. The market analysis and close collaboration with companies made it clear that we need to focus more on this gap and develop more targeted programs.
The format and curriculum of coding bootcamps are based on the experience of having company-tailored internship programs with leading IT companies in Armenia but have been greatly improved based on the international best practices. It allows novices with good logical thinking and high level of commitment to reach the level of junior developer with basic working skills within the period of six months. The program is enriched with practical workshops, experience-sharing sessions and endless hours of coding. More than 85 young people are currently involved in the bootcamps, some of them are already employed, and the program is not completed yet. 2 international companies made the decision to set up their branches, after learning about the program and interviewing the first graduates. The programs can be focused on different technologies and result in Full-stack developers with JS or .Net technologies.
New partnerships through training programs
The format of bootcamps is proved to be highly effective and can be adjusted for other spheres, such as Quality Assurance, UI/UX Design etc. Considering the high demand of not only developers but other IT-related professionals, such as QA specialists, we’ve initiated partnership with ArmSTQB, which is the Armenian National Board of ISTQB and is specialized in delivering special training courses on QA. The curriculum is based on the main tasks of QA specialists in Armenia and prepares training participants for ISTQB foundation level certification. In the result of the partnership more than 80 QA specialists were prepared, some of them have already joined various IT companies in Armenia.
Special programs for Syrian-Armenians
Considering the big flow of Syrian-Armenians to their motherland and lack of relevant workplaces here, upon the initiative of World Vision Armenia, we have developed special training course on programming, QA, UI/UX for them, considering their background and language issues. More than 90 Syrian-Armenians have passed the whole route of their relevant courses, in the result of which they have acquired highly demanded professions. Some participants have already joined local IT companies and are fully settled in Armenia.
We always track the progress of our students in order to understand what other skills and information they are missing. The close collaboration with them showed that learning from more experienced specialists of the field will deepen their skills and give more hands-on information. In 2018 we have organized 9 Technotalks with professionals related to the IT sphere, who have shared with them various topics, starting how to prepare a winning CV and pass an interview, ending with how to become a professional developer, not just a website creator. The speakers represent the top IT companies in Armenia and present the culture, environment and recruitment opportunities in big companies. In total more than 450 junior developers have benefited from these talks and networking opportunities.
Expansion of programs to Shirak marz
Till this year, the activities of MIC Armenia have been mainly focused in Yerevan. However, through technological empowering of regions, the IT sphere started rapidly growing in marzes too. Local training centers are lacking experience in delivering such courses, which would lead to graduation of junior developers with practical skills. Through the funding of the European Union and RA Ministry of Territorial Administration and Development, we started the partnership with Gyumri Information Technologies Center to implement a new project, aiming at skill enrichment of unemployed young population and business development of the IT community. The project has established partnership with local 13 IT companies and is providing assistance to enlarge their operations through skill enhancement in the form of business development and financial assistance. Around 75,000 euros have been provided to 7 companies in the form of grant to assist with the expansion of their activities, which will result in the need to hire new developers. To meet this need, the project has been implementing six-month intensive training programs for the young people at the age of 17-35 on the programming languages and technologies, used by local companies. 45 participants have already graduated from the training program and are already involved in the practical bootcamp at local IT companies. This model proves to be effective and can be duplicated in other regions, as well.
Hour of Code
The project in Gyumri has showed that there is huge potential in regions, which can lead to economic empowerment, if used efficiently. To urge the youth to learn programming, we have been organizing the ‘Hour of Code’ event for the fourth year in collaboration with various partners. This year we have expanded the geographical scope of the event and through partnership with the Children of Armenia Fund, involved Tavush and Lori regions. After training relevant mentors in those regions, more than 90 schoolchildren had fun, while learning programming through games. More than 350 schoolchildren from various communities of Armenia came to Yerevan, Ayb School to participate in the Hour of Code Yerevan. We hope that the partnership with organizations, working in regions, will expand in 2018, and more children will benefit and get exposed to the world of programming.
Coding bootcamps and training courses have united hundreds of young people who not only learn coding but also have very bright and innovative ideas on how they can use technology to develop solutions for fields, such as telecommunications, which is the fast-paced and competitive environment, driven by high customer expectations and a constant demand for new and improved services. In collaboration with Beeline Armenia, we have initiated the organization of Hackathon, the goal of which was to promote the development of digital and innovative solutions to issues in Telecommunications industry. Beeline Armenia shared with participating teams useful information on various aspects and gaps, existing in telecommunications. Considering the fact that telecommunications operators had huge amount of data, the teams were encouraged to develop their innovative solutions powered with Big Data. 22 teams, selected out of 40 teams were invited to participate in the 24-hour hackathon, during which the teams developed prototypes of their solutions and presented to the professional jury. Solutions varied from apps to more advanced technical solutions. The format of field-specific Hackathons can be applied to various sectors of economy and may result in feasible and innovative solutions, based on efficient usage of Big Data.
Workshops for startups
Startups continue to be the main focus for MIC Armenia and in partnership with various organizations, we carry out various targeted workshops to help them meet potential investors and mentors, pass faster through various stages of product development. In June we held the 'Investor and mentorship day' during which the founders and representative of 'Startup Wise Guys' accelerator and French 'Startdoon' venture fund worked with selected 13 startups in the format of holding office hours and walked through their product development plans, market strategy, pitch-deck. Later, the startups had the chance to present it during Pitch Battle.
Later in July within the scopes of HyeTech talks Sidney Minassian, the founder of Contecti (Big Data Analytics company providing solutions and managed services for over 50 customers across Asia Pacific) gave a talk about sales strategies for different products and services. The talk was really motivational for the participating startups.
This year we continued the tradition of hosting the local stage of Seedstars World and organized the competition of Armenian startups in partnership with VivaCell-MTS, AmeriaBank, the Embassy of Switzerland in Yerevan, Microsoft Armenia and the Innovative Solutions and Technologies Center. 11 selected startups pitched their products in the front of the local jury, which has selected Chessify to represent Armenia at the Seedstars World in Switzerland in 2018. Chessify has already joined the global Seedstars Family and will take part in the global Seedstars Summit that includes the bootcamp and investor forum, where they can compete for over $1million in investment. It's a catalytic platform for high growth emerging market startups.
Analysts predict a need for 1.5 million data scientists & analysts in 2018, and to be one step ahead, we have offered the opportunity to participate in the online Microsoft Professional Program in Data Science, developed by Microsoft and Columbia University. The program has been delivered online through edX platform, combined with face-to face sessions. The course provided a comprehensive program of study in data science and consisted of three units (Fundamentals, Core data science and Applied data science) and a final project. It is interesting to notice that specialists of various entities: banks, telecommunications operators, media agencies, businesses have completed the course.
All these reflections give much food for thought about our future programs and initiatives, which can be successful only in case of close collaboration with IT companies, various sectors of economy, state institutions and our main beneficiaries: students.