Behind the House: Meet Zain

Re:Coded House would not be what it is without an amazing team behind it. To celebrate the diverse faces bringing to life the events, workshops and programs there, we wanted to kick start an interview series with the people making the community and the House what it is. We couldn’t think of a better person to start this series with than Zain Awan who leads the day-to-day operations at Re:Coded House.

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The Vitals

Name: Zain Haider Awan

Age: 25

City: Currently Erbil but originally from the UK

Job Title: Growth and Operations Manager

Educational Background: Development Studies and Middle Eastern Studies, SOAS

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do

I’m the Growth and Operations Manager where myself and my diverse team manage Re:Coded House.  Through programming a series of events, workshops and trainings we are building Re:Coded House into a home for the intellectually curious and creatively inquisitive. I'm passionate about growth, about seeing people develop and absolutely love a discussion on culture, politics or art. In my spare time, I love reading, creative writing and traveling. I’m an absolute sucker for hiking and last year completed Everest Base Camp during the most dangerous time to do it - December!

How did you get started? Briefly walk us through from college to now?

Since the age of 13, I’ve been involved in community planning and student activism. It’s here, when I became fascinated with the world of changemaking and aspired to take on a career in politics. Being someone who dabbled with many things and having the internet at my hands, I did what every millenial does and started learning online. I was obsessed with design, and accidentally became a graphic designer for my local campaigns I was running. By the age of 16 I was working on client projects as a freelance designer, became a marketing internal and completed my A-levels undertaking an additional course in Philosophy! During these years I became active in national youth politics, and was selected as a representative for UK youth at international summits including becoming the first British Pakistani on the board of the British Youth Council. I was introduced to the whole notion of digital rights and my life was changed! I changed my degree twice in the space of two months, but found myself thoroughly enjoying my course in Development Studies and Middle Eastern Studies. I had the awesome experience of consulting for a foundation operating in conflict prone areas and specialised in field reporting from remote parts of Iraq.

I launched my own creative agency at university with a friend, and we worked on some exciting marketing and communications contracts with high profile clients.  All this was possible because of my accidental curiosity of picking a piece of software and learning what it was about.

Since graduating, I have worked as a consultant for governmental organisations, served as a marketing director for a YC backed tech start up in the UK and before joining Re:Coded help establish an innovation department for one of the fastest growing British charities. It’s awesome working in a space where I can reconcile all my passions and experiences, help others along the way and be part of the evolving scene in Erbil.

Best part of your job?

The best part of my job is seeing new faces come into our space. As a fellow creative, I love it when people use the space for exciting projects and to see them work tirelessly on their passions.

Hardest part?

So many things are happening at Re:Coded - staying on top of them is really important to me. I sometimes want to attend all of the events but there isn’t enough hours in the day to get all my work done!

Why do you think Re:Coded House is important for the creative and tech ecosystem in Iraq?

Creatives exits, Techies already are roaming Erbil but spaces are few or non-existent. As someone who has had a residency as an artist, it’s vital for places dedicated to creative and tech development to exist. The energy of working in a space which is dedicated to innovation is powerful and one should never underestimate the necessity of spaces in producing new ideas.

Anything exciting you’ve got planned for the next couple of months that you want to share?

I’m super excited to see the Erbil Summer Tech fest come to life after working on putting together a programme of diverse events and workshops. We will be rolling over 36 events and can’t wait to share more on our creative and design programming workshops.

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Quick and Random

Fave Social Media Channel? Instagram: @CreativeDebuts

Fave book or podcast? I’m absolutely obsessed with this amazing Podcast which conducts critical reviews on the development scene called Tiny Spark. Also for all my geeky endeavors, The Infinite Monkey Cage by BBC Radio 4. For health and wellbeing: Feel Better, Live More with Dr Rangan Chatterjee  (Episode 65 on confidence and saying no is a real eye opener!). I’m currently reading How to be Human by Ruby Wax - and would recommend this as an easy booster for wellbeing.

Fave show to binge watch? My guilty pleasure - Riverdale. There, I said it. Let’s move on.

Fave food? I can’t deny but my mum’s Biryani hits the spot all the time.

Best Career Advice You’ve Received?

  1. On taking criticism: Never take it personally. And if they make it unprofessional by making it personal, it tells more about the person giving than you as an individual. This is always a guiding light for me.

  2. Just keep swimming. Go with the flow and roll with the punches baby!