Why we decided to launch Iraq’s first ever Summer Tech Fest

As we draw close to the final few weeks of one of the most eventful summers for Re:Coded, our growth and operations manager, Zain Haider Awan reflects on why our team set themselves such an ambitious project of three months of jam-packed events and workshops.

Where did the idea of the Erbil Summer Tech Fest come from? 

After making Erbil my home, I had countless conversations with our students, alumni and members of the community. It became clear that there was a lack of things to do over summer, especially as many people departed the city during the hottest part of the year. This got our team thinking; how can we develop something where we can ensure that our community and co-working space is filling a gap for people looking to upskill themselves, learn or socialise. While also enjoying their summer, of course. 

We first set ourselves the challenge to curate over 20 events over summer, but just as the momentum grew and the idea snowballed into more - all of the team got stuck in. We started calculating and realised we had scheduled over 36 workshops, seminars, masterclasses and socials. We’ve now hit over 39 events with more planned for the month of August. By the end of August the summer tech fest is projected to grow to over 50 events with over 500 people in attendance.

For those that don’t believe there's an interest or a tech and creative ecosystem in Erbil, obviously they have not had the pleasure of experiencing Re:Coded House! 

What have been some of the key highlights from the Erbil Summer Tech Fest?

It’s so hard to choose from the whole offerings of events and amazing workshops but I enjoyed the Graphic Designers meet up where we had over 45 graphic designers vibe, jam and network with each other. We even had people travel from Baghdad to Erbil for this amazing event. While Re:Coded began with a focus on technology, we’ve now expanded our offerings to creativity, and it’s incredible to see the potential of young Kurdish designers.  While Re:Coded began with a focus on technology, we’ve now expanded our offerings to creativity, and it’s incredible to see the potential of young designers from across the country. 

I also loved the film nights, analogue game nights and yoga mornings - they added a nice twist to show that tech should also be conscious of wellbeing and importantly, should be fun. Contrastingly, we also had intense workshop offerings including a 3 day intimate Arduino  masterclass. This was amazing to see the students build out models for electronic and code solutions.

Our largest event of the TechFest so far, was the Eco-Innovation Hackathon organised in partnership with CEWAS and BORDA where over 40 young people hacked for two days on solutions for local environmental issues here in Erbil. To see that the space and festival enabled techies and developers to think more consciously and creatively for their own communities is absolutely amazing. Mind you, this isn’t the first hackathon we’ve hosted at our space and it most definitely won’t be the last. 

What have been the challenges of organising a summer long programme?

I think at first, the challenge to see if we had enough offerings but by the end of it we realised we did not have enough days in the month to deliver all the amazing workshop and events we will be offering. This is always a really good problem to be stuck with. 

What’s been the most enjoyable part of this whole process?

The best bit has been seeing the whole team throw themselves full on into the challenge and get their hands dirty with the whole process. All sorts of eclectic mixes have come out from the summer long programming from graphic design, Arduino, family make and create nights to 3d Printed Plant systems. 

What are the plans for the future?

Well taking the learning from what workshops people really enjoyed and importantly wanted more of, we want to inform our future programming in the space from what is beneficial and what people like to see. 

We are super excited to see the community really make our house a home. More people are signing up to our co-working space and the fact that we’ve had such good attendance and energy in the space for the Erbil Summer Tech Fest is testament that these are the programmes and offerings which we as a city need.

Will we see an Erbil Summer Tech Fest 2020? 

We can hope so! It will be bigger and better in putting it together and have more time to do something more spectacular, resourceful and powerful for the community.

Erbil Summer Tech Fest will be running until August with a series of events, workshops and fun filled events for all ages. For more information and a full list of programmes visit our event page. Pop by and say hello if you are in Erbil and visit our cutting edge co-working and co-creating space Re:Coded House - a home for creatives and techies. 

Ali Clare