Vratsa Software is one of the organisations Questers regularly supports through our Giving Programme as we admire their efforts to develop and grow the IT community in Vratsa.
To tell us more about the organisation, their initiatives and achievements as well as the challenges they face, we’ve talked to one of its co-founders Emiliyan Kadiyski. Read what he shared with us:
Tell us more about Vratsa Software. What’s the purpose of the organization?
Vratsa Software is a non-profit organization, with the main goal to support the development of the digital industry in the wide Vratsa Area in Bulgaria through high-quality educational courses and intriguing IT events.
Nowadays the professionals in highest demand are people with knowledge relevant to the needs of the IT industry. The world is becoming increasingly digital and there’s an actual risk for people with outdated professions to drop out of the labour market. The same applies for a lot of enterprises that are failing to digitalize. They are under the risk of being replaced by others that have already done that. We’ve been trying our best for years (and results are already in!) to help Vratsa improve as a place to live by bringing digital enterprises to town, as well as providing courses in programming (including kids’ courses), digital marketing and from this year – in graphic design. Also, we’re organizing some annual events - CodeWeek, HackVratsa, Treasure Hunt, RailsGirls.
When and how was the idea conceived? How has Vratsa Software changed over the years?
It was conceived 6 years ago as a result of our observations that Vratsa, being part of the EU’s poorest region, offers far too little opportunities for career development. This forces all young and ambitious people to leave the city. Vratsa has lost half of its inhabitants in the last 25 years. People are forced to leave their hometown due to poverty and the lack of job opportunities.
What are your biggest challenges and how do you overcome them?
Due to the fact that Vratsa has a relatively small population (around 40 000 people), we are facing difficulties creating a sustainable business model for the Vratsa Software Society. During the first years, we counted entirely on outside funding, which allowed us to focus on events, courses and bringing in enterprises. Today we use a hybrid model based on tuition fees by companies who hire our graduates and donations.
As an organization what’s your biggest achievement so far?
Our biggest achievement is that we have gained the trust of the people from the region and beyond. More than 30 people who graduated from our courses began working in IT companies in Vratsa, while thanks to us 4 new companies opened offices in the town. Also, more than 20 of our students participate in national IT events and competitions every year.
You regularly organize a hackathon called “Hack Vratsa”. What do you aim with it and do many people take part?
The Hackaton’s aim is to bring together bright minds with interests in coding and to take them on an amazing 3-days long adventure, as well as to ignite the flame for knowledge at the highest level. The main success is not only the fame for the team that wins, but also the the opportunity for all participants to get noticed by major companies in the industry like Questers.
When will the next one take place? Will there be any changes in the format?
We’re planning the next eddition of HackVratsa to take place in 2020 despite the difficulties that we’re facing along the way. The event is planned for early September with the main topic of “Surviving in the COVID-19 pandemic”. The idea is (if possible) to keep the traditional format and do it in person. Anyone interested in the event may follow our Facebook page for up-to-date information.
Any other interesting initiatives you’re planning?
Another popular event – Codeweek, will take place in the autumn. The event is composed of lectures and workshops covering innovative topics. It is aimed at anyone interested in enhancing their coding skills.
We’re also very proud of our new co-working space – “The Nest”. It is the first one of this kind in the region. We’re happy that it is an object of huge interest and that we’re visited by interesting people daily. “The Nest” offers modern working conditions required for a high quality work process, a pleasant atmosphere and a friendly vibe.