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Khadijah is pioneering design programs at Re:Coded

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min read //

August 17, 2021

Re:Coded Team

The Re:Coded Team

Khadijah is pioneering design programs at Re:Coded
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Born and raised in a lower middle class neighborhood in the Bronx, New York it can hardly get further away from life in Erbil where Khadijah is on a Zoom call with our team in Istanbul talking about her career at Re:Coded.

The Kurdish city of Erbil is where we first ran into her. In the summer of 2012 she had left her job in New York to move to Erbil with her husband who was starting a company. As the first child of two immigrant parents with her mother from Tunisia and her father from Baghdad in Iraq she was already connected to the region but the transition was hardly easy.

It feels more like a startup which is an NGO. I realized that everyone here leads by what they say and I love that we have a group of people who have come in with all the same intentions. It’s an organization made up of fascinating people who’ve taken winding routes through life but all ended up at the same place.
— Q: What is like working at Re:Coded?

"I thought we would be in Erbil for a couple of years and then go back. But we are still here. I have built my life from scratch here even though it has been difficult as a woman in Erbil. I’m strong and opinionated, and in New York that works, but it has been hard to be like that here."

It was in Erbil however that her design career kicked off. Originally she got her degree in Middle East Studies at Columbia University, but she decided to take a leap into a new career as a designer and started enrolling in a bunch of online design courses.

Checking in with our UX/UI Bootcamp class in Iraq in 2020 to find our Creative & Design Lead Khadijah Abdul Nabi in an inspiring moment.

"There was no place in Iraq to study this, but online is a portal to a different world. I learned a lot on my own through Coursera and Udemy but it takes a lot of discipline to study on your own with no feedback and no teachers."

Finding her mission at Re:Coded

By 2017 she had already formed her own design company and even ran a YouTube channel on design. She was still working hard to learn and improve and it was after finishing a 3 month intensive course at Shillington College of Graphic Design in London that she came across Re:Coded that was just about to launch in Erbil.

The ideal person has empathy. They have a growth mindset. They come in really willing to learn more than they are to contribute. We can all contribute but it takes something special to be a life-learner. Really authentic. You’re treated as who you are. If you have an idea, you can help. Be really passionate about what you’re doing.
— Q: What sort of person would thrive at Re:Coded?

She reached out to Re:Coded and started mentoring at a hackathon and giving them UX/UI feedback on how to build a better platform. At that time a marketing position opened up and she jumped for it.

"I had worked alone for three years, but suddenly I met someone who was thinking like me and the work was in line with my dreams."

It turned out it wasn’t quite the field for her so after sitting down with Ali, one of the founders of Re:Coded, she realized that there were still other paths open to her and she switched to a role working with the Re:Coded Education Team on new programs.

"The way they helped me to make the transition made me want to stay at Re:Coded forever. They knew that I was an asset to the team even though I had not been put in the right position, and I was really grateful for that."

Her new role paved the way for introducing design into the Re:Coded programs. UX/UI design is a central aspect of building digital apps and solutions and by this time it felt a natural next step for both Re:Coded and Khadijah. Her first project was a girls-only graphic design and photography program taught in Arabic in Iraq.

"This was phenomenal and one of the most important things that I’ve contributed to in my life. So now we’re doing three more."

Cultivating a love of design in Erbil

Together with Esther Grossman, one of our Senior Program Managers based in Iraq and a similar burst of positive energy, they also started working on a fully immersive UX/UI Design Bootcamp building on our Flatiron School Design Curriculum.

That program launched in the summer of 2020 and by this time Khadijah had moved on to become our Senior Creative & Design Lead.

I think that all of us are hired for our values and for the way that we see life. I really love the team and respect every single person. We have such a vast amount of knowledge. I wish that we had lunches every week or so to share skills. We’re all here to do the work and make an impact.
— Q: What’s the culture like?

"I oversee design programs in terms of curriculum in terms of creativity. Design is very new to Re:Coded. as before we were mostly just doing coding bootcamps. I help with brainstorming with the team and then together we determine how to implement our new programs. Design is so big that we need to decide what to teach which is specific to the target audience. We have to tailor everything to each cohort and their needs."

While she loves the challenges of starting a new program in Re:Coded her ambitions go higher than that. Khadijah hopes that the Re:Coded bootcamps will not only help to transform the tech scene in Iraq but also change how people view the world.

I am really excited about how design and coding bootcamps will overlap and see them start working together. I want us to build such a strong relationship that people understand that the future of work is about the bond between the two. One is no better than the other and they cannot do without one another. I’m often asked about how they should work together but development isn’t a one-person show. We need to understand how to work in teams, always. — Q: Why are you happy that Re:Coded is now offering design programs?

"In New York everything is specialized but in Erbil we’re still building and I can see what we need. If you want to change the world with tech you need to understand design thinking – you need to learn to think about your user. And it’s happening. From LinkedIn, I can see that people are looking for UIUX programmers and there will be even more opportunities in the future. Before the last boot camp had even finished, 6 graduates were already hired."

Trading New York for Erbil might seem like a radical decision but to Khadijah, the decision was rooted in her sense of adventure and desire to give something back.

"The best thing is that there is a space for me to give what I learn and be an example for youth. They grew up in a land of war and it’s great to give something back. It builds character here. If you’d have told me that I would be teaching Iraq five years ago, I would have thought that you were nuts. The best thing about being here is that I can give what I’ve learned back."

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Re:Coded Team

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