On Saturday, April 7, the AUIS Entrepreneurship Initiative [AEI], in coordination with the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GiZ), Google Developer Group, and Zain Iraq, hosted the Women in Tech and Entrepreneurship Summit, organized by Five One Labs and Re:Coded. The full day event involved a panel of female entrepreneurs from across Iraq, and “Intro to Coding” and “Launching your Startup” workshops. Both aspects of the event aimed to raise awareness about and explore opportunities for women in technology and entrepreneurship in Iraq through discussion and training.
The panel discussion was moderated by Zahra Shah, Program Manager at Re:Coded, and panelists included Safa Salwan, Founder of Women Techmakers Baghdad; Ava Nadir, Head of Zain Kurdistan Marketing Communication and PR Department; Talar Noore, Founder and CEO of WWB Consulting; and Hero Mohammed, Software Developer and Founder of Hackasuly. The discussion ranged from personal experiences and challenges to advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, with a particular focus on the intersection between entrepreneurship, technology, and soft skills.
Safa Salwan articulated this nexus when she advised students to work on enhancing their soft skills to add value to “hard” IT skills because this is what will make them invaluable with the rise of artificial intelligence in the future. There was a general consensus among the panelists that communication and critical thinking skills were essential to excelling in any field, including tech.
Specifically addressing the issue of gender in male-dominated spaces like tech and entrepreneurship, Ava Nadir stated the need to empower women to believe that they could depend on themselves as individuals in order to be successful. Likewise, Talar Noore focused on the characteristics of drive and curiosity as essential to female entrepreneurship. In fact, some aspects of tech and entrepreneurship had an equalizing effect that dissolved the divide between men and women’s ability to be developers or entrepreneurs. Hero Mohammad summed up the liberating and equalizing effect that the act of coding: “Your code doesn’t care if you’re male or female.”
In the spirit of pairing advice and inspiration with action for the audience members, Five One Labs and Re:Coded hosted the workshops “Launching your Startup” and “Intro to Coding: Creating an Android App.” The former, hosted by Alice Bosley and Pat Cline, with support from entrepreneurs from Five One Labs, focused on strategies for interviewing customers, brainstorming solutions, and developing a business idea to pitch to an entrepreneur in the community. The coding workshop, led by Zahra Shah, focused on the basics of Java programming and XML, and encouraged participants to write a few lines of code themselves.