Spring is the best season for visiting Ohrid, if you ask me. Sunny days, beautiful weather, many locals and tourists roaming in the streets and oh yes, that amazing view of Ohrid Lake. These are some of the perks of organizing a conference and hackhaton here, for a weekend in mid April. As part of the SECO Entrepreneurship Programme, implemented by Swisscontact, we were excited to attend and to learn more about what’s happening with the co-system outside of the capital city.
As the day for the Codeference and Codefest was approaching, I scheduled a meet-up with one of the co-organizers Jasna Trengoska She is also the Managing Director of Girls in Tech Macedonia. Let’s learn more about the story behind this highly anticipated event.
“Codefest happened out of a “mistake” with a Facebook event, and ended up continuing every year since then thanks to the shown interest in the event. More precisely, 4 Codefests ago, my colleagues Aleks, William and I were still students at the Tech University in Ohrid, and we were behind on our semester projects for various reasons. So, in order to finish on time, we asked the University for permission to let us stay at the amphitheater overnight to work on our projects. And then we made a Facebook event so that other colleagues could join if they wanted to. What happened was that students from other faculties and even other cities started applying as well. So we had an event before we really knew it. Codefest is so much more than an annual 32-hour long programming marathon event. It is an experience for young talents who have something to create and show to the tech community. In that sense, Codefest is more like an ongoing program that sparks young people to think outside the box and makes them believe in their own ideas to a point when they can convert them into tech startups. And of course, technology knows no limits or borders, so the international spirit is always present.” – explains Jasna.
Some things have changed over the years and for this year’s edition the organizers added a conference, one day prior the hackhathon. How Codefest developed and whats the aim with the Codeference?
“Well, the event grew, and so did we together with it. In year 1 where we had 13 teams and about 70 participants. In only 4 years we managed to grow the event to 54 teams with applications from all over the world, out of which we had to select 32 teams. The experience we gained through Codefest throughout the years, has also helped us to polish the whole organizational process. In the last 4 years, we managed to put Codefest firm on its feet, so now the focus is on further improving it and growing it even more. This year, for the first time, we expanded the Codefest agenda from being the 32-hour coding marathon by adding one more day to the event, which was the day of Codeference. This grew out of the large positive response at previous Codefest marathons for the few speakers, addressing participants in between the working sessions. Usually we would get a full hall of guests for these speakers, as was the case last year with the representative from Facebook HQ, so that kind of triggered the idea of organizing the Codeference this time. The speakers completes the agenda of Codefest overall and is a good motivation and knowledge source for all attendees. We had some really great speakers this year, who saw and understood the vision we have for Codefest and decided to help us realize it.” -says Jasna.
As a guest I really enjoyed the Codeference and I was really surprised to witness how hard the teams are working on their projects. Let me paint the picture, amazing sunny weather throughout the whole weekend, beautiful lake view from the coffee bar terrace, but you enter the “working room” you experience an intense working atmosphere, people coding, getting mentorship and polishing their presentation. The pitching session was a success for all teams, but most of all for the Dream Killers – the winners of Codefest2016. What advice would Jasna give to anyone interested in joining Codefest 2017 and what are the organizers’ future plans, I was interested to find out.
“With Codefest we try to contribute to the development of our ecosystem in the first place. Codefest, at least through the Marathon, targets students from different ages, a category of people in our ecosystem that is very often neglected but is also very powerful. Most of the global tech miracles and innovations came directly from students, and they have the skills, minds and creativity to really develop the next “unicorn”. Events like Codefest are there just to help them realize their potential and to make them believe in their ideas and skills. With the right resources, these young people can go really very far. Hopefully by next year we will see the results of some of these efforts. As an advice, I would say, never let anyone put you down, when it comes to believing in your own ideas and skills. Regardless of the country and background you come from, you have the potential to be the next big thing, and you should act on it!” – adds Jasna.
It has been a real pleasure, to be able to share Jasna’s story and the story of Codefest, which is slowly but surely becoming on of the biggest tech events in the region. I enjoyed every second of it and I am looking forward to see the outcome and what the teams will do next. For all students, I highly recommend for you to take part, next year, it will be an invaluable experience for you! To all the speakers and international teams, do not hesitate to learn more about our eco-system and join in. I am looking forward to Codeference and Codefest 2017 and with this amazing view, you should too 🙂
Another #StartUpSelfie from Ohrid is coming in the following days.