In November last year Booking.com organised an in-house day for a group of about 25 refugees, in collaboration with Refugee Talent Hub and Hack Your Future. The original idea was giving them a peek into the company; share what we’re doing at Booking but also spend some time with recruiters one on one to give tips and tricks on how to enter the Dutch labour market in a successful way.
Running this event and meeting this group of incredibly talented, motivated and driven people inspired us to do more, and made me believe that as one of largest Tech employers in the Netherlands Booking.com should be doing more for this group than just organising a one off event.
The idea of putting together a longer term Technology internship arose, something we had never done before. We decided to bring a group of six interns into the company for three months, and via a structured training program give them a chance to expand their skill set, learn from the many smart and experienced techies we have in the company and gain valuable work experience in the Netherlands. We selected 6 interns from all around the country, who had to travel between 15 minutes and 2,5 hours (!) one way to join us 4 days per week in the Amsterdam office.
They worked their asses off, and I don’t think Booking had ever brought in a group of more motivated individuals. They spent endless hours coding and learning in the office, and continued their learning in the evenings and weekends by reading books and completing online courses.
After finishing their training program they went through a round of interviews and passed a Graduate Front End developer interview with flying colours, leading all of them to get hired full time as Graduate Developers.
For me personally this has been one of the most exciting and rewarding projects I’ve ever had a chance to work on. In 2015 around 50.000 people have entered the Netherlands as refugees, for the EU this number was 1.2 million. As a large corporate company we have a chance to make a difference and positively impact the lives of these people who’ve left their entire life behind in a country they had to flee from.
I’m writing this post to hopefully inspire other companies to make a similar impact, no matter how large or small. Considering the huge scarcity of tech talent investing in a training program will allow you to hire more talented and driven individuals into the roles your company is looking for. It allows your employees to engage in conversations and interactions that will enrich their lives and expand their mindset, it will improve diversity in your company by bringing in fresh and new perspectives, all while doing something that this group of people desperately need.
Today is my last day at Booking.com, but I’m incredibly happy and proud to say that the company is committed to continuing this effort and will invest in an annual internship program for refugees, with a new class starting in October.
If there’s anyone who has any questions on how we set this up or wants any tips please feel free to get in touch directly, I would be happy to help out and pay this initiative forward.
Evy van Galen
Technology Recruitment Manager Booking.com