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Education and post-traumatic recovery for women from Artsakh

As a result of the military offensive launched by Azerbaijan in Artsakh in 2023, almost the entire population of the republic was forced to flee to Armenia, and tens of thousands of people became refugees. To help and support at least some of them, DataArt’s Armenian office launched a free quality assurance (QA) IT school for women from Artsakh. According to participants, the three months of intense education with top specialists resulted not only in acquiring new professions but also had a strong therapeutic effect. Education provided a much-needed sense of control over their lives and faith in a better future. Three of these students and the head of DataArt Armenia share more about this exceptional experience.

Ishkhan Margaryan, deputy head of DataArt Armenia, Human Resources department

In our office, we strive to develop our employees’ public speaking and training skills while positively impacting the IT community in Armenia. So, we have already organized several free IT schools here.

When the war in Artsakh broke out, and the locals had to leave their homes and move to Yerevan, we realized that this was the right moment to organize another IT school, this time with a significant emphasis on corporate social responsibility (CSR) for the vulnerable group of displaced people. We immediately realized that the project should be aimed specifically at women, because there are generally fewer women than men in IT, and we would like to give them a boost. We hoped that this project could help break stereotypes related to women in engineering.

At first, we were afraid that we would be very slow in recruiting the group, because it had not been a month since the war, and people were under a lot of stress; we thought they might not be in the mood for education. I asked the whole team to spread the information through all corporate and personal channels. Plus, we contacted several companies that were in the process of relocating people from Artsakh to Armenia.
Surprisingly, we had about 150 applications just two weeks after the announcement. We needed the students to know at least minimal English to progress. The result was a group of 20 women. The course lasted three months. Twice a week, there were lectures, and once a week, there were practical classes. We added all the students to our internal database. If any internship opportunity opens up, we will consider our Artsakh students first.

After the course, I heard them thank us for the opportunity, not just to learn a new profession but to distract them from the troubles. They said it was an opportunity to jump from scarcity into sufficiency and start to control at least part of their life: “Feel that I am enough, I can overcome this, there is a future, and I am in control.” It was the most valuable feedback for us!
Ani Babayan

In Artsakh, we had a wonderful life. Although it has long been one of the “troubled regions,” we always felt completely safe there. Our town was small; everyone knew each other, there was no crime, and if you lost something, people would always return it.

In 2020, our lives changed. The war started, and most of the civilian population was evacuated to Armenia. But when the war ended, my husband, my little daughter and I (along with more than 100,000 of our compatriots) decided to return, even though we realized it was very dangerous. But we believed that everything would be fine.

In December 2022, the blockade began, and it lasted nine months. People stood in line for bread for hours, often at night. Still, they were ready to live half-starved in the blockade, only if they were at home. We evacuated, utterly broken.

I worked as a financier for the Ministry of Social Security in Artsakh. But I needed something new to occupy myself, to distract myself. I decided to retrain and change my qualifications. Going to QA school was like therapy for all of us.
On the first day, we were shocked. It’s kind of amazing that what I was doing in the civil service and employment in IT are called the same word, “work.” At DataArt, everything is done to care for their employees and make them feel comfortable. And freedom in everything – come when you want, dress as you wish. The main thing is to fulfill the tasks well and to get the result, and how you achieve it is your business. This approach is much more effective!

We had an excellent group, and our mentor was wonderful – very attentive and responsive. He gave us all the necessary information, advised us on additional sources of knowledge and answered any questions.

Now, I am taking another course on Data Analysis. As soon as I finish the course, I will choose which profession to pursue and where to look for an internship. But no matter where I go, DataArt QA school was my first step into IT.

I am grateful for this opportunity to acquire up-to-date knowledge in one of the most in-demand professions, for the help in finding the strength and motivation to keep moving forward, and, most importantly, for the good acquaintances, comfort and warmth that have surrounded us all this time.

Ani Mirzoyan

Until 2020, my family and I lived in Artsakh. Only in the 90s, when I was a kid, did we spend one year in Armenia because of the war, but then we returned.

There, I graduated from university as a financier and worked as a tax inspector. The entire civil population left in 2020, but many returned hoping to live in their homes, including my parents and sisters. But I was pregnant with my third child, and my husband and I decided to stay. In 2023, they were all forced to leave their homes and move out.

Back in Artsakh, I thought about changing my sphere of work and moving to IT, where the work is more exciting and comfortable. I enjoyed working at the tax authority with my colleagues and learned a lot there. But in the public sector, everything is too strict; everyone sits quietly in their offices. To take a child to the clinic, you must write down where you’re going, why and when you will be back.

In IT, there is an opportunity to work remotely. With children, it is much more convenient than wasting time commuting to an office.
After the war, I started looking for different opportunities, and a friend sent me a link to the QA school at DataArt. I sparked with enthusiasm when I arrived at the company’s office and saw how well everything was organized there. It is so comfortable – there is a kitchen, there is a place to relax, to play sports. I loved the freedom!

The course was challenging but exciting. I am now taking the second advanced QA course in preparation for the International Software Testing Qualification Board certificate. I’m also looking for a part-time internship to gain practice.

This course taught me a lot professionally and changed my worldview. In Armenia, it is commonly believed that one can get a good job only through acquaintances and connections, but I want to achieve everything myself. During the course, I was convinced that if you study well, everything will work out. At the end of school, there was a lesson on how to behave and present yourself during a job interview. Our teachers told us their professional stories. It was inspiring and motivating, because they could find a great job independently, without any acquaintances, through their efforts and knowledge.

I am very grateful to DataArt. It was like a ray of light in this difficult moment for all the participants. After the war and the darkness we went through, these lessons became faith in something good, a hope that life goes on and everything is possible; you have to believe and go to your dreams.

Marta Arakelyan

Artsakh was a paradise for us. Our children grew up without fear. We had a stable life, and then everything turned upside down. It is tough for me to talk about last year’s events. It was tough.

I graduated from a foreign language university and worked first as a translator and then as customer support in telecom. We are building our whole life anew, and working in such circumstances is challenging. But joining the school and learning something new was the most brilliant idea.
We were fortunate to have such a teacher. Yuri Tsyganenko is a skilled teacher and a strong expert in his field. We all looked forward to our lessons, a chance to get out of the house, distract ourselves and do something interesting. The whole DataArt team has been so friendly and supportive. Just what we needed during this period.

We are still in contact with our whole group, so besides a new profession, we have also acquired a community!
Guest Contributor

Armenian Weekly

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