Driving Progress By Enabling Innovation Anywhere, Anytime Along with our efforts to grow sustainable communities, however, comes an emphasis on removing execution barriers in order to preserve the possibilities for developers and startups. As many entrepreneurs grappled with the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, so came the need to identify new ways to provide them with the resources they needed.

By Walied Elamien

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I'm an engineer, and I love "building things." I started my career in management consulting helping large businesses identify operational efficiency improvements, before shifting my focus to working with startups. Today, I am part of a team at Facebook whose aim is to help developers and businesses grow by building innovative products and sustainable ecosystems on our platform through programs like Developer Circles.

Last month, we launched a three-month Advanced Developer Training program in Egypt and in Lebanon with our partner, Knowledge Officer. The specialized Product Management course is completely free, and covers online content, practical assignments, and feedback from career advisors to help talented developers land jobs as Product Managers locally and remotely. The course, which has over 500 participants so far, was organized in a pre-COVID world, and exemplifies the kind of resources made available to entrepreneurs in our region.

Along with our efforts to grow sustainable communities, however, comes an emphasis on removing execution barriers in order to preserve the possibilities for developers and startups. As many entrepreneurs grappled with the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, so came the need to identify new ways to provide them with the resources they needed.

To drive progress, we have to make sure innovation can happen anywhere, anytime- even now. By providing entrepreneurs with opportunities to get their world-changing products out there, we can ensure they not only survive, but thrive.

Pivoting our approach

The lockdown created an opportunity for our community to innovate in unique ways, with circumstances surrounding the pandemic prompting us to move our accelerator programming online.

Freed from constraints once imposed by physical location, this change in approach has opened up new ways for us to expand these programs in the region. Developer Circle Cairo, for example, has launched an Arabic language tech podcast called nullplus.plus. The initiative brings together experts from the likes of Amazon and Booking.com in a discussion that explores new ways for developers to grow their careers.

Similarly, Developer Circles Casablanca launched a video podcast called geeksblabla.com where these discussions happen in the local Darija language.

Related: Necessity Is The Mother Of Innovation

Maintaining the magic

A continually evolving situation has also made way for new and creative ways of engaging our Developer Circle community across different countries in the region.

In line with our focus to shift engagement online, we organized the Developer Circles Skills Connection webinar series which saw participation by a number of speakers who provided participants with new insights.

We're adapting our own mindset and approach when it comes to fighting unforeseen challenges brought forth by the pandemic, as we seek new opportunities along the way- and it seems to be working.

Most recently, some of Facebook's best engineers, including those who helped bring products like SparkAR and React Native to life, have been delivering sessions to community members looking to grow their skills. These sessions have been attended by developers from around the world, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

The road ahead

Expanding on our annual Developer Circles Community Challenge and the in-person hackathons we held across North America last year, we launched our brand new Facebook Online Hackathon series for global developers in March.

The initiative reinforces our commitment to creating opportunities for aspiring and experienced innovators looking to develop new skills, grow their networks, and ship breakthrough solutions. By providing special access to product resources and offering guidance through mentorship, we found that we could help set developers up for success when applying new technologies aimed at solving challenges.

For our first hackathon in this new series, we opened up three tech tracks for participants -Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR), and Messaging- and offered up to US$21,000 in cash prizes, as well as the opportunity to join us at our annual developer conference, F8 2021.

What was most refreshing to see, however, was the number of developers who shipped a range of projects aimed at addressing some of the challenges being experienced as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic. On the back of this, we were inspired to support the #BuildforCOVID19 Global Online Hackathon. Alongside other companies and platforms in the tech industry, as well as partners including the World Health Organization and the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, we took the opportunity to encourage more developers to leverage technology to deliver software that builds community and solves real-world problems.

Looking ahead, we'll be announcing new hackathons to support those who are keen to continue building. As we all consider the timely and meaningful action we can take to tackle issues related to COVID-19, we're certain there's never been a better time for our community to ideate and innovate together.

Related: Riding The Wave: Building A Resilient Culture Of Innovation For Corporations In A Post COVID-19 World

Walied Elamien

Product Partnerships Program Manager, Facebook

Walied Elamien is Product Partnerships Program Manager at Facebook. Walied, or Willie to his friends, is a Sudanese British engineer with a passion for startups and entrepreneurship. He grew up in London, holds an engineering degree from Cambridge University, and first worked in the Middle East with Rocket Internet, launching hellofood in Egypt, which later acquired Otlob.com. He then worked as Managing Director for regionalaccelerator Flat6Labs before moving to Facebook in Dubai.



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