“It shouldn’t matter where you come from or how much money you have: you should be given the chance to try to become great.” Teodor Cataniciu, one of the founders of the Restart Network is driven and can deliver a message, that much is evident. Good traits for someone who’s goal it is to offer tuition-free education for refugees and people from low-income and minority backgrounds.
Restart Network was founded in 2016 as a coding school for refugees. Now it is also open for basically anyone that is passionate about technology but for some reason doesn’t fit in with the regular educational system, or has no access to it. Teodor explains: "It was part out of disappointment in the existing educational system, and in part out of an intrinsic desire to help people, that we started Restart Network. Restart Network is our way of giving people the chance to try to become great and reach their potential through a career in the tech industry.’’

Doing things different

So does Restart Network really differ from existing universities and schools? Yes it does, their approach promises tuition-free education thanks to a not-for-profit model based on student success. Companies in and around Rotterdam contribute to Restart Network and know that in return they will get qualified coding professionals. As stated before, Restart Network is about offering opportunities to ‘underprivileged’ people. Also, the coding education offered by Restart Network is practically all hands on. Books are a rare thing at the Restart Network Campus (at CIC in the Groot Handelsgebouw). Their current one year long program Restart Network ONE consists of three parts. Part one offers an intensive tech education programme. After that, the students are put through a self-awareness and leadership programme. Lastly, all new knowledge and skills are put to the test in a 6 month ‘Developer Period’ where they work together with experienced programmers on real-world projects.

Value of networking

Obviously, good education and strong coding skills are vital requirements towards a future career as a developer. ‘’But don’t underestimate the value of networking!‘’ Teodor stresses. ‘’ We are very lucky that we are based at CIC in Rotterdam, our students are surrounded by over 150 tech companies. This is a very unique and energizing environment where from day-one you make dozens of new connections.’’ Picture: Teodor Cataniciu gave an address at the formal opening of the academic year at Erasmus University Rotterdam. Click the image to open the YouTube video, or click here.

Feeling good in Rotterdam

It is no coincidence that Restart Network is based in Rotterdam. The can-do mentality, the entrepreneurial spirit and the presence and accessibility of business networks are key to the success of Restart Network. “Everyone on our team is originally from outside the Netherlands, but Rotterdam feels like home to us. It is a very lively, international city with a great atmosphere. But equally important to the general spirit of the city is the 'make it happen' mindset, people have the courage to try new things out. The local tech industry, the major companies, as well as the university and the municipality were quick to join us on our mission. People and businesses here in the city are willing to help each other, there is a collective spirit of being ‘Rotterdammers’. It’s a united community!” For more information about Restart Network, please visit their website.
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