More than 5000 participants attended the National Freelancing Convention 2017, which was held at the Arfa Software Technology Park on Tuesday, 28th March 2017. The first-of-its-kind event in Pakistan, brought together leading freelancers, freelancing and development platforms, payment gateways, startups, IT companies and aspiring freelancers under a single platform. Following are the key highlights from the event:
Opening Ceremony and the Launch of the e-Rozgaar Program
The National Freelancing Convention was officially inaugurated by the Chief Minister of Punjab, Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif who also announced the official launch of the Chief Minister’s e-Rozgaar Training Program. He stressed the importance of empowering the youth to not only earn an honest living, but also help build a stronger and more progressive Pakistan. He said, “Our government has resolved to increase the network of e-Rozgaar centers in the coming years from 40 to 4000, and ensure that everyone can reap benefits of internet freelancing.”
Dr. Umar Saif, Chairman PITB, also spoke at the occasion and highlighted the importance of the e-Rozgaar program. “If each of these 10,000 freelancers earns $50 per day, then they shall earn $1.8 billion annually for themselves and the country.” Dr. Saif explained.
Mr. Jahanzeb Khanzada, Minister for Youth & Sports and Syed Ali Raza, Minister for Higher Education also spoke at the event, while more than 30 Vice Chancellors and Principals of public sector universities and colleges were also in attendance.
The technology expo brought together more than 150 co-working spaces, business and technology incubators, start-ups and IT companies from across the country. Leading Co-working spaces, including TechHub Connect, Kickstart, Kickstart Café, Daftarkhwaan, Ivy Interactive, e-Baithak, Popcorn Studio, the Startup Valley etc. showcased their respective coworking spaces and the facilities that are on offer. At the same time, a number of technology incubators, including Plan9, Social Innovation Lab, Nspire, Basecamp, LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship (LCE) and Microsoft Innovation Center along with their leading startups were also in attendance at the event to not only showcase their products, but also guide freelancers and students about entrepreneurship. Leading software and technology firms including Systems ltd., Techlogix, Infogistics, Maison Consulting, Inbox, Netsol, Careem, PakWheels, Finja, Transpay etc. also set up their stalls to attract talented freelancers and provide guidance to students regarding career opportunities.
For the first time in Pakistan, meetups for six different freelancing platforms and developer circles were held at the same event. These included meetups for the WordPress Community, Fiverr Community, Behance Portfolio Review, Crossover, Open Source Foundation of Pakistan, Facebook Developers Circle. In addition to the top rated developers and official local community organisers, the guest speakers who joined via video conferencing included Elisha Tan (Regional Lead for Asia Pacific, Developer Programs Facebook), Tylor Paxton (Senior Community Organizer, Fiverr), Brady Nord (Vice President Products, Bluehost) and Christie Chirinos (Partner & Business Manager, Caldera Labs).
Panel Discussions were held on issues of key importance and relevance to freelancing. The first discussion was held on the “Art of Blogging” with Saad Hamid (CEO, School of Skills), Sana Mela (Founder, Perspective.pk) and Mudassar Jahangir (Editor-in-Chief, More News) apprised the participants about the nuances of freelancing and how it can be pursued as a profession as well as an interest. In the 2nd session, Umer Munawwar (Co-founder, Finja) and Aqeel Hayat (COO E-processing, Systems Pvt Ltd.) which was moderated by Faizan Mahmood (Assistant Program Manager, Plan9) engaged with the audience on “Building Efficient Payment Gateways for Freelancers” and informed them about the latest fintech products/payment solutions that can be used by the freelancers. In the 3rd panel, “Women in Tech: Using technology to bridge gender gap”, Daria Ofman (Executive Manager, MCSBE), Zainab Tariq (Program Manager, Plan9), Momina Rajput (Founder, Telenor Velocity) and Mahnoor Naveed (a highly accomplished freelancer) explored the shifts in the socio-cultural paradigm with regards to gender and how technology can help improve female participation as well as emancipation with moderator Warda Altaf (Assistant Program Manager TechHub Connect). The final panel discussion was held on the topic “Freelancing to Entrepreneurship” moderated by Syeda Mehak Jamal (Program Manager TechHub Connect & e-Rozgaar), where seasoned freelancer-turned-entrepreneurs, including Ahmed Bastawy (Co-Founder and International Business Development Manager, ICE Hubs Global), Saad Hamid (CEO, School of Skills) and Humayun Haroon (Co-Founder, Patari) discussed the challenges they faced during their journey from freelancing to entrepreneurship and informed the wantapreneurs about the opportunities and pitfalls of making the switch to the latter.
Crossover Hiring Tournament
For the first time ever, a 12 hour long Hackathon by Crossover was organized to scout for Senior Software architects in Pakistan. More than 100 highly skilled and talented developers, with over 7 years of experience, took part in the tournament. After rigorous tests and assessments, 6 professionals were hired at an annual salary of USD100,000 based on their results and the best Senior Software Architect was awarded a winning prize of USD5000.
The event was brought to a close by a series of keynote speeches from a group of illustrious speakers. Junaid Iqbal (MD, Careem Pakistan) engaged the audience in a lively discussion on how to contribute towards the socio-economic growth of the country. Ahmed Bastawy (Co-Founder and International Business Development Manager, ICE Hubs Global) discussed how local communities can foster innovation and engage in entrepreneurial activities. Daria Ofman (Executive Manager, MCSBE) discussed the trials of working in a globalized world and how freelancers and entrepreneurs can work as digital nomads. Nabeel A. Qadeer (Director Entrepreneurship & Enterprise Development, PITB) apprised the audience about the Punjab government’s commitment to the cause of freelancing and the plans to make freelancing a household phenomenon. Surprise gift vouchers were also given to the participants by different participating companies. In the end, Saad Hamid, who was the Convener of the National Freelancing Convention, officially announced the commencement of the convention and thanked all the participants and the management for making the convention a grand success.