Photo of Marcela Torres


Marcela Torres

Customized educational programs providing refugees and migrants access to employment and integration

Year Honored


Latin America

Hails From

Even though unemployment is a problem that touches millions of people around the world, there are a ton of job vacancies due to the absence of qualified personnel. A few years ago, young Marcela Torres took notice that in Mexico, there were not enough people with the necessary know-how to grab existing work proposals offered in the software development sector, so she decided to use technology to solve this problem. That's how Holacode came to be: a start-up that offers software development courses for the migrant community in Mexico. Due to this initiative, Marcela Torres has been chosen by the Latin American Innovators Under 35 from the MIT Technology Review LATAM edition as a winner.

Holacode educational program has a lifespan of five months. Its objective is to make technological education more democratic and attainable. The start-up allows for these job positions to be taken by struggling individuals such as migrant populations. Holacode students finish their schooling knowing JavaScript (the most popular of coding languages), HTML and CSS. The company does not require their alumni to have previous knowledge or use of technology to be able to participate in the programs. Torres says, “About the selection process, what is most important is the potential shown to become future software developers.” She adds, “We are really focused on what the person could become and not necessarily what he or she already is or currently knows. This allows us to identify unnoticed talent. Holacode has proven that migrants can blossom perfectly in qualified positions in the counties where they are being welcomed.” Almost 300 migrants and refugees have learned to code thanks to Holacode.

Another cornerstone of the Holacode method is the specialized teaching techniques specifically meant for migrants, accentuating the mainstay of the learning process. Young Marcela explains, "We work with communities that don't have access to higher education, so we are constantly reinforcing reading comprehension skills and critical thinking, two very important abilities when it comes to coding and programming. We also highly promote a self-directed learning approach.”

Furthering empowerment, Holacode students are offered a loan for alimony, so everyone can study full time; something migrants aren't generally able to do. In return, students only pay for the course once they attain employment. This way, Torres eases the socio-occupational integration of migrants while using deferred payment to sponsor new groups of students.

As if that wasn't enough, Holacode not only teaches programming and coding, it also provides three meals a day and additional services such as socio-emotional support for refugees. Torres adds, "Our goal is for migrants and refugees to feel integrated to society. A migrant is not a victim, a criminal, or cheap labor, he or she is a capable person ready to innovate.”

The director for Business Development and Public Affairs of Cognizant Mexico, Iván Zavala, who is also a member of the jury for the 2019 Latin American Innovators Under 35, appreciates that Holacode “is a financial business with a good background story based on positive social impact and therefore people find it alluring.”