Interested in getting into tech but think it’s a boys club or something you need to start at an early age? Think again. Aimi Elias spent 6 years working as a civil engineer on rail projects before turning her attention to coding in her late 20s. She’s now a software developer at one of the biggest names in all things TV and communications – Sky. Here’s how she made the leap from trains to tech.
Name: Aimi Elias
Job title: Associate Software Developer at Sky
Years since changing career path: 1
TAP: You used to work as an engineer on rail projects and now you’re a software developer at the telecommunications giant Sky. Tell us more
AE: Sky has an initiative called Get Into Tech that teaches women the basics of coding through an evening course. I applied because I had an interest in learning to code for my own general knowledge, but found it hard get very far when relying on self-discipline alone. Being part of a class environment definitely helped me pick things up quickly and keep to deadlines, but it’s also nice to have a cohort of people learning with you. At the end of the course there was an opportunity to apply for Sky’s Software Engineering Academy – so I did and I got in! Making the decision to change careers was tough because I have lots of interests and always wished I could do those things for a living! I found that I really enjoyed coding in my free time, which was a good sign. Software engineering has such good career prospects as well, so it felt like a positive decision.
TAP: What exactly does your current role involve and is it what you imagined it would be like?
AE: I work at NOW TV which is Sky’s no-contract subscription service for movies, entertainment and sports. At the moment I’m part of the mobile team, developing the NOW TV app for iOS. I’ve had to learn on the job, but everyone’s been great at helping me get to grips with Swift (the programming language for iOS) and a new way of working.
I’m not sure what I expected but so far I’ve been enjoying it. NOW TV has a very sociable atmosphere and Sky has been a great place to work. There’s always something interesting going on, from white walkers roaming around for the Game of Thrones release, to seeing Prince William walking out of a Sky News interview.
TAP: What would you say was the most important thing you did/didn’t do to succeed?
AE: Giving myself the time and opportunity to keep on practising. Like learning anything, it takes patience and energy to keep going, even when you’re making mistakes. I also think that anyone who wants to change careers should look at how willing they are to spend their spare time working on their new career. You really have to want it if you’re going to succeed at it.
TAP: Well-wishing family and friends usually have well-intentioned but sometimes unhelpful opinions when it comes to changing careers. What piece of advice were you given that you wish you’d ignored/you’d advise other budding career changers to ignore?
AE: It’s always great to use your friends and family as a sounding board for big decisions like changing careers, and I’ve found that it helps to regularly update them on what your latest thoughts are, so they can better follow the journey with you. However, a lot of people aren’t good at handling change and when they put themselves in your shoes they can’t imagine making that leap. The end result is that they might try and advise you against your decision. While it’s great to listen to their concerns, it’s worth remembering that they can be responding with their own insecurities and/or personal circumstances. Consider all the advice you’re given and then try to figure out what applies to you.
TAP: Working in tech is thought to be lucrative. What can anyone wanting to do this for a living expect to make? That’s both early on in their career and when they get established.
AE: When you’re starting out salary (in London), you can expect to be paid around £30k. A more established senior software developer can earn £60 to £90k depending on who you work for.
TAP: Can you share three resources that you think are invaluable for breaking into software development?
AE: If you want to get started on your own there are loads of online resources out there: CodeAcademy, FreeCodeCamp, LinkedIn Learning and Udemy. The best thing of all is the tech community. I’ve found that those in the industry are very willing to give back, and spend time mentoring and teaching others to code. If you’re an underrepresented group in tech you can join Codebar workshops. Alternatively, meetup.com is a great place to find coding groups local to you, there may be a group that already exists for the language you want to learn.
TAP: What’s the biggest misconception about being a software developer?
AE: Most people think you have to be good at maths or science to be able to code. That’s not true. Everyone can learn to code. The women on my course who also made career changes came from all sorts of backgrounds: teaching, human resources, local council and project management.
The other perception is that it is a white, male-dominated industry. For the most part, it is, but compared to the industry I came from, I have met more diverse individuals in terms of ethnicity, sexuality and age. They’ve also been more diverse in personalities – people have been so varied and interesting that I’d struggle to describe a typical software developer!
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