An Accenture apprenticeship led Shajida Akhtar to be the first in her family to earn a degree and work in the corporate world. Now she’s encouraging others to do the same.
I grew up on an estate in East London, not far from the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf. However, while that hub of wealth and commerce was a familiar sight it wasn’t a world I ever imagined I’d experience.
I studied for A-levels in Electronics, Computing, Maths and Photography, but unlike many of my friends – and despite my parents’ expectations – I didn’t want to go down the university route after school. I felt ready to start working, but didn’t have a clear idea about what I wanted to do, and I lacked confidence. I should have been enjoying that summer after finishing school, but I started to feel increasingly anxious that I didn’t have anything lined up.
One day my sister mentioned an IT work experience opportunity she’d heard about at our local youth club. It was through Movement to Work, an employer-led charity dedicated to helping young people get into work. Having enjoyed electronics and computing at college, I jumped at the opportunity and a few weeks later I found myself working in Accenture’s city offices.
I didn’t know it at the time, but that placement was the start of my technology career. I gained so much insight in those four weeks and went on to secure a place on Accenture’s degree apprenticeship programme. It was all a bit of a whirlwind, but it got me out of my shell and I threw myself into the experience. Most importantly, I’d found something I really wanted to do.
I’m now a consulting engineer at a development and IT operations start-up in London – training graduates myself.
Movement to Work is probably one of the best things that could have happened to me – without sounding too cheesy! That work experience is exactly the reason I am where I am today, mentoring others.
It’s why I ended up getting a job at Accenture where, over six years, I was able to contribute to the delivery of several large-scale technology projects, working for a number of clients and managing multiple teams. I built up a lot of confidence and became really comfortable in taking up the reins. It was a game changer really.
With Accenture’s support, I graduated in July 2019 with a full bachelor’s degree in digital and technology solutions. I’m the first person in my family to get a degree and to work in the corporate world.
Working for an organisation as big as Accenture you learn to understand business – we’re working with the latest technologies and massive Fortune 100 companies. It’s not just about being a software engineer, or any technical person, you understand how it all binds together, you have industry experience, it’s not just coding skills, it’s more about understanding the industry.
If I was to give advice to anyone in college right now, it would be to definitely consider an apprenticeship. I don’t mean don’t go to university, but look at the other options that are available.
I’ve gained so much from my apprenticeship and I’m keen to show other young women that they can succeed in the traditionally male-dominated industries of technology and engineering. Accessible role models can make all the difference, and I hope that by sharing my experience I can encourage others to discover their passion and embrace the opportunities available. You might not think technology’s a career for you, but don’t count yourself out early. It’s something worth trying. Movement to Work allows you to ‘try before you buy.’ Just by trying, you’ll be better able to figure out what you really want.
To learn more, visit movementtowork.com
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