People of Xander: Nida Ahmed
Nida is a member of our latest cohort, the first cohort to complete the software engineering technical pathway. Her background in Radiography, as well as her passion for gaming and coding, has given her the essential technical skills to develop and grow into her new role. Whilst it has presented her with new challenges, Nida has the passion and drive to succeed. We sat down with Nida to explore her story, what led her to Xander, and how she's finding the Academy training.
Tell me about your family and background?
Growing up I have always lived in London, and I am from a family of all girls and I'm the youngest child. my parents never usually spoiled me, however my sisters did. I lived in a multicultural area and never felt like an outsider. The area I grew up was very inclusive, and I was lucky enough to never face any discrimination.
I come from an Indian/ Pakistani background but have always lived in the UK. My grandad moved to the UK from India and worked for the British railway and started his family here. There are elements I really appreciate inheriting from my culture, like food and dress as well as some entertainment that I really like.
Where did you go to School?
I went to school in the town I was born in London. I studied psychology, sociology, and biology for my A levels. I always had a fascination in science and technology. So, I wanted to do something that combined both because I always wanted to do a career that helped people and made a difference to people’s lives, but also wanted something with a technical aspect to it as well. So that's when I decided to apply for radiotherapy and oncology. I studied at London south bank university. I did a three-year degree, which was very practical, so you learnt the skills on placement, and then you become a qualified radiographer after your degree. But I have decided to move on from that to focus more on technology and pursue a career in software engineering.
Why did you choose Radiography?
I found the content interesting. I have always been interested in human anatomy. I loved the technical aspect of it, as you are working with advanced machines, you’re working with software. It is a very fast-paced field with new advancements every year working in the latest machine. I found it fascinating. However, one thing I felt like I wasn't getting enough of the technical aspect as much as I wanted to, since the primary focus was patient care in radiography.
I think when I left school, I didn't really have that support or knowledge to pursue a career in software engineering I felt like I would not be able to break through. I feel like there was barriers in terms of the kind of skills you’d need, as well as lack of representation.
What was the turning point that made you change career?
The moment that gave me the push I needed was when I was working for the NHS during the pandemic. It really highlighted to me the life is too short and you should do something you could never imagine doing. I did really enjoy working for the NHS. I picked up some good skills and life lessons. It was where I spent my formative years and I felt like it helps me develop as a person, but I also learnt life is very short and if you want to do something then you should do it and not live to regret missed opportunities in the future. That was what gave me the confidence to move career.
Before I used to research a career in software engineering. I used to find myself researching coding, reading news about tech innovation. And I just thought, like, ‘why am I not doing this?’ There clearly is an interest there, even after all these years. And I just thought, no, I should just do it. So then I left my job for the next couple of months. I just decided to do independent research. I joined this course listed by Codefirst Girls, which is like an organisation where they sponsor women to learn coding.
One project I worked on was using creating a Top Trump style game using Pokémon, I had a great time learning how to code this game, I even got to use a Pokemon API which automatically sends information from a data online to my game. This project gave me a further insight into the industry. That is when I knew this is what I wanted to do so I started learning independently and started doing some self-study. I used online resources like free code camp and YouTube. I then worked on a lot of different projects like making a product landing page and a tribute page using HTML and CSS. I really made the most of free online resources.
How did it feel quitting your job at the time?
I knew I was going to do it at some point I just didn’t know when. There was time when I questioned myself as I am leaving my career behind, and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to break into the industry because I am competing against people with degrees in computer science, engineering and people that are good at Maths. I was unsure if I would make it, but I kept positive and kept applying and kept applying and eventually I landed Xander Talent.
It is very common for people to do a career change into IT, as I see it as one of the most accessible industries, there are lots of courses online and you can work on your own project. There is no time limit. and you don't need a strong Maths background to breaking into software engineering, as Maths was not my strongest subject. If you like problem solving, critical thinking and you like the idea of coding I believe you can break into the industry. I also feel as there is lots of value where people from different industries go into IT, as it brings a different perspective to it and a different set of skills.
Health care is all about following protocol, you need to know what you are doing, learn how to deal with people, learn how to deal with complex situations. And you must be able to deal with sensitive information. I feel like these skills you can use anywhere. So, I don’t regret my experiences.
My family and friends were supportive about my career change, initially they were shocked and wondered why I spent so much time in one area then move to another career. but once I explained the opportunity, they were completely supportive and wanted me to be somewhere where I would be happy.
What stood out to you about Xander Talent?
One thing that I really liked about Xander is they really encourage people that are considering changing careers to apply, which I haven’t encountered before. There were times where I had applied to a company that advertised towards people who wanted to career switch and they would take me to the last stage of the application process and then say that I do not have enough career experience. Which was obviously the case as I was coming from healthcare background.
One thing I noticed even from my first interaction with Xander Talent was their emphasis on diversity and inclusion. I worked with a social enterprise called 6 percent and rising during my training. This was an initiative to get more people with disabilities into work I felt like I made a positive change. It showed me Xander really believes in social change and pushing towards making positive changes.
The main thing is that I don't feel like I am an outsider. There is a great working environment and everyone is super supportive. I loved the well-being workshops we had with Rupert from Growing Happy, and the diversity and inclusion sessions run by Chickenshed. They really help you evaluate your own biases towards other people as well. It's not just about what I've experienced, about what I could potentially be viewing others as based on stereotypes.
It is good that I had the chance to work with charities, which is something that I always want to do. That was one of the reasons for me going into healthcare, however I learned I can still make a positive change elsewhere.
How have you found the Xander Academy so far?
I did not know what to expect because I never really worked in a corporate environment like that or an IT environment, I did not know what to expect. So, everything has been so good so far. Resource has been good. Sarah’s core training has been good.
I never had wellness training before. Learning how to manage work life balance. I’ve never done project management before either, this was my first experience learning about project management and I found it helpful. It was my first experience with business writing. I also learnt how to deal with clients, stakeholders using RAID. Coming from a health care background I never got to see how companies work, and what project management was. All the experience was new to me.
What I am doing right now is data engineering where we have covered a few programming languages. I have also learned how to clean, manage large data sets and transform data. This will be fundamental to my career in software engineering.