Shahzadi Saira Awan arrived in England from Pakistan with her young son in 2018.

Seeking asylum as a survivor of domestic abuse, she spent much of her early time here living in temporary accommodation.

Despite holding a Masters degree in Information Technology, Shahzadi’s childcare responsibilities and visa requirements made it difficult for her to find full-time employment.

“My refugee status meant I faced a lot of challenges trying to find a job,” she recalls. “I worked in a number of voluntary roles but needed a job with an income to support myself and my son. 

“I knew I had desirable tech skills but opportunities were hard to come by.”

Tech Returners gave Shahzadi the opportunity to get back into the industry. She joined the course, which is free for returning workers, in October 2021.

As well as refreshing and re-skilling individuals from a technical perspective, it also provides career and mindset coaching, drilling down into different skills and behaviours from how to rebuild confidence to interview preparation and practice.

At the end of the eight-week programme, she was offered a permanent role as a mid-level software developer with The job offer arrived on the same day as approval of her asylum application to reside in the UK as a permanent resident.

“Tech Returners helped me to refresh my skills and gave me the confidence to go back into the workplace,” says Shahzadi.

“Since I joined the team in June, they have been flexible around my childcare needs and supportive of me in every way. Recently I attended a conference in Amsterdam with my son – the small things make a big difference in making sure I can progress my career.”

Tech sector needs to offer more part-time roles for women

To date, the Tech Returners programme has placed more than 100 mid-level software developers into a range of UK-based organisations that value diversity in their technical teams, including The Guardian, Daemon and The BBC. 

Among them are 12 new software developers placed into digital travel company’s Manchester-based team. The full-time appointments started in June and cover roles across the Trips division, including its Taxis, Cars, Insurance and Data teams, and form part of its plan to significantly grow the business’ 1,000-strong presence in the city.

The division will move into a new £100 million home at Enterprise City later this year.

“It’s fantastic to see so many more people being given the opportunity to join the business through Tech Returners and I’m looking forward to working alongside my fellow cohort,” adds Shahzadi.

Tech Returners is designed to tackle the industry’s well-documented skills shortage and provide software developers – the majority of which are women – with a free route back to high-quality employment after a career break. 

Beckie Taylor, CEO and co-founder of Tech Returners, says: “As a team passionate about building diverse tech teams and supporting people to realise their potential, we are beyond proud to see another successful cohort of returners get back to their careers and back to themselves.

“It’s a privilege to collaborate with organisations, like, that are capable of seeing beyond the perceived stigma that accompanies a career break and that instead recognise the expertise, skills and value that this demographic brings to the tech industry. 

“We’ve seen time and time again that an opportunity is all someone needs to reignite their career in tech.”

‘When I returned to work, I just didn’t feel myself’