Engineer Spotlight: Paul van de Ven

We sat down with software engineer, Paul, to talk about his journey and his choice to reskill and make a career change.

Tell me a bit about your background; what were you doing before you chose to make a very significant career change?

I graduated from university about 30 years ago and although I briefly worked in an IKEA selling furniture and fitting out office buildings, my real career was as a pilot. I trained and qualified in the late1990s, early 2000s and worked as a pilot with RyanAir and Emirates, becoming a captain after 3 years on a Boeing 737 and later a 777. I’ve lived all over the world – London, Germany, Barcelona, Dubai. But I was away for most of the time – I was only seeing my family 5 or 6 days every month. It just wasn’t enough time when you have 5 young children at home. When some really challenging personal circumstances hit a couple of years ago, that was a pivotal moment for me, and I made the decision to transition to a career in tech.

Had you worked with technology before? Why was it something you chose to turn to?

I had worked a bit with tech earlier in my career, working with big, global datasets. I remember really enjoying it and just finding it fulfilling. I’d lost all love of being a pilot and wanted to work in an industry that actually made me feel good. It seemed like an obvious choice to go back to a career in technology.

You made the choice to return to tech – how was the job search?

It was honestly incredibly difficult. I was trying to find roles based on the soft skills I’d developed as a pilot – communication, management, collaborating with people from different backgrounds et cetera. I was applying for jobs for the better part of a year but my tech skills were far too outdated, so I kept being turned away.

What brought you to Digital Futures?

It was mainly the opportunity to bring my skills up to date. The promise of working with Agile and newer systems was a massive draw for me. The fact we actually ended up implementing these skills on a daily basis in the Academy was amazing and the value of having these skills once you go on placement is massive. We are literally using the skills, technologies and methods that we learned every day.

What’s it been like on placement so far? What do you like best?

The team I’ve been placed into is incredible – the whole atmosphere is so inclusive. The fact I’m older than most people that would typically go into a role like this is completely irrelevant. I feel really valued and included. Any questions I have are answered in seconds and there is so much support available.

What has the transition been like from being a pilot to working in a tech role at a bank?

Typically the organisations I was part of before could be quite unfriendly and difficult to navigate – I was expecting a similar environment, to be honest. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It is the complete opposite here – Digital Futures and the client ensured that there was already a plan in place for me before I started to allow me to fulfil the role. I’m being given time to develop, and mistakes are considered learning opportunities rather than as failures. I feel like I am being invested in – I’ve even been given a great remote work set up with my laptop and a second screen so that I can work effectively from home.

How has Digital Futures supported you through this process?

Outside of the obvious technical and programming skills you learn, the professional skills you pick up at the Academy are critical. From Agile methodology to Kanbans to Miro boards and more – I’m using these on a daily basis in my role. When I interviewed with the client, it wasn’t about what I could program but about being able to demonstrate my methodologies and workflows, so the professional skills training adds so much more to the experience. I was given a lot of support to prepare for the interview, including regular projects, upskilling, mock interviews and just heaps of information that was provided. All of these things combined have made it possible for me to be successful.