Engineer Spotlight: Sharif Khan

We sat down with Sharif, currently placed as a Technical Business Analyst with one of our clients, to discuss his journey to a career in technology.

Tell us about your background – was a career in technology always the dream?

For most of my life I was absolutely sure that I wanted to work in and around tech. Like a lot of people, I’d discovered coding through gaming. I decided to go to the University of Leeds and started a degree in computer science.

I was really struggling for various reasons and I made the really difficult choice to drop out in my second year. I didn’t know what was going to happen next for me but I had to get a job so started working in an Amazon warehouse. It was coming up to about 5 years in the warehouse and I felt a desperate need to get out of there – it wasn’t what I had envisioned for myself.

When you made the choice to change careers and pursue the career in tech you’d always dreamed of, what was the job hunt like?

I had completed two years of computer science at university, so I did have some skills, but literally nothing you could take to an employer. I was applying to apprenticeship schemes, but those were blocked off because even though I hadn’t graduated, I had attended university. I had a couple of non-tech interviews too, but they were really just an attempt to get out of the warehouse. I considered bootcamps, but they were way too expensive and they didn’t provide post-bootcamp support or real help to get into employment.

I saw an ad for Digital Futures on Instagram and I was immediately drawn to it. The placement aspect seemed really compelling and the set-up of the programme meant that I could complete the part-time degree I had enrolled in as well. The fact that I didn’t have to pay for the Academy was amazing. The important thing for me was just to get my foot in the door and Digital Futures would allow me to do that.

What was the Academy like for you?

I had some familiarity with programming from the start of my degree, but in a university setting you only really do one module on web development. I only knew low level languages going into the Academy, I didn’t know JavaScript at all.

Ed is a fantastic teacher; the 12 weeks are so well done. I couldn’t have imagined anything better. After completing the software engineering pathway, the team at Digital Futures identified that I might make a good business analyst and so I did a 10-day business analytics upskilling course in readiness for my placement. That was really helpful – Blair also got us to do an extra exam using the BCS textbook. Now, I’m placed in my role as a technical business analyst.

Tell me about being a technical business analyst – how have you been finding that?

Even though I didn’t start as a software engineer on placement, I’m so happy to have been placed as a business analyst. My goal was to get my foot in the door and I’ve managed to get into a tech adjacent role, which is great. The fact that I have both software engineering and business analytics training under my belt really adds an extra dimension to my skillset – I’m actually more of a technical BA. The fact that I really understand the technical and architectural side of things has really set me up well and makes it easier to communicate between teams.

What’s it like being on placement? What do you like best?

The culture here is really good. I mean, I don’t have anything to compare it to but it’s great to be working with these really senior people with loads of experience from reputable companies. Lots of people have worked here for decades.

The ease into the work was very gradual and I’ve been reassured at every step. Having fellow Digital Futures engineers Simon, Stephen, Canice and Frank has been so helpful. We all started at similar times, we have regular catch ups and are always checking in. I’ve really got the best of both worlds at my client and with Digital Futures.

How has Digital Futures supported you throughout this process?

Firstly, I actually moved to Sheffield for my role and the financial support to get me settled in was really great.

Outside of that, Zakiyyah is an amazing engagement manager; having 1-to-1s with her is always useful and I’m always glad to be getting regular feedback. Anytime I have questions, I reach out to her and I hear back quickly. It’s all been really smooth.