Find a new place to belong

My name is Alex Burns and about a year ago, I decided to switch to a career in technology. If it were a gamble, it certainly paid off. This article is my reflection of my time on the ECS Digital Training Academy, where I have felt supported to learn, encouraged to grow and inspired to deliver my best.

I was previously in a marketing role, so the world of software development was intimidating at first. I started by teaching myself using online courses and any resources I could lay my hands on. I found some programming concepts complicated and sometimes overwhelming. It became clear that I needed something more structured and supportive if I was going to do this as a profession.

In my research, I discovered The Academy at ECS Digital. Although I didn’t feel entirely ready, I felt comforted by the job description, which stated that ‘if you’re the right person, we can teach you the rest’. That seemed like a pretty confident promise, but I soon realised that this was – in fact – not an overstatement.

I started the course in October 2019. ECS have a support system that genuinely listens to you, understands you and cares for you. It is like nothing I have experienced before. It has given me the platform to focus on my learning, knowing that everyone is rooting for me and willing me to succeed.

It isn’t just my manager who is there for me. Every single one of my colleagues is ready and willing to help. I have regular 1:1s with Natasha – the academy manager – where she offers guidance and support and is always interested in how I am. But the most important thing she does is to sit and actively listen. She shows genuine interest in what I am saying rather than thinking about how she might respond. If you are a line manager, I encourage to do this too. It feels great.

There were times – at the start of the course – where I feared that I had bitten off more than I could chew. Occasionally I felt unsure of my abilities. I now understand this is called the ‘imposter syndrome’ and is familiar to many people. My self-doubt didn’t last long. The team gave me so much reassuring advice, spending time reminding me that they chose me to be a part of the Academy because I have what it takes to succeed. In a somewhat uncertain time, my team cleared the gloomy clouds and let me see the path ahead, which helped me get back on track.

Now, four months into the Academy, I am thriving. I study hard, play hard, and I know that if/when I need any help – be it emotional or technical – people are there to listen and offer support. After all, they’ve all been through it themselves!

I am in a bunch of great students and I have a strong sense that we are not competing with one another. As we near the end of the course, we are working on personal projects to reinforce the skills we have learnt. While individual by nature, my peers have swarmed onto my project when I’m stuck to help in any way they can. Not only that, but they sit with me to explain how to solve the issues and point me in the direction of additional content so I can take new skills forward.

I meet exceptional people every day I come to work. They encourage me to be the best possible version of myself. They inspire me and teach me things I could never have imagined. It’s truly remarkable what happens when people have faith in you.

While career moves can sometimes be daunting, I take faith from Steve Jobs’ Stanford speech:

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards and have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

I came here to carve a future for myself. At times I was unsure what that looked like, but now I have a clear vision of what I can achieve. The rest is up to me. As I progress into my technical career, I also look forward to paying back the support I have had by helping and encouraging future students.

Maybe you’ll be one of them?

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