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

Seeking asylum as a victim of domestic violence, she spent much of her early life here living in temporary accommodation.

Although Shahzadi has a master’s degree in information technology, Shahzadi’s childcare responsibilities and visa requirements have made it difficult for her to find full-time employment.

“My refugee status meant I faced a lot of problems trying to find work,” she recalls. “I worked in a number of voluntary roles but needed gainful employment to support myself and my son.

“I knew I had the technical skills I wanted, but opportunities were hard to come by.”

Tech Returners gave Shahzadi an opportunity to return to the industry. In October 2021, she joined the course, which is free for returnees.

As well as refreshing and retraining individuals from a technical perspective, it also provides career and mindset training, looking at a range of skills and behaviours, from how to rebuild confidence to interview preparation and practice.

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

“Tech Returners helped me update my skills and gave me the confidence to return to the workplace,” says Shahzadi.

“Since I joined the team in June, they have been flexible with my childcare needs and supported me in every way. I recently attended a conference in Amsterdam with my son – the little things make a big difference in helping me develop my career.”

The tech sector should offer more part-time jobs to women

To date, the Tech Returners program has sent over 100 mid-level software developers to a range of UK organizations that value the diversity of their tech teams, including The Guardian, Daemon and the BBC.

These include 12 new software developers joining the Manchester team at digital travel company The full-time appointments began in June and cover roles across the Trips division, including its taxi, car, insurance and data teams, and are part of a plan to significantly expand the 1,000-employee company’s presence in the city.

The division will move to a new £100m home in Enterprise City later this year.

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

Tech Returners is designed to address the industry’s well-documented skills shortage and provide software developers, the majority of whom are women, with a free route to quality work after a career break.

Becky Taylor, CEO and co-founder of Tech Returners, says: “As a team passionate about building diverse tech teams and supporting people to realize their potential, we couldn’t be more proud to see another successful cohort of returnees return to their careers eri and back to yourself.

“It’s a privilege to partner with organizations like who are able to see beyond the perceived stigma that accompanies a career break and instead recognize the experience, skills and value this demographic brings to the tech industry.

“We’ve seen time and time again that opportunity is all it takes for someone to relaunch a career in engineering.”

“When I went back to work, I just didn’t feel like myself”

How Tech Returners gave refugee mum career chance