From charity to coding: Why it’s never too late to change your career  

It was on my return from travelling South America with my fiancé that I decided I didn’t want to go back to my old career. I had spent 10 years in the charity sector and it just didn’t bring me the enthusiasm that I had experienced when I first set out.

Beyond that I didn’t have a clue, I just tried to be as open minded as possible.

What I could never have imagined was that, age 30, I’d be an apprentice software developer – and, on top of that, loving it!

Not only did I think apprenticeships were for much younger people, but I had never shown any interest in IT. I had all these preconceptions about it, I hadn’t any interest in computers and didn’t think it was very sociable. Even though my boyfriend was a software engineer, I just never thought it was for me.

After spending weeks trawling networking events and workshops, I stumbled across a one day coding course put on by a global charity called Django Girls, where I learned how to build a blog site. I thought knowing how to build a website would look good on my CV, but when I had a go myself I really got into it – I wanted to know more, how and why.

Suddenly I became excited about it, I thought about all the other things I could do with these new skills and how I could achieve it. I hadn’t gone looking for coding, but it was like something clicked – I was suddenly interested in it all.

The next step was having the confidence to apply for an apprenticeship.

The workshop I had taken part in held at Code Nation, a Manchester-based software development and apprenticeship provider and coding school. Through them I learned about a role at EMIS Health.

The company is the UK’s leading provider of software to the NHS – supporting more than 10,000 organisations including GP practices, community pharmacists and hospital trusts in their daily work on the frontline.  It has played a key role supporting service delivery during the coronavirus pandemic.

The company runs an apprenticeship scheme in partnership with Code Nation, giving applicants the opportunity to train and then become junior software developers.

I didn’t expect to get it. I’m not someone who’s had a passion for coding my whole life or knew an awful lot about it, but because I enjoyed it so much I decided it was worth applying for – and I’m glad I did! Something I’ve learned since is that EMIS Health is very keen on getting women into the tech industry, and they weren’t looking for someone with all the answers, they just wanted someone with problem solving skills and a passion for it.

I started the course with Code Nation in September 2019 and started my full time role as a junior software developer with EMIS Health in January.

There’s something about the industry that’s very exciting. The world is taking such strides in terms of technology advances it’s really interesting to learn about. And, contrary to my early misconceptions, it’s very sociable! You work as a team with people who share the same passions and are interested to hear about what you have discovered.

There’s also a real push to get more women into the tech industry, so if anyone is interested in either starting a new career or learning more about it, there are lots of opportunities.

As well learning new technical skills, it’s great that I’ve been able to continue making a difference to society. I worked in the charity sector because making a difference is important to me. One of my concerns with moving jobs was whether I would find something that fulfilled that side of things.

EMIS Health’s technology directly supports the frontline work of clinicians across the UK, including GPs, pharmacists and hospital trusts. I’m a small cog in a big machine, but it’s still a machine that’s making a difference and I’m proud to be part of it.

So, to anyone thinking they are too old to change their career, you can still go on to be successful in a completely new industry, there are lots of opportunities out there – you just have to take that first step!

To find out more about careers at EMIS Health, visit https://emisgroup.careers

Vicky HotchkissAbout the author

Vicky Hotchkiss, from Chorlton, in South Manchester, is one of EMIS Health’s newest apprentices - developing software that supports frontline NHS clinicians.

Originally from Barnsley in South Yorkshire, she earned a degree in environmental studies at the University of York and worked in the charity sector for around 10 years before retraining to become a junior software developer.