How a traffic jam led to a career change

By Kathryn Kirk

Kombo Chirimanzi is doing a Higher Level Apprenticeship in Software Development with Belfast–based IT company Automated Intelligence. He explains how changing career in his 40s was made easier through an apprenticeship.

I grew up in Zimbabwe and moved in NI in 2002 and I’ve been here since!

Since coming to Northern Ireland, I’ve done various types of jobs. About 7 years ago, my wife started studying so I embarked on taxiing as we needed flexibility because we had young children.

Taxiing was good in many ways – flexible and working for yourself – but it involved long hours away from my family.

Over the 7 years, as my wife was coming to finish her studies, I started thinking about my own career.

I wasn’t getting any fulfilment from taxiing, and I knew I could do more, something that would be more fulfilling for me.

A chance encounter

It’s a funny story that led me into IT.

I was taking a customer to the airport. The traffic was heavy, and I started using shortcuts. The customer turned to me and said, “You’re very clever, would you not think of a career in IT?” It turned out he was a Director in a leading IT firm in Belfast.

I had been interested in IT but that was the push I needed, and that same day I started to explore options.

I enrolled in a foundation course in IT and that was how my journey into software development started. I really enjoyed the study but I realised that I couldn’t work as a taxi driver, study full–time and help look after my young family.

That’s when I started thinking of doing an apprenticeship.

You’ve given me a lifeline

I discovered Workplus, applied to a few companies and got accepted by Automated Intelligence.

When I got the job with Automated Intelligence I said to them, “You’ve given me a lifeline. This gives me the opportunity to gain experience and education. It’s a real advantage.”

I’ve learned a lot already working for Automated Intelligence. I have a mentor who is amazing and teaches me so much. I’ve been given experience in different departments and the company is committed to supporting and developing its apprentices.

There is so much variety in my apprenticeship which makes it so exciting. I’m constantly learning as the company has many different clients, each one with different needs.

It’s fulfilling and enjoyable, and I’m seeing the opportunities it could bring for the future.

Ultimately, it means a better quality of life for me and my family.

Advice for career changers

Changing career can be quite daunting but it’s not something to be afraid of because the reward is greater.

It is a challenge going back to college or university but the apprenticeship programme helps tackle some of those challenges. 

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