Interview with ex-Exposure volunteer now IT expert

September 19, 2020

Michael with a PC

Mohammed Aqab Ashraf talks to successful tech specialist about how Exposure helped launch his career

IT has come a long way in the past few decades; from being rarely used to something almost all of us need on a daily basis. Many young people are interested in IT and the careers available in the industry.

I interviewed Michael, a previous Exposure volunteer/employee who now works in the IT sector to see how he got to where he is now, and what kind of IT jobs he has done in the past.

Michael joined Exposure when he was 14 years old.

“My father picked up a copy of the magazine from Wood Green library, and I saw that they were looking for young people to get involved with an Internet project. It was here that I started to develop my knowledge and skills in website design, and eventually went on to create and maintain a website for Exposure. I have always enjoyed working with technology from a young age, but Exposure helped me realise my passion when I saw how I could use my expertise to benefit the community.”

After secondary school Michael went on to study a multimedia technology BSc at the University of Hertfordshire.

“I really loved it and got to work on some interesting projects. I edited videos, coded, created interactive multimedia CDs and e-commerce websites. During my sandwich year I worked for a multimedia design studio called PWI near Old Street. I had great fun exploring all the latest technology.”

So how did Exposure help Michael get to where he is now?

“Whilst I was at university, Exposure offered me paid part-time work running their website to help support my studies. It was a great experience and my first regular job. I often got involved in providing technical support for staff using the Mac computers at Exposure, which gave me the experience I needed to move on to similar roles in the future.”

I found reward in solving technology problems for people. And that is when I knew what I wanted to do for a living.

So when did Michael realise what he wanted to do as a profession?

“After my experience with building websites, I started to tinker with building and upgrading PCs. First just helping out friends and family, and eventually taking paid jobs through word of mouth. I found reward in solving technology problems for people. And that is when I knew what I wanted to do for a living.”

Michael joined a massive international technology company, providing technical support to customers, similar to the U Save. This involved repairing computers, installing software and explaining how to use the products. Eventually, he progressed to providing support over the phone to business customers around the world.

Michael now works for a specialist IT service provider called Synergy Associates in central London.

“We provide services for businesses, and I provide remote technical support as well as visiting clients on-site.”

So what inspired Michael to work in IT?

“The early entrepreneurs of technology like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. The desire to solve problems and improve people’s lives. Computers have not always just been about processing information or completing boring tasks. Technology has repeatedly been proven to not only change people’s lives for the better but empower them. Whether that is to video chat with your grandparents who live in a remote part of the world, or to learn how to cook from videos on YouTube. The new boundary for technology to overcome is medicine, and how can we collect information to solve health problems.”

What smartphone does Michael prefer?

“I’ve always had an iPhone and use it as my main phone. Both Android and iOS started out from very different places. Did you know the early beta Android phones that Google demonstrated didn’t even have a touchscreen? It was operated with a little button just like on a Blackberry. The iPhone has always been built around a touch screen, and that’s what made it the first smartphone that was truly great at browsing websites, because you could just pinch to zoom in on any part of a page.”

I asked Michael about coding languages and which ones were worth learning.

“I’ve worked with a few, but I would really recommend looking at Python to start out with. It allows you to run your code as soon as you’ve written it so you can weed out the mistakes and try again immediately.”

Think about a problem that is personal and relevant to you. How can you overcome and solve that?

Michael had this advice for someone wanting to pursue a career in IT.

“Find out what your passion is in life. If it is solving problems and you enjoy technology then IT could be for you. Computers and technology is such a varied field these days and you can spend your life specialising in one of the many fields. Whether that is technical support, building apps, user interface design, network design and security. Even researching artificial intelligence and medical technology. It can be overwhelming which path to choose. Think about a problem that is personal and relevant to you. How can you overcome and solve that? And think how can you help others whilst you are following that journey.”

This article has been supported by:
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Mohammed Aqab Ashraf is currently studying BTEC ICT Level 3 extended diploma at the Petchey Academy 6th Form and is looking to have an ICT-related career, hopefully at Google in the future.

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