How I Went from Fitness Instructor to Systems & Applications Advisor in 11 Months

4 minutes

Learning to code so that you can land a job in tech can feel daunting. That’s why we’re sharing inspiring stories from Codecademy’s community — to show how people like you (yes, you!) can embark on a learning journey and end up with a totally new career. We hope these stories serve as a reminder that there’s no single path to a more fulfilling work life. 

Today’s story is from Shabana Khatau, a 46-year-old Systems and Application Advisor at Network Rail, living in London. Read more stories from Codecademy learners here. Want to be featured in a video about your coding journey? Be sure to share your story here.

Why I chose to learn to code 

“Growing up, I watched my brother getting into tech and it was so fascinating seeing what he was doing. It just kind of sparked something inside me. I always wanted to have a career in tech, but unfortunately, life happened. I kind of squashed the ambition that I had to get into tech and focused all my energy on supporting my family and bringing up my four children.  

I did a fitness instructor course and a personal training course. I was teaching young children exercise, and then I went into coaching girls’ football. I noticed that with social media, you see a lot more stories coming out [about people who switch careers]. That’s when I realized that even though I was older and had kids doesn’t mean that my life has stopped.  

I had been away from tech for over 15 years, and I felt like I didn’t know where to start. So much had changed, and I was completely clueless about what to do or where to go. There was an agency that was offering a package to get into coding where part of the curriculum included courses from Codecademy.  

Codecademy courses are structured so that you don’t need to have multiple screens. You can have one screen where you’ve got everything: the lesson, the place to do your coding, and links to get additional information — so it’s all in there, and you can do it in your own pace.”  

How I made time to learn 

“I have four boys so they’re definitely keeping me busy. When the fourth one was away from the baby stage, I had more time to think about where I can go with my life. I thought, Maybe it’s not too late for me. Even though I have kids and I’m older, I still could get into tech. I started reading books and listening to podcasts that talk about how you can change your life. I would say it took me about six months before I felt like, I’m getting somewhere. I have built up enough knowledge to start doing my own projects.”  

How long it took me to land a job 

“I had lost my confidence about going back into the corporate world to work. After roughly a year I felt like I could go back into a corporate environment and understand what people are talking about. Even though I might not be on a senior level, I still have the knowledge and I can communicate about any topics that they throw at me.”  

I was waiting for something that could give me that happiness and confidence — and coding has given me that.

Shabana Khatau
Systems and Application Advisor at Network Rail

How I got in the door 

“I was applying to jobs here and there, and then this company Network Rail liked what they saw on my application, and they asked me to come for an interview. They wanted someone who had knowledge about coding. Codecademy was a bridge for me to get into tech and give me the qualifications that I needed to secure a job.” 

How I nailed the interview and evaluated the offer 

“In my interview, I told them I want to become a Software Developer. They said that this could be a starting point because you need to understand the infrastructure of the Network Rail company before you can go into developing software. 

I couldn’t believe it when I got the job offer. I never thought that it could happen. I had landed a job in tech, and I could actually pursue my career. My family was so happy, and my kids were like, ‘We’re really proud of you!’ They’d seen me studying day in and day out, coding and learning the tech world. So, for them, it was an inspiration to see that I had achieved something. I think what I’ve shown them is that you should have dreams and it’s possible to follow your dreams. If you work hard enough, you can be successful.”  

What I wish I knew before I started learning 

“I wasted quite a bit of time before learning about Codecademy. Anyone who would come up to me, I would direct them straight to Codecademy; don’t waste any time on anyone else, just start there and then see how you feel. Everything is there, so if you want to go the database route, then there are database courses as well. It’s all there — you don’t have to install Visual Studio Code before you start learning, you can just use their platform to learn, which is a great bonus.  

I feel like this is what I’ve been waiting for all my life. I was waiting for something that could give me that happiness and confidence — and coding has given me that.”  

Conversation has been edited for clarity and length.  

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