We’ve had a good chat with Tanja Lichtensteiger for this #WhereDidYouStart. Tanja may not have a degree, but what she does have is a true understanding and appreciation of apprenticeships - and when this is paired with a passion for tech… well. We don’t think there’s much that could stand in her way. Over to you, Tanja!
Digital seems to have always been a part of my life. I started coding when I was just eight-years-old, but I took my first steps into digital professionally at 17 when I started an apprenticeship, working in the IT department of the largest supermarket chain in Switzerland.
Having started my career at 17, I may not have a degree, but that never hindered me - I had years of experience backing me up. All it takes is hard work and determination. Through the apprenticeship route, you are learning on the job. You immediately gain insight and experience of solving real world problems. I’ve found that to be the most valuable attribute in the eyes of employers!
Currently, I’m a Business Systems Development Manager at Leeds Beckett University. These days I spend less time working with code, and more time leading the teams and making the decisions. I remove blockers that keep our developers from achieving our strategic goals, while providing tools, support and whatever they need to accomplish the job. I try to find ways of improving our way of working, which then improves the quality of our software products, which is used by both staff and students.
I work with a fantastic team of passionate puzzle solving individuals, and I’m never far away from code or the technology. My team builds components that we see actively in use across the University every day. It keeps us close to our users and we can see how it (hopefully!) improves their working day.
When it comes to my roots, the apprenticeship was an amazing experience gaining skills on the job - but it wasn’t easy. I had to overcome racism and sexism, both of which were obstacles while being the only female and non-white person in a department of 120. That was 17 years ago. I would like to tell my younger self that things get better, that the struggle was worth it, as it forges a path that will make it easier for others to follow. The worthwhile fight is not over, but it gets better. Keep going.
I find that the digital industry is one that is in constant change - and that brings challenges. There are always new puzzles to solve, so it’s never boring and provides opportunities to be very creative.
When it comes to giving advice for others looking to join the digital industry, I’d recommend being self-aware, and knowing what really matters to you. You could have the best skills for a job, but if you don’t believe in them and how they can impact the world around you, you will feel unfulfilled. Few things are as satisfying to me as watching our University students graduate, knowing full well that the systems we built helped them gain a foundation for their career. After all, this in turn could potentially shape all our futures!
To those who see their future in the tech and digital industries, know that there are a variety of roles on offer. This sector has a spot for any passionate hard working individual - so feel the fear, and do it anyway!