Husna Mahmood talks to us about her time at UTC Reading and how working on employer based projects led to an apprenticeship with IT provider Cisco. Husna offers valuable advice to other young girls who are interested in pursuing a career in STEM roles.

What inspired you to pursue a technical education?

I had always enjoyed IT but I never thought I could make a living out of it. It wasn’t until the Principal of UTC Reading came into school and spoke to us that I thought, wow this is something I could actually pursue as a career. I went along to all the UTC open evenings and quickly knew that this was the education that was going to get me the career I wanted.

How did your time at UTC Reading prepare you for the world of work?

The business environment at the UTC made the transition to work so easy. I was already used to a 9 to 5 day so it felt normal when I came to work. Because of all my contact with business professionals and my work with employers on projects, I developed my communication and presentation skills really well. The projects I worked on gave me a really good insight into how business works, project management and so on. Coming to Cisco everything was very familiar to me and that’s thanks to the UTC.

What is the best thing about studying at a UTC?

The teaching. Our teachers were so knowledgeable that you could turn your head to anyone and your question would be answered.

How did life at a UTC differ from a mainstream school?

The business environment was the biggest difference. In sixth form and college you are treated like you’re still in school but at the UTC you’re treated as an equal. Also, we got the chance to take professional qualifications that are well recognised and we got to do them for free which is an amazing opportunity.

Some girls might be uncertain about studying subjects like technology or engineering, what advice could you offer them?

Ignore the stereotypes. If we step forward and bring about the change then we can get rid of the stereotype that IT and engineering are male jobs. One of the main things that drove me to go to the UTC was to show that we as women can do this too, it’s not just for men – we need to show them who’s boss!

You now work for Cisco. Do you think this opportunity would have been available to you if you hadn’t studied at a UTC?

I think the chances would have been slimmer. I made contact with Cisco through projects I worked on with them while at the UTC, and by attending workshops run by them I had made myself known – I wouldn’t have had those opportunities anywhere else.

What advice would you give to a young person considering making the move from a mainstream school to a UTC?

Be confident in your decision. It is quite different to a normal school but you adapt quickly to the environment and the standards that are expected of you. Once you’re at the UTC make yourself visible and make the most of all the opportunities that you are offered. Everything you learn will be useful, especially the soft skills like communication and presenting, you might not necessarily think so at the time but practice them and you won’t regret it.

In a sentence or two, why do you think people should #ThinkUTC?

If you Think UTC you should think professionalism, good business ethics and excellent preparation for the future.

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