Episode 178 – Embrace Change, Become More Empathetic and Give Back with Shaquilla Johnson

 In Podcasts

Phil’s guest on today’s podcast is Shaquilla Johnson. She is just starting out on her IT career, yet she has already been able to have a big impact. In 2016, she joined Atos’ graduate scheme. Shaquilla went on to win the 2018 Graduate of the Year award.

She is already speaking at conferences and running courses at Code First: Girls. Shaquilla is an AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner and is currently taking more courses. For the past three years, she has been working on her own tech blog.


(1.06) – I wanted to start by asking you about Code First: Girls. So, I understand you got a bit of a background in there before you went into the instruction side of things? Around 2015, while at university, Shaquilla took an introductory coding course through Code First: Girls.

It was quite basic. But, still covered beginner’s web development, simple HTML, CSS, Get and UX design. It gave her a good insight into the world of tech and careers within that industry.

At that point, Shaquilla realized that a career in tech was for her. So, she cancelled her audit and tax related applications and looked around for something IT related. She applied for a technical graduate scheme at a tech company that provided IT services.

In 2016, she secured a place on the Atos graduate scheme. She has taken more courses and is now at the stage where she is able to volunteer and help others. Something she really enjoys doing. For her, paying it forward is important.

(3.44) – So, do you take time out to do that? Shaquilla explains that she mainly works as an instructor in the evenings. Usually for 8 weeks at a time.

Code First: Girls runs courses throughout the year. So, the instructors are able to fit when they volunteer to run the courses around the rest of their lives.

(4.30) – I presume you’re going to be sticking to that and continuing for a while. Shaquilla confirms she has no plans to stop working as a volunteer instructor.

(5.19) – Can you please share a unique career tip with the I.T. career audience? Her top career tip is to always remember that you are in control and act that way.

Your managers, peers and mentors can all help you to progress. But, ultimately you are the one that is in control, the person that always has your best interests at heart.

Occasionally, companies will lie to you to get you to work for them or things will not work out as expected for another reason. When that happens, you owe it to yourself to have a conversation to try to change things or move on.

(6.55) – Can you tell us about your worst career moment? There have been times when the morale of the team she has been working with was very low. Something that happens a lot when things are not going to plan.

(8.27) – So, did you learn about how to deal with that stress? Shaquilla said she has been able to use those situations to learn more about handling stress. She is now more resilient and now understands how to use her mind to deal with the situation effectively. It has taught her to pause and rationalize what she is feeling, so she can find her way through the problem.

(9.12) – What was your best career moment? your greatest success, so far. That was winning Graduate of the Year in 2018. The award came at the end of a packed 18 months. A period during which she was involved in several large projects and became an instructor at Code First: Codes.

Her work during that time and winning that award has really opened doors for her. It has also helped her to grow her network.

(10.34) – What excites you about the future of the IT industry and careers? The fact that there is always something new on the horizon is something Shaquilla finds exciting and stimulating. There is always something new to learn and understand. The fact that in a few years we will be using tech we have not even thought of now is really exciting. Shaquilla cannot wait to see how these things shape the world.

Unlike many of us, Shaquilla is not afraid of change. She is not fearful of automation. It will change things drastically, but, there will be other techs we can use to create new products and solutions, things that will likely blow our minds.

(13.57) – What first attracted you to a career in IT? Shaquilla was drawn to IT in part because it is such a fast paced environment to work in. It is the industry that will lead us into the future. So, be authentic.

(14.17) – What is the best career advice you have ever received? Be yourself, your best self. If you try to create a persona and become a caricature, a fake version of yourself, people will easily see through you.

(14.43) – Conversely, what is the worst career advice you’ve ever received? To date, Shaquilla does not think she has received any bad advice. Just things that she has felt were not relevant, or appropriate, for her personally.

(15.07) – If you were to begin your IT career again, right now, what would you do? When Shaquilla attended university, she decided to study physics. If she were to start again she would study computer science instead.

(15.44) – What are you currently focusing on in your career? This year Shaquilla wants to do more technical speaking. To date, she has spoken mainly about career decision-related topics. She wants to start to deliver more technical speeches. To get there, she is broadening the work she is doing and actively looking for courses to take that will broaden her experience.

(16.37) – What is the number one non-technical skill that has helped you the most in your IT career? Shaquilla says that is definitely empathy. Taking a caring approach is always best.

Try to put yourself in that person’s shoes. Often, the reason you are not getting a positive response is nothing to do with what you are doing. Usually, there is something going on in the background of the other person’s life that you do not know about.

Listening to and getting to know someone better helps you to build a better working relationship with them. It takes time but is well worth the effort.

(17.33) – What do you do to keep your own IT career energized? Seeking out new challenges keeps Shaquilla engaged and enthusiastic. She still finds doing this nerve-wracking. But, she does not let that stop her. Fairly quickly, she gets excited about trying something new. at which point it starts to become enjoyable.

(18.14) – What do you do in your spare time away from technology? Shaquilla loves to cook, in particular, baking. She also enjoys eating out, trying new foods and drinks. Fortunately, she lives in London, so has access to an amazing range of cultures and food to try.

(18.42) – Phil asks Shaquilla to share a final piece of career advice with the audience. Her advice is to never stop learning. The saying – we are all students of the school of life” is definitely true.


(5.20) SHAQUILLA – “No one will look out for your career interests like you will.”

(6.00) SHAQUILLA – “At the end of the day, the best career decisions will come from you.”

(09.09) SHAQUILLA – “Once you get control of your mind, and learn to rationalize handling stressful situations becomes much easier.”

(14.19) SHAQUILLA – “Be authentic, be yourself, be your best self.”

(18.07) SHAQUILLA – “You learn the most when you’re kind of forced to make it work.”

(18.49) SHAQUILLA – “Never stop learning.”


Twitter: https://twitter.com/shaquillaevelyn

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/shaquillaevelynjohnson/

Website: https://shaquillaevelyn.com/

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