Özlem and Rana: on leaving Turkey and Syria for France and finding a new career in coding

Özlem is a physicist trained in Turkey; Rana is a Syrian IT engineer who, up until 2015, worked as an IT lecturer at Aleppo University. Özlem had to leave her country for political reasons, while Rana moved to be with her husband. Now both in France, they’re reinventing their professional lives thanks to the OpenClassrooms Web Developement french apprenticeship program. Here are their stories.

Where are you from and how did you end up in France?

Özlem: I’m from Turkey. I lived there until I was 29 and moved to France on 2nd July 2017.

I had to leave Turkey as I’m a socialist and an activist.

Opposing the regime is a long, hard battle but I was dedicated… I was arrested and put on trial by the regime. After that, I had to leave the country. Staying wouldn’t have been safe for me.

Rana: I arrived in France in 2015. I came here to join my husband, who I met in 2011 when he was studying architecture in Aleppo. We were both lecturers at the university. Since he did both his masters and his PhD in France, he was brought back to the country by the French embassy in Syria when the war started in 2012. As his wife, I was able to join him.

Can you tell us more about your life after the move?

Rana: We moved around a bit at first and it took a while to figure out what worked best for us. We ended up settling in Angers as we have family there. That’s where I was really able to discover French life. Then, after a few months, we found out that we were expecting a baby.

My daughter was born the following August and I looked after her full-time for two and a half years. When she went to nursery, I decided that it was time for me to get back into the working world.

How did you find your apprenticeship?

Rana: Since I was looking for work in a new country, I wanted to add some extra value to my CV. I came across Techfugees when I was job hunting. They’re an international organisation that uses new technologies to help displaced people integrate into their new environments. The programme that I joined, T4WOMEN, helps refugee women get jobs in the digital sector.

You attend classes for six months and visit various different tech companies. It’s a great way to help you to decide what kind of job you’d like and to meet potential future employers. The Techfugees team helped me enormously. As I lived in Angers, they organised all my travel needs. To be honest, I didn’t think I’d be moving around so much, but the team really supported me.

At the end of the programme, I received three job offers.

One was in Paris – a full-time permanent contract at Octo Technology – but I thought it would be too difficult to find somewhere to live and a school for my daughter. I was also offered two apprenticeships as a developer, one at RTE and one at Cstar Industries.

In the end, I took the Cstar offer so that I could work for them from home in Angers and also continue learning.

Özlem: I was also part of the Techugees T4WOMEN programme. It’s a great way to improve your French, attend interesting classes and meet various different companies so that you can choose exactly what job you’d like to do. I found it really useful as I was planning to change from my career as a physicist. I met RTE, the company where I’m doing my web development apprenticeship, at a job dating organised by OpenClassrooms.

I’ve gone from working in physics, to IT!

What’s next for you?

Özlem: I’m really happy with both my OpenClassrooms IT training and my apprenticeship. RTE, where I work, is in the energy sector. I’d love to continue working in the industry, so I’m hoping to get a permanent contract as a web developer when I finish my apprenticeship.

Rana: I began my apprenticeship at Cstar Industries in January. It was difficult at the start as I was joining existing projects without knowing the full context of the work. Now I’m much more integrated within the team and I feel like I’m really starting to flourish in my position. I’d love to keep working there if the opportunity arises.

As for my studies, I completed the first part of a computer engineering masters back in Syria in 2016 and I’d love to finish the second part one day!

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By providing training programmes in partnership with Techfugees and socially engaged businesses such as RTE and Cstar Industries, OpenClassrooms hopes to pave the way to inclusive, fair and accessible education for all.

This article was originally published in French. You live in France and want to know more about our French apprenticeships program? Just click on our Apprenticeships page!

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