From teaching to a tech career

When Ramazan Ince came to the Netherlands with his family in 2018, he was determined to continue his long-time teaching career. But as a newcomer to a foreign country, plans often need adjustment. After more than two years of non-stop learning and determination to re-educate himself, Ramazan was admitted to the Azure Academy powered by Microsoft and now works as a System Engineer at the IT service company, Fujitsu Netherlands. This is his story.

“I’ve always really liked numbers,” says Ramazan. “After finishing my central exam in Turkey I could have studied engineering or medicine, like most people. But that wasn’t for me. I decided to study mathematics and to become a teacher. When I finished university, I moved to Ghana, Nigeria and then to Iraq to teach math at an international school. I was a teacher and eventually a principal and director. At one point I was responsible for over one thousand students. That’s a big number, but each student is one to their parents. You are shaping their future and that’s a big responsibility.”

Cancelled passport

The international schools that Ramazan worked for were owned by Turkish businessmen affiliated with the Gülen movement. In 2016, the Turkish government classified the Gülen movement a terrorist organization. As a result, Ramazan and his family lost their Turkish citizenship rights and without a valid passport Ramazan could no longer work. Moving back to Turkey wasn’t an option: “It started with the Turkish embassy refusing to renew my children’s passports. Shortly after that the passports of my wife and myself were cancelled too.” Although the international community did not support the Turkish classification of the Gülen movement, it was difficult to receive a visa to any foreign country. Nonetheless, in 2018 Ramazan and his family arrived at Schiphol where they requested asylum.

IT journey

After living in various asylum centres, the family ended up in the town of Leersum awaiting the results of their asylum application. In the meantime, Ramazan was eager to continue his career: “I wrote many emails to schools, requesting to do some voluntary work or just to come by to see how the Dutch educational system works. You see, teaching is not only my work, but also my hobby. Yet, since I didn’t have a residence permit or a Dutch teaching diploma, I only received negative replies. That’s when I started looking for online courses, and I came across an online data science programme of Microsoft. Since data science is all about statistics, numbers and outcomes, it sounded interesting to me. And that’s how my IT journey started.” Ramazan points out that it wasn’t easy to stay motivated while waiting for his asylum application being processed. “I wrote to many institutions for entering programs or courses, but they were either far too expensive or I couldn’t enter because I didn’t have a Dutch permit. This waiting time is a dangerous case for refugees. Many end up sleeping and playing games all day long. I always tried to motivate them. At one point I was tutoring six refugee students in math. But being around people who are aimless can be demotivating. What kept me going were my children. We lived together in 20 square meters. I am their role model and if they would see me doing nothing, what could I have expected of them? So I made sure I kept on learning and developing myself.”

Waking up at 5:30

“When I was doing online data science courses, I heard about the Refugee Talent Hub and I attended some of their programs. During a meet-and-greet I met someone from Microsoft who told me about the Azure Academy. I decided to apply.” The Azure Academy, aimed at training ICT talent with a distance to the labour market and a work experience placement attached, challenged Ramazan in ways the online courses couldn’t. “Even though I still didn’t have my permit at the time - which was officially required to enter the program - I was admitted. It was a four-month program with teaching days in Amsterdam from 9 to 5 o’clock. I could only travel in discount hours, meaning I had to leave the asylum centre every day around 5:30 o’clock in the morning. But I learned a lot. By the end of the course I was hired as an intern at Fujitsu. I didn’t have any real work experience in Azure Administration work yet, but they were looking for someone who was able to learn quickly. I was able to combine the knowledge from all the courses and learned a lot along the way.” After a successful internship, Ramazan was immediately promised a permanent position at the company. At that time, he and his family had received a Dutch residence permit and in the months after they were assigned a house in Bilthoven. With some delay due to COVID-19, Ramazan was hired in September last year and now works as a System Engineer at Fujitsu.

Excellent in math

“As a teacher you’re teaching, but at the same time you’re always learning something new. I am doing a lot of learning right now. Working with our customers to solve their problems teaches me a lot, I am learning Dutch through our team meetings and the best thing is that my team members are always there for me whenever I need help, even if it takes a lot of their time. And I sure asked a lot of funny questions in the beginning.” Ramazan laughs: “Eventually I would love to move back to teaching, but right now I’m incredibly happy with what I’m doing.” At the moment COVID-19 forces Ramazan and his family to juggle work and home schooling. But as a former teacher this hasn’t been such a big issue. With pride: “Both my kids are excellent in math you know.”