Chintan Shah is originally from India, and first came to live in the UK to study back in 2006. He specialises in Artificial Intelligence and has a passionate for communication. He received the Tech Nation Visa in 2016. Here, he tells us his story of coming to live in the UK.
“My journey to the UK began in 2004, when I saw an Economic Times advertisement for The British Library in Ahmedabad and decided to visit the institution. There I found out about higher education in UK and, during the information briefing, found that it takes only a year to get MSc, rather than 2 years. So, I decided to come to UK in 2006 to pursue my MSc in Communication and Signal Processing at Newcastle University.
In 2007, I got a full scholarship to do a PhD at Newcastle University and completed my doctorate in 2010. I then spent a year in the US as a post-doctoral fellow. Once I decided to move in to the world of work, I got an offer to come back to the UK on a Post Study Work Visa in 2011. It was an easy decision as I had already spent 4 years in the UK, and I had made so many friends here. I then switched to a Tier 2 General Visa.
While working for a major oil and gas company, I learned about Big Data and Machine Learning. I enrolled in various online MOOCs to gain a better understanding of this super exciting field. However, during this time I was made redundant twice, so I decided to apply for Tech Nation Visa. I was fortunate enough to get the endorsement and visa under this scheme.
Living for 14 years in the UK has helped me to grow tremendously as a professional, and as a person. September 2006 seems like a lifetime ago, when I travelled from India for the first time, arriving in Geordie-speaking Newcastle. While completing my MSc, I worked part-time at Pret A Manger, learning customs and even a few words of Geordie from my colleagues, who made sure to include me in their outings. I had never played football in my life, but watching my first Newcastle vs. Sunderland match I appreciated immediately the game’s challenge and intensity.
Studying at Newcastle and working with various multinational companies has exposed me to people from many different countries, and I have learned so much about global cultures and beliefs. Though I hail from the small Indian town, my personal and professional development has been linked closely to the UK.
I have had the best experience and the truly global exposure that I had hoped for. From day one of my arrival in the UK, I felt that I was never alone, and I could ask anyone for help. It has been a very rewarding experience where I have learned so much that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible. The work-life balance is also great – I spent my weekends either playing cricket (weather permitting) or visiting the English countryside (weather permitting!). The UK has so many beautiful places, from the Lake District in the North to scenic Cornwall in the south. I have visited more places in the UK than I have in India.
It means a huge deal to be recognised by Tech Nation, especially because when I got the endorsement, there was a limit of only 100 endorsements every 6 months. That limit has since been lifted. It gives me immense pride and confidence to be recognised and endorsed by Tech Nation. This visa has enabled me to find a job that I enjoy, and I have been able to collaborate with many people in the field of Artificial Intelligence to help companies make the best use of this exciting technology.
The tech scene in the UK is very vibrant, has a thriving community and a solid eco-system. I have met several startups, both via Tech Nation and through other meet-ups and I am really impressed at the kind of problems they are trying to solve. This is a community of extremely talented people and a lot can be learned from them.
After being endorsed, I had many job offers to work as a data scientist. I joined a consulting firm called Avanade, which is a joint venture between Accenture and Microsoft. I have worked on various projects from building anti-money laundering models for a global bank, to helping companies in pharmaceutical, insurance and utilities to use Artificial Intelligence to solve their business problems. One of my passions is to teach, so I regularly organise training sessions on machine learning, data science and AI.
There have been so many achievements over the years but the key ones are: getting full scholarship to do my PhD, learning that my PhD work is being used in commercial products, and being promoted to manager in my current organisation. But the biggest achievement by far is getting endorsed by Tech Nation, as without that I would not have been able to do the things that I really wanted to.
The Tech Nation Visa is a highly competitive visa scheme, but that should not deter you from applying. The rules and guidelines are very easy to understand. Regardless of the category you are applying in: talent or promise – you need to clearly demonstrate the value you will add to the tech community and UK economy. The Tech Nation Visa Alumni are happy to answer any question or doubt you may have.
Once you have been endorsed, you can reach out to the alumni on the Slack channel and they are more than happy to guide you on your move to the UK, from giving advice on how to find accommodation, applying for bank accounts to how to apply for National Insurance. You will never have to worry as help will always be available, even after you have relocated to the UK.
If I was to give advice to a potential visa applicant, it would be this: Recently I have come to know about Professor Clayton Christensen, who sadly passed away this year. He wrote a book that really changed the way I think. It is called How Will You Measure Your Life? His personal goal was to help people become better people. I think ultimately that is what we should do”.
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