Re-evaluating my career choice
After leaving school I knew that I always wanted to do an apprenticeship. I was interested in engineering so after looking at a few options with my dad, I managed to land a role as an apprentice motor vehicle technician. Then, about half-way through that apprenticeship, I had a re-evaluation due to some personal circumstances and started to rethink if I was happy with the path I was taking and realised that I wasn’t. It’s a big of risk to leave an apprenticeship a couple of years-in but my heart was not in it, so I handed in my notice. I’d always had a keen interest in technology and, when leaving school my results confirmed that was an area where I excelled, so realised technology was the way forward for me.
With the technology route in mind, I originally applied to the Accenture technology degree apprenticeship scheme in Newcastle in 2016 but although I got through to the last phase of the application process, I wasn’t successful in securing a role. Accenture were great though and called me to give feedback on things that went well and areas where I could improve and, they said to use this advice to try again next year or take this as a pointer if you’re applying elsewhere.
After that, I was a bit lost, so decided to focus on building my tech skills by doing a two-year extended diploma at Sunderland College. Then, in my last year I noticed that Accenture was open for apprenticeship applications again. I thought it would be a great chance to reapply as I felt better prepared, had better team skills, and more importantly I finally knew who I was as a person and what I wanted from a career. I made it all the way through the application process and then I got the call and was thrilled to bits when they said ‘congratulations, we’ve managed to sort you a place out’!
How it’s all worked out
I joined in September 2018 and I’m just starting the second year of a three-year apprenticeship. I’ve been on the Technology Solutions scheme but there’s recently been a bit of a change in direction for myself and another colleague. Usually you will specialise in software for your final year but for the first time, the two of us are going to be part of the Security capability. This is something we wanted to do so spoke to the Apprenticeship Lead who authorised it and we’re so lucky as it’s a great opportunity. What’s interesting is that if I’d not got the apprenticeship with Accenture my fall-back plan was to go to Northumbria University and do Cybersecurity, so it’s amazing how it’s all worked out. Now, I’ve managed to land a fantastic apprenticeship and will secure a degree in IT doing Cybersecurity and, I’ll be one of the first apprentices to do that.
Side of desk responsibility
Besides work and study, there are a lot of things that go on here especially in terms of extra-curricular opportunities which we call ‘side of desk’. I’m currently part of our Accent on Gender group and help with arranging workshops about trying to achieve our 50/50 gender balance. But, for the last International Men’s Day two of us apprentices planed and run a full week of activities – and we’d never run any event before. It was a great success (in my opinion) where we hosted daily talks covering a variety of topics from mental health awareness to how to conduct yourself at work. We also organised the first-ever male-only Lean-In session at the Newcastle office and got some great feedback on that. This session was an opportunity for male colleagues to get together behind closed doors to share and express their own thoughts on what it means to be a man by covering some of the misconceptions and struggles men can face. The Lean-In started as an idea that was mentioned at an Inclusion & Diversity meeting where it was noted that our current Lean-In sessions were mainly (if not always) attended by women and some men did not always feel comfortable attending as they did not want to intrude so the suggestion was that we should look to have a male-only session. As myself and my colleague were arranging the activities for International Men’s Week, that seemed like an ideal tie in, so we took over the organisation of that too.
Celebrating International Men’s Day by participating in Movember
As an apprentice I didn’t think I’d be given the responsibility of organising something that important. There was quite a lot to think about and we were a bit worried in case nobody turned up as we’d been left with this great task and we didn’t want to let everyone down. We wanted people to engage with it, take something from it and learn something new. That was our main priority.
Since that male Lean-In session, I’ve taken a lot more notice of my own mental health and always ensure I find some ‘me-time’ to think about any stresses, the value of my day and how I can improve. I’ve always been driven by self-improvement and I think that’s important because without that you can get stuck in a rut or even worse, feel anxious or isolated. I’m currently looking to sign-up for training to be one of our Mental Health Allies as I think it would be good to be around to support others and I like to think that I’ll always be approachable if someone needs to talk.
A valuable experience
I know my confidence has skyrocketed because of all the experience I’ve got from here. That’s not just from Monday to Thursday working on my project but I’ve got a lot value from doing my degree and growing my technical knowledge, as well as being trusted to grow skills in other areas like in my role within the Accent on Gender team. I know so many people who say I wish I’d known that you could do this - you don’t have that debt, you get a free degree and valued working experience. I think for anyone leaving school, even if it’s not Accenture or technology that interests them, a degree apprenticeship is a very good track to head down.
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