Going to the corner shop after school. Laughing at the back of my English class with my friends. Having lunch time dates with my revision guides in the library. Discussing with my head of year what I wanted to do after leaving school. Organising our leavers assembly with our teachers.
These are all just a few amongst many of the fleeting memories that I have of my final school year.
My name is Chizara Ogbonna and I am a second-year software development apprentice at Accenture.
When I reminisce my memories of school, a lot of it was fun and exciting and I genuinely did enjoy learning the subjects that I chose. When I delve deeper, I think the best word to describe this part of my life was ‘chaotic’. There was a lot of confusion that younger me had about my future career and how I wanted to get there.
External pressure also didn’t help: my family being very rooted in academia (nearly every family member including my extended had at least one degree if not more); teachers at school were very keen on everyone taking the traditional university route; and I even faced pressure from myself, being my worst critic, as I absolutely wanted to make the right decisions. Which is hard at an age where you barely know what you want to have for dinner, let alone major life decisions!
I had chosen mostly essay-based subjects as that was what I had always enjoyed learning, then last-minute I added computing as well. Computing, as a school subject, wasn’t my favourite but the curriculum did give me a lot of perspective into things in technology that I wanted to learn more outside the space of a classroom. So, in my free time, I started reading technology magazines, did work experience in an IT department and attended a
At this point, everyone expected that I would follow the orthodox route that would lead me to university. Apprenticeships weren’t widely advertised in schools – or at least not in mine. This was because many stigmatise apprenticeships to only be for students who are less academically capable. Another problem was the misconception that apprenticeships could not get you a degree which was seen as shooting yourself in the foot career wise.
This all turned out to be wrong!
With my parents’ help and encouragement, I found a degree apprenticeship with Accenture and decided to apply for a myriad of reasons. One being the fact that I was definitely going to get a degree and the university experience since we regularly attend University of East London. Furthermore, I was excited at the prospect of working for a world-renowned company whose culture of innovation, diversity, stewardship and more deeply resonated with my personal values. All whilst getting paid and not ending up in student debt!
Since joining Accenture, I have worked with an oil and gas company as well as a major health organisation where my roles were very technical despite having no programming skills at the start of the apprenticeship. Outside work, it’s been really nice to be a part of the African and Caribbean network; completing training to become a mental health ally; and over the last year, I have been helping at HR initiatives, speaking at schools and career events to encourage students who I know may be as lost as I was to consider an apprenticeship. It’s been especially important to me to speak to female students and students from BAME backgrounds because both groups are really under-represented in the technology industry and I can’t wait to see that change in the coming years!
In conclusion, I’m really happy I decided to take the apprenticeship route. It’s really helped shape my perspective and helped me realise that the concept of ‘wrong and right decisions’ can be really outdated when trying to decide your future. At the end of the day, there may be one destination but there are a variety of paths you can take to get there. An apprenticeship is an equally valid path that I believe others should consider!
If you’re ready for the world of work, why wait? Find out more about our apprenticeship opportunities via our website.
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