Exploring my interest in IT with an apprenticeship

Published : Tue 13th Sep

Fatima had previously completed an apprenticeship in a school as a teaching assistant, where she realised that she enjoyed spending time supporting with technical challenges. She joined our IT Academy in September 2021 and now she’s exploring her career in cyber security.

Why did you choose this apprenticeship?

I’d been working as a teaching assistant at a school for children with additional needs, and felt I needed a career change that would give me new challenges and information to learn. I’ve always been quite a techy person and I spent half of the time working at the school fixing their computer and connectivity issues. After looking at potential careers in IT and taking a free Open University introduction into Cyber Security, I found this apprenticeship. It was exactly what I needed to start my experience in this career and as I already had experience in an apprenticeship (and a positive one at that), it felt like the next logical step.

Was there any decision between the apprenticeship route and any other route (e.g. university etc)?

It wasn’t a hard decision for me. As much as I’m a person that enjoys learning, I learn better when I can apply that knowledge. University was going to leave me in debt, and at the time I had no clear path in mind. It’s a big struggle going bankrupt over a course you may not even want to pursue in the end. I liked drawing, I liked computers, I liked martial arts and I liked helping, which seemed like four fairly useless things to know about myself when choosing a career path. I did know that I’m a much more practical person than I was classroom based. So, an apprenticeship was the way forward.

What’s been your proudest achievement on your apprenticeship to date – have you done anything that you didn’t expect?

Just being a part of the team and helping makes me proud and happy. It seems small but when you, a baby-faced, fresh, new cyber security apprentice, can actually provide some support to those that have been in the career for a lot longer than you, it makes you feel very special. I can say that I wouldn’t think my love of spreadsheets and organising figures would be such a support in our PCI assessment.

Any challenges?

Yes, and that’s what I wanted.

To perform any job to a sufficient standard, you need to be able to learn, make mistakes and get out your comfort zone. When assessing a software for the first time I was completely flustered on how best to conduct this. Where do I find the information I need? What was relevant? What wasn’t relevant?

Luckily the team here at the Trust are incredibly supportive, any issues or challenges that I’m not too stubborn to ask for help on, they are always able to help. Whenever I do present findings, it helps to have a team member that can guide you through the correct processes, and to offer further advice.

What are your plans for the future?

Progress as much as I can within this role, and to continue to be able to provide more and more support to the team. The Trust offers a great variety of options and paths, and everyone is really nice. I’m not looking to limit myself to a particular branch of cyber security yet, since the current role I have is so general that I can improve my skill sets on a range of different topics.

Any advice for anyone thinking of doing an apprenticeship?

If you struggle to learn via the traditional methods of teaching (sitting in a classroom and listening) and prefer to put into practice all you are learning, while also gaining real experience in your chosen career, definitely go for an apprenticeship.

The ability to meet others in your chosen path and learn from their experiences is such a rewarding part of an apprenticeship. Theory-based stuff is great but seeing how that fits into an organisation in practice is even better.

How do you see your apprenticeship helping you in your career progression?

One of the difficulties in roles like those within cyber security is that you can study it at university level, but then that theory-based learning isn’t actual experience for the role. You’ve learned about it, great, but how do you apply it?

What this apprenticeship has done is allowed me to learn both theory and application. My experience should set me apart from others in the job market, and has taken my learning to a whole new level.