Fatima: IT apprentice on Cyber Security Technician level 3

Published : Thu 12th May

Fatima joined our IT Academy in September 2021, having previously completed an apprenticeship in a school as a Teaching Assistant but realising she spent a lot of her time involved in supporting the technical challenges and how much she enjoyed it.

Why you chose this apprenticeship?

Having already come from another apprenticeship background (I was a teaching assistant at a school for children with additional needs), I felt I needed a career change that would give me new challenges and information to learn. I have always been quite a techy person, I spent half of the time working at the school fixing their computer and connectivity issues! But upon seeing potential careers in IT and taking a free Open University introduction into Cyber Security, this apprenticeship was exactly what I needed to start my experience in this career. And as I already had experience in an apprenticeship (positive ones at that), I felt this to be the logical step.

Was there any decision between the apprenticeship route and any other route? E.g. university etc

Definitely not a hard decision for me. As much as I am 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 were four useless things to know about myself when choosing a career path. I did know that I am a much more practical person than I was classroom based. So, apprenticeship was the way forward.

What has been your proudest achievement on your apprenticeship to date - have you done anything that you didn’t expect whilst on your apprenticeship?

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 years longer than you can count on one hand, 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. But 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 needed? 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 further thinking.

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 am 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 own 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?

Some of the difficulties in roles like Cyber Security is that you can study it an University level, but then that theory-based learning is not actually 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 excelled my learning to a whole new level.