While a relevant degree is the preferred route into the tech industry for many, apprenticeships can prove a fantastic opportunity to learn about the sector while gaining valuable, hands-on experience that can help you demonstrate your ability to apply the knowledge you acquire to real-life scenarios.
Luke Charles joined Tisski as a Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Power Platform Developer in April 2020 after kickstarting his tech career as an apprentice. Here, he shares an insight into his journey.
A career in technology wasn’t my first consideration; in my schoolyears my first love was cars and motorsport, so my initial goal was to pursue a career in engineering. Unfortunately, maths wasn’t my strong suit though, so this seemed beyond reach and when the time came to choose my GCSE subjects, my career advisor suggested I take a look at computing – and that’s where it all started for me.
Moving to sixth form, there was a lot of pressure on people to go to university, but I was tired of school and the idea of going to university and paying thousands for more schooling didn’t appeal to me. At the time, apprenticeships were almost seen as ‘less than’ but I knew there were some great ones out there from doing my own research.
After submitting loads of applications over a summer and into my second year at sixth form, I found Firebrand (a training provider) who arranged an interview with a small Microsoft partner organisation and the rest was history.
In the early days, there was definitely a steep learning curve. I think the most frustrating thing for me was not knowing how to put what I wanted to accomplish into words so I could research it or solve my current problem – but I learnt to stick with problems, discovered workarounds if I couldn’t find the perfect solution and gained experience in stakeholder management, which was also new to me.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, but I reached a point where I felt like I needed to move on to make sure I continued to grow professionally. A recruitment company put me in touch with our CEO, Anna, who invited me to attend an interview for Tisski and I successfully secured a role.
For me, career progression is important. Stepping into my developer role at Tisski has been great, but it’s so important to keep evolving from here and I’m really looking forward to taking on more responsibility for client projects as I gain more experience.
Continuous learning is important, too. Tisski is a Microsoft Gold Partner and Microsoft is moving things forward so quickly, I’m always learning about new features and also learning a lot from my colleagues, who are so experienced in their respective areas.
At Tisski, everyone wants to better themselves and improve and that’s my favourite thing about working here. If someone’s not preparing for an exam, they’re going the extra mile on a client project or helping someone else. This positive attitude towards self-improvement around the company is contagious and it makes me want to push myself to keep up.
For anyone out there considering a career in technology or wondering where to begin, don’t go thinking university is your only option. Of course, there are perks – the social aspect of university is huge and I’m aware a lot of people ‘find themselves’ at uni and make lifelong friends. Being a sociable person myself, it’s definitely something I’ll admit I’ve missed out on…
However, if you’re unsure about what career path you want to take, there’s too much to be distracted by and you can be set back financially and career-wise for changing your degree a year or two down the line. On the other hand, with apprenticeships and other hands-on placements, exposure and moving into a different role is often seen as progression and allows for more flexibility when figuring out what path you want to take.
Personally, I think having industry experience is underrated and given the fact that employers have to train employees either way, I think it’s finally time that apprenticeships and university are seen as equally good options for young people looking to start their careers and for schools to start making this clearer to their students.
For anyone considering an apprenticeship, my advice would be to research thoroughly to get a good idea of what you’d like to do and then apply far and wide. Making a job application is a skill, so with each application form you fill out, cover letter you write or interview you complete, you will get better - do as many as possible.
If you’re considering a tech apprenticeship, don’t worry about how well you can code or what language you know. No one expects you to know and we’ll teach you that. The tech sector is always evolving and changing, so it’s more important that you show a passion for tech and a willingness to learn and improve. While a little pre-reading on coding and development won’t hurt, being able to answer the questions like the following is more important: What is Microsoft changing? What excites you about these changes? Are you aware of Tisski’s/Microsoft’s competitors?
While the answers to these questions are specific to Microsoft and Tisski, you get the idea. Above all, demonstrate your desire to be part of the industry and the organisation you’re applying to, as well.
I wish the best of luck to anyone looking to take that first step in tech – it won’t be a move you regret.