Why did I choose the Apprentice route?

Did you know what you wanted to do when you left school?

When I was coming to the end of my school journey I had a few ideas, but wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with my life.

I had many options, but it was difficult to know which direction to go in as I didn’t have any experience in the actual jobs themselves. What I found was that my school tended to push us towards the university and college route and didn’t really mention apprenticeships. It’s something I think puts people who learn like me at a disadvantage, as I learn more from first-hand experience than I do from any textbook. This shows in my performance in my exams, being more successful in the practical subjects such as drama and administration than subjects like maths and English.

In the end it felt right to opt for an apprenticeship and I’m very happy to be a project manager in Sopra Steria’s Business Process Services sector.

I first heard about Sopra Steria through my family as my cousin’s fiancé works in the programming side of things. I didn’t know very much about the company when I first started apart from the fact it is a French-owned IT company. I applied to a company called QA who helps those who want to become apprentices to find a placement in larger companies and, after only a few days with QA, I received a call to do an interview here at Sopra Steria. As the interview went on and I learnt more about the company, I became more drawn to the idea of IT and what the company has to offer in terms of growth and development as it enables you to move to various areas.

I must say I didn’t enjoy exams and with an apprenticeship there is still an exam that I need to revise for. However, I’m feeling more confident about this as with my day-to-day job I’m gaining so much experience, I’m using the terminology first-hand which helps me get a better understanding of it and, on top of that, I am able to learn useful and transferable skills that I don’t believe I would learn from sitting in lectures at university or college.

By doing an apprenticeship I am able to gain experience and try out the job while getting the same qualification I’d get if I just went to college. I think experience is key as it’s what employers tend to look for in a candidate so, by doing an apprenticeship I’m putting myself ahead of those who don’t have any experience.

With an apprenticeship I’m happy knowing that I have a job at the end of it with Sopra Steria. Another bonus is that I also don’t have to worry about taking out a student loan and paying it back in years to come as I am getting paid to learn something new.  For me it is a win, win situation!

In 2016, Sopra Steria recruited 13 apprentices, bringing the total to 42 active apprentices in technical and business roles across public and private sector client projects and in our internal corporate functions. If you, or someone you know, is interested in becoming an Apprentice, please contact our Early Careers team for information.

Working in IT: an education

Building relationships with schools as a STEM ambassador

Following on from our attendance at Leith Academy’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) careers event, the opportunity arose for Sopra Steria to welcome a class of third year pupils to the Edinburgh office.

After our visit to Leith Academy, we found that the school pupils (and teacher) considered a career in IT to involve tasks similar to those of a career in admin, using standard tools such as Microsoft Office. The main objective of the day, therefore, was to broaden the pupils’ (and teacher’s!) perspective on what IT really is, as well as give them an insight into the great work that Sopra Steria does in the industry – but how were we going to do this in a way that would make them understand, and do so without being overly technical?

We developed an agenda of activities for the morning, with three separate sessions:

  1. We asked the pupils to break down an everyday activity such as the booking of flights, as we thought that this would be something the pupils would understand and would possibly have experienced first-hand at home. The idea was to break this seemingly straightforward task into its IT sub-parts, showing and explaining how data flows between them. Being an interactive and relaxed session, the pupils really got involved and they clearly found it both enjoyable and fascinating; they were previously unaware of how many different systems there are behind what they saw as a simple process and therefore had no concept of the levels of data involved.
  2. A presentation on UX delivered by Emily Walters and Lynsey Brownlow, which opened the pupils’ eyes to the idea of building good user experience and its importance in the development of well-designed software. This was a hands-on session, and got their brains ticking as they thought about the most user-friendly ways to redesign a standard yoghurt pot!
  3. The pupils were unleashed into the office to chat to members of staff about their roles in Sopra Steria. Rather than give them a set of questions, we encouraged them to think of different questions to ask. As staff from all areas of the business got involved from development through to HR, it gave them a great insight into the varying roles that are available in IT, and it was interesting to see how different members of our staff showed the pupils what they did, or how they answered their questions. It was also great to see such a buzz around the office from both the pupils and our staff!

It was clear that the pupils enjoyed their day, with positive feedback from both themselves (especially after they told us they had been looking forward to the day after looking up and researching our company and what we do) and their teacher, who was so impressed with our morning that she asked if Sopra Steria could act as Leith Academy’s STEM ambassador. This was a great achievement and conclusion of the morning and we hope that we can continue to build strong relationships not just with Leith Academy, but with other schools in Edinburgh and beyond.

Sopra Steria has since been approached about the possibility of doing days like this again; if this is something that you feel could benefit your school, please feel free to get in touch – we would be more than happy to help! You can leave a reply below, or contact me, or my colleagues Ross Graham or Stephen Readman by email.