What it's like to do a technology degree apprenticeship
Holly's technology degree apprenticeship has been ideal for putting her business skills to good use. She’s keen to promote her path to school leavers.
- 2014–2016: Worked as a customer service assistant at Waitrose during sixth form.
- 2015: Completed A levels in maths, history and economics.
- 2016: Travelled around South East Asia.
- 2016: Joined the Goldman Sachs degree apprenticeship programme in the investment banking division technology group.
We build applications to help our bankers automate their processes. For example, if bankers are making a deal, they will be able to enter specific details into a website we’ve built. They then don’t have papers that they have to read through and pass on to others who are involved in that deal. On a day-to-day basis I do a lot of coding, working in a global team of 12 colleagues.
Progressing in the apprenticeship
My apprenticeship at Goldman Sachs is four years long. I spent the first two years working in one technology team, and have since moved to a different team for the final two years, which is giving me an insight into multiple businesses at the firm and technologies. The end goal is to become a software engineer. Completing my first year was a real highlight, as I had never coded before. Now being able to come in on a Monday morning and start coding without other people’s help is quite significant.
Putting university work into practice
I’m in the office three days a week. On the other two days I attend university at Queen Mary, University of London, working towards a degree in digital and software solutions. I have six hours of lectures a week, as well as labs where we do practical coding exercises in a computer room, solving similar issues and using similar skills to when I’m at work.
I really value putting into practice what I’ve learned at university, working with experienced people, and being able to ask why I am learning about something and how it impacts the business. What stood out about this programme was that you physically go to university and sit in lectures and labs with full-time students, rather than getting material sent to you or watching prerecorded lectures.
Getting the balance right
I’ve learned to strike the balance between work, studying and a social life, and not feel guilty about taking an evening off when I need some downtime. I commute from Surrey, so I make use of my time on the train to watch TV or read a book.
All of my friends are full-time students and the main difference is the social aspect. They have time to go out during the week, or be in a sports team and practise three times a week, for example. I don’t have that university lifestyle as I’ve still got to be at work at 9.00 am. But it doesn’t feel like I have to do anything; it’s more that I want to do it, because I’m learning and it’s a nice environment to be in.
I’ve made friends with other apprentices at work, and at university we’re paired with apprentices from other employers. Because I get paid, I have the money to go out and do what I want to do on the weekends. I like the atmosphere in London, and there’s always plenty to do after work.
A change of direction
I initially went to university to study economics and management, but decided that wasn’t for me: having done economics A level, I didn’t find the courses engaging enough as I like to be busy and challenged. I understood the value in having a degree but didn’t want to go back to university full time. So I started looking into school leaver programmes and applied for this one, along with a few others.
I’m interested in why technology is growing so fast, how people are using it to make their lives easier and what makes a good application. Coding is linked to maths, so I was hopeful that I’d enjoy it. Setting up my own confectionery company while I was at school had sparked my interest in how a business works, and I played hockey and netball from a young age so I was always working in teams.
Raising apprenticeship awareness
My friends still don’t really get it; they are supportive but they’re amazed that I work every day. Our school didn’t massively promote apprenticeships but I’ve been back to the school to talk about my degree apprenticeship and the value in it. I’m really passionate about becoming an ambassador for apprenticeships, making people aware of what I do and encouraging them to get involved.
Advice for school leavers
When you first go into the workplace, don’t be daunted by not being an expert in a particular area; let the people around you help you learn. Having the ability to grow in a role is better than already knowing it. Ask questions because it shows your curiosity, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. You sit with people who have been there for years, and they would have been in the same position as you at one point.