What it's like to do a technology apprenticeship

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Ben Miles is an infrastructure technician apprentice at Google. He started with no tech experience and here he shares his path.

Ben's apprenticeship allowed him to achieve his ambition for a career in technology, even though he didn’t study science or maths. Here is his story so far.

  • 2016: Completed a week of work experience at a digital marketing agency.
  • 2017: Achieved A levels in French, Spanish and geography.
  • 2017–2018: Joined Google as a digital marketing apprentice.
  • 2018: Moved to current role.

Ben says…

The most crucial quality for apprentices to have is enthusiasm. If you’re enthusiastic about something it means you want to learn more about it – that’s what employers want to see. I knew from a young age that I wanted to work in the tech industry. I was interested in computers and technology: how they work, what you can do with them and how they can revolutionise society.

However, with A levels in French, Spanish and geography, I had the impression that I had no chance – I hadn’t studied any STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects and had no previous relevant work experience.

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At school I always thought that, in order to have a successful career, I would have to wear a suit and work for 14 hours every day. I was about 13 when, while watching random YouTube videos, I came across a video about Google as a company and its culture. Learning about its culture of self-expression and informality, and its philosophy of ‘build for everyone’ really excited me.

Advice for school leavers

There was an expectation that when you turn 18, ‘it’s off to uni you go.’ I found the prospect of university intimidating and uncertain – would I enjoy the course? What if I hate it? My school didn’t tell us much about alternatives to university, so I did my own research online. My advice for students would be to look at what you enjoy outside of school and try searching online for apprenticeships – you’ll be surprised at the amount of opportunities out there. School doesn’t teach you that the world is much bigger than just getting your A level results.

Research and applications

Before I applied for the apprenticeship, my CV was pretty much empty apart from a week’s work experience at a small digital marketing agency. I knew I had to convey my eagerness and passion in my application and, coincidentally, I had spent time researching Google’s approach to marketing across social media during my work experience. I had presented the results back to the team, which meant I had evidence that I knew something about the company. I was able to use this research to customise my CV to show that I would fit in with the company’s culture.

I ensured that the use of branding was all correct and made sure the layout and information was bespoke for Google. I remember receiving the email saying that I had made it through the first round of the selection process, which I was kind of amazed about as I wasn’t expecting to hear back.

I then had to attend an assessment centre. The other applicants I met on the day had way more work experience, which made me think I had no chance of getting the role. We had a team exercise, but I thought I was really quiet and introverted. I think where I excelled was in the interviews. I spoke for ages about my thoughts on Google’s products and what I thought the company should do in the future.

First impressions of an apprenticeship

My first role was inside the sales and marketing teams, working on campaigns internally before they were launched externally. The transition from school to work was easier than I was expecting. I wasn’t told exactly what to do and where to be at all points during the day, and I had the freedom to manage my own time, find out what I enjoyed and focus on projects that would give me the exposure and experience that would benefit me.

It’s much more liberating than school. I spend around 20% of my time studying and in training and am able to maintain a good work/study balance. At the end of my first apprenticeship, I took the opportunity to move from the business side of the company to a more technical role. My first apprenticeship lasted for 15 months and led to a level 3 qualification, and my current apprenticeship will do the same.

Life as an apprentice

As an infrastructure technician apprentice, I focus on providing technical support to my colleagues and contribute to larger team projects. It took a while for me to feel confident enough to give my opinion and contribute to team projects, but I soon realised that everyone’s ideas are equally valued and I wanted to show that I was capable and willing to learn. I think many of the world’s biggest problems can be solved with the application of useful technology and I want to continue to contribute to this in the future.

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