Life as an IT apprentice at HSBC
Emily found out about IT apprenticeships by chance, which led to a career using her favourite subject. Here’s her story so far.
- 2010 – assisted with catering at Sheffield Wednesday FC
- 2012 – began part-time work at Primark and River Island
- 2013 – helped supervise a local Saturday youth club
- 2014 – finished college with A levels in business, ICT and health and social care
- 2014 – started as an apprentice IT trainee with HSBC
- 2016 – graduated from the apprenticeship programme
At college I was one of those really indecisive people who didn’t have a clue what they wanted to do. I did look into going to university; everybody else was applying, and I was thinking of becoming a teacher. University was a lot of money to spend on something that I wasn’t 100 per cent sure I wanted to do, but I couldn’t really find an alternative.
I didn’t go looking for an apprenticeship, but I got an email through my college that contained details of apprenticeships at HSBC. What stood out to me was that they had an IT apprenticeship, and through school and college that had been my favourite subject. My brother worked in IT and had done a lot of very technical training courses, so I felt I needed to be on his level to get a job in IT. I didn’t realise that you could get into a job like the one I have now through an apprenticeship.
Applying on the off-chance
The application process was very different from anything I’d done before. There were a lot more candidates, and it felt as if everybody’s expectations were much higher. It was very exciting, but at times it didn’t seem real. My parents were really supportive, but I had applied on the off-chance and didn’t really think anything would come of it. I put a lot of effort into the interview though and tried to show that I had a real passion for IT. When I ended up getting the job, the whole idea of going to university went straight out the window.
My job at HSBC
My job isn’t too technical, though I work in a technical field. My team and I work with external vendors to agree pricing on hardware and software contracts, always looking to get the most cost-effective price where possible. It’s about finance as well as IT.
Starting my IT apprenticeship
When I first started as an apprentice IT trainee I was nervous that I was going into an area where everybody had a lot of technical skill. I soon realised that they already knew I was an apprentice and that I was there to learn, so everybody helped me out more than they would with just a new employee. I learned to ask a lot of questions, I never said ‘no’, and I volunteered for tasks even when I wasn’t sure I had the right skills. I could always go back and ask for guidance if I needed it.
My confidence shot up after a few months of being here. As soon as I started my manager encouraged me to speak to different people, even though I didn’t want to. It was nerve-wracking, but it really helped me with my work. At the football club and in retail I’d worked with all sorts of people, but my biggest challenge at HSBC was getting used to speaking to people all over the world as a regular part of my job. I work in a team of eleven, but only five are in the UK, so I had to adapt to working with colleagues over long distance video calls.
Studying towards BTEC qualifications on my apprenticeship
By the end of my apprenticeship I felt on the same level as my colleagues. I had proved to my talent coach and my manager that I was fully competent at my job. I attended day release every other Thursday, which was organised internally at HSBC, in order to work towards my BTEC level 3 diplomas in ICT systems and professional competence. I could also study and complete assignments at work, which made it more manageable. In July 2016 I graduated from HSBC’s IT apprenticeship, in a ceremony at Sheffield Hallam University.
Looking back, the best part of being an apprentice was being able to get involved with all sorts of projects that HSBC runs, which I didn’t think an apprentice could be involved with. A highlight was representing the bank at the Houses of Parliament for an event on International Women’s Day.
Advice for school leavers
My advice would be never to settle for an option that isn’t right for you. Obviously I can see now that university wouldn’t have been for me. I didn’t really think about the stresses of getting a degree, and a lot of my friends have struggled at uni. Don’t jump into anything, and make sure that if there’s something you’re interested in you look at all of your options. If I’d never seen that email, I would never have found out about my apprenticeship. Overall, I have no regrets about not going to university; I’ve gained confidence, learned how to do a job, and, at the end of the week, I’ve got money I can go out and spend.