Meet Allaina Santosh, undertaking a Digital and Technology Degree Apprenticeship with IBM, and a member of the Pathway CTM Student Advisory Board. Here she gives a snapshot into her life as an apprentice. Interviewed by Krishna Solanki.
Could you go into some detail about what you generally do during the day as a Digital and Technology Degree Apprentice?
My job is based mainly on software engineering; I work in IBM’s engineering business unit, working with software management.
Part of my job is to carry out research, and as part of my research and development team, I work with my team to create prototypes and demos which we will then take to potential clients. I am currently working with and learning about Engineering Lifecycle Management (ELM) and the APIs that the application tool suite provides.
I also create activity diagrams, write code, and document and test that code.
Has your work changed in any way as a result of lockdown?
Working from home has not changed that much for me, since my team is scattered around the world anyway, and so my main means of contact with them has been virtual. However, since I haven’t been going into the office for meetings, I have had less interaction with my team in the Southbank office.
What are your longer-term career goals?
I would like to be more involved with AI, and perhaps have a specialised role in AI, whether that be making models for clients or conducting research. My current role is leading up to this, and I look forward to where it takes me.
What are your favourite and least favourite parts of the job and as an apprentice?
I really love the flexibility of my job and its hours, and the work environment. There are numerous opportunities for me to upskill, allowing me to delve into other niche areas of computing such as quantum computing, which I may not normally learn about in my day-to-day job.
Apprenticeships are good for those who work better on the job and learning as they work. For a degree apprenticeship, it is good since you get a balance of academic work and a professional life; at the end of this type of apprenticeship, you get a Bachelor’s degree as well as 4 years of high-quality work experience.
Going to Exeter university for a week per semester to study for my degree (how you study for your degree will vary depending on the degree apprenticeship) allows me to experience some of the university life without having to share a flat with other people; this way, I get some of the best aspects of university, such as forming those friendships and going out.
However, at times a degree apprenticeship can be hard work, as it’s sometimes a struggle to balance your academic and professional work; it is something to be aware of when applying for an apprenticeship.
There are little things about university I miss out on such as joining societies and not having access to the university library, with it all being based online. Even though it is useful for everything to be online, it would be nice to have access to a physical copy of a textbook. Yet these are all minor; I think I would still prefer being a degree apprentice over a full-time university student.
What should someone applying for an apprenticeship expect, and is there anything you didn’t expect from your apprenticeship?
You should expect fast-paced learning. You will be asked to do something but may not know how to do it; this means you have to learn concepts quickly.
Someone looking to apply for a technical apprenticeship should have the mindset and ability to problem solve, since a technical role is fundamentally problem-solving.
You should also be able to stay on top of things, since the technology industry and its standards are ever-changing, and you should be able to adapt to that.
What skills do recruiters look for in their candidates?
Well, it varies between companies, as they generally look for values that are specific to their company, meaning it is important to research the company you are applying for before applying or attending an interview. IBM particularly looks for skills such as problem-solving, team working, and having a flexible and open mindset.
During the interview, you should try to ask good, relevant questions. This shows the interviewer that you’ve taken the initiative to do some research into the company and shows your engagement with the company.
At assessment centres, you should try to include other people: if you notice someone contributing less, then you should try to integrate them more into the conversation.
How did you educate yourself in Sixth Form to make the right decision about undertaking this apprenticeship?
I knew I wanted to do something related to technology, having studied and enjoyed Computer Science at A Level (as well as Mathematics, Psychology, and a relevant EPQ).
My careers advisor at school first introduced me to apprenticeships, and they were good at making me aware of the variety of opportunities available and ways in which I could research them.
I went to a lot of university open days and insight days which also helped open my mind to what I could do after Sixth Form. I applied to an internship at IBM through one of Pathway CTM’s insight days and was successful.
After completing my A Levels, I had the opportunity to attend university, although with my internship I decided to reapply the next year. However, I chose to also apply for the degree apprenticeship at IBM, and the application process for that was much easier since I had already been an intern with them. If I wasn’t accepted by IBM, I would have attended university to study AI and Robotics, since I did not apply for any other apprenticeships, preferring the values of IBM.
Do you have any other advice for students considering an apprenticeship?
You should be aware that it is a lot of work, and sometimes your work will have to take priority over learning; it is no less work than university!
Also, it is useful to have an approximate idea of what career you want to go into so that you can choose apprenticeship schemes that you have a genuine interest and passion for. Showing employers that you are passionate will present you as a more desirable candidate.
You can connect with Allaina on LinkedIn here.