My colleagues inspire me to be the best version of myself

Ashley West DA IBM

Name:  Ashley West
Training Provider/College/University:  University of Exeter
Degree Title:  BSc Digital & Technology Solutions
Employer:  IBM
Job Title: Application Developer

Firstly – how are you and how have you been managing during the Coronavirus pandemic?

I’ll stick to the positives as the negatives are obvious and gloomy! I really enjoy working from home and the flexibility that it provides, so I am grateful that the precedent has been set.  I hope more people will be offered the opportunity to work from home where it benefits them from now on. Isolation and the lack of socialisation have been difficult, but thankfully we have lots of social events for apprentices in IBM.  I’ve actually made more connections, due to the virtual nature of events allowing people from all over the UK to take part and socialise!

What was the best experience of your Tech Industry Gold degree apprenticeship?

The university residentials. For a week at the start of each term, the apprentices on my pathway go to Exeter for lectures at the actual university with apprentices from other companies! It is always such an amazing experience because after lectures we go to restaurants together and get to catch up and have fun. It has resulted in a really close-knit community of cross-employer apprentices, and I’ve made such valuable friendships through the residentials.

What was the most challenging experience of your Tech Industry Gold degree apprenticeship?

I think this applies whether you’re doing an apprenticeship, degree, or normal job, but the most difficult part of the experience for me was definitely getting used to the status quo! I came straight from college so adjusting to all the different tools, acronyms, best practises, etc. took some time and was really frustrating at first. When you start, you don’t want to look silly or incapable so it’s common to hold your questions back and try to do everything yourself. It took a while for me to get comfortable asking questions and accepting the fact that I wasn’t going to know everything straight off the bat.  And that’s okay!

What would you say now, to yourself, before you enrolled on your degree apprenticeship? 

“Chill out!” Imposter syndrome is so common with apprentices and I definitely stressed out about not feeling good enough and having to ask so many questions. But that’s totally normal, and I wish I could go back and tell myself that people are more than happy to help and answer questions. Most people are so friendly and appreciate the effort that you’re putting in to grow and develop.

What would you say to anyone considering a Tech Industry Gold degree apprenticeship?

My reflex response would be ‘Go for it!!!’, but in reality, an apprenticeship isn’t for everyone. My advice would be to draw up a list of pros and cons for the options you’re considering, and figure out which way forward suits you best and gets you where you want to be.  I love learning new things, but just going to university felt too static for me – I wanted to get started on my career too! On the other hand, my university friends wanted some time to think and enjoy more of a social life before getting into the working world. So, there’s not just one good answer!

What is your current role? What is your typical day?

I’m an Application Developer, which means I write, debug, test, and deliver code. That pretty much sums up an average day for me. I don’t have many meetings, so I spend the day with my head in lines of code. I love it, but obviously, it’s not the most social of roles, so I also get involved regularly with socials and other initiatives in my free time. I run the Apprentice Community at IBM with another female Software Developer apprentice. This involves arranging events, creating video series, managing communications, and lots more – which makes the day more interesting!

What are your career plans?

This question always kickstarts my fight or flight response – I have no idea! I’m currently pursuing a Software Developer career path, but I’m not sure if it’s something I’ll do for the rest of my life. At the moment I want to try lots of different things and hopefully find a role that I’m really passionate about in the process!

Who inspires you?

The other apprentices I work with. I feel like apprentices are still sometimes undervalued and underestimated, and I can’t for a moment understand why. The Early Professionals that I work with are actual rock stars and manage to juggle: a demanding client-facing job, their apprenticeship studies (some do a degree!), life commitments, and ALSO involvement with various initiatives that benefit the community. They inspire me every day to work hard and be the best version of myself!

Anything else to add?

If you do decide to do an apprenticeship, my recommendation would be to get involved with as much as possible! Obviously, you need to be careful of burning out, and don’t take on more than you can handle! But I’ve met so many amazing people and gained so many valuable skills from the things I am involved in outside of my normal role. And often it actually helps with your apprenticeship too, because you can use the experiences as evidence of growth and development during your time as an apprentice.

Find out more about Tech Industry Gold degree apprenticeships

Find out more about the Degree Apprenticeship at the University of Exeter – Course information for students