THE BLOG

Why I Chose Learning on the Job Over Life in the Library

01/05/2013 13:33 BST | Updated 29/06/2013 10:12 BST

Just a year ago I was a Year 13 prefect studying ICT, French & Business; now my title is Apprentice Software Developer at Sky! For anyone unsure of where their career will take them, you'll be amazed at what can change in twelve months!

Coming from a background where it was really 'the only way is... university', I originally saw that as the best route to a dream job in one of the best industries. After hours of scouring university prospectuses, attending open days, and speaking to my sixth form Careers Advisor, I finally completed my UCAS form and sent it off - a big relief!

However, at the same time that I applied to university, I also registered with QA, an organisation that would regularly update me about technology apprenticeships that are open for applications. I've always had a passion for technology and I was interested in ways to get hands-on experience.

After receiving five university offers, in the middle of exam period, I got call from QA inviting me to interview for the position of Apprentice Software Developer at BSkyB. This was an incredible opportunity - Sky is one of the UK's biggest companies making major technological advances so I was shocked, excited, nervous and scared all at the same time. I had to finish my A-Levels (my predicted grades were ABB) while preparing for the biggest interview of my life!

The Sky Technology Apprenticeship Programme is one of several great schemes offered at Sky. What excited me about this one was the 2 year programme that has given me the chance to be at the forefront of cutting edge technology and a career where I'll hopefully be running things one day! The programme offered me a great way to gain experience on-the-job and at the same time acquire a professional qualification - Level 3 and 4 Diploma in ICT Professional Competence - a great jump start to an exciting career in Technology.

Each year of the programme includes 10 weeks of training in preparation for the qualification and during this time there are placements in different teams, working on anything from Sky Go, which allows customers to watch content on their smartphones and tablets, to NOW TV, Sky's new internet TV service.

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to go through Sky's Software Engineering Academy which gave me the chance to start my job in a low pressure environment whilst learning a lot about different technologies, my role and Sky as a whole.

The general application process starts with an online application where you upload your CV and personal details, the easy bit. Next up is the telephone interview which is mainly to find out more about you as a person. This was more nerve-wracking than you'd imagine but I survived, and it went well so it was onto the face-to-face interview. For this I went into Sky's offices in West London and as well as them asking me questions, it was great to meet some of the people already working there and find out more.

Finally, the biggie! The last round, the Assessment Day. I had to work in a team with 2 other applicants to build something and then work on my own (scary moment) to produce a website that could be used to promote one of Sky's Products. It seemed to me that the Assessment Day was really about giving potential apprentices a flavour of what it would be like to work at Sky, trying out their procedures and working in teams.

After the stressful bit was over, we had a tour of Sky which I absolutely loved because EVERYTHING you see on the TV, for instance where Sky News & Sky Sports are filmed, you get to see UP CLOSE!

When I got the call that I had been successful, I was over the moon and I knew that was exactly what I wanted to do. The idea of actually getting to work with web technologies like Java, Grails & JavaScript at the same time as gaining a professional qualification, was far more appealing than the prospect of 4 years studying at university AND £9,000 per annum debt. I was told that there were over 400 applicants for 15 places - unbelievable!

So first day at Sky. First day with a title. Priscilla Ossai, Apprentice Software Developer. Then it hit me, what exactly would they want me to do? What would the training be like? So after all my worries it was time to find out.

First up: Meet all the Apprentices. Walking to the building, I had butterflies in my stomach because I really wasn't sure what they would be like but when we met them I was so relieved because they were all really cool and although we all had slightly different personalities, we all clicked immediately and got along so well.

Next up: Work. What's on the agenda? We were given our training schedule for the year which included the topics we would be covering and where training would be, so second reassurance.

After all this, we carried on the day at Go Ape! as part of our induction to get to know each other as we'd be working closely in a team. I've learned that this informal, fun side of the job is all part of working at Sky.

So where am I now? Well since joining Sky as an Apprentice in August, I've been through Sky's Software Academy which was a great way to ease into my new role. Working not only as a Developer but also, to some extent, as a Tester, truly prepared me for joining my placement team, Interactive Custom Projects - a software development team working on creating bespoke multiplatform projects for Sky & other companies. The team were all so welcoming and great to work with which made me feel so much more comfortable and that experience has helped me now that I am working on customer facing applications.

To sum up my first impressions of Sky in three words: Exhilarating, Diverse & Friendly.

The way I see it, I've been given a real opportunity to jump start my career in an exciting industry, working in a great company (with great benefits!).