NAW 2017 case study: Jessica Ashton,BT Business and Public Sector, Customer Engineer

Not only was Jessica Ashton the first female apprentice in her team, but in just over two years at BT she has become a mentor, a STEMNET Ambassador and the only trained Barefoot representative in her region.

After leaving university, Jessica knew she wanted to put her practical skills to use but also earn money whilst learning.  Now almost at the end of her apprenticeship, and about to take on a permanent role, Jessica did have some reservations to begin with, “I was offered a higher role and thought it would be scary learning a technical job. However, learning with BT has been fantastic and I would recommend it to anybody. All my colleagues/ buddies have been a pleasure to work with and they would do anything to help me. My colleagues within my team are all so experienced and they are like family, everyone is so friendly and willing to help you out no matter what time of the day it is.”

A typical day involves going to a customer’s business, small or large, to carry out provision on products such as Avaya IP Office, BT Cloud Voice or Cisco routers. “I then liaise with the customer on where they would like their phones allocated as well as how they want the phone system to work” Jessica explains. “This involves changing and adding configuration on software using my laptop. I may be working with an IT technician onsite to provide them with a faster network or to provide a backup router for their network which consists of inputting commands on the command-line interface to achieve rapid and reliable performance. My day involves a lot of problem solving but that is why I love it so much, I enjoy challenging myself and when you complete a job and help the customer it makes the whole experience so rewarding.”

“I really enjoy going to different destinations every day, I am always meeting new people and dealing with a variety of tasks which keeps me on my toes and flourishing. The real-life experience, as well as getting qualifications and earning a salary, are fantastic. As an apprentice, I have my own van, tools, uniform, laptop and mobile. I receive free broadband at home and I can sign up to discounted shares with the company. I can also carry out extra qualifications online using learning home which can further my knowledge on my engineering skills or leadership.”

Mentoring has also played a large part in Jessica’s journey, helping her with interview techniques, leadership style and emotional intelligence – as well as shaping her future career path. It has also led Jessica to become a mentor herself, building up her coaching skills and giving back to the organisation by helping fellow team members. In addition, she has become a STEMNET Ambassador which has given her the confidence to demonstrate STEM subjects and engage and inspire her local community on how rewarding the telecommunications profession is. She has also been accepted onto the Future Leader’s course which will give her the expertise for her future aspirations. She is sharing this knowledge to mentor university students who are striving to become business leaders.

Over the past two years, there have been some memorable highlights – including presenting to over 580 students and businesses at the BT Apprenticeship Fair alongside the company’s Director of Wales.  Jessica also championed National Women’s Engineering Day, and was invited to go live on BT’s radio station to encourage more women into STEM.  Not only that, but she is also the only trained Barefoot representative in North Wales (BT’s initiative with the British Computer Society), which sees her deliver sessions in schools – talking to teachers about the value of computer science.

“The apprenticeship has provided me with the time and resources to carry out such amazing projects. The projects I am involved in are helping to provide education and training in technologies that rely on BT products and services. I achieve great satisfaction through inspiring those involved to think about having a career in telecommunications. Young people can bring innovation to the industry.”

So, what’s next? “I hope to become a more technical engineer and become more experienced on Cisco products. I am currently studying for my CCNA and hope to gain a CCNP in the future. Perhaps, I will become a leader in future to help shape and deliver these products within the company.”

“I would highly recommend apprenticeships to everyone, they are the way forward! It is a much better way to learn, you can achieve qualifications in your profession as well as gaining real work experience. At university, you may get the qualification, but companies say you haven’t got enough experience to get the job which leaves you in a catch 22 situation.”

Jessica was a finalist in the Institute of Telecommunications Professionals Apprentice of the Year Award, which recognises outstanding contribution made to the industry.

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