5 mins with Rakesh Naidu, winner of Apprentice of the Year 2017

Rakesh_ (002)

What was your first apprentice role? 

My first apprenticeship role was working as a first line support analyst on the Cirrus Service Desk. This role involved me taking first line calls from our customer base. These calls would be customers reporting issues, chasing for updates or requesting amendments to their live telephony service. I was to log the issue on our CRM system and manage the tickets by solving/investigating/escalating where necessary.

I received consistent training from my colleagues in Cirrus and my tutors at QA Apprenticeships. This support allowed me to remain proficient in a live industry despite walking in with no practical experience or theoretical background.

How did you find out about the apprenticeship?

I found out about the apprenticeship when searching for vacancies online. Cirrus instantly caught my eye as I could see it was an industry recognized company, holding national awards. I was recruited through an apprenticeship company known as “QA Apprenticeships” who liaised between myself and Cirrus prior to my interview.

How did you feel when you first started?

Initially I found everything slightly daunting as I recognised that I had a lot to learn and develop before I could fulfil the criteria of the role. I am thankful to have had an amazing team around me who nurtured me throughout my apprenticeship and continue to do so.

I began taking live inbound phone calls a month into my role. This was something I admittedly felt nervous about when beginning my role and so I shadowed my wider team and learnt from their telephone manner/skills. After a month I was taking calls and rapidly developing my communication skills.

How long did you stay in the role?

I worked as a first line support analyst for the duration of one year. Upon completion in June 2016 I was offered a full-time role as a support analyst, which I accepted.

How did you find working and studying at the same time?

Working and studying simultaneously was very beneficial, I found that the theoretical knowledge I gained from studying was directly applicable to the practical work I was doing day to day. I would learn troubleshooting methodologies and best practices that I would then actively apply in my role. This allowed me to further develop as an apprentice and played a part in me receiving a full time offer upon completion.

Can you tell us about your journey from your apprenticeship to now?

My current job title is “Solutions Delivery Consultant” which sits within the Projects team. I began my journey in Cirrus as an Apprentice Junior Support Analyst, and upon completion of my apprenticeship I was offered a full-time role as a Support Analyst.

Three months later, I was notified of a vacancy within the Projects team as a “Solutions Delivery Consultant”. This role would take me away from my desk and allow me to travel the globe consulting/training customers using my product knowledge within Cirrus. I would be responsible for designing/building/implementing/supporting solutions that customers have purchased from Cirrus, while also acting as an internal point of contact for anything technical on the product.

This role appealed to me instantly as I enjoyed my day to day interactions with customers and felt I was ready for the next step in meeting customers and consulting them on our product. I interviewed and successfully received this position in September 2016. Since receiving this role I have travelled to three different countries and over 25 cities. This has given me the opportunity to develop my product/industry knowledge exponentially.

With the knowledge obtained through this position, I am also now assisting the Sales team with conducting demos of the Cirrus product to potential customers. This allows me to develop my sales technique as I pitch the product, while also being able to leverage my technical understanding of its features.

What advice would you give other young people looking at apprenticeships?

“Anyone who is considering taking part in an apprenticeship should go for it. There are several benefits to taking part in an apprenticeship programme over university, especially within the Telecoms / IT industry.”

Apprenticeships take 1-2 years to complete (Dependent on the level) and they are government funded. You are gaining a qualification entailing your proficiency in conducting a role while also gaining live industry experience. The theoretical knowledge you obtain is applied to your practical role day to day, therefore you are learning live within the industry, as opposed to studying for 4 years to come out and find that you have no practical experience and the information you have obtained is outdated – this is very common in fast moving industries like our own.

Apprenticeships do not leave you with debt, in fact you can make money over the duration of the year while having a qualification paid for you and obtaining the priceless experience of working live within an industry. If you are successful throughout your internship, there is a high possibility of getting full time employment with the company you have been working for, within a competitive job market.

In addition to being paid and gaining a qualification in 25-50% of the time a university course takes, you gain practical experience within the industry which is arguably more valuable than qualifications to some employers. The ability to study and understand our industry on a theoretical level is not to be undermined, however the ability to perform a job and have professional references to prove your practical capability is exceptionally valuable to prospective employers.

What would you say to businesses considering employing an apprentice?

“Taking an apprentice into your business is giving a young person the ability to begin their career and gain industry knowledge which will allow them to work full time within your business upon completion or carry this knowledge forward to a different business in which they can have a prosperous career.”

An apprentice may be lacking experience you would otherwise gain from a full-time employee, they are however potentially more moldable and eager to learn, retaining all the information you feed them. The apprenticeship is government funded therefore a majority of their already fair salary is funded.   While an apprentice may be hired for a specific role within your business, it is very common for an apprentice to be identified as being better suited for alternative roles, this allows you to nurture the individual and place them in roles you initially would not have thought you could.

What was your biggest success and biggest challenge as an apprentice?

As an apprentice my biggest success was receiving employee of the month twice and assisting my manager with our out of hours support line. This involved me receiving extra pay to assist in taking evening/night calls from our customer base and escalate/investigate/resolve where necessary.

My biggest challenge as an apprentice was to develop from an individual with no knowledge to an employee who can work as a full-time support analyst within the telecoms industry in the space of one year.  With the constant nurturing and training I received from Cirrus, I was able to do this.

What are your career aspirations from this point onwards?

I am now assisting the Sales team with demoing the Cirrus product to potential customers and I find I enjoy the sales environment far more than I initially thought I would. The skill to walk into a room, pitch the product, negotiate pricing and make a sale is one that I am very determined to learn. Cirrus is allowing me to gain experience doing this while also fulfilling my role as a consultant.

I aspire to work in Sales within the next 2-3 years. I will be able to make sales with the confidence I have gained as a consultant, and in addition, possess a very deep technical understanding of the product gained throughout my apprenticeship which is not a common combination. I believe this will make me a strong asset to my team.

Find out more about the ITP Awards and ITP Apprenticeship Scheme.

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