It has been a busy few months for Kate Self, not only is she in her third year of a busy apprenticeship at BT, but she has won no less than three apprentice awards in the space of four months – including the ITP’s Apprentice of the Year 2018. Kate took five minutes out of her busy schedule to tell us more about telecoms apprenticeships and what it means to be recognised for all her hard work.
What does it mean to you to win ITP Apprentice of the Year?
I’m honoured to have been awarded ITP’s Apprentice of the Year. It’s a passion of mine to become a role model, and encourage STEM subjects and careers, so I’m hoping to use this exposure to that end. I’m so grateful to be recognised and I can’t wait to see what the future will bring!
What was your first apprentice role? Ie job title and what did it involve?
My first apprentice role was Change Management and Service Transition. At the time BT had just won the BBC Next Generation Broadcast Network. It was a really exciting time to join BT and I got stuck in straight away working on the high-level project. Within the TV organization we were looking to implement a new software for Change Management. I started researching into the software at the time and whether it would meet all the needs of the business. Once I was satisfied it was the best fit for the team, I then created process and user guides to inform the customer as well as our teams on how to use the software.
How did you find out about the apprenticeship?
BT Procurement came into my 6th form and gave a talk about the opportunities the graduate scheme could offer. At the time I knew university wasn’t the right option for me, so after the presentation I spoke to one of the employees asking if I could do a week’s work experience with them. During the week, I met another employee working in TV which sounded like the perfect fit for me. I then conducted another work experience placement but in the TV organization. I met loads of inspiring employees from the current apprentices to Greg McCall the Managing Director. Each of their stories differed from each other allowing me to gain a true insight into the company. From then on I knew I wanted to be part of the evolving innovations and solutions so applied for the apprenticeship. This was a tough time for me as my predicted grades meant that I wouldn’t of got on to BT’s Apprenticeship. I really had to work hard and knuckle down in order to achieve my grades. Thankfully all my hard work paid off!
How did you feel when you first started?
Although, I had been to the office before so I briefly knew my surroundings, I was still so nervous! I didn’t know what to expect, where to go, who I’d be working with etc. However as soon as I walked through the door on the first day I felt excited, I knew that I had made the right decision with my career and couldn’t wait to get started.
How long did you stay in the role?
Throughout my apprenticeships I rotate around the different teams within TV. Every 6 months I learn a new role and understand how they impact the wider organization. I really like this structure of the apprenticeship as I’m always learning new things and developing.
How did you find working and studying at the same time?
At first I didn’t know what to expect but I knew it was going to be tough. However, now I’m going into my 3rd year of the apprenticeship and I’m happily managing both. Everyone is so supportive and helps me should I need it. Also, every Friday I take a study day to work on my NVQ or University assignments.
What is your current job title? Can you tell us about your journey from your apprenticeship to now?
Throughout my apprentice journey, every 6 months have been different. I started off in a process role where I worked on the BBC’s Network. I then went to a very hands-on technical role where I got to interact with customers such as Dolby Atmos for the the UEFA Champions League and installed the hardware at the Premier League Production sites. Next I went to another technical role where I was configuring hardware remotely all around the world and got the chance to write my own scripts for the BBC’s network. After that I worked on the BT TV and BT Sport Apps collating error codes and testing the apps through development. I’m now working Media-Edge Design looking at the Media and Broadcast Network. In my role I’m looking at how the networks can be updated whether it’s the software or the hardware connecting the network together. I have one more rotation left and then I get to choose what area I wish to specialize in.
What advice would you give other young people looking at apprenticeships?
My advice would be go for it, it’s a no brainer! It has been the best decision I’ve made. My apprenticeship allows me to develop my learning while obtaining, hands on experience. I’m fully involved in the day to day work, whilst earning a salary, and at the end of the scheme I’ll qualify with a full Bachelor’s Degree, along with a number of other courses and qualifications.
What would you say to businesses considering employing an apprentice?
I would tell them to do it, they won’t regret it. Apprentices can bring new, fresh ideas into the organization. They’re able to question the way the organization works and help change it for the better. They add loads of value to the company as what you put in to train them up, they then give you back in relation to their skills and commitment.
What was your biggest success and biggest challenge as an apprentice?
My biggest success as an apprentice is winning 3 awards in 4 months and my biggest challenge has been my confidence. When I first started the scheme I never felt comfortable presenting, but I’ve pushed myself to present to large audiences. My biggest achievement was during National Apprenticeship Week, I was selected to attend the Charted Management Institution, Woman in Technology Event. This was a huge honor to me, I shared my experiences and development to an audience of 90 employers/Government/stakeholder groups. The event was broadcasted live with snippets on social media.
What are your career aspirations from this point onwards?
Once I’ve qualified as an apprentice and finish my degree, I would like to become a people manager whether it a small team of new joiners such as the apprentices or managing a technical team.
Kate is currently TV & Digital Media Degree Apprentice at BT Technology. To find out more about the ITP’s apprenticeship scheme visit www.itpapprenticeships.org