I am currently a degree apprentice working as a Software Developer at Experian. I am studying for my degree in Digital and Technology Solutions with Nottingham Trent University while working as a Software Developer with Experian. Before that, I came straight from my A-levels.
My biggest piece of advice is to step outside of your comfort zone. In a male-dominated field, it can sometimes feel isolating being different. However, it does get better. As you get to know your team more and more, those informal conversations where previously you might have felt less confident to join in on, you feel more confident and learn how to get involved. Once you realise the people around you want to include you and get you involved as much as you do, it becomes so much easier. There have been times in my career where I have found it challenging, but after only two years, I already look back and have seen how much more confident I’ve become. You have to remember your self-worth and remind yourself to keep at it, and good things will come.
I studied Computer Science as one of my A-levels and soon realised software development was a huge passion of mine and something that I wanted to pursue as a career. I had never felt like the ‘traditional’ route of a full-time university course was quite right for me, so I started researching apprenticeships. Once I realised all of the benefits of an apprenticeship, I was convinced! After a few months of job hunting, I found Experian, and made it through to the assessment centre. After talking with the team, I had a gut feeling that this was where I wanted to be. I fortunately got the job, and two years later, I’m loving it!
In my first year, I worked on the mainframe, which involved learning about COBOL and DB2. This was great experience, as I got to work on my own ‘tickets’ and experience deploying them into production. It’s very cool to see my name on programs that are being used today! I then moved into another team so I could experience off-mainframe development and further develop my skills in a more modern area. My work in the new team involves building APIs using C# and .NET, which I’m really enjoying!
The thing I’m most proud of achieving in my career is being awarded ‘Person of the Year’ within my business area. My manager nominated me due to my grades at university, technical skills, and the volunteering I do with our early careers team and externally supporting women in tech. To have not only been nominated, but to have also won was an incredible feeling.
I’m fortunate to work for a company that supports hybrid working and flexible hours, so I usually go into the office once a week and work from home for the rest of the week. I start work at about 9 am and spend an hour or so catching up on emails and planning my tasks for the day ahead. At around 10 am, I have a ‘stand-up’ with my team, where we update each other on our progress and identify any issues we may be facing. Then, for the rest of the day, I might have other meetings, including a 121 with my manager, catchups with the other apprentices, training sessions or meetings with early careers. The rest of the time I get to do what I love most: code! This involves writing, testing or refactoring code, ensuring it meets the business’ requirements.
My favourite part definitely has to be writing or debugging code. I love to solve problems, and to me, debugging code is like solving a puzzle. It’s so rewarding when you have a bug, and you finally solve it. It’s also incredibly satisfying to see your code come to life and work as intended. Another thing I love about my job is the opportunity to collaborate with my colleagues. It’s great to work in a team and bounce ideas off each other, as it helps me learn and grow as a developer. All in all, I feel very lucky to have found a job that I genuinely enjoy and find fulfilling.
Luckily I haven’t had any setbacks in my career so far. I’ve been fortunate to work for a really supportive company that takes good care of me. However, being a female in a male-dominated industry has presented some challenges. It’s not uncommon to feel inadequate at times and have moments of self-doubt, especially when you’re just starting your career. To help with this, I have a playlist of female-empowerment songs on Spotify, so whenever I start to feel like that, I put them on full volume and sing along to them terribly (one of the reasons I usually work from home 4 days a week!).
When I have university assignments due, I’m quite boring and spend a lot of my spare time workingon my coursework! However, I love watching a good series on Netflix, or getting some fresh air outside. I’m also quite nerdy, so playing video games with my partner is something I also really enjoy (big Stardew Valley fan!). If I didn’t live in a rented house, I would definitely be getting a dog too…
Yes, I have experienced imposter syndrome, even as an apprentice. Despite winning the First Year Apprentice of the Year award, I still have moments where I question whether I truly deserve it. To cope with these feelings, I turn to my feel-good songs or read some of the inspirational quotes I keep on my desk.
Being a woman in STEM, to me, means having the courage to step outside of your comfort zone. It can be challenging at times, but the more you speak up and share your fantastic ideas, the more you realise that you are capable of great things. It’s important to have a strong support system and to be a role model for other women who are interested in pursuing a career in STEM.
My passion for STEM led me to volunteer with Code First Girls, where I had the opportunity to teach a group of fantastic women how to code and get into the field of tech. I am extremely passionate about supporting women who are interested in technology, and I always keep an eye out for ways in which I can do so in my community.