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. http://www.itp.org

NAW 2017: Interview with Anthony Vincent – ITP Mentor of the Year

Mentoring is a vehicle not only to grow others self-awareness, but your own too.”

 Winner of the ITP’s Mentor of the Year Award, Anthony Vincent has been mentoring for almost eight years. His most recent mentee, Jessica Ashton, was a finalist in the Apprentice of the Year category. So, how did it all begin? Starting his career as an apprentice himself, Anthony joined BT straight from school at 16. Over the years, he held several roles, and at 23 was promoted into his first engineering line operational management role. Since then he has worked across transformation, production and supplier management, and managing apprentice field teams to today where is responsible for driving operational delivery with third party suppliers.

Were you ever mentored?

Yes, and still to this day I have mentor. I have had a number throughout my career who have inspired me and helped me in several different ways. Some have helped grow my maturity whilst others have been a sounding board for me to self-reflect on my leadership style etc. Where you are in your career and which areas you wish to develop should help determine your choice of mentor. Also, having more than one mentor at a time can be beneficial too, as it has allowed me to broaden my ‘network of influence’ outside my normal sphere in the business and get a refreshing point of view from someone else who doesn’t necessarily have a conscious or unconscious bias to the world I may be working in at that time.

What drove you to become a mentor?

Having had some fantastic role models who have supported and inspired me throughout my career, I’ve learnt the importance of one of the traits that makes them who they are; the desire to want to give something back. Being a mentor is one way I can give something back too, and if I’m able to inspire and be just a little part of next phase of talent coming through then that’s great. You never know one of them might be my boss one day, as I did become years later for one of my very first mentors.

How long have you been mentoring?

I have rarely actively offered mentoring support to someone out of the blue – for me is doesn’t work like that. It’s all about the needs of the mentee, what they feel they need to develop, and who inspires them enough to want as a role model. So, as I do with my mentors, I approach them. Looking back, I’ve been mentoring for as long as I’ve been a manager – since 2009.

What do you get from it? Do you ever experience reverse mentoring (where you are receiving as much value from the experience as the mentee is?)

Yes absolutely, reverse mentoring this is one of the huge benefits you get – call it self-therapy in a way. At the most basic level for example, when your mentee is talking through a scenario you can relate to, you tend ask yourself – would I have honestly taken the same approach faced with the same thing?  Mentoring is a vehicle not only to grow others self-awareness, but your own too.

How do you see mentoring helping young professionals?

Understanding where you want to get to and navigating your career journey isn’t easy. Just having that opportunity to sanitise your own decision making, or take on board those golden nuggets of advice from someone else, is immeasurable when it comes to getting to where you want to be. It’s also worth noting that as I mentor I don’t profess to know all the answers either; my opinion or advice is purely advisory – it is up to the individual to put the pieces where they feel they fit. Reflecting on the times with my own mentors, there has been occasions where I’ve honestly not known where to start with a particular problem. Talking it through with my mentor, their opinion has then sparked a new train of thought which I wouldn’t have found without talking it through out loud.   

What advice would you give your peers who may be considering mentoring?

My advice would be actually, why wouldn’t you want to mentor?

Think about all those interactions you’ve had with people over the years, either formally or informally, which you have walked away from feeling valuable and benefited you. Now ask yourself, why wouldn’t you want to be mentor and help someone else?

Anthony Vincent is Service Partner Delivery Manager at Openreach and the winner of the ITP’s Mentor of the Year Award 2016, which recognises outstanding contribution made to the industry. 

NAW 2017 case study: Matthew Gobey, Apprentice CALOMI Engineer, Openreach

When Matt (21) finished his A-Levels he had little idea what he wanted to do next, but he matt-gobey-2knew he wasn’t interested in university. After hearing about apprenticeships at college he applied for several and landed himself a position at Openreach, BT’s local network division.  Two years on, he is now a fully qualified engineer almost at the end of his apprenticeship, and has built up the confidence to take on the next challenge.

“Having no engineering experience, I was initially really concerned about the requirements of the apprenticeship and the technical aspects of my role” Matt explains. “It was a relief however to find myself in a similar position to many of the other apprentices starting at the same time as me.”

A typical day for Matt consists of the maintenance, installation and repair of the local access network between residential or business customers and their local exchange. He can often find himself completing anything from a single residential repair to a multiple line business installation.

Moving from a classroom-based environment into a technical and demanding role was challenging to begin with. However, as Matt explains “the apprenticeship has also given me the tools and confidence to network with employees at all levels. My organisational skills have developed and I now have a defined career path.”

matt-gobeyThroughout his apprenticeship, Matt has made the most of every opportunity which has come his way. In just two years, he has hosted mentoring talks at local schools, run development events for fellow apprentices, coached and trained new engineers, and covered his operations manager – at one stage managing a team of 22 people.  In fact, he now hopes to pursue a career in apprenticeship coaching, helping to develop the apprentices of the future.

“My apprenticeship has allowed me to see areas of BT that are never often seen. I have climbed radio masts, visited the BT Tower, attended conferences at Adastral Park and even had lunch with BT’s CEO and his top team. All these opportunities have been made available to me as an apprentice giving me amazing experiences and brilliant networking opportunities that not many often receive.”

Alongside the apprenticeship scheme, Matt has been able to take advantage of the ITP Mentoring Programme which sees a senior telecoms professional matched with an apprentice. “Mentoring with my ITP Mentor has been hugely important in helping me to develop my confidence and knowledge of roles outside of engineering. Nick (my mentor) has helped to introduce me to new positions and people I would have never met in my day to day role. He has helped me to develop my knowledge both in and out of BT.”

So, what’s next for Matt? “My ultimate ambition is to progress to a senior management matt-gobey-4role. I am motivated by the concept of having a team who I can inspire and develop. My dream for the future is to achieve a role such as this, providing me with the expertise, knowledge and skills to help develop not only people in my team but across BT and the wider industry.

Apprenticeships are great alternatives to university and further study. Earn money along with valuable knowledge and experiences. Your apprenticeship is what you make of it.”

Matt is the winner of the Institute of Telecommunications Professionals Apprentice of the Year Award, which recognises outstanding contribution made to the industry. The ITP’s apprenticeship scheme has created more than 60 roles across the industry since its launch three years ago .

 

 

 

NAW 2017 case study: Michael Bliss, Cost Analyst, Level 3 Communications

 

After completing the first year of a math’s degree, Michael decided it wasn’t giving him the learning opportunities he needed. Researching his options, he realised that an apprenticeship could give him on the job training and put his skills into practice. He set his sights on engineering, seeking advice from professionals in the field.
“I finally came across the apprenticeship through the ITP” explains Michael. “I had some concerns in the earlier stages that I would not be taken seriously while working and having ‘Apprentice’ as my title. This soon changed however when I started to produce the same results as permanent, long-term employees.”

Michael’s role has expanded a lot since he first joined, and he is often given new challenges to handle such as acting as interim lead for key projects and coordinating the team whilst his manager was on leave.  Another highlight has been getting involved in project managing site exits for rehoming customer services, which involved over 130 customers with 200+ circuits needing rehoming. “These projects are critical, due to strict deadlines to ensure customers do not lose their service as this affects delicate customers such as prisons.”

At the start of the apprenticeship process, Michael was assigned a mentor to help him settle into the company and this became a pivotal moment in his development. “I was very lucky that my mentor is my senior director in the area of the company I’m in. On my first mentor meeting it was explained to me that what he liked most to see in his employees is the ability to be proactive. He didn’t want his team sat waiting for something to happen but for them to go out find the answers, results, contacts or whatever it may have been.

I believe this was perfect for me to hear as it meant that I was actively looking to improve the company and was serious about what I was doing rather than in a job for pocket money. I tried to use this approach in everything I did at work and even started to rub off in my personal life meaning that I wasn’t reliant on others to do things for me, but I would do it myself. The advice helped me to become self-efficient.”

The experience has helped Michael in developing his self-confidence. Before joining he admits he had a fear of presenting but took the initiative to participate on a presentation skills training, which ultimately resulted in him presenting to the VP of Operations and his leadership team on the Level 3 apprenticeship scheme. “This was a unique experience and made me want to try new things I would not have attempted before on my own, such as volunteering outside of work.”

“I would strongly advise young people to consider apprenticeships. I believe they are what you make of them, if you put the hard work in you will seek your rewards.  I guess the advice I’m trying to give is to seek as much opportunities that you can! Identify areas where you can improve, and don’t let anything get in your way or stop you. I was lucky in that my manager was happy for me to apply my ideas and techniques with the team and gave me the time and opportunity to develop.”


Michael recently won
the Institute of Telecommunications Professionals SME Apprentice of the Year Award, which recognises outstanding contribution made to the industry. http://www.itp.org

 

NAW 2017 case study: Apprentice Broadcast Engineer, BT

The ITP Christopher Mills Award recognizes positive contribution to a workplace or team through technical innovation. This year’s winner, Sean Norgate, is currently in his third and final year of an apprenticeship – working in the TV, systems and tools team.

“We basically manage and configure all the software that is used by operations to ensure sean-norgatethat TV signals are being routed correctly around the country, and the world” Sean explains. “In TV, we rotate around different roles every six months during our apprenticeships. This means that we get a good idea of all the different work being done around the building, and get a good idea of what our strengths and weaknesses are. I have worked mostly in technical roles, as this is what suits me best, and the team I’m currently working in will most likely be the one I move into when I graduate.”

Working for a huge company with long processes made Sean notice the many different systems used in TV, all managed by different people across the business. It was this that drove him to develop a solution to allow people to request the access needed in one go. “It’s essentially a database which manages requests and tracks who has access to what. It sends out emails to the necessary people to set up access, and then keeps an audit of who currently has access to what.”

sean-norgate-3Sean’s new system has now massively reduced the time required for new people to apply for access to all the systems they need, and means the team can get an accurate number of active accounts on each system at any time. “This means that BT can save money by working out exactly the number of user accounts they need to pay for against each system.”

“Winning this award is very important to me because I am determined to show other young people that apprenticeships are a great way to learn, and that some people can be far more successful via this route. Despite getting very good GCSE and A-Level grades, I performed poorly when I went to university after college. I found the learning environment very different and it didn’t work for me. Since starting an apprenticeship I’ve learnt so much more and worked so much harder as a result. Winning awards like this is a great showcase for my success and the power of the apprenticeship scheme.”

Sean is the winner of the Institute of Telecommunications Professionals Christopher Mills Award, which recognises outstanding contribution made to the industry. www.itp.org