I heard about GCHQ though an advert on the radio and decided to look at the website. What really attracted me was that you don’t have to take your work home, in a previous job I had been working lots of hours at home and I didn’t want to do that anymore.
I had always been interested in software engineering but I didn’t want to go to university as the academic side didn’t appeal to me. I wanted to do something more hands on, get real experience and develop transferable skills. When I heard about the apprenticeship I thought this style of learning, where what I studied was relevant to the placements would be ideal. Getting a degree and getting paid – hard to argue really.
I have really enjoyed the apprenticeship so far – the atmosphere is really open and friendly and I have had the opportunity to learn the new skills I wanted and meet some really talented engineers. If you’re willing to learn there is always someone ready to share their knowledge and experience.
It’s also really improved my confidence - I have been using software that I never thought I would be able to. I have met lots of new people and have made some great friends with the other apprentices. The biggest challenge I have faced so far was my initial lack of knowledge, where even the basics were a mystery to me, meaning that some tasks took me longer than expected. Luckily I got lots of support from my colleagues - I can’t believe how far I’ve come!
The apprenticeship is well structured - we were given a 6-month intensive training period at the beginning of the course, and are still supported once a week by the external training provider, allowing us to progress our learning whilst on placement and gain a degree.
When I first started at GCHQ, the thing that surprised me the most was how relaxed the office is, and how friendly and willing to people are to help. I have also been impressed by the wide range of social activities on offer – if you are interested in joining clubs and societies there are lots to choose from. I also discovered GCHQ is involved in lots of fundraising for various charities, and projects that help the community so there is always something going on that you can become involved with.