We caught up with Alexandar, one of WhiteHat’s Software Engineering apprentices working alongside the WhiteHat tech team. We wanted to find out more about Alex’s experience; read on to find out how his apprenticeship has changed his life.

1. Tell us about yourself

I am 17 years old, from South London and doing a Software Engineering Apprenticeship with WhiteHat. I have always been interested in, and curious about, technology. I spent my childhood discovering how technology worked, from messing around with my parents laptop to trying to create my own games at the age of 12. Since then I have invested myself into programming and coding, picking up Python on the way and working on small projects here and there. I joined coding clubs in school and kept developing my skills and knowledge.

Fast forward to a couple of months ago and I was in my first year at Farnborough Sixth Form College studying Computer Science, Philosophy and Graphics Design. I quite liked college but there were a few downsides that had a negative impact on my experience. Firstly, travel. I lived in South London but my college was an hour and a half away meaning I had a long and exhausting journey each day. Secondly, and more significantly, I wasn’t happy with the learning and content of my Computer Science course. I wanted to jump straight into the world of programming and gain some hands on experience, as well as learn the underlying theory, however my lessons mostly focused on learning the theory without getting much practical experience.

2. What prompted you to seek out an apprenticeship?

I’ve always known that I wanted to be in a field that works with technology and computers. When I wasn’t getting what I was looking for at college I decided to look for an alternative route - one that would help me reach my career aspirations but that would mean I didn’t need to go  through the some-what-painful approach college and university seemingly provided. I knew that the traditional route of university couldn’t be the only way so I started to do some research. I came across apprenticeships through the Government website and, despite initially not knowing much about them, quickly realised the massive advantage they had over a typical career path. Realising that I could get a junior software engineering role in a company, whilst learning, and get paid while doing so really opened a door for me.

3. Where were you when you had that lightning-strike moment that made you realise you didn't have to follow the traditional path?

I first broached the topic with my Graphic Design teacher, Chris, taking him through the WhiteHat offering and discussing my career options. He was incredibly supportive and really helped put things in perspective. I explored my options in more depth with my personal tutor and family, evaluating the different paths I could take - considering my age, where I would like to be and my current experience, a WhiteHat apprenticeship presented itself as the better route for me to go down.

4. Walk us through your experience with WhiteHat

WhiteHat presented itself as this niche company; I had no idea that you could even do a software engineering apprenticeship, let alone that companies such as Google and Facebook were hiring apprentices! My eyes were opened to apprenticeships and so, not expecting much, I completed my profile on their platform and waited. A few days later I received a call from one of their talent team - Roury - who asked me some questions and explained the process before inviting me to one of their kick-off days later that week.

I was excited - it was actually happening! I attended the kick-off day where I met other apprentices and took part in some group activities. We each had a 1-to-1 session with one of the WhiteHat team to identify which companies we would like to apply for. I chose Investec Bank and WhiteHat.

The whole process was smooth and easy. I left feeling confident and soon had a call back asking me to attend interviews for both positions. After both interviews, one of the talent team called me to share the employer’s feedback on how I did and to advise me on what the next stages were.

Despite being successful for both positions, I decided to go with WhiteHat in the end because it felt more aligned to what I wanted.

5. How has your apprenticeship changed your life?

Since I started, I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of opportunities I’ve had to connect and network with others taking the path less travelled. I’ve been able to build and grow as a person too, not just refining who I am, but opening up many doors for myself now and in the future.

This apprenticeship is laying down a strong foundation, on which I can continue to grow. I am learning everyday, and not just about Software Engineering; I’m learning life-skills, communication skills, teamwork, responsibility and self-care. I love it! And I’m really excited that my work and actions have an impact, whether it’s building new software to enable other school leavers to choose apprenticeships or sharing my experiences to help change perception and encourage more young people to follow a path they want.

This apprenticeship has really changed my life - and I am more than thankful for my decision with the many people supporting me on the way.

6. What do most people get wrong about apprenticeships?

That going to college, and then to university, was the only way to become a some-what successful person and that apprenticeships were only for those who wanted to pursue a career in plumbing, or become an electrician. I was of the same school of thought before I found out about apprenticeships. After learning more about apprenticeships, I realised what an amazing opportunity they actually were: a firm stepping stone for the career you want, a kick-starter for your future and a real eye opener for those who want to succeed.

7. Where do you want to see the UK get to with apprenticeships?

In an ideal world, apprenticeships would be presented equally to university. Schools would educate students about the different paths they can take to launch their career, showing  non-biased support for both universities and apprenticeships.

We are all different and learn in different ways. University has a lot to offer, but it’s not for everyone, and the same applies for apprenticeships. But right now? Apprenticeships are really undervalued despite the fact that they are just as good as university and, in some cases, even better for the individual.

Disclaimer: whilst WhiteHat’s marketing team worked with Alexandar to upload and publish this blog, the views and opinions expressed are entirely his own! If you are interested in finding out more, get in touch: info@whitehat.org.uk