Latte with Luke | Episode 1

welcome to our daily podcast episode one
today I’m joined by Lori French a software developer consultant at IBM
researcher hi Lori how you doing today good good not bad at all thank you not
bad at all and so basically today we’re gonna discuss your apprentice it
apprenticeship journey and how you kind of enrolled onto an apprenticeship and
how you’ll find in that experience so you’re doing at the degree level
apprenticeship level six is that correct yes and what subject is that so the
sound is called digital technical solutions but I’m specializing in
software engineering so that’s the certificate that I’ll get from the
apprenticeship side and I study x2 University brilliant brain and how many
days a week do you spend the X at University
so it’s all remain well predominately remote so one day a week we’re
essentially skyping each lectures learning course tuition and then three
weeks you are actually on site at the Uni we’re either doing exams or learning
the modules like in person with the lectures that’s great and how does it
kind of work with your your normal job with IBM so you work in four days a week
IBM is that right okay put in and what you kind of do day to day
Ibn so I work within emerging technology in IBM research as a software developer
so what that means is very broad essentially we build proof of concepts
which are kind of like short term demos that show the technologies viable for
clients which can come from any industry and working on bleeding edge technology
so it massively varies day to day what that entails
but generally Safa development coding designs etcetera and what what kind of
the skills you needed to get onto this apprenticeship what were the skills you
you had before you enrolled yeah so I didn’t have many technical skills before
I joined my kind of basis for going into development was that I loved maths and I
hoped that program would be much the same and luckily it is that worked out
well and but IBM from I understand they don’t particularly look for you know
you’re great at Python or you have built at em before it’s more you really
excited about tech you want to learn and you’re raring to kind of get involved
through him I remember you kind of say in as well that you know that you said
that there wasn’t many of a female you know girl’s enrolled on
the maths was in a level correct how did that feel being the only girl in your
kind of class how was out did you feel out I was a kind of better barrier there
or did you find it you know you kind of wanted to you know show that you could
do that do that course as well yeah so I I never noticed my gender in secondary
school but when I went to six form I was studying dual maths and I was one of few
girls within the subject within our class and I just really felt like I
didn’t belong there which is really strange because I’d never thought that
that would be a barrier but it was just everyone looked a certain way and acted
a certain way and I really felt like I didn’t fit that mold and I remember it
was really important poignant to me because I spoke to the tutor and I was
like I think I need to drop down to single maths I really don’t feel like
I’m good enough to be here and they said that I’d got the second highest grade of
everyone in the class and it was kind of an affirmation that why did I feel that
way you know like why did I feel like I don’t belong there when I was imagining
to keep up I was getting good grades and then it was just realizing that I really
had to be more confident in myself that I just have to place there I was gonna
make it place myself there and that was hard at first
sure of course of course and and you know so I suppose may be a good time to talk
about your passion as well for kind of STEM careers as well
and so then if you want to kind of talk about that your passion for STEM careers
yeah so I love my job in Staunton and I think it’s really important that
everyone’s aware that it could be a viable option for them it’s a she
friendships as well so you know I had no knowledge that those schemes existed I
thought the only way you become a programmer was feeling a full-time
degree so that lack of information there was kind of a big barrier to me getting
into the field I think specifically as well stem has been historically
something we haven’t talked a lot with women you know for whatever reasons but
I think it’s really important that female developers go into schools as I
do and say like I’m really excited about this you should come think about it
maybe you’d love it as well and just start this dialogue so that everyone
knows that they have a place there and if they want to they could do really
well sure I mean we see a lot with BCS we do not report
around kind of diversity in IT and we see every year it’s around the 1617
percent of females in IT yeah and do you think that’s because of a lack of role
models or what your opinions on that space yeah so I think it’s a really
difficult topic because I I don’t know exactly what the reason is I think I
remember learning at school in psychology that your ability to
empathize with someone is directly correlated to your gender so you find it
easier to see yourself in someone’s shoes if you’re of the same gender and I
think that growing up I didn’t see women in STEM in the public eye and every time
I looked I saw men which isn’t a bad thing but it just made it more kind of
obvious to me that I didn’t necessarily belong there and that’s why it’s so
important to me that people who are understand whether it’s me I’ve only
been here two years or female developers who’ve been owning it for 50 we go out
and we say we’re doing it you can do it we need more people like you and then
hopefully it empowers those women to at least just consider it as an option for
themselves of course and if we bring it back to kind of when you’ve got onto
your apprenticeship scheme as well if you don’t mind and you said that you
went for a kind of assessment center and how did that have that kind of work how
what are your kind of first steps of applying for the apprenticeship as well
yeah so when I applied for IBM I think it’s over three years ago now we had
originally a CV application so we just ran our CV into the IBM standard
template around that we had to show core skills I’ve been look for like
adaptability enthusiasm they’re very skills that they look for but
essentially just using school examples for those and then once we pass the
screening we then went into a test so they have a test like essentially
measuring your basic logical reasoning skills your mathematical ability and
then you past that you then go to an assessment centre an Assessor centers
are really common practice I understand they use in every major company that
hires and you’ll go in with a bunch of everyone else who’s passed those two
tests or phases I should say and you’ll be given tasks to do together and the
idea is that you’re showing that you can work well as a team that you’re excited
enthusiastic that you’d be a good fit for the company and then all
you’ve made it through that the final stages you then kind of wait in a pool
for managers to interview you upon which you can then join a peon that’s
brilliant if you’ve got kind of any advice for anyone who’s kind of planning
to go down that route or is permanently waiting on a kind of assessment have you
got any advice yeah so I would say there’s tons of helpful stuff online I
remember I researched a lot about how can I do really well in the center what
are babies that really set me apart one of the things I did which I think was
really effective was when I was working in the teen group exercise though people
who are quite quiet and so I bring them into the discussion and be like oh Anna
what do you think and I think we feel under pressure to show that we are good
and like focus on ourselves but part being a team player is actually thinking
about people and making sure they’re involved and that can really show you
all the strengths as a leader to like invite them in and make sure everyone’s
a part of the conversation no of course of course and I think it’s why I suppose
people don’t realize that these degree apprenticeships I suppose are available
and they are kind of an alternative rebus pose and did you have any other
options or did you consider any other options for you know your career or
moving forward from opposes a levels I think yes yes so was it was there
anything else that you considered yeah sue I honestly thought the only route
was by doing a degree like in terms of full-time I was sort of see getting my
degree and there was quite a lot of pressure because I’ve got two-way stars
in it a level so everyone was like you’re going to Russell Group uni we
have to worry about you like you’re just sorted and that was very difficult
because I want I found out for an apprenticeship so I really wanted to go
down that route and kind of getting people to see it as valid was a massive
obstacle and a lot of people didn’t and I think it’s such a shame because now
that I own the place where I am where I’m doing a job absolutely love I’m
getting my degree anyway people have so much more respect and I think that it’s
very hard for school leavers in that position to have the strength in
themselves to be like no I know what I’m gonna do I know I want to do friendship
I’m gonna go after it when there can be some adversity in those in that space so
I mean I remember when I was leaving school there wasn’t really much
I suppose guidance I suppose around apprenticeships it was either you kind
of you know you go to college or you go to university there was nothing kind of
in between yeah it seems though now that there is that movement towards
apprenticeships being more of a viable and recognised option as you say around
the recognition which means very valuable and I think is the standard of
the apprenticeships as well it’s kind of drive in that shift you know we have
seen a highest standard in apprenticeships haven’t we I mean I mean
what have you thought of the standard of your apprenticeships has it been
difficult for you of you how have you found it so I find my degree really
challenging and you know balancing doing my computer science studies while
working is very hard and the practical skills I’m getting from the job as well
are invaluable and in my eyes you know they fast you proceed anything I was
learning at school because I teaching me practically how to develop for clients
you know real consultancy skills but I do agree that it’s it’s I do get kind of
confused that people see the validity in the degree option a lot more sometimes
because they’re like oh well you have a degree from Exeter that then makes it
okay but for me the thing that has the most value is the work which I do and
you can do one in your friendship so I think there’s a big educational point
around saying like what we do is really valuable and an apprentice you’re not
gonna be getting coffee you’re conceding interesting things and regardless of the
scheme that you’re on whether its degree or level for whatever you will be
learning invaluable skills and that’s that’s valuable in today’s age that’s it
and I suppose on that point as well what do you feel like you’ve kind of learned
from your apprenticeship or the kind of main things you feel like you’ve learned
from that so in terms of my the working side and consultancy was a skill I had
absolutely no knowledge of so the first time I was put in a project and I was
working on clients I with stakeholders you know working with them to deliver
value because we’re being billed out and we have to show that you know we are
delivering things that matter that was a whole new experience and learning how to
maintain kind of that confidence really kind of show that the value that you’re
bringing was a skill in of itself and then I’ll see all the tech
side so you have to be able to build the things you’re building over the first
year hosting chatbots then i moved on to our PA and now I’m more Germany with
just an emerging tech but all of the programming skills that go inside with
that the more general like design skills testing skills data skills lot of stuff
from that but then in terms of my degree as well you know the degree if you do
this offer engineering degree it teaches you coding so you still learn Python and
Java and stuff like that so you get a lot from both sides
that’s brilliant what we’re kind of exposed the soft skills as well that
you’ve kind of picked up from your apprenticeship skills you’ve picked up
so before I started my friendship I had never done networking ever which is
unsurprising cuz I was a child but being able to go into room and speak to people
I didn’t know who a lot of the time I thought were far more superior than me
and like I won’t even worthy of a conversation with them was a big
learning curve for me and then also just being able to network and find roles so
the nature of consultancy is you are on projects and your move projects and to
be able to go run IBM and be like I can add value to your project invest in me
let me do development for you this is what I can add again that was a lot of
soft skills that I had never touched on before joining IBM yeah I think as well
I suppose on that point it’s quite daunting isn’t it when you kind of
you’re coming out of education you’ve got to do that you know as you say
Network and it can be very daunting I mean me myself at moment I find this
very daunting I’ve never done this before
and networking’s is that they’re saying you know speaking to people about work
you’ve never really you know spoken to as you you wouldn’t maybe speak to
outside of worked actually can be very daunting and I think that those are
skills are really valuable I think and we’ll kind of you know stand the test of
time the long run they look really good for you as well they if you can network
and throughout your career it would be very good skill to have yeah touching on
that sorry so I remember the first time I went to networking you then I was
sweating and I didn’t know I was like so anxious and I said to myself you just
have to talk to one person you Larry talked to one person it can be anyone
but then you can go and then it was two people and three people and now it’s
still hard but it’s nowhere near as uncomfortable as it used to be
and I think that’s the point of growing our skills right you will go in probably
knowing very little in terms of networking as a school leaver but you’ll
have so many opportunities to grow that and you just have to take them and put
yourself out of your comfort zone a little bit and you’re gross that’s it
and I think we kind of we respect last week around kind of building your
personal brand that’s opposed that kind of fits into it as well you know what
your views on that kind of building your personal brand throughout your career
and your professional career yeah so we have a big word we use in IBM called
eminence so essentially people need ideally
people need to know who you are what you do you know the skills that you have in
order obviously for consultancy for them to pick you for projects you can do
interesting work but also generally so you can navigate the roles that you want
to be in you know the career progression you want to take and building your brand
has so many facets for me the one that I really focused on is having interesting
things to talk about so if you go to networking but you have nothing to say I
think that that’s not an ideal position to be in but I would build kind of
obviously had my chatbots at work but I’d build small things on the side as
well so I had interesting content on content to share and then also I try to
get involved as many mentoring activities as I can so one of the best
pieces of advice I had was collect mentors like the M&Ms and I think that
your mentors can introduce you to so many people and give you so many skills
that will far better prepare you for those situations and be known and be
valued so that’s brilliant that’s brilliant and kind of I suppose that
last question I’ll ask you as well is if anyone is considering taking an
apprenticeship what would you say to them I would say that you have to have
something yourself that it’s the right option which can be really hard when you
may see like academia and university as the free trusted route
but do tons of research now there are so many examples of apprentices who have
been so successful and think is that something that I want for my life is
what they’re doing exciting to me and can I actually get that from my skiing
and in my opinion a lot of the time the answer that is yes and then take that to
people so going around to your friends in school and saying I want to do an
apprenticeship because I think it’s gonna be good it has no tangible outcome
but if you say I know I can build chatbots on this scheme I know that I
can get a first-class degree from Russell coop universe with the scheme
whatever it is that makes it valid in your eyes share that with people so they
can realize why you’re taking it and the value of it that’s brilliant thank you
very much and that concludes the first episode of the art a bleep podcast and
thank you very much Laurie for joining me that was great thank you very much

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