After completing his A-levels, Umayr landed a role as an apprentice software engineer for BT, which involves studying towards the BSc Digital and Technology Solutions from Ravensbourne University London
Why did you decide to do a degree apprenticeship?
Firstly, I felt that going to university through the traditional route wasn't the best pathway for me, as I didn't think theoretical-based learning was the most effective way to develop my skills.
An apprenticeship scheme offers hands-on experience and allows you to grasp key concepts on the latest software and systems, which I think is vital to succeed in the technology industry.
The degree apprenticeship also enables me to earn while I learn and obtain a degree free of charge without incurring any form of student debt. This offered me a chance to benefit from the best of both worlds and establish myself as an experienced professional once I complete my apprenticeship.
Did you need any previous experience in tech before starting your apprenticeship?
I didn't need any experience prior to starting my apprenticeship. In fact, I'd completed my A-levels in Arabic, economics and politics - all of which are humanities subjects that have very little to do with software engineering.
How did you find and apply for your apprenticeship with BT?
I found it through a website called Student Ladder that lists apprenticeship openings across a variety of industries.
To apply for a BT apprenticeship, I went onto the BT Group's careers site and submitted an online application for the role I wanted to go into. This allowed me to fill out my personal details, education and background. This was followed by a video interview and an assessment centre.
How does the degree apprenticeship work?
The degree apprenticeship takes four years to complete. As a technology apprentice, my programme allows me to rotate into a different team within our digital unit every nine months.
This is particularly useful for developing software engineering skills as you're exposed to teams and colleagues that work on all aspects of the software development lifecycle, making you a well-rounded software engineer by the end of your apprenticeship.
Alongside this, I attend university every other month on block release, where I can attend my lectures and study for my assignments without having to work in my usual day job during those days.
The responsibilities vary from team to team. I've been fortunate enough to lead on a number of key projects and tasks within the teams I've worked with. However, if there's a task or project that I'm struggling with, teams and managers within BT are extremely understanding and offer to support and help you.
What do you most enjoy about your apprenticeship?
I enjoy the real-world learning aspect of my apprenticeship. As a normal employee at BT, I get to work and see the same technologies that my colleagues engage with, and I'm constantly picking up vital skills from the expertise and experience of my team.
Additionally, I enjoy the network that an apprenticeship opens for you when you join a business as large as BT. Many senior directors within my line of business are always welcoming and happy to offer guidance and answer any questions I may have. This has benefited me a lot, especially in developing some of my soft skills like public speaking while allowing me to map out my career ambitions.
What aspects do you find challenging?
Juggling between university and my day job can be tough at times. As I'm working full time, I often need to start my assignments well before the deadlines to ensure I can meet all my work and university requirements.
Despite this being a challenge, I find that speaking to my managers and setting some time out in my diary during my study days to work on my assignments helps a lot.
Tell us about any workplace initiatives you're involved with. What are your biggest achievements?
I'm a technology apprenticeship ambassador, which has given me the opportunity to visit schools and colleges to talk about the benefits of apprenticeships at BT and why students should apply. My work in promoting apprenticeships also extends beyond BT through my role as an ambassador for GetMyFirstJob.
I'm extremely passionate about giving back and helping to inspire those from disadvantaged backgrounds into apprenticeships. This passion has led me towards being a key figure and representative of BT apprenticeships in all collateral and promotional material. I was also fortunate enough to visit 10 Downing Street as a representative for apprenticeships and was involved in a roundtable discussion with the Secretary of State for Education, getting to propose ideas on how to make apprenticeships more accessible.
I was also the communications lead for the BT Muslim Network, where I worked on several company-wide campaigns for key events like Ramadan. I was able to engage with the network's executive sponsor and Global CEO, Bas Burger in our campaigns and display a 'Happy Ramadan' message on the BT Tower in London for the first time in its history. As a result, my success in this role led to me being promoted as the youngest co-chair for the network.
My work in these spaces has been recognised through a few accolades and awards that I've been fortunate enough to win, including:
- Highly Commended Apprentice of the Year 2021 in the 'Digital and Technology' category for the BAME Apprenticeship Awards.
- Judges' Choice Apprentice of the Year 2022 for the Multicultural Apprenticeship Awards.
- Special Recognition Award for the National Apprenticeship Awards.
What are your plans after your degree apprenticeship?
I plan to develop my software skills further and become an accomplished software engineer, particularly in the artificial intelligence (AI) space, of which I'm extremely intrigued.
I also want to carry on promoting and pushing young people into apprenticeships, which has led me to creating and becoming the co-founder and CEO of ACE Insights, an organisation that aims to 'nurture today's talent and guide tomorrow's apprentices' through engagement with current apprentices and assisting aspiring apprentices into the workplace.
Do you have any advice for those considering a degree apprenticeship?
- Research - it's important to research the company and role you're applying for and use this research in your interview answers. Employers are looking for candidates that are passionate and driven - there's no better way to demonstrate this than to show you're well versed with the company and role.
- Practice - nobody is born an expert at interviews and applications. If you struggle with your interview technique, try and practice with a family member, teacher or even a friend by asking them to conduct a 'mock' interview. This will help you with any nerves you may have or in projecting your voice without sounding robotic. You can even practice in front of the mirror by assessing how you can improve your body language and facial expressions when answering questions.
- Be yourself - don't try to be someone you're not. When you act like your normal self in an interview or task, it's much easier to focus on the question without having to worry about putting on an act. You also perform best when you're being yourself so don't hesitate to express how you are with your family or friends.
Find out more
- Explore what it's like to work as a software engineer.
- Read about what's involved with a degree apprenticeship.
- Consider applying for an apprenticeship at BT.