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How my tech degree apprenticeship strengthened my career

Tech degree apprenticeships are the perfect way to strengthen your expertise, studying alongside your full-time role. 

After James’ career change from technical sales to software engineering, he chose to undertake a degree apprenticeship with Swansea University alongside his role with us to build on his theoretical knowledge.

Hi James, can you tell us a bit about yourself? 

I’m James, I’m 34 years old, and have been at Admiral as a Software Engineer for four years. Before that, I worked in technical sales for nine years, selling miniature electric motors business-to-business and (briefly) heating elements. Software engineering was therefore a bit of a change. My entry route into Admiral was via the graduate programme. “I graduated nine years ago but I did graduate!” was my argument, and they miraculously agreed!

I wish I’d got into software engineering from the start. It’s proven to be a perfect fit for me career wise, and I feel totally vindicated starting my career from scratch at the age of 31. The only frustration was gaps in my theoretical knowledge. The graduate programme was open to self-taught coders with any STEM degree like myself. I received great on-the-job training, but I was still yearning for that theoretical foundation that I knew would come in useful. This is where the tech degree apprenticeship came in.

Can you tell us more about your degree apprenticeship? 

The Swansea University Degree Apprenticeship isn’t exactly an apprenticeship in the conventional sense. It’s a programme for those already working in or adjacent to a relevant field (software engineering, in my case) to have a day out each week to undertake a bachelor’s degree in that field. It’s aimed at those who, like me, got a role that traditionally requires a degree either without having said degree or who (like me) have a degree that doesn’t match the role.

I’m halfway through the final year of the scheme now, and I’ve really enjoyed it. One of the best parts is working with people involved in all different aspects of software engineering: web development, network administration, mobile app development, product ownership, everyone’s got their own area of expertise, and that shows in the discussions in lectures.

How has it helped you with your career? 

The clever thing about the tech degree apprenticeship is all the assignments relate to the systems you work on in your job. This means it’s pushed me to learn more about how all of data and analytics works and get an idea of the “big picture” that I might not have sought out otherwise – it would have been easy to just focus on my small part of it.

Thanks to the tech degree apprenticeship I’ve proven I can grasp all aspects of software engineering, and I’ve made myself a more versatile colleague.

How have you been supported? 

Admiral’s support has been fantastic. There has never been any hint of pressure to work on the day I attend university – Wednesdays I’m out of the office, and that’s that. I’ve also been given access to all the information I need and more to complete my assignments. 

I’ve had to learn to say ‘no’ to my friends more than I’m used to in the three years it’s taken to do the tech degree apprenticeship, but in all honestly, I’ve not had to sacrifice my social life too much except for a few weeks here and there during exam periods.

What’s next for you? 

I’ve definitely got my sights set on progressing within the company. There are so many progression routes available, especially now that I have this foundational knowledge from the tech degree apprenticeship. I’ve already progressed from Junior Developer to Full-stack Developer while the apprenticeship is still ongoing, and this promises to be just the start.

We’re here to support your career goals

Like James said, there are so many opportunities for progression at Admiral, whether it’s enhancing your expertise in one area, or exploring a new avenue altogether!

Want to learn more about being a Software Engineer here? Rachel, who’s been in the role for over four years, has shared what she gets up to on a day-to-day basis.

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