Q&A with Marium and Hassan, Ada Degree Apprenticeship alumni
Marium Abid & Hassan Kamara
Marium and Hassan have recently completed their Ada degree apprenticeships with EY, they discuss working and studying in a pandemic, what changes they'd like to see in technology, and what they loved about their time at Ada.
When did you join Ada?
Marium: I moved to London 3 and a half years ago from Pakistan and, before starting my apprenticeship, I was studying for a degree in Literature and Political Science. When I moved here, I was looking for opportunities to continue my studies and came across apprenticeship schemes.
I have recently finished my 3 years digital apprenticeship with Ada and EY. It has been a fantastic experience as I have learnt things, I never imagined myself learning. I have learnt coding in several languages, for instance, which is something I was not familiar with at all, and the patience of Ada’s instructors in teaching us these new skills is highly commendable. I took the Technology Consulting pathway with a focus on Technical skills, and for my dissertation I wrote about using SaaS (Software as a Service) Applications to re-design and re-imagine a finance business function. I focussed on Zuora as the SaaS Application for my dissertation.
Hassan: I also joined Ada in September 2017 as a Degree Apprentice with EY. I took the Technology Consulting pathway because it aligned to what I do at work and chose Creative as my elective – web design and mobile app development – as it was outside of my comfort zone. For my dissertation, I wrote about how organisations can use SAP Analytics Cloud to improve financial reporting. The experience allowed me to gain experience across sectors including central government, the logistics sector, and professional services.
If you’re passionate about it and you are driven, then apprenticeships are a brilliant way to launch yourself into both the professional and academic world.
What has been the highlight of your apprenticeship?
Marium: The entire 3 years of this apprenticeship have been a highlight as there hasn’t been a day when I haven’t learnt anything new; every day I’m pushed to challenge myself, think outside of the box and grow both personally and professionally. Another highlight of the apprenticeship is the opportunity to meet like-minded people with different stories as to how they got into technology. Our cohort of apprentices at Ada had almost 40 people from different companies which gave us the opportunity to network and learn from each other. Moreover, we always had speakers from different organisations joining us and it has been great to learn and find out about their experiences.
Hassan: My highlight has been around the people and organisations that we’re exposed to. This includes a recent conversation with Gillian Keegan MP, Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills and a panel with Damien Hinds MP, Former Secretary of State for Education. This exposure is also embedded in our learning. During the web design module, we created a website for a charity and got the chance to visit them to see some of the great work that they do which helped to inspire us, give our work purpose, and allow us to demonstrate our skills in client connections.
No matter what job you go into in the future, you will face some sort of technology whether it’s data, programming, artificial intelligence or even excel spreadsheets. I would like to see technology/computer science being as important as English and Maths in schools.
What have you found most challenging?
Marium: It can be a bit challenging to achieve a balance between work and studies, for example, working on the dissertation or reflective statements while working on a demanding project. However, both Ada and our employer have been very flexible and provided us with resources to make sure we can achieve our goals. Additionally, this has allowed me to learn time management and organise myself better which has given me the opportunity to do several additional online learnings as well whilst managing my workload.
Hassan: The pandemic has been a challenge to us all and this was elevated given that we were completing our final year of a degree and handling a demanding job. At the time, we were writing our dissertation, so all the support was remote which made it a little more challenging as I imagine it would have been easier to sit next to our supervisors and have discussions. As well, we’re used to seeing people that we know from other organisations whenever we visit Ada, which is one key benefit of apprenticeships because we’re building a network.
What change would you like to see in Technology in the next 10 years?
Marium: Diversity and Inclusion - Coming from a minority background, it has been difficult to find people who are similar to me in Technology. In the next ten years, it would be great if technology became open to others rather than a selected group of people. Technology is a global thing – everybody should have the chance to experience and benefit from it. In the UK we’re really advantaged but I’d love to see people from less developed countries and backgrounds benefitting from it also. Additionally, Women in Technology is a huge spotlight but there is still work to be done to make sure that the field provides opportunities to all genders equally.
Hassan: Technology in Education – I think no matter what job you go into in the future, you will face some sort of technology whether it’s data, programming, artificial intelligence or even excel spreadsheets. I would like to see technology/computer science being as important as English and Maths in schools. This can start to create some positive perceptions around technology and can lead to a better skilled workforce in the future. Additionally, technology gets so much bad press such as social media, hacking, cyberbullying etc. Teaching good technology principles early on will be so important for making sure that people stay safe online and using it for good.
What would you say to somebody who is thinking about doing an apprenticeship?
Marium: Go for it! If you’re passionate about it and you are driven, then apprenticeships are a brilliant way to launch yourself into both the professional and academic world. Do your research and make sure that you do something that you’re interested in. It’s important that you are not doing it just to get a job or just to get a qualification – you must be passionate about the subject itself.
Hassan: Before you make a final decision, start on a level playing field. Everybody understands and promotes the university concept and its benefits; however, take some time to research the benefits of apprenticeships too. Apprenticeships are a great chance to build a network, earn money and you can still get a degree. Most of the negatives that used to exist like low pay, poor hours, only getting lower level qualifications, are disappearing. The other thing is to decide based on what is right for you and not anybody else – you're the one who has to be passionate about whichever route you take for at least three years.