I graduated from High School in 2002 with decent grades in English Literature and English Language and chose to study those in further education, not knowing what I wanted to do as a career. I graduated university in 2007 with an English degree, spent a year saving money in a job in a kitchen, and went traveling for a few months in California. I returned during the recession and got a job at a cash counting depot with still no idea on my future career.
After five years with no opportunity for progression, I started working at a Category B prison in Salford as an Operational Support Officer, escorting contractors around the prison for a large project. When the project finished, I moved into the Security department and began to take on an analytical role. Although the job was varied and could be exciting, it was a very hostile environment to work in and I knew I didn’t want a long-term career there.
In 2018 I joined Greater Manchester Police as an Intelligence Analyst and found the role challenging enough to keep me developing, but also enjoyable.
Throughout all my jobs, I had a curiosity about programming but had no formal education behind me, I tried countless online courses, bouncing from tutorial to tutorial and learning about languages or libraries, but forgetting them quickly without applying them. I would go through periods of studying in my own time and feel like I was learning loads, but then stop for a couple of weeks and then jump onto a different course. I read blogs and listened to podcasts by Software Engineers and felt it was a career I would enjoy.
While working at the Police, I focused my learning on projects, even showing my manager a Python script I had written for automating one of our repetitive data cleansing jobs. Despite enjoying my job, I still spent the evenings learning more about software engineering and wondering how I could incorporate it into my current role.
A colleague recommended looking into Arm, as her partner worked with the company and loved his job. I checked out the careers page of the website and over the next few months looked at the different roles available. They looked really interesting, but I struggled to understand what a lot of the requirements even meant, never mind having any experience in them. It felt like I had missed the boat on a career in technology, particularly with so many people pursuing the industry.
And then, she forwarded Richard Quinn’s Arm Story on Instagram at the beginning of 2021 and after watching the video, I felt like an apprenticeship was exactly what I was looking for. Like Richard, I had a family and mortgage, and (at 36) felt too old to be applying for an apprenticeship, but his advice in the video hit home. He said that “there’s never a perfect time” and I realized I could wait another ten years trying to learn enough for a graduate position and never tick the right boxes. I applied for an apprenticeship role and believed that my passion for learning how to code, example projects, and the soft skills I had developed in my previous jobs, helped to offset my lack of official education in the subject.
Straight away, my team has been fantastic in getting me involved with projects and supporting me through the work. I’m also doing a university degree course in Digital Technology Solutions, with dedicated time for the workshops and learning. I’ve learned more in the last six months with Arm than years of trying to teach myself and feel like it was 100% the right decision. I’ve been given the direction that I was lacking when I was trying to teach myself, as well as the support to help me on my journey.
Wider aspects of the company also make Arm a great place to work; the main Manchester office and associated WeWork are both nice places to be, the festivities put on over the Christmas period was great, and Arm has a real focus on the wellness of their colleagues, making the work/life balance easier.