Alex Wilson joined Transparity as our first apprentice in February 2021. The opportunity arose through our partnership with QA, who specialise in Microsoft and technology-based apprenticeships. Over the last year, Alex has made incredible progress not only towards completing his apprenticeship but also developing his own professional career pathway. We speak to Alex about how he got started and what it’s like being a part of the Transparity journey on a day-to-day basis.
Tell me a bit about yourself
My background has been varied. I’ve always had an interest in IT, I did it at college, but I never went on to university. You do small jobs after college, but you get stuck in a routine and sometimes it’s not easy to get out of, but then the opportunity came to work in IT.
Eight years ago, I worked for a small IT company working on till systems for a pharmaceutical company, I was very lucky because they were a good company with a good culture. Which kept me interested in the industry. Although, if I’d come into Transparity sooner it would have been the same because everyone’s so approachable and friendly, it’s definitely a nice family feeling here.
It’s very difficult these days to get employed in an IT company because it’s difficult to have the qualifications and certificates required for the roles. Companies want the experience, and they want the certifications. I’m sure plenty of people like myself don’t have the funds to throw at courses and gain the certificates before coming on board because they’re quite expensive. When the pandemic hit my work went down and then the apprenticeship came up, which was perfect. It gives you that opportunity to get into something that you’ve always wanted to do and gives you the chance to see if you’re going to enjoy it without having those certifications and experience.
What initially sparked your interest in an IT apprenticeship?
I must admit I had applied for IT jobs and again, it was usually based on your previous experience in IT. It was mainly just not having the qualifications and the opportunity to gain these as part of an apprenticeship. I also became a dad and time becomes non-existent. There’s no time to do any study in the evenings so an apprenticeship worked well.
Is there anything that stood out to you about an apprenticeship with Transparity?
It was from hearing from people within the company and from reading reviews on Glassdoor. Even if I didn’t know people who worked here, everything you read about Transparity is really exciting. I think when you read reviews, you get a good feeling about the company, that it’s different but in a good way.
What’s the most challenging part of your role?
Starting an apprenticeship and working from home. I don’t think many people had experience working from home, but we were thrown into it at the time. I was worried about being able to interact with others and get to know other people on my team. My main concern was how I was going to learn. In an office, you can usually see if someone needs assistance, or you just walk around to ask someone at their desk so it’s easy. Hands-on training is all I had known.
In reality, it wasn’t challenging at all. I think I was worried about how I was going to get set up at home and how I was going to log on. I went to the office on my first day, which was February last year, and we were given everything we needed. From there you’re definitely made to feel like you’re not working at home. Everyone is involved in group chats, and everyone is always reaching out to make sure you’re okay, ‘do you understand this? Do you want help with that?’ and screen sharing to help you learn. After a couple of days, it was fine and felt like you were in the office.
What’s the best part of your apprenticeship?
Knowing that I’ve got a future, Transparity makes it very clear what you can achieve and where you can go. I’ve worked in lots of different places so I’m not just singling it out to IT, but you go to a lot of places, and they don’t want you to progress quickly. At Transparity some of the first questions they ask when you start are ‘what do you want to do? What future plans have you got?’, and they’re happy to hear it and support you. Everyone’s keen to help you do better than where you are at that moment. We’ve all got paths to take, and I would like to see how far I can go.
What’s the study/working time split like?
I find the split works well and is easy to manage. QA ask us for 20% of apprenticeship time to be ‘off-shift’ dedicated to studying. We’re still working but we’re not doing any Transparity work on study time. We’re all given a dedicated day per week to do our studies and they always make sure you’ve got your time to study in.
You can do as much study as you want to do outside of your hours, I was doing quite a bit because I felt like I wanted to do it, I wanted to learn more. I know others do a few bits outside of work, but as a company, you’re not pressured. You don’t feel pressured to do anything outside of your hours.
What skills have you developed/achieved during your time at Transparity?
Transparity has given me the skills and knowledge to carry on with my career. I’ve gained confidence and feel so much more outgoing interacting with a bigger range of people, in my previous job it was quite lonely. At Transparity you can speak up and people listen, everyone’s got time for you here.
Qualifications achieved in 12 months: Microsoft Network & Fundamentals
Level 3 – mobile operating systems,
Level 3 – cloud services
Level 3 – business processes
Level 3 – encoding and logic
What are your future career prospects and goals?
Ultimately a role in consultancy. My goal now is to move on from First Line Support and I’ve got a plan in place of what is needed to get to Second Line Support. I’m studying quite a bit now and I hope in six to eight months to be in a Second Line Support role. I think it would be a massive achievement to go from first to second line in 18 to 20 months.
What’s the best moment at Transparity so far?
To be nominated and winning in the annual company awards ‘The Shouties’. I won the ‘Best Self Award 2021’ in December last year, that has definitely been a highlight because all the nominations come from your colleagues and other teams in the business.
Progressing up from Support Technician: Apprentice to Support Technician: First Line in June last year, just 5 months after starting with the company. Also, to be asked to go into the office and represent the company with some promotional filming last year.
Breakdown of a typical day
On Teams, everyone logs in and says good morning. On the service desk, we will always have a group meeting called a ‘Stand Up’ in the morning, we see how the rest of the team are getting on, we go over any issues or can ask questions if we are unsure about anything. That usually lasts about 15-20 minutes.
Set up and plan for the day, go through ticket notes, any responses required or any research on questions outstanding.
10am – 12pm
Working through tickets and taking phone calls. Managing lots of varied queries and logging onto customers machines. For an apprentice, most of our tickets are for issues with Active Directory, Office, Outlook, Excel etc.
At lunchtime, I try to get out for a walk, as long as the weather is good. You’re always sat down at your desk, so you don’t get much exercise.
1pm – 5pm
Logging tickets and taking phone calls. The afternoon is also broken up by taking calls with colleagues if you need help on a ticket. I am part of the FFC Team [fix on first contact] and we can receive anything between 20-30 calls per day anything from 1 minute to over an hour per call.
Away from the support desk I also help with internal kit coordination and building laptops. Recently I was also asked to attend my first on-site visit, which I haven’t managed to do before because of the COVID restrictions.
If I have time, I like going through second-line tickets to see what they’re up to and see what kind of queries they receive. I want to see what’s involved as you move up in your career.
A note from Alex
Transparity is a company where you have a voice and people will listen. It doesn’t matter who you speak to, it could be a colleague, your manager, or the CEO – there is always someone who will listen and help you with anything, personally and professionally.