I chose an Imperial apprenticeship – and amazing things happened!

When I was about 17, I remember thinking my life was at a bit of a crossroads. I was being pushed into applying for university – I was offered a place to study law at Warwick University – but I wasn’t convinced it was for me, and I saw it as a bit of a safety measure. Instead, I took a gap year to try and explore various different industries and avenues and figure out my options.

After researching the tech industry, the idea of an apprenticeship really started to grow, and I was drawn towards Imperial’s software engineering scheme. I kept hesitating to apply and would say to myself: ‘No, I’m not smart enough to get in; they’ll never accept me.’ And then on the day of the deadline, I couldn’t sleep at all. I woke up at 3am, finished the application, sent it off and went back to bed. The same day they sent me an interview offer.

I’m now just over a year into the 18-month scheme, a blend of practical on-the-job experience and studying, and I couldn’t be happier. I’m heavily involved in designing, building and deploying websites and apps, and recently I am one of the main developers on a project to build a new website for Imperial’s Summer School. It’s so exciting to know that people will be interacting with my work even if they don’t know who’s behind the building of the app or website. It means I have to spend time thinking about what the perspective of the children using these products is like, and it’s pretty cool to know that what I’m creating is going to be part of their educational journey.

Sometimes seeing my friends who live on campus reminds me of how different the path I took could have been. It feels like I’m still doing the university experience – I’m in the gliding and surfing societies, for example, a great way to get away from my computer and into the outdoors – but with a few more added responsibilities. The sports are fun but I really value the chance to meet other Imperial people outside of the campus and maintain friendships that way too. There are so many different communities – I’m quite mixed in with them all and I’ve made so many friends on campus, including students as well as other staff.

Also, obviously I have the benefit of studying in a university environment while being paid for it. This gives me a lot more reassurance about my future, as it means I can build something financially comfortable from the beginning of my career. When I do think about what it would have been like to go to university, it’s the financial part that reminds me that I made the right decision.

I'm still doing the university experience - but with added responsibilities

The apprenticeship programme I’m doing is fairly new and I’ve had to explain how it works to many people, but everyone has been really open to the idea that you don’t have to follow a conventional academic path and there are other avenues you can take on your educational journey. That’s a key message, and I’d urge others to explore the options.

Initially apprenticeships were never really in the foreground for me, but when I started exploring what career options there were, I quickly realised that gaining experience alongside the learning was the most viable option for me. And the apprenticeship has also changed the way I approach life in general. Every time I hesitate, I remember that I got this opportunity and so it doesn’t hurt to try and put my name forward for something else. Amazing things have happened, and I hope that doesn’t stop any time soon.

Joyce Kadibu is a Software Developer Apprentice, Information and Communication Technologies.