During late spring 2013, I was coming towards the end of my 2 year electrical installation college course. It was at this point, we were each tasked to find electrical apprenticeships in order to continue my college course into level 3. This was the first time I came across the Virgin Media apprenticeship scheme and to be honest since then, I haven’t looked back.
After a successful assessment center, interview and week away on-boarding down in Bristol (great fun by the way), I was presented my uniform; toolset and laptop, and off I went beginning my journey as an Apprentice Headend Engineer. It was after this first week that I met my mentor (Stefan Grace) who was to coach me over the next two years, I couldn’t really have asked for a better mentor and if you ask around, I think most people would agree. In my first year I was studying towards a HNC in Computing & Systems development, whilst also undertaking a QCF as a Telecommunications professional, both of which I passed with distinction at the end of year two. My journey as a Headend Engineer was beginning and I was learning how to maintain, fault find, upgrade and develop various network topologies within Access Networks, Headends and Data centers.
My first year in the company saw me collect the ‘Apprentice Headend Engineer’ of the year award, an accolade that I still class as one of my greatest achievements. I had a great year networking, meeting new people, travelling around the country for various meetings and training courses, whilst also spending time doing various engagements activities; such as off-roading and go-karting – it was great fun.
It wasn’t until my second year however, that we undertook the trip of a lifetime and to this day one of the greatest accomplishments that I’ve ever done. To celebrate our year group completing a level 4 apprenticeship, we spent 6 months raising money during various extracurricular charity activities to fund an excursion to Tanzania. It was during this trip that we supported “The Meserani Project’, supporting children struggling for education, providing basic necessities that we probably take for granted. Our group brought across laptops, tools, clothing, various stationary and much more, which we distributed amongst the schools and colleges. We assisted in the build of solar power technology and water irrigation for teaching blocks. Outside of the great work for ‘The Meserani Project’, we were also able to safari, explore and to be honest spend a few late night down ‘Ma’s Bar’ drinking local lagers and playing cards. It was the best way to cap off an amazing apprenticeship and a memory that will last a lifetime.
After completing my apprenticeship I was fully embedded into my local team, I began working out of hours on-call, took ownership of various projects and really felt that I was beginning to contribute with new ideas and ways to work. My team were my second family, I learnt so much from each and every one of them and we grew closer as the time went on. During the next couple of years I was able to give back to the apprenticeship department, by attending various college fairs and writing various pieces for monthly magazines. I was given a membership with the Institute of Telecommunication Professionals, during which I was able to visit behinds the scenes at the BT Tower, various top level data centers and attend some of the expert led innovation exhibitions. I was thoroughly enjoying my time as a qualified engineer and that enjoyment grew after being elected as a local representative for our people (Voice Rep).
My time within Voice saw my position rise from local representation to divisional representation, being responsible for expressing the views of the South West & Wales Network engineers. This gave me great exposure to my head of department (the great Chris Starling) and also my director (Tony Lee). I learnt much from my experiences working through Voice and Tony; such as great phrases ‘never knowingly let a colleague fail’ and how to operate within a customer centric team. I attended yearly conferences with some fantastic guest speakers – and again another opportunity for the odd late night at the bar sharing stories!
My development as an engineer was progressing and by 2018, I had become a Senior Engineer. It was now my time to mentor and coach others, I was involved in various engineering tasks and felt that I was starting to contribute valuable insight into how we could operate in the world of tomorrow. It was during this period that I was assisting with a project, upgrading our network to gigabit speeds. My work during this was noticed and I was presented another opportunity of a lifetime, working for our parent company (Liberty Global), in the Wireless Performance Test Team. I interviewed successfully and was offered the position of Senior Delivery Engineer, a position I’ve held since October 2020. This has taken me towards a new path, developing my skills within project management and wireless testing methodologies. Wi-Fi is a very exciting world to be in right now and my enthusiasm to succeed remains as strong as it was the first day I started with VM. Again, despite my short time thus far in this team, I get that overwhelming feeling of belonging to a family.
My decision to take on an apprenticeship within Virgin Media changed my life for the better. I have achieved more than I ever thought possible and experienced things I never expected. I’ve been within VM/LG for nearly 8 years now and I still feel as though my journey is just beginning. My advice to anyone who is considering an apprenticeship is to go out and grab it, fully immerse yourself and never look back.