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Jess Gilbert

I’d always been interested in engineering and, after taking maths, physics and chemistry A-levels decided I preferred the sound of software engineering to mechanical engineering – even though I had done very little coding. I didn’t think that university was for me, so I applied to Softwire’s apprenticeship programme. The interview day was a great confidence-booster: the technical challenges were structured to test how I went about problem-solving, rather than my coding experience. Being able to complete them was really exciting: it proved to me I could do this, and that this was the career I wanted. I also loved the way Softwire was exactly what I’d imagined a modern London digital business to be like, and could really see myself being part of the community.

Getting to grips with coding

On my first day, I remember the first thing we were asked to do was to ‘build a simple program’ to do something. That was a scary moment because I had no real idea of how. But the trainer knew I had limited experience of coding, and they went through it all with me. Within a few weeks, the gap in experience between me and those who’d done a lot more coding had levelled out. After the initial training programme, I joined the Softwire support team, which was a brilliant way to experience a huge range of projects and tech stacks in a short space of time. The trainers were still around, and everyone was really lovely when it came to helping each other out, so I learned quickly. I worked on a couple of other projects, before moving back into support, where I took on a customer manager role, with responsibility for delivering some of the bigger support projects.

Delivery project manager

Once I’d completed my apprenticeship qualifications – which Softwire gave me plenty of time to work on – I was offered a permanent position. At this point, having enjoyed the customer manager role in support, I decided I’d like to go down the project management career route – and Softwire were very happy to accommodate this wish. I’ve since spent the last six months managing the delivery of one of our biggest customer projects, with support from experienced colleagues. I still have to pinch myself sometimes that I’ve been entrusted with this responsibility, less than three years after doing my A-levels. I’m so pleased I did an apprenticeship because it’s fast-tracked my career. I was earning good money straight away, gaining real-world experience, and working towards a qualification. I’d recommend it to anyone as a way into software engineering.

Jess joined Softwire as an apprentice in 2018 and is now a project manager.