A Career I Never Thought Possible - Craig's Story
Monday, February 3, 2020
Craig Hegarty is a Software Engineer here at LIT and started working with us as an Apprentice Software Engineer back in 2015. He says starting with an apprenticeship has enabled him to have a career he never thought possible. This is his story.
When did you take part in an apprenticeship and how did you get involved?
I started my apprenticeship in November 2015, with Belfast Met and Liberty IT. For the first six weeks, I was at college three days a week, and in the office for the other two. After that first period, I was then in the office four days a week and attended college on the other day, for almost 18 months. The course officially lasted two years, but I finished my coursework four months early which enabled me to be in the office full time, five days a week.
I got involved by applying online via an aptitude test. I passed this test, and then I had to undergo another aptitude test under exam conditions (obviously to ensure someone else didn’t pass it for me first time round!). After I passed this, I was then emailed a confidential word document that contained a list of companies who had opportunities in the apprenticeship scheme, and how to apply to them. I applied to Liberty IT, was interviewed and somehow managed to get employed – and the rest is history!
What did you learn from doing it?
I learnt so much through this scheme, more than most I would imagine. The majority of people on my course came from a background in computing of some description – but they had struggled to gain employment.
I didn’t have this background – I worked with children before I came here. I always enjoyed working on and with computers, but because I didn’t go to University I always just assumed I could never get a job in the industry. I learnt a lot from the course itself and the coursework, but I learnt so much more being in the office – that’s why it was a massive relief when I was able to be in the office all week.
I was fortunate enough to land in a great team with a great manager. They were so patient and so helpful it really made everything much easier for me. That’s when I learnt the most, because the people around me were so intelligent I just tried to absorb as much as I could from them.
How has it helped you in your career?
Well, I wouldn’t have this career if it wasn’t for the course! I worked hard, very hard, to ensure I passed the course and made a good impression in the workplace. I worked long nights and weekends on coursework, just like you would at University, but with the added benefit of being able to learn on the job. Being able to bounce questions off folks in my team was invaluable, and they were always so helpful. It helped me gain knowledge around the obvious things like principles of coding, databases, networks etc – but it also allowed me to gain better soft skills, improved my time management and my prioritisation of tasks – all vital skills as a Software Engineer.
What advice would you give to someone considering applying for an apprenticeship at Liberty IT?
Do it. Absolutely, 100% do it. It’s hard, it really is challenging – especially if you don’t have a technical background – but it’s so worth it. It’s enabled me to have a career I never thought possible, because I didn’t go down the stereotypical path of University -> Placement -> Job.
I earned as I learned – and, importantly, I don’t have a student loan debt to pay back!