I love helping people and if I can help fix something, even better
Nadira Begum has recently completed her apprenticeship at BT and now has a permanent role within the company. She won the London Mayor’s Fund Award for Apprentice of the Year 2015 and Apprentice of the Year at her BT Apprentice Graduation for Class of 2013.
The Tech Partnership caught up with her to talk about her role and her journey into a digital career.
How did you start your career in tech, Nadira?
I did A-levels at Leyton Sixth Form College where I studied 3-D Design, Business and IT. I always excelled in the more practical subjects such as Design and IT – I enjoy being hands on and learn better from doing things myself. I didn’t fancy going to uni as lectures and text books weren’t for me, and I didn’t want to be in debt.
I applied and got accepted for an apprenticeship in Design and Support, with a company called A&C, who specialise in brand management for SMEs. I learnt so much, worked with some great people and made some really good friends, as well as studying for a level 3 BTEC and NVQ in Design and Support, but I felt the Account Executive role wasn’t for me. BT got in touch towards the end of my time at A&C: I joined the company in October 2013 as an apprentice and I’m still here!
During my 3-year apprenticeship at BT I studied a foundation degree in IT (funded by BT) and a level 4 NVQ in Professional Competence. I graduated from Staffordshire University as part of my apprenticeship in July 2016 and had my BT apprenticeship graduation in October. I have a permanent job at BT and have the opportunity to gain further qualifications and apply for new roles within the company.
What would you say to anyone considering an apprenticeship?
The great thing with apprenticeships is you get on the job training, your external training is funded, you get time out for your studies, and on top of all that you get paid. I was really lucky to have two great apprenticeships where I got to try different roles and learn skills for life. I now know what I want in my career and what pathway I want to take.
What attracted you to working in technology in the first place?
I enjoy helping people, whether that’s providing technical support or volunteering. I always enjoyed IT and design subjects in school and college. I wanted to do a technical role because I can learn to fix things, it is hands on and I found the opportunity to work for a great company at the same time.
And what do you enjoy about your current role?
Every day is different, with the new technology you’re always learning. I love helping people and if I can help fix something, even better. It’s really rewarding and I have a brilliant team who are so supportive. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support I get from the people in BT.
Please tell us about your experience of being a woman in technology. How do you feel it has impacted on your career, if at all?
When I first joined my department there weren’t a lot of women. There were about 3 girls when I started and across the three years that has more than tripled. I think this generation of girls is more interested and no longer see it as a male role – which is not to say it’s balanced yet.
I don’t think it’s impacted my career any differently to a male apprentice: I got treated just the same and was given all the same opportunities. I think it depends on your mind set and how you approach things. I never saw it as a role only guys do, I just did my best and on the plus side we never had to queue for the toilets in my first year.
Are there things you wish you’d known when you started your career? Or any key pieces of advice?
Do it! you’re more than capable and you’re no different from a male candidate. If you enjoy problem solving and you’re really keen to learn then go for it. There’s so many resources available and with the right support you can do it, even if you don’t have a technical background. Start an apprenticeship! No one can stop you apart from you.
Work hard and don’t make excuses or think you’re not good enough: the only person who can hold you back is you. Sounds like a cliché but it’s true.
Money isn’t everything, don’t worry about starting at the bottom no matter what your age is, the money will come and it’ll be worth it, trust me. I did two apprenticeships and the first was on apprentice minimum wage, it wasn’t much but I managed and I learnt invaluable skills I wouldn’t have got out of uni.
Don’t be afraid to raise your hand/suggest a solution. If you get the answer wrong what’s the worst that can happen? You can only learn from it. Speak up, say no! There’s too many yes men and women in business, if we all agreed and went along with it nothing would change. Say no and stick to your guns if it means change happens for the better.
Your career is in your hands, believe in yourself and don’t ever settle. If you think you deserve better or you’re not happy, go get it. It’s not going to handed to you (unless you get headhunted of course!).
Why do you think there are so few women in technology? Is it a problem? What can be done about it?
In the past women have been told or steered down the traditional routes, but we need to acknowledge how much things have changed – just look at how many female entrepreneurs we have.
I think women may be daunted by the environment and how they might be perceived. I know when I accepted my role and my family asked what the people are like, I said it’s mostly middle aged men. I’m a STEM ambassador, I’m hoping I can go to schools and start educating people about technical roles. I went to an all-girls secondary school and they never said IT is for boys, but we never had a proper insight into careers in technology. So if I can help young people decide if it’s for them or not, gender aside, that would be great.
I’d especially like to promote apprenticeships, because not everyone gets the grades or the right subjects to do a technical degree, but there’s other ways to get there, it’s not over. We need to educate and set the record straight at the root, they need that education from schools as some families can be quite cultured and can have negative influences on the decisions young people make.
What are your future plans? Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?
I want to learn loads of different technologies, so I can advance in my technical career. I don’t know about future plans as I haven’t decided or feel the need to decide on what I want to do/be in X years. I’m happy with what I’m doing now and job satisfaction matters a lot to me. I definitely want to say in BT and it’s such a massive company and there’s so many roles I can do.