22nd May 2022

How the Vodafone Apprentice Programme Brought Me into the Heart of Tech

Lewis Holmes
Vulnerability Management Team Manager

Like many people, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my career when I left college. I ended up becoming a baker, which paid the bills, but it wasn’t a long-term plan. So I kept an eye on local job ads and when I saw Vodafone was offering a Technology apprenticeship, I thought it would be a great way to start a career in an area that had always interested me.

I found out I’d been accepted into the programme in October 2014, and started my first placement the following January, on the IT Delivery team. What a way to learn about the business, meet various stakeholders and prepare me for my future! I knew from the second I started that if I nailed this apprenticeship, I would be setting myself up for life. Nerve-wracking for a young me, but I was set on not wasting the opportunity.
Seven years down the road, I’ve proven myself right. When the apprenticeship was coming to an end, my manager offered me a permanent role on the security team and I was able to sink my teeth into an area and start specialising in a toolset. I’ll always be grateful for her guidance and advice because she got me where I am today.

After a couple of years, I was offered the chance to become the Lead for an area within Cyber, which I jumped at and helped to build out a full team. Eventually I was asked to become the Team Manager, which is where I am today – pretty amazing when I think about where I started!

An awesome opportunity from day one

Vodafone is a global player with a vast footprint across Europe and Africa. There is so much to the business – from local shops all the way up to our critical national infrastructure – so the learning curve is steep but always exciting. In fact, I think one of the things that made me stand out in the application process was my passion for technology. Over the years I’ve progressively learned my way around all the awesome tech that underpins our platforms and solutions.

I’m still in touch with a lot of the people who were on the programme with me. We’ve all made great progress in our careers which wouldn’t have been possible without the apprenticeship, and we all recognise what a good opportunity it was.

I remember how welcoming and helpful everyone was from the start. My first team threw me straight into work (with appropriate support of course) which was the best approach because I was able to get hands-on immediately. Vodafone also offers a lot of mentorship, so you’re given a lot of guidance to help shape and develop your career.

I was one of the older members of our cohort which I was initially slightly nervous about, but looking back I think it helped! I’d had some experience of life outside education which I could apply straight off the bat when I joined Vodafone, alongside a number of soft skills I’d developed while dealing with the general public.

Launching my career on the right foot

Building a network is invaluable, especially in an organisation the size of Vodafone. The apprenticeship allowed me to work with various technology stakeholders so when I moved into different roles, I always had people I could reach out to across the business.

I also learned a lot about stakeholder management, for example that people like having specific dates to plan around. You need to set deadlines for the people you’re asking something of, and give people timeframes for when they can expect something from you.

The other important thing I picked up on the programme was just seeing and understanding the technologies we had already deployed as well as what was coming up. 4G was still being rolled out in the UK when I joined and I’ve seen the journey from that through to 5G now. I’m sure at some point (many years from now) 6G whispers will start!

Although I’m now a manager, I still like to keep my pulse on what technologies we’re using and working within. The saying that “every day is a school day” is so true: when I think I know something inside and out, our tech teams will show us a new cutting-edge piece of technology that we have to learn. I wouldn’t have it any other way though. It’s a great feeling knowing you’re in a place that’s at the cutting edge of tech all the time!

For more info on our technology apprenticeship, head to our website here.