Tommy turned towards IT in the last year of secondary school then took a BTec in IT at his local college and he’s been loving it ever since, “With friends I played video games and so we thought, “Right, let’s make some video games” so we learned programming. I chose to study IT at my local college rather than study for A-Levels at my school. This was because my school was more focused on helping those students who had decided to do A-Levels. My parents were pretty happy with my choice especially once they had been to the open day with me.”
He qualified and then went on to do a degree in IT at the same college spending three to four days each week studying there and was really enthusiastic about it, “All the lecturers I got to meet on the open day were really nice and informative so I thought I’d gain more from going to college. My lecturer pointed me in the direction of a degree apprenticeship which I felt would be perfect. It’s allowed me to learn and work on projects, building up a portfolio while having the lessons and learning from the degree side as well. The other advantage of the degree apprenticeship was that it was totally free and I was being paid to work, so it made perfect sense.”
Tommy feels that his degree apprenticeship is worth a lot in the world of work:
You learn more personal skills that you otherwise wouldn’t learn in university and it gives you the opportunity to learn on the job. You can spend more time working on things that you’re passionate about and your employer will support you through the process.
Having designed user interfaces and programming the logic that sits behind it for 18 months Tommy has worked in a number of teams. This has given him more experience of working with people in businesses at different sites across the UK and is setting him up well for developing his skills and career.
“The best thing about IT for me is that it’s constantly evolving, there’s new things to be working on, there’s new technologies emerging that you could go on and learn about or you could employ in your organisation. We work flexi hours so you can choose what hours you work and so typically you might be working an extra 45 minutes a day and so we finish by 12 noon on a Friday, which is brilliant. You can work it how you want and it gives a really good work-life balance.”
A typical week for Tommy is four days in work and one day attending lectures. What he’s most proud of is being offered his current job:
I really love the fact that the people are brilliant and the company’s brilliant. It’s the classic thing of if you do what you like, then it’s not really work. I’m at a point where I wake up and get ready for work and the day’s over before you know it. It’s a nice lifestyle for me.
Tommy believes communication is really important in his role, “You have to be able to articulate what the problem is in order for someone to help you solve it or for you to understand it for yourself. Maths is always heavily pushed for programming. I think it depends where you are in programming I’m personally not strong at maths and I think it’s more about problem-solving which is where maths and programming overlap. You need to know how to build getting from A to Z and work out what are your steps to get there and be able to visualise or in your own way build a solution to the problem. I’m coming to the end of my degree now, I’d love to go off and do a Masters. I think it would be a lot of fun and maybe in a couple of years I will need a bit of downtime from education.”
Asked what advice he would give his younger self Tommy says, “I’d say, be more organised, I’m awful at organisation but it’s a skill I’m still working on and trying to develop, but I find it’s very important for quality; doing assignments last minute isn’t the best way to go about things. If you plan projects it helps you work to your full potential and when I have done that it’s allowed me to have more pride in my work.”