School was an interesting time for me. I grew up in Hackney, East London. There were lots of gangs in the area. I started hanging out with wrong people, ended up getting into trouble and was kicked out of school at 15 without any qualifications. I was sent a referral unit and it was then that my life turned around. A Pastor at church started mentoring me and eventually I went back to college at 16. I chose to study IT as I felt very comfortable with it - at home I was always the person who set up the router and I loved computer games.
I did pretty well on the course and even got a distinction when I completed level 2. As part of the course I got a work experience placement with ING bank for two weeks and spent time in virtually every department. I felt I learned more in that two week period than I had in the whole time I’d spent studying because I was dealing with real situations in a proper work environment. I returned to college not wanting to continue the course and I’d already decided I didn’t want to go to University. I just wanted to get on with life, get a job, learn about the real world and do something relevant. That’s when I found out about QA / Microsoft IT apprenticeships. I managed to get a place on the program. The scheme arranged interviews with potential employers and I landed a job with a company called eCourier as an IT apprentice.
The apprenticeship program helped me develop new skills that set me well on my way to a career in technology and I haven’t looked back since. I had to work on my own and learn quickly - it was a very good experience. I progressed rapidly and went from being an IT apprentice to IT manager in under two years.
I was runner up Microsoft Apprentice of the Year and as a result I was invited to the House of Commons which was amazing. I was then asked by Microsoft to be an Apprenticeship Ambassador which was great. I got to visit the USA and travel throughout Europe championing the program. I spoke at numerous events and conferences in the UK and sat on various panels. I talked to young people about the benefits of learning a trade, shared my experiences and explained how much my IT apprenticeship transformed my life. I even went back to my old school that had kicked me out a few years earlier to talk to the pupils which was brilliant. More recently, I was invited to speak at a special event organised by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT to celebrate the launch of its IT Apprenticeship scheme.
My parents weren’t keen for me to do an apprenticeship at the beginning. They wanted me to go to university, but they are very proud of me now. I am grateful for the opportunities my apprenticeship has opened up to me. Apprenticeships really do work and are just as viable as a degree. The apprenticeship program helped me find employment as well as boosted my confidence and enabled me to secure a more stable future. My advice to anyone thinking about doing an apprenticeship is - just go for it.
As my IT career progressed I set up Superlative Youth - a venture to promote awareness and access to apprenticeships and inspire other young people.
I recently left my job to follow my dreams and set up my own company with my business partner - who also started out as an IT apprentice. We’ve just launched ‘WeGym’ - a brand new app which helps people find training partners to exercise with. It allows you to connect with other like-minded folk and find workouts that match your ability, goals and schedule. The idea is that you set a weekly goal - and alongside your buddy, you smash it. The app was developed in response to a very real problem that I faced. In my previous job, I used to go to the gym and train with another work colleague, but when I left that job and started going to the gym on my own - it was a bit of a nightmare. I couldn’t get motivated, it wasn’t as much fun or as easy to do on my own. I couldn’t find anyone who was available to go to the gym with at the time I wanted to go, who’s schedule matched my own. So that’s how ‘WeGym’ came about.
Solving problems is something I enjoy doing and am passionate about. I love the idea that we have something today that didn’t exist six months ago. It’s amazing and it’s all based on technology. IT is the future. Technology is where it’s at and IT apprenticeships offer limitless opportunities for anyone prepared to take them.
(App is available to download)