As a cross-functional apprentice on Cisco’s IT apprenticeship programme, Jonathan is gaining experience across many of the company’s technical roles. He plans to move into a sales position on completion of the scheme.
Jonathan decided to become an apprentice as he believed a scheme like Cisco’s was the ideal way to get his foot in the foot for a career within the IT industry. The company’s scheme stood out to him thanks to its diversity, which gives apprentices the chance to work in a wide variety of departments and environments.
Why chose an IT apprenticeship?
“Personally, I feel it is in an excellent alternative to studying a course in higher education, in the sense that you are learning the material you would be covering in a networking-related university course. However, at the same time as learning new material, you are presented with the opportunity to receive hands-on, practical experience in the topics you are studying - which I feel is the best way to learn,” he says.
“Apprentices are exposed to technical roles in a lab environment; installing, configuring and maintaining networking equipment. As well as this, services and sales roles are also involved in the scheme to enable apprentices to engage in the business and commerce areas of the company, teaching presentation and communication skills in a working environment.
“From these different role exposures, you are able to identify what aspects of a large IT organisation you enjoy most and are best at. From this, you can then focus your aptitude and talents towards your desired career direction,” he adds.
What it’s like to be an apprentice at Cisco
Jonathan loves life as an apprentice at Cisco, where he is one of a group of sixteen. The apprentices come from a range of backgrounds and are aged between 18-24. For each placement they are paired with a different apprentice, which gives them the chance to really get to know each other and develop strong friendships.
The scheme lasts three years and in the first year apprentices work in ten different departments, with each ‘role exposure’ lasting four weeks. In year two the placements become longer, lasting three months each, enabling apprentices to gain more in-depth experience in the roles that appeal to them the most.
“This is the beginning of the process of specialising your skill set towards a position within either a technical, sales or services role,” Jonathan explains.
Jonathan has found every day at Cisco to be very different from the last, and feels he has already learnt so much - in terms of practical and technical skills. He’s already spent time within the company’s Solution Validation Services (SVS) team; a technically focused pre- and post-sales service which involves a lot of lab work, as well as Human Resources.
Highlights so far…
One highlight was his time within Cisco’s Customer Proof of Concept (CPOC) labs.
“This is where we essentially ‘test drive’ customer’s networks in our labs,” he says. “I was involved in the setup of a highly complex network test for a British multinational gas, oil and petroleum company. These tests are planned for up to five months in advance, and take well over two weeks to prepare - which should give you some idea of the scale of this massive operation.
“This involved the installation, configuration and maintenance of some exceptionally advanced and expensive kit. I found the prospect of handling such technology to help secure a significant customer deal quite frankly rather daunting! I really felt like I was thrown into the deep end with this particular project, in the sense that I was forced to learn and adapt quickly to an unfamiliar working environment, but it was a great feeling to know that I had contributed to its success!”
Planning his career
Jonathan’s career plans aren’t yet set in stone, but currently his gut feeling is to focus his skills towards a sales-orientated position within Cisco.
“I feel that I would most enjoy a sales-orientated position in the company, due to the sort of tasks and skills that I would develop from such a role. I enjoy meeting new people and working in a team to achieve a goal. I am very much a results-driven individual, which I understand is a quality that could be applied to many different teams within Cisco. However, I find the idea of working in a sales environment particularly exciting,” he says.
“This is of course subject to change,” he continues. “The apprenticeship will help me navigate my talent towards success in whatever field I choose to go into. What I can safely say already though, is that Cisco is a company I would like to progress my career with. The ethos, goals and values are in line with what I believe in, and the opportunity to travel in an international organisation is one that I cannot overlook.”