Software Developer Apprentice at DSTL

Start Date:
Programme Type:
Degree Apprenticeship / Sponsored Degree (Level 6/7)
Review Date:
February 2020

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1. Please give an overview of your role and what this involves on a day-to-day basis:


Use the latest and emerging tools and techniques in software development and AI to provide practical solutions to the Armed Forces' problems

Develop software and tools that will be used to explore problems and help create evidence that will inform key defense decisions.

Follow the agile software model, working collaboratively and efficiently in a team

Study towards my degree

2. Have you learnt any new skills or developed existing skills?


I have learnt how to work in an agile environment. I have developed my skills in C# and python, and have learnt JavaScript. I have learnt how to correctly comment and document code, so it is easy to understand by anyone. I have learnt WebGL skills, along with Web Assembly. I am also undertaking a bachelors degree in Digital Technical Solutions, which will develop my skills in a variety of areas, such as networking, databases and cyber security

3. To what extent do you enjoy your programme?


It's great. There are plenty of visits and events you can attend, from shooting ranges to tours of destroyers to going abroad for trial work. The work given is challenging but fun, and it has a real impact on defense. Seeing an end users reaction to your project is awesome, and it gives you a real, tangible sense of purpose.

4. How well organised/structured is your programme?


It is organised very well.

There are team meetings every 2 months or so, and team leaders are more than happy to spend some time with you if you need more support. There are quarterly progress reviews/catch up meetings too.

On Uni days I am expected to go to University from 9-5, to study my degree. If I need more study time, dstl is happy for me to spend normal project/work time revising (within reason, of course).

My development team is non-hierarchical, so everyone is equally valued. This encourages discussion and debates, allowing us to find the best way to solve an issue. Task delegation is also simple, I just pick a task I want to do for the project, and do it. Once it is done another team member checks it and, if they are happy, it will committed.

5. How much support do you receive from your employer?


My manager is incredibly supportive, and has helped me whenever I've asked. I am also a 'buddy' with a colleague who is just finishing up her apprenticeship, so I ask her about any apprenticeship related queries, which is very helpful. Support is easily accessible, and anyone is willing to help you out.

6. How much support do you receive from your training provider when working towards your qualifications?


I have just started my course recently, so I do not have the full picture yet. From the first few weeks, the tutors have been really helpful, and go around the room checking everyone understands what we need to do, and explaining anything to anyone who isn't 100% sure. The course has started off quite slowly, but I am confident it will start to pick up soon, and I will start enjoying it more.

7. How well do you feel that your qualification (through your training provider) helps you to perform better in your role?


Since it is early days, the course currently has not impacted my performance at work. However, looking at the curriculum, I will become much more efficient and proficient at software development, along with networking and cyber security. I imagine I will be able to communicate much better ideas at development team meetings, and help shape the way solutions will be developed.

8. Are there extra-curricular activities to get involved in at your work? (For example, any social activities, sports teams, or even professional networking events.)


Yes. There are loads of events and activities you can attend, from TED style talks, tours of Destroyers, visits to MOD bases, having a go at a shooting range and plenty more. Dstl also pays for 2 professional memberships, such as BSC. There are also a team social event once every month or two.

9a. Would you recommend DSTL to a friend?


9b. Why?

As you can tell from my answers above, it is an awesome place to work, with plenty of exciting opportunities to visit places you would never go to elsewhere. The support is great, and the work is challenging and interesting. Getting paid to study for a degree is also pretty nice.

10. What tips or advice would you give to others applying to DSTL?

Look at what Dstl does for a start. Get to grips with what they do, and how it impacts defense. You will need to pass a few basic English/math tests, along with the relevant clearance. There are no assessment days, you just attend an interview. The interview normally takes no more than 1.5 hours, and they ask you about your knowledge of dstl, why you want the job, what you can provide etc etc. Normal interview questions.

The on boarding process is smooth, just a security and IT induction, and that's it. Everyone will help support you in your new role, and I found integration to be easy. Within 2 weeks I felt fully integrated into the company and role.

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