Software Engineer at Sky

Start Date:
Programme Type:
Apprenticeship - Higher Level (Level 4/5/6/7)
Review Date:
July 2020

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


I am currently working in a team as an Android software developer. On a day to day basis this includes building my knowledge around software engineering by shadowing my colleagues or following online tutorials supported by my line manager, working with colleagues across the Sky office to organise diversity and inclusion events and tuning into team meetings. Currently, I am working on my own educational project where I am building a quiz app. For this, I have taken the knowledge around agile methodology and sprint planning provided by WhiteHat to create my own spring board so that I can organise my work efficiently, get used to the team ways of working and give my colleagues and line manager visibility of my workload. This is helpful as it gives me the space to learn (diving straight into the Sky app would be challenging as it is a data driven app so very complicated) and ask for support from my colleagues as I discover challenges myself. As I'm building it from scratch I am learning the entire app building process rather than just parts of the larger My Sky app. Once I gain more experience I will be working on my own 'tickets' which are tasks that for example highlight bugs in the app or new features that need to be built. I am also getting an understanding of the wider business needs when I tune into meetings for example with product owners and business analysts who help transfer the 'wants' from head office into relatable tickets for developers.

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


I had very little experience in software engineering prior to my apprentice. Since joining Sky and training with WhiteHat I have learnt how to build my own website using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Node and a little bit of React, and now am working towards building my own Android applications with Kotlin. One of the most challenging skills I have learnt therefore since starting is how to deal with problems in a logical way and to change my way of thinking to break down large projects into small tasks, all while learning numerous new languages. I have also built upon my existing project management, event coordination, and presentation skills when working with the diversity and inclusion group to host events with Sky, and to organise and run events with WhiteHat.

3. To what extent do you enjoy your programme?


I find my programme challenging as it's a new area that I'd never worked in before and therefore there are days where I feel like I'm struggling and not learning as quickly as I should be. These days, especially when working from home can be quite demoralising as it's hard to connect with people and feel like I'm making a meaningful contribution. That being said, both Sky and WhitetHat have been fantastic at keeping in touch with me during lockdown and checking that I am happy and enjoying my work. I had a few weeks where I lost my motivation, but after talking with my line manager at Sky, as well as my Scrum Master and a few people across the team we devised a new plan that better suited me (my own app project, and the need to provide an update about my work every day in our daily standup meeting) which really helped. My colleagues from Sky are really supportive, approachable and are always available to chat or talk about issues I'm facing, and WhiteHat has so many events and opportunities to get involved that they have really been a lifeline for helping raise my spirits when I feel like I'm not contributing enough as they give me a space to excel and provide inspiring talks and events.

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4. How well organised/structured is your programme?


At the start of our apprenticeship we had 5 weeks intensive bootcamp training with a WhiteHat coach in London before joining the Leeds office to start on a 6 months educational project. We were then moved into teams, but continue to have block trainings (e.g. 2 weeks away from the office) with WhiteHat when preparing for exams and assessments. We also get to spend 1 day a week working on specific coursework or apprentice work (20% of our time). At first, I found the strutcure quite frustrating as I was mainly working with apprentices for the first 6/7 months and, as an older apprentice (25) I found it frustrating being in a team with just two 17 year olds. However, I understand the logic behind the decision as when you go into teams you are expected to have a basic understanding of development and building your own project is really useful for building those skills. For me, this wasn't so useful as the team I decided to go into in the end (we are given a choice) uses a completely different language and therefore after 6 months I went back to square 0 (this was my choice). I think it's useful for me to know about web development but I would have preferred to join the team earlier. I gave my feedback to Sky early on which didn't change anything because I understand this is a good way to do it normally, but I hope that they will take this on board and be more flexible for future slightly older apprentices.

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


My employer is very supportive. My team is approachable and if I have any questions people will always take time to have a call with me and go through what I'm struggling with. My line manager is fantastic and takes 2/3 hour sessions a week devising small challenges to run through with me and is always available for a chat / to help me. The hierarchy within development is quite flat so I talk to senior members of the team as well as junior members. I also have room to look into what I find interesting, and to organise events etc

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


WhiteHat has been really fantastic as a training provider. We get dedicated slots of time with our WhiteHat coach (for example 2 or 3 weeks continuous training). During this time, we are asked for lots of feedback and I do genuinely think that my feedback has been taken into consideration. For example, we had a two week training period where we were preparing for a Microsoft HTML, CSS and JavaScript exam where I don't think we were given enough set work to go away and complete which meant that a lot of the time we were listening and coding along building an app together but not thinking for ourselves so much. Also, not having 'homework' as such to hand in at the end of the day means that people can easily procrastinate and not need to understand the work. For the next training period, we had set tasks to complete each day and variety of contact hours V personal work which I think worked well. Beyond the software engineering 'academy' I have been incredibly impressed with WhiteHat's efforts to create a community hub where I feel included with apprentices from around the country. I'm part of the WhiteHat apprenticeship leaders team so I work with a team of apprentices down in London to organise Professional Development events, have been supported writing a blog, and am part of the women's network who host awesome events. All of these extra things help apprentices build skills outside their office roles which are really important.

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


The difficulty I have is that I chose a team that uses a different language to the languages we learn in our training and therefore I can't directly use it any more. To start with, for my educational project in the first 6 months of my apprenticeship this was not the case and I used everything I had been learning but I, knowing I wouldn't have the same support, chose a team which uses Kotlin. That being said, the basic knowledge I have been taught by WhiteHat for example around the principles of coding have put me in good stead to learn this new language, and we have also done a course of software methodologies which is more around the processes behind engineering (aka how is the team structured, what other steps are in place around development to make tech products) which is really relevant. So all in all I do think my training helps me perform better in my role, but I have to stretch myself.

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.)


Many. There's a football team, climbing team, running club, language classes. As mentioned I'm part of the diversity and inclusion group for which I was a key player in organising a domestic abuse charity event where Sky donated £500 to each of the two charities I was passionate about. We also have lots of team activities such as quizzes, morning coffee calls, easter egg hunts and Christmas raffles draws. I'm also part of a public speaking group who provide training to women building their presentation skills. I also get involved in a lot of the WhiteHat extra-curriculum events as mentioned including virtual networking events, trainings, blog writing.

9a. Would you recommend Sky to a friend?


9b. Why?

The people Sky hires are fantastic. The majority of my colleagues are driven and knowledgable yet have the time to take out of their normal 9-5 role to help out apprentices who know next to nothing. We also have great work benefits like free healthcare, free sky, discount at shops and restaurants etc. I also really appreciate that Sky is big enough to support your passions, whether this is diversity and inclusion, or helping young coders (we have a coding club where people volunteer to help out people learning to code with little experience), or even reducing plastic waste etc I feel like Sky has the resources and the willing to support matters close to their employees hearts.

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

Do your research about the company and about the technologies they use. For the application you have to go through a number of steps including a coding project where you build a basic website. Take time before you apply learning how to do this and try new technologies to show your passion for research and constant learning. The great thing about tech is that no one knows everything, everyone Googles something and therefore what you know isn't as important as your willingness to try out new things and stretch yourself. Ask questions, follow your passions and use Google to help you when you get stuck!

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