Next in up in our apprentice showcase for National Apprenticeshio Week we talk to Bradley Hannan, Software Engineer (Former Apprentice), Thales UK in Cheadle Heath.

What made you want to pursue a career in the sector and an apprenticeship?

I’d always had an interest in technology and by the time I was 16 I knew I wanted to do something in that area, but I wasn’t sure exactly what; my first taste of software development was creating simple mods for games I was playing and when I took the opportunity to try creating small applications I realised that I had a passion for it. I was never academically inclined and always preferred learning-by-doing rather than being taught so I didn’t want to go straight to university and instead get an apprenticeship. When I got the apprenticeship with Thales there was excellent support with my university work and it fit perfectly with what I was doing on the job. Four years seemed like a long time but I still can’t believe it’s over and, when I finished my degree, I was offered a full position and even managed to get a placement in Brest, France.

What is your day to day role like and has it changed much due to the pandemic?

My day-to-to work depends on the project I’m on, a lot of my time is spent doing development, but I’m often involved with planning, testing, and integration. One aspect I particularly like is the variety of the work and the people I work with. Before the pandemic, I had travelled with work somewhat often to work with the systems directly. With the current lockdown rules I work from home a lot more, but I still come into the office when beneficial. My work hasn’t been impacted greatly because the company has been quick to respond to the difficulty. I am very glad I have good job security and having the years of experience would make finding a new job much easier if I wanted to.

Have you worked on any interesting projects/programmes during your apprenticeship and can you provide details any details of the work?

Early into my apprenticeship I got to work on an R&D project that involved using VR which was exciting because it was new technology and very new to the industry, I learned a lot and got to have a big hand in the project. For someone like me this was a great experience and it was great to get involved in a real project very quickly. Another project, which I spent most of my apprenticeship working on and will be working on the successor, was developing software for an autonomous mine hunting vessel. I had a big part in the testing and even lead a small test team for one of the subsystems. My responsibilities grew as the project progress and I developed as an engineer, which was a good feeling and something I wouldn’t have been able to do without my apprenticeship. It was good to have a role in a large team and I made some useful connections in the various teams. Shortly after graduating I applied for a placement in France, and was successful, which I don’t think I would have been without the apprenticeship.

What has been the best thing about your apprenticeship?

Getting the degree and four years’ experience. I don’t know of any other pathway that gives both of those. It has really helped propel my career and I don’t think I would have gotten the placement in France had I just gone to university. However, I didn’t sacrifice much to get it, I still managed to have a social life and met some great people. Yes, it was hard work, but the results have been worth it.

Would you recommend an apprenticeship to people looking to make a first step in their career, and why?

For software I certainly would if you want to get your career going as quickly as possible. A degree opens a lot of doors and teaches you a lot about development but experience is equally valuable. I’ve not met anyone who regretted it and there are many opportunities that most people don’t get. If you’re serious about starting your career an apprenticeship is a great decision.

What is your advice to someone who would like to join an apprenticeship scheme in the sector?

Have a real passion for software and start learning in your own time; make some of your own applications, it’s good to talk about in your interview and is a good taste of what the work is. Most companies are looking for potential in a person and if you can show enthusiasm then you’ll stand out.

To find out what else is coming up this week and read the other blogs, please read our National Apprenticeship Week 2021 blog.