I started tinkering aged 8 or 9.
From transistor radios and burglar alarms to continuity testing water detectors — I loved building bits and bobs from basic components. I was fascinated by anything electronic. I’d take things apart and see how they worked and then try to put them together again — often having more pieces left over than when I started!
It was the combination of work and education that made it right for me. As a ‘traditional’ apprenticeship, it meant starting from the absolute ground up. The programme was four years, working for a company called Rank Cintel. It helped me get practical on the job training while doing education, rather than a purely academic and theoretical path into a career. I basically couldn’t wait to get out of school and starting work. Part of this involved attending a day-release to college, studying a HND in Electronic Engineering. It was all very practical — what I would study at college I would put into practise at work.
By the time I had finished my apprenticeship, computers had already started to move on. But I was then designing and building computers from scratch. Every chip and every connection.
At each step I would learn something new, but I wanted to know that little bit more, which led me to operating systems, writing software. Huge computers were being developed. It was incredible how fast the rate of change was.
And it was through this — learning to put things together— we were working to understand how to stop people doing things they shouldn’t. That really caught my attention. By putting things into place, it was fascinating to me to work out how to secure it — which is what brought me to where I am today.
What stuck with me from my apprenticeship to now is the constant learning of new information. It’s important to always want to know a little bit more.
Knowing how things work, how to hack into them and then how to fix them is something that is constantly changing – no one will ever know everything. You’ve just got to try your best to know the most.
With apprenticeships today there are many more opportunities. It’s less specific. You don’t have to define your end goal from the outset. So while of course it’s vital to ensure you get the right thing for you — that you find somewhere you can have that real working experience — part of the difficulty is choice.
Saying that, aspiring apprentices still need to be driven, self motivated and disciplined. They’ve got to make sure they’re looking for opportunities. It speaks volumes when you’re not necessarily being asked to do things all the time, but asking to do stuff.
Ultimately, if you’re not interested in the field you’re going into, you’re not going to be successful. You need to do something you’re interested in, otherwise it’s hard to make yourself work hard at it.
The best advice I ever received was ‘No one will ever give you anything, you have to take it’.
Now I’ll pass that same advice on: opportunities will come your way, but it’s up to you to seize them. No one is going to deliver you an education, career, or experience on a plate. You have to go out there and take it.