Testimonials Apps SB Alba F

Learner Testimonial — Women in Tech Skills Bootcamp & Software Engineering Apprenticeship

From an English degree to an IT Skills Bootcamp and now a Software Apprenticeship, Alba Farruku has had an interesting journey!

In college, Alba studied English Literature, Government & Politics, and Law; she wasn’t sure what to do for uni, so, as an avid reader, she naturally gravitated towards an English degree. She graduated from Aberdeen during the pandemic, with a Masters in English and Creative Writing; unfortunately, it was very difficult to find a fulfilling job.

“It felt like my entire class was competing for the same Editorial Assistant roles in the publishing industry; for someone like myself, who didn’t have connections at smaller publishing houses or the time to attend many industry events, the chances were very slim.”

So, Alba tried teaching. She had worked with kids since she was a teenager, and had enjoyed it, but she felt teaching wasn’t where she could make the biggest difference.

Around that time, she became a Saturday Cashier at Halifax Bank and found herself enjoying it. Then, she came across a Firebrand advert and, spurred by her sister, who works in Real Estate tech, decided to apply for a Skills Bootcamp.

“I’ve always thought of myself as a creative student. I didn’t think my brain could work in that technical way, so I didn’t think I’d get the bootcamp” – but, luckily, she did. The programme was a bespoke, female-only Skills Bootcamp from Lloyds Banking Group, Women in Tech, delivered by Firebrand Training. Its purpose was to encourage women to look into tech as a career option and become Software Engineers.

“It felt really nice to be in that sort of environment. Everyone started from zero; the other ladies have families and we were all juggling multiple responsibilities. What connected us the most was our enthusiasm and curiosity about the tech world. It was quite supportive; we always helped each other. I felt I was in a really safe environment, which was great for learning and helped me develop a passion for the field.

“I used to put STEM and creative subjects in different categories; now, having gone through the bootcamp, I realized that being creative is an advantage in tech. For example, at my interview, I was asked to come up with creative solutions for problems; they wanted to see how I think.”

During the bootcamp, Alba became certified in Microsoft Azure, and undertook Microsoft Fundamentals (AZ 900), Advanced Azure, and Intro to Java.

“The most important thing these certifications taught me is how to succeed in the tech world. When I approached essays and exams in the art world, it was completely different. I had to learn how to study for tech and also how to motivate myself. It’s a completely different approach; I have to put everything into practice to make sure I’ve learned it.

“Another thing it taught me is how to fail. You fail a lot in the beginning, but that’s normal; you become a more resilient person too. I can do it; I genuinely think anyone can do it too. I don’t think I would have made it this far without taking this bootcamp.” 

At the end of the bootcamp, Alba went through assessments and, when the Lloyds Apprenticeship became available, she was encouraged to apply. This meant leaving the Halifax role behind, but the experience stayed with her. 

“Working in a branch gave me a behind-the-scenes look into the way software affects customers; even now, when we discuss certain apps, I know exactly what customers think of them. I also used to work on the enquiries desk, which also dealt with online banking; I’m grateful for the insight.”

The Apprenticeship felt different from the start. Everyone from her bootcamp applied, but only several people qualified. Alba started it two months ago; depending on her EPA, the entire programme can take 16 to 21 months, with 15 months of practical work. She’s the only apprentice on her immediate team, and her colleagues have diverse backgrounds.

Her Level 4 Software Engineering Apprenticeship has focused on Java thus far. “I have a small Java coding project – I’m writing a program to convert files, working on it every day – but aside from that I’m included in all other meetings and project Sprints, even if I just listen in.”

Aside from that, Alba feels like a world of opportunity has opened to her. “I wanted to work for Lloyds because they treat you with the utmost respect and support; they really take into consideration how staff feels, and they offer us so much. We have constant meetings, emails, events, we’re given mentors…The more I try to attend, the more I discover. I already feel part of the Markets team and my Line Manager, Mark Beard has been really present and supportive from the start.”

My Firebrand Mentor, Nadine Johnson, is super supportive and always willing to help make our Apprenticeship experience easier and more enjoyable. Zaira [Martinez-Delgado] was my Skills Bootcamp mentor; we all loved her!”

During her Apprenticeship, Alba is keen to learn more about Java and Software methodologies – running, testing, maintaining programmes – and take certification courses with BCS and Oracle.

“When I was applying to uni, Apps didn’t seem like an option. I thought it was for more physical jobs like training to be a mechanic. Looking back, I would have definitely taken this Apprenticeship over my degree. I think, if you’re unsure about what you want to do at uni, it really helps; it’s a much shorter period than a four-year degree and you realize straight away if a certain field is for you – or not!

Even my parents used to have this preconception – you can’t get a job without a degree, uni is the only way – but all of that has changed now. You can have a degree and still feel a bit lost. This Apprenticeship feels like a journey; I recommend Apprenticeships to everyone and especially young people choosing between them and a degree. If I had kids, I’d encourage them to do an Apprenticeship.”

Being immersed in it helps us learn so much quicker too. I’m the only apprentice on my team, but when we attend residential stays at Firebrand’s training centre (Wyboston), all of us connect. We have a support system.”

As her journey continues, Alba would consider Degree Apprenticeships too. “All of us apprentices are interested in them, and I would like a degree in Computer Science – to feel more ‘official.’ This could change, but I’ll definitely consider it.”

So, would you recommend Apprenticeships?

“100%. If you have a genuine interest that you haven’t had the opportunity to explore further, an Apprenticeship would be an amazing way to do so. The Government allow you to apply for one each year, so – why not?”

Thank you for your feedback, Alba, and enjoy your journey!