Channel 4 Hamish Apprentice Case Study

Meet Hamish: Channel 4’s Cyber Security Apprentice Protecting the Paralympics [Case Study]

When he started looking for an apprenticeship, Hamish McGowan wasn’t looking specifically at a career in cyber security – in fact, he wasn’t even looking for a career in IT. ‘I was working for a plumbing company, fabricating pumps; I’d no idea what I really wanted to do. I stumbled across Channel 4’s apprenticeships webpage and found the application for the Cyber Security Technologist position.’ 

Not your typical interview process

The application process for the apprenticeship involved an interview like nothing Hamish had experienced before. ‘I had to find out everything I could possibly find out about Brian and present my findings back to him.’ So how did he go about researching a man he’d never met? ‘I looked up the electoral roll and used free trials of some genealogy websites. I actually messaged his wife and sister for information. I did find out where he lives, but I didn’t go – it was too far away. Definitely one of the more interesting interviews I’ve ever had!’

Protecting the UK’s broadcasting landscape

There’s no such thing as a typical day for Channel 4’s cyber security team:

‘It’s really varied,’ says Hamish. ‘Some days I’m running reports, other days we’re supporting different teams to make sure they think about the cyber security aspects of their projects – things like developing apps, or running competitions.’

Recent activities have included assessing the cyber threat landscape in Pyeongchang, South Korea ahead of Channel 4’s coverage of the Winter Paralympics in February, making sure that the visiting executives’ security precautions were sufficient and liaising with travel bookers. Hamish is also involved in the migration of internal systems to cloud-based technology, updating company hardware and configuring a next-generation CASB firewall to support the new cloud system.

Hamish has found that working for one of the UK’s biggest broadcasters has fringe benefits too:

‘When the film ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ came out, all the staff were invited to a big free screening at the Odeon in Leicester Square – that was pretty cool. You do see a few famous people walking around the Channel 4 building, but you can’t start tweeting about it!’

Bringing learning back to work - fast

Firebrand’s accelerated training courses have given Hamish a deeper insight into the industry and helped him get to grips with the demands of his role. ‘The courses are quite intense while you’re there – it can be hard to sit in the classroom and take it all in. But once I’ve come back to work, had a chat with Vince and gone over my notes, it all starts to sink in when I put the learning into practice.’

Vince Wing, Hamish’s Learning Mentor at Firebrand, is quick to point out that Hamish is adapting brilliantly to his new career.

‘Whenever I speak to his managers they’re always singing his praises, talking about things like how well he contributes in meetings. Brian and I have spent a lot of time working on building Hamish’s confidence because this is a new area for him – making sure he’s got plenty of Pluralsight (online learning) resources, taking him through the learning content to make sure he knows what’s expected of him, and preparing him for exams with mock tests.’

For Hamish, the apprenticeship has opened a door he feels sure would previously have been closed to applicants like him without a degree. ‘People always find it interesting that I’m an apprentice – normally people doing this sort of thing went to uni.’ Has he found the career for him? ‘Yeah, definitely. Ten years down the line, this is still what I want to be doing.’

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