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Starting a Network Engineering apprenticeship during a global pandemic

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The 23 March 2020 was a day I had been anticipating for a long time. It was my start date for the DDaT Network Engineer apprenticeship with the Home Office, and to make the move from my home in Newcastle to London. 

Little did I know the weekend of the 6 March when I was viewing places to live, visiting cafes, pubs, shops and attending the last gig for a long time, would be the last time I’d be able to do anything without having to keep 2 meters distance from someone else. 

The week leading up to the 23 March was a bit of a rollercoaster, there were many questions running through my mind. Do I still have a job? Do I still start as normal on Monday? What happens with the planned induction week? Do I still move to London despite lockdown? 

Thankfully, I did still have a job and did still start on Monday. but all the induction was to be conducted remotely. add  to the circumstance I did not make the move to London. The apprenticeship team were fantastic in very challenging circumstances. 

How I tackled home working

Being thrown into remote working in less than ideal home working circumstances was not the start I was expecting. Having never worked from home in my previous roles, I was always of the mindset that work and home life are two separate things, it took some getting used to. 

Throughout working from home, I learned a lot about myself; how I work and study most effectively and what I can put in place to maximise my focus and productivity.  I felt I was guilty in the early days of ​working unproductively , I felt I needed to prove to myself that I can sit for hours on end watching videos and reading about Networking Concepts. When, in reality it wasn’t an effective way of learning. I strongly believe that personal reflection is important to make continued progress.

I have overhauled my learning environment in several ways. In my physical space I removed any major distractions,mainly on my phone, add such as; Facebook, Instagram, Twitter to name a few.  

The biggest change I implemented was adopting the Pomodoro technique for learning, I have 25 minutes focused work with a 5 min break and repeat. 

Switching off really helped maintain a balance in my life. I do this by cycling competitively. In the normal world I spend my spare time racing and training, while I’ve continued to train alongside work, having this structure benefits my ability to plan my work and study. 

“Approaching a new year with optimism”

I finally made the move to London last July and I haven’t looked back. Since then I have sat and passed BCS Network Principles and Network Security Exams.

I have approached 2021 with the same levels of optimism as I approached 2020, this year should see the completion of my first professional qualification Cisco CCNA, the hardest exam I’ll take in my career according to several sources.

To complete the apprenticeship, I’m due to hand in my portfolio, complete the synoptic project and the final interview over the course of the summer. It’s going to take some work, but I look forward to it and would highly recommend anyone considering an apprenticeship to go for it! You will learn so much about your area of expertise as well as yourself.  If you wish to read more about the Network Engineer apprenticeship just head over to the Institute for Apprenticeships page for specific details and requirements for each apprenticeship.

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